What happens to arsenic in the body?
When arsenic is inhaled due to its presence in airborne particles, the amount absorbed into the bloodstream depends on two things: how soluble the particular form of arsenic is, and how small the particles are. That said, most of the arsenic in the body comes from the diet.
In the intestine, soluble arsenic compounds found in food are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. Many arsenic compounds are rapidly transformed and eliminated from the body through urine. However, there are differences from person to person in the ability to get rid of arsenic compounds.
The amount of arsenic in the body can be estimated by taking blood, urine, hair, or fingernails samples and measuring the arsenic or arsenic-containing substances present.
Arsenic disappears rapidly from the blood, so blood measurements only report recent high exposures, such as poisonings, or long-term exposures if they are repeated and high.
Levels in urine are the best measure of recent exposure, while levels in hair and nails can tell you about past exposure.
What happens to arsenic absorbed by the body?
The amount of arsenic absorbed into the body by inhaled airborne particles largely depends on two factors, the size of the particles and their solubility.
The size of the particles determines how far they can penetrate the lungs; the more they penetrate, the more likely it is that arsenic will be absorbed. The solubility of the particles in the fluid that lines the lungs determines how easily arsenic is absorbed into the bloodstream.
In the intestine, soluble arsenic compounds from food and drink are rapidly and widely absorbed into the bloodstream.
In humans and the most common laboratory animals, inorganic arsenic is metabolized through two main types of reactions: (1) conversion of the pentavalent form of arsenic - arsenate - to the trivalent form - arsenite, and (2) ) methylation, that is, addition of a methyl group comprising one carbon and three hydrogen atom (-CH3) to the trivalent form.
After methylation, arsenic can be rapidly removed from the body with urine. There can be large differences between individual humans in their ability to methylate which is most likely due to differences in the ability of the enzyme in the body.
It is not clear whether children have a reduced methylation ability compared to adults. Studies suggest that the main pathway for removing arsenic from the body, methylation, can be inhibited at high exposures.
The absorption and elimination of arsenic depends on its chemical form, particularly at high exposures. For example, ingested organic arsenic compounds are metabolized much less and eliminated more rapidly in the urine than inorganic arsenic in both laboratory animals and humans. In the case of inorganic arsenic, the trivalent forms pass into the tissues more quickly compared to the pentavalent forms.
What about the arsenic absorbed by the body?
The source document for this Digest says:
Kinetics and metabolism.
The absorption of particulate arsenic in inhaled air is highly dependent on the solubility and size of the particles. Soluble pentavalent and trivalent arsenic compounds are rapidly and extensively absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
In many species, arsenic metabolism is characterized by two main types of reactions: (1) pentavalent to trivalent arsenic reduction reactions, and (2) oxidative methylation reactions in which trivalent forms of arsenic are methylated sequentially to form mono-, di- and trimethylated. products using S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) as a methyl donor and glutathione (GSH) as an essential cofactor.
The methylation of inorganic arsenic facilitates the excretion of inorganic arsenic from the body, since the end products MMA and DMA are easily excreted in the urine.
There are important qualitative and quantitative interspecies differences in methylation, insofar as some species show minimal or no arsenic methylation (eg marmoset, guinea pig, chimpanzee).
However, in humans and the most common laboratory animals, inorganic arsenic is extensively methylated and the metabolites are excreted primarily in the urine.
Factors such as dose, age, sex, and smoking contribute minimally to the large interindividual variation in arsenic methylation observed in humans. However, lower methylation efficiency has been observed in children in only one study in three.
Studies in humans suggest a large difference in the activity of methyltransferases, and the existence of polymorphism has been hypothesized. Studies in animals and humans suggest that arsenic methylation can be inhibited at high acute exposures.
The metabolism and disposition of inorganic arsenic can be influenced by its valence state, particularly at high dose levels. Studies in laboratory animals indicate that administration of trivalent inorganic arsenic, such as As2O3 and arsenite, initially produces higher levels in most tissues than administration of pentavalent arsenic. However, the trivalent form is more methylated, leading to a similar long-term excretion. Ingested organoarsenicals such as MMA, DMA, and arsenobetaine are metabolized much less and eliminated more rapidly in the urine than inorganic arsenic in both laboratory animals and humans.
How to remove toxins
Once the toxins are in your body, your liver and kidneys work to expel them. You can help them with the following tips:
- Drink plenty of water. Your kidneys need it to move waste through your system. Get plenty of antioxidants.
- Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help protect your cells from damage that heavy metals can cause. Vitamin C and E are especially powerful antioxidants to protect against oxidative damage from heavy metals.
- Get enough fiber. Fiber helps move food through your system, reducing your risk of absorbing heavy metals.
- Get enough glutathione. It is an antioxidant that helps protect against heavy metal toxicity. A 2004 study showed that glutathione (GSH) protected the liver when it was exposed to things like mercury and chromium. Good sources of this nutrient include fresh (uncooked) fruits and vegetables, especially asparagus, broccoli, avocados, zucchini, and spinach.
- You can also try N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and alpha lipoic acid supplements.
- Try the selenium. We need this mineral anyway, and studies have shown that it can help lessen the effects of toxic heavy metals. A 2008 study, for example, found that supplementation with selenium significantly eliminated toxicity from exposure to toxic metals.
- Eat more sauerkraut and other probiotic-rich foods. These health-promoting bacteria help trap and metabolize heavy metals in a way that prevents them from doing harm to the body. A 2014 study, for example, found that yogurt containing probiotics protected children and pregnant women against exposure to heavy metals, specifically mercury and arsenic.
- Consider chlorella supplements. Studies have shown that these can help the body eliminate toxins, and it also has promising activity in blocking cancer. Read more about chlorophyll here.
- Another good option is modified citrus pectin, which has been shown in studies to help increase the excretion of heavy metals.
- Get enough healthy fats. These help the body process and excrete toxic heavy metals. Without enough fat, metals can become suspended in tissues.
- Also consider a quality fish oil supplement, as it can provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids without the mercury content of some fish.
- Take care of your liver. It is the main waste elimination center in your body. Eat more foods that support your function, such as garlic and onions, beets, and artichokes.
- Get enough healthy minerals. Minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium help block the absorption of toxic metals like lead and cadmium. Make sure you are getting enough healthy minerals in your daily diet. Good sources include eggs, mushrooms, organ meats, seafood, whole grains, and dairy products.
With information from