Heavy Metal Toxicity & Autism - Antimony: Part One
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Heavy Metal Toxicity
Heavy metal toxicity is often touted as a major factor in creating the bio-chemical havoc and disarray that results in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Using homeopathic remedies can be a safe and effective way to help support the body to eliminate even high loads of toxic metals. I have seen many ASD children benefit enormously from homeopathic protocols that support heavy metal elimination with gains in language, cognition, reduced aggressive behaviour, improved engagement and learning ability, independence, fine motor skills as well as improved general health.
Getting these toxins safely eliminated can be a fundamental step towards seeing measurable gains and symptom improvement. Homeopathic treatment can be a more gentle, less abrasive approach to chelation than using chelating agents, and generally needs a less regimented supplemental regime so can be more appropriate for some children.
Whilst many parents are very aware of the dangers and harm posed by Mercury, Lead and Aluminium toxicity, less is known about possible sources, mechanisms of harm and symptoms associated with some of the other toxic metals associated.
This series of articles will be looking at individual heavy metals and the metabolic and health implications that toxicity can pose and what this means in ASD.
Mercury is probably at the top of the list of environmental stressors associated with Autism and with it Aluminium and Lead join the ranks of top offenders. Antimony is a less understood metal toxicity that nonetheless warrants closer inspection, because of its widespread environmental presence, including in furnishings that come deep into the heart of the home and even into the clothing our children wear, due to its synergistic effects with other heavy metals like mercury and arsenic where it can dramatically worsen the effects of the other metal, and due to its catastrophic impact on part of the methionine - homocysteine methylation cycle, which has enormous impact on detoxification ability and antioxidant levels.
Antimony and methylation
Like mercury, antimony binds to sulfhydryl sites and can be detoxified by glutathione if there is enough glutathione to latch onto it and escort it from the body. Antimony can also be detoxified by the primary methyl donor, SAM.
However antimony toxicity can become a very big problem in an already toxic system due to its effects on the methionine cycle in methylation.
The Methionine Cycle
As a natural part of our metabolic processes, we produce a chemical called SAMe from the amino acid methionine. SAMe is known as the primary methyl donor in the body. It is vital for cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive and detoxification systems to perform. We need adequate resources of the amino acid methionine in order to produce SAMe, some of which we get from diet, and some of which we get by the recycling of a chemical made by the methionine cycle, homocysteine.
Homocysteine is also a derivative of methionine. It is a natural by product and carrier of sulphur atoms, and as such very useful and a metabolic intermediary. Homocysteine can go on to be converted into key chemicals of detoxification and energy production as part of the transsulphuration pathway, which produces glutathione, the most important antioxidant in the body, sulfate, key for detoxification, succinyl-CoA which is key for the citric acid cycle which produces cellular energy. This pathway also produces ammonia, a less helpful by-product, whose over production is also a potentially relevant factor in ASD, of which disturbed methylation may be a contributing cause.
However for all its use, homocysteine needs to be quickly recycled or acted upon to regulate its levels in the body as it is a strong inflammation causing agent, associated with cardiovascular damage, oxidative stress and increased risk of stroke amongst other risk factors. Anything that upsets the conversion pathway of homocysteine risks upsetting the delicate and vital array of metabolic processes that methylation controls.
Increased homocysteine, can mean less methionine and consequently less SAMe. In some individuals with an 'up-regulation' (or faster function) pattern of another methylation related gene, the CBS gene, higher homocysteine can stimulate increased production of ammonia and sulfites, which cause havoc in the brain tissue and effect detoxification ability.
Bad news in pairs - Toxic Synergists make metal toxicity effects 50x worse
Antimony is one of the bad boys of the methylation cycle. Together with mercury and aluminium, at even nano particle levels it can inhibit the action of methionine synthase, which recycles homocysteine back to methionine. In fact, it is the worst inhibitor of Methionine synthase. It is also a toxic synergist - a tiny amount of antimony poisoning the system can make the toxic effect of mercury up to 50x worse.
So SAMe and glutathione which can both help to detoxify antimony are both depleted by antimony toxicity. A small degree of system overwhelm can quickly become a vicious circle of worsening toxicity and decreased methylation function.
In some, the effects of mercury toxicity will cause antimony to build up in the system. Thus, where mercury toxicity is evident or needs to be addressed, it is always wise to consider that antimony may also be a factor in metabolic disruption.