Alzheimer’s Doctor in San Diego Dr. Jason Shumard, D.C.

Nutrients are your body’s best friends when it comes to keeping all functions and systems balanced-- including that of your brain. And when your micronutrient intake is out of whack, your cognitive function may be at risk. It’s a pretty well-known concept that heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and mercury can travel through the blood-brain barrier and make a nice, cozy home in your brain. Unfortunately for you, this means brain cell destruction.

Most people don’t know, however, that high levels of essential minerals like copper can also lead to impaired cognitive function.
Alzheimer’s Doctor San Diego Cognitive Dysfunction and Copper Balancing Act

Of course, copper in small doses isn’t harmful; in fact, your body needs it to keep many of your vital systems functioning: the skeletal system, hormone production, energy production, and nerve function. The key here is balance, which means either too much or too little of copper can put your brain in danger. Researchers who conducted a study in 2013 discovered that having too much copper in your system can put you at risk for Alzheimer’s development and can even exacerbate the disease progression. The results of the study showed that copper found in drinking water (at 10% of the EPA’s water quality standards) can still lead to buildup of a protein--amyloid beta--which is typically found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

That being said, when it comes to health care, nothing is really set in stone. Other studies have shown, in post-mortem analyses of Alzheimer’s brains, that individuals who suffer from this cognitive decline condition were deficient in copper despite normal copper levels in the blood. This indicates that the brains of those who suffer from cognitive dysfunction have a difficult time regulating copper in the brain, perhaps contributing to the disease process. Other research supports these claims by showing how too much zinc can also cause a similar imbalance. Zinc and copper work simultaneously for optimal function, but they can end up competing for absorption. In this way, if you have too much of one, it may affect the other’s levels. As I said before, the key here is balance-- only then can these minerals do their jobs.

So, how are you supposed to figure out if your levels are balanced? It’s important that you avoid anything that will disrupt the equilibrium and flock towards practices that will help you balance your system. Here are a few tips that can help you.

1. Plumbing Practices

Copper is often found in water pipes, and it can leak into the water you drink. If you have copper pipes, you should get your water tested. If you find that the copper levels are too high, you can invest in an NSF-certified water filter under NSF/ANSI 53, which can help keep your levels below the EPA standard suggestion. In the same vein, make sure to stay away from copper-coated food containers or pots and pans made of copper-- these are dangerous and should be avoided to stave off toxicity.

2. Aim to Eat Animal Products

Eating a plant-based diet definitely has its perks and undeniable health benefits. It can provide you with sufficient levels of copper; however, eating small amounts of meat and eggs are a really significant way to get the right amount of zinc.

When it comes to plant-based foods, it may be a little bit harder for your body to absorb zinc effectively since, in plants, the zinc is bound to proteins.

This means that, while your body is getting zinc, it may not be able to use it. It is more easily absorbed in animal products.

3. Mind Your Medicine Cabinet

Alzheimer’s Doctor San Diego Cognitive Dysfunction and Copper Balancing Act

It’s important to be aware that certain medications like antibiotics can interfere with your zinc intake, which means that your copper levels will most likely rise to excessive levels. Moreover, if you’re using diuretics for blood pressure regularly, you may be increasing your urinary output of zinc. Of course, there are certain medications that you can’t skip out on, so if you must take long-term medications, you should study the micronutrient interactions and talk about your options with your functional medicine practitioner.


Balancing your copper and zinc levels are really important when it comes to preventing and treating cognitive decline disorders. It may seem like a daunting task to understand what balance you should aim for; however, I recommend finding a functional medicine practitioner to partner with. It will make all the difference.

If you’re looking for an Alzheimer’s Doctor in San Diego, come to Integrative Wellness Center of San Diego.

Functional medicine practitioners have the tools and knowledge to pinpoint your specific imbalances and can then create a treatment plan based on your individual needs.

Call Our Office for Consultation