Copper Deficiency


Copper deficiency symptoms occur when there is such a small amount of copper in the body than what it actually needs for optimum health. People with insufficient levels of copper in the body will experience different symptoms and may develop major health problems. Some individuals are more vulnerable to copper deficiency than others and will most likely show signs of copper deficiency.

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Copper deficiency symptoms can be alleviated in several ways, and these depend on the severity of the copper deficiency. The patient will have to undergo a bone marrow biopsy and copper serum test to properly diagnose copper deficiency and tailor a treatment plan based on the needs of the individual.

Copper deficiency symptoms

Included in the long list of copper deficiency symptoms are:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low resistance to infections due to an impaired immune system
  • Hair loss
  • Bone development abnormalities among children and infants
  • Joint problems, osteopenia (or lowered bone mineral density) and osteoporosis
  • Sideroblastic anemia
  • Skin sores
  • High LDL cholesterol level
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Weakening heart muscles
  • Brain dysfunction and weakened nervous system
  • Reproductive problems
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Menkes disease

What is the role of copper in the human body?

Copper is a very important mineral for the body which plays a vital role in the carrying out of metabolic processes.

  • Production of red blood cells and hemoglobin

Copper works with iron in producing red blood cells and hemoglobin, as well as in keeping healthy immune system, bones, nerves and blood vessels. Copper is also important in the production of energy and distribution of oxygen all over the body.

  • Healthy and tight skin

Together with zinc and vitamin C, a copper-enabled enzyme is important in forming elastin which keeps the skin healthy, flexible and tight.

  • Collagen formation

Copper is also essential in collagen formation, which plays a vital role in healing wounds, supporting body tissues as well as muscles, tendons, cartilage, bone and skin.

  • Protecting cell membranes

Copper is a component of SOD or superoxide dismutase, which is an antioxidant whose function is to protect the cell membranes from getting damaged by free radicals.

Copper is essential for the optimum operation of the thyroid glands.

How much should copper levels be?

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The finest way to avoid the dreadful copper deficiency symptoms is to keep copper levels within the normal range, which should be between 20 mg/dL and 60 mg/dL. The average amount of copper inside the body is between 50 mg and 120 mg, the greater percentage is in the liver and the rest is found in the kidneys, heart and brain.

What does copper deficiency indicate?

Copper deficiency symptoms are strong indications that the body has inadequate levels of copper. It is quite rare considering that copper can be found in various sources, and this is the reason why copper deficiency is often misdiagnosed. Copper deficiency occurs as a result of:

  • Poor diet
  • Liver problems
  • Digestive disorders
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Nutritional intravenous feeding
  • Impaired absorption due to high levels of manganese, calcium, iron and zinc

Who are at risk of suffering from copper deficiency symptoms?

Some people are at higher risk of experiencing copper deficiency symptoms because they either do not eat dairy products, nor engage in physical hard work or have certain conditions. These include the following:

  • Athletes
  • Elderly
  • Vegetarians
  • Premature infants with extremely low weight at birth
  • Pregnant women
  • Infants and children who are fed with cow’s milk or unfortified formula

Copper deficiency treatment

Treatment for the associated symptoms of copper deficiency differs from person to person, depending on the underlying cause of having insufficient copper. Copper deficiency symptoms can be treated with intravenous copper or oral supplementation. For instance, if the cause of copper deficiency is excessive intake of zinc, treatment may involve ceasing the consumption of zinc along with copper supplementation.

What can be done to maintain proper copper levels?

The best defense a person can take against copper deficiency symptoms is to maintain the right level of copper in the body. This can be done in two ways, namely, diet and supplementation.

  • Diet

Meals must contain a combination of foods from various food groups. It is recommended to eat foods that contain copper such as legumes, nuts, whole grains, shellfish, organ meats, raisins and chocolate. Apples, papayas, coconuts, red meat, peas, yamsor potatoes, cereals and dark leafy vegetables are good sources of copper too.

  • Supplementation

Copper supplementation should only be taken under the close supervision of the doctor. Supplementation is often recommended for people who are recuperating from serious injuries or illnesses, those who are at risk of osteoporosis, individuals taking copper-blocking medications and those with digestive problems.

Copper deficiency symptoms should not be taken lightly as it may lead to major health problems. Children and adults alike may experience the symptoms of being copper-deficient and immediate action is needed to prevent the condition from aggravating.

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