Arsenic Lowers IQ and Disrupts the Gut-Brain Axis

Arsenic Disrupts Hormones And Causes Cancer

Arsenic is common and natural, but just because it's natural doesn't mean it's safe.

It has devastating effects on the body that we will discuss below.

We will also discuss what you can do to protect yourself from arsenic in our toxic environment. 


  1. Basics
  2. How Arsenic Affects The Body
  3. Levels and Testing
  4. What You Can Do To Protect Your Body
  5. Mechanism Of Action
  6. Genetics
  7. More Research



Arsenic is one of the most dangerous inorganic materials to humans.

It is used as an herbicide, fungicide and rodenticide and results in contamination of our environment. R 

It is on the World Health Organization's (WHO) top 10 list of chemicals of major concern for major public health. R

Although the WHO allows arsenic levels of up to 10ppb in drinking water it is estimated that over 100 million people worldwide are exposed to massively higher levels daily. R

It causes both acute and long-term effects and can cause epigenetic effects that travel over generations (meaning if you were exposed, your child's children may have effects from your exposure). R R R

Arsenic can be found in:

  • Air Pollution (such as burning of coal) R R
  • Batteries R
  • Chlorinated Pools R
  • Cigarettes and Tobacco R
  • Contaminated foods (baby food, fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, dairy and cereals/grains/rice) R R R R
  • Electrical Junctions R
  • Glass (treated) R
  • Pesticides (foods seen above) R
  • Some Supplements (such as Ashwaganda, Bacopa, and Holy Basil/Tulsi) R R
  • Water R
  • Wood (pressure-treated) R

Those who have been poisoned with arsenic usually report a lower quality of life. R

How Arsenic Affects The Body

1. Damages Cells And Affects Mitochondria

Arsenic can accumulate in organs and wreak havoc on the body. R

First, arsenic increases the amount of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the body, which acts like free radicals in the cell. R

This also depletes the body's supply of antioxidants like glutathione (GPx). R

Arsenic can cause mitochondria to produce less energy (ATP). R

Although, extremely low dosages at intermittent times may strengthen mitochondria through hormesis. R

Arsenic is so good at killing cells that arsenic in the form of arsenic trioxide has been used as a drug treatment for cancer for over 3000 years. R R

2. Damages The Vascular And Respiratory System

In the vascular system, arsenic inhibits the growth of new healthy blood cells. R

It also increases the risk of developing heart disease, kidney damage, liver toxicity, and pancreatitis. R R R R R

For example, arsenic can increase the risk of having a heart attack or developing blackfoot disease. R

Arsenic also contributes to thrombosis (blood clotting), hypertension (high blood pressure) and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). R R

In the lungs, arsenic has shown to cause damage to lung tissue. R

It also has shown to contribute to asthma. R

3. Destroys The Brain And Causes Diabetes


Arsenic exposure is correlated with a lower IQ. R

It can destroy brain cells and contribute to causing beta-amyloid plaques (which are seen in Alzheimer's Disease and dementia), while destroying dopamine in the brain (which is the main pathology of Parkinson's Disease). R R R R

For example, elderly patients who have been exposed to arsenic have decreased fine motor skills and processing speeds. R

It has shown to increase hyperactivity (such as ADHD) and may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. R R

It decreases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). R

Arsenic also decreases the body's ability to create choline in the liver and acetylcholine in the brain (which is necessary for memory retention). R

Arsenic decreases key neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain (in a dose-dependent manner). R

It has also shown to disrupt the communication between the gut-brain axis (how the gut and brain talk). R

Arsenic can cross the blood brain barrier and affect the way glucose is used in the brain. R R

Arsenic damages neurons and contribute to neuropathy. R

Also arsenic consumption is highly related with the development of diabetes. R

For example, acute exposure to arsenic causes glucose intolerance. R

Also, arsenic damages and induces cell death in the pancreas. R

4. Disrupts The Immune System And Causes Cancer

Short-term exposure to arsenic increases inflammation, while long-term down-regulates it (this is not good). R

For example, chronic arsenic exposure is immunotoxic can reduce red, white, and natural killer cells. R R

This decreases immunity and can also lead to fatigue and anemia. R

Arsenic is categorized by the WHO as a human carcinogen, which means it causes cancer. R

It can amplify the cancer-causing properties of cigarette smoke and UV radiation. R

Arsenic has shown to cause or contribute to cancers of:

  • Bladder R
  • Breast R
  • Colon R
  • Kidney R
  • Liver R
  • Lung R
  • Pancreas R
  • Prostate R
  • Skin (such as Melanoma) R
  • Stomach R

One reason for this is because of arsenic's ability to damage DNA and change methylation status. R R R

5. Causes Infertility And Developmental Effects

Chronic low dose exposure to arsenic can create abnormalities in the testicles, with increased risk of having a lower sperm count. R

Faulty estrogen receptors will enhance this effect. R

Arsenic can also make women infertile. R

Low levels of arsenic can also affect fetal development. R 

For example, arsenic can increase mortality of the child, cause spontaneous abortion, reduce the child's birth weight, and increase their risk of developing heart disease. R R R

It can also elicit an immune response in the child. R

For example, arsenic (along with other heavy metals) has also been shown to be in the tissue and urine of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). R

It has also shown to increase pro-inflammatory cytokines, which contribute to ASD. R

6. Destroys The Gut

Arsenic is an antimicrobial and an antibiotic and can cause dysbiosis in the gut microbiome. R

It can change the metabolism of the gut and disrupt the production of fatty acids. R

This can lead to decreased energy metabolism and obesity. R

Arsenic can also produce effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, and diarrhea. R

7. Disrupts Hormones And Nutrient Status


Arsenic exposure has been linked to decreased birth weight, weight gain, and improper skeletal muscle function. R

Arsenic has estrogenic effectsR

It can both bind to and block estrogen receptors, contributing to estrogen receptor dysfunction (such as breast cancer and obesity). R R R

Arsenic also suppresses circulating insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF1) levels. R

For example, single exposure to arsenic can affect IGF1 levels in muscle even 1 year after exposure. R 

Arsenic also blocks the absorption and utilization of certain minerals and nutrients. R

It blocks intestinal absorption of water, sodium, glucose, and leucine, while decreasing the ability to absorb selenium and manganese. R R

8. Destroys The Skin

Skin lesions are very common from arsenic exposure, especially with arsenicosis (arsenic poisoning). R R

Arsenic causes changes to skin color (such as viltilgo) and contributes to skin cancers such as melanoma. R R

Arsenic can also contribute to the development of Bowen's disease and hyperpigmentation of the skin (leucomelanosis). R

Levels And Testing

Obviously, since arsenic is not required to live, there should be no presence of arsenic in the blood or hair.

You can test your levels here (heavy metals hair test). 

What You Can Do To Protect Your Body


First of all, if you think you have been acutely poisoned, call 911 or 1-800-222-1222 (poison control in the US).

Smoking cigarettes, alcohol consumption, and getting older make it harder for the body to protect against arsenic. R

Lifestyle Modifications That Protect Against Arsenic:

  • Drink from a Berkey Filter, using Activated Charcoal and Iron Coated Sand R
  • Eat Organic and non-GMO - Watch out for non-pasture raised poultry as arsenic is used to create the "red" pigmentation of chicken, also with grains (glyphosate synergizes with arsenic creating more toxicity) R R R R
  • Exercise helps against some of the arsenic-induced damage to the brain. R
  • High Fiber Diet and Prebiotics - Protects the liver from arsenic R
  • Reduce Meat and Grain Exposure - Animals are exposed to arsenic through contaminated drinking water, feedstuff, grasses, vegetables and different leaves. R
  • If you do make grains, make sure to rinse them with filtered water before cooking. R

Supplements That Protect Against Arsenic:

Increase Methylation Factors:

Preventing Arsenic-Induced Testicular Damage:

Mechanism Of Action


  • Arsenic increases inflammation in the body and brain, thus causing problems with how the brain communicates with some of the body's glands.
  • This chronic stress decreases neurotrophic factors, neurotransmitters, and protective mechanisms in the brain, which has a detrimental effect to the development of a baby's brain (as well as an adult).


  • In mammals and humans, arsenite (iAsIII) is sequentially converted to monomethylarsonic acid (MMAv) and dimethylarsinic acid (DMAv). R
  • Arsenic is normally disposed of by the liver through biliary excretion (using up the major antioxidants seen below to do it). R
  • In the mitochondria, arsenic binds thiol groups in tissue proteins and impairs the function of the proteins, which affects the mitochondrial enzymes and interrupts the production of energy. R
  • For example, arsenic exposure generally suppresses levels of the antioxidants, SOD, CAT, GSH, GPx, GST, and GR, but increases levels of the oxidants, GSSG, MDA, and ROS. R R
  • In cancer, arsenic activates VEGF and EGF which results in increases in cellular Ca2+. R
  • It exerts anti-cancer effects through NAMPT inhibition and NAD depletion. R
  • It induces apoptosis/autophagy through the activation of ROS/JNK and suppression of Akt/mTOR signaling. R
  • In angiogenesis, Increased ROS activates AKT and ERK1/2 signaling of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF1) and VEGF. R
  • Arsenic increases IL-8, GM-CSF, TGF-beta, TNF-alpha, and IL-1, while decreasing AP1, AP2, IGTF, involucrin, loricrin, filaggrein sprl, and kratin-10 (keratin-16, 8, and 18 are enhanced by arsenic exposure). R R
  • In the brain arsenic decreases PGC-1α, but increases NRF-1 and NRF-2 expression. R
  • It also decreases BDNF and CREB, but antidepressants may protect against this. R R
  • Arsenic is associated with a leaky blood brain barrier, as seen with increased serum levels of MMP2 and MMP9. R
  • It also increases DA-D2 receptors in the corpus straitum. R
  • Very low doses of arsenic during development increase 5-HT1A receptors in the dorsal hippocampus in adult offspring. R
  • It also increases glutamate, GABA, D-serine, and glycine release from astrocytes. R
  • Overall it creates HPA axis dysregulation. R R
  • In the testicles, arsenic increases heat shock proteins, suppresses GnRH, LH, FSH, and testosterone. R R
  • In the gut, arsenosugar converts into its sulfur analog. R 
  • In inflammation, short exposure to high arsenic doses activated the NF-κB signaling pathway, while long exposure to low arsenic doses suppressed NF-κB signaling pathway activation. R
  • In the cell cycle, arsenic adversely affects the cell cycle and viability of astrocytes by inducing unscheduled S phase entry coupled with cell death. R




  • rs1043673 - CC - higher cytogenetic damage within arsenic exposed individuals R
  • rs13181 - AA - increases chance of arsenic-induced hyperkeratoxicity R
  • rs16999593 - unsure allele - associated with lower dimethylated arsenic R
  • rs3759475 - CT and TT - lower risk of obesity from arsenic exposure R
  • rs5351- AG and AA - lower risk of obesity from arsenic exposure R
  • rs861539 - TT or CT- beneficial protective role towards arsenic-induced skin lesions and DNA damage R
  • rs9527 - A - associated with increased skin lesion risk R

More Research

  • Natural water in Florida is high in arsenic. R
  • Arsenic is used with retinoic acid, chrysin, and silibinin, in some chemotherapies. R R
  • Arsenic easily transfers from soil to plants. R
  • Arsenic consumption from rice during pregnancy can be found in the infant's toenails. R
  • Small amounts of alcohol may protect against glucose-induced changes from arsenic (this does not outweigh the combination of alcohol + arsenic to cause liver, kidney, and muscle failure). R
  • Arsenic used to be used in stockings, but this was back in 1901. R
  • More Mechanisms Pertaining to Arsenic Toxicity R