AMMONIA TOXICITY: Part 1

 

AMMONIA: A NEW TOXIN TO WORRY ABOUT

In the last blog I discussed how some cities treat their water with a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, known as Chloramine. It was revealed that it is very difficult to remove the ammonia from water treated this way, with current carbon filter technology. Therefore, many of us may be ingesting high amounts of ammonia, a health hazard that is only now being recognized as yet another danger of modern living. In this blog we will look at causes of high ammonia, other than our water supply, and symptoms of ammonia toxicity. In Part 2, I will discuss what we can do to remove ammonia from our bodies.

CAUSES OF HIGH AMMONIA

Ammonia is a normal by-product of processing nitrogen in the body, and is excreted as waste in the urine, in healthy people. However, elevated blood ammonia levels can occur when the kidneys or liver are not working properly, allowing this waste to remain in the bloodstream, which can be poisonous to your cells.

The medical system has linked elevated blood ammonia levels to: the use of diuretics and narcotics; excessive physical exertion; gastrointestinal bleeding; heart failure: kidney disease (including kidney stones); liver disease (such as cirrhosis or hepatitis).

Smoking cigarettes can increase ammonia in the blood since it is added to tobacco to speed delivery of nicotine to the brain, making the product more habit forming. Elevated blood ammonia level may also be related to drug or alcohol abuse, which may resolve itself if the abuse is discontinued.

FAST FOOD MEATS

Those who eat fast-food burgers and cheap hamburger can unwittingly be consuming ammonia along with their “food”, due to the filler known as “pink slime.” “Pink slime” (called “lean finely textured beef” by the meat industry) is a processed beef product that was originally used in pet food and later approved for human consumption. In March 2012, ABC News claimed that 70 % of ground beef sold in U.S. supermarkets contained this additive.

Pink Slime is used as a filler, or to reduce the overall fat content of ground beef, and is produced by processing meat by-products such as cartilage, connective tissue and sinew. The recovered beef material is then processed, heated, and treated with gaseous ammonia to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other harmful bacteria. After coming in contact with water in the meat, the gaseous ammonia forms into ammonium hydroxide. When this “meat” is consumed the ammonia can enter the bloodstream elevating levels.

NORMAL AMMONIA METABOLISM

Ammonia is naturally produced in the body during “gluconeogenesis”, which is part of the breakdown of fats and proteins to be used for energy (a separate function from the use of sugar or carbohydrates in the body). When athletes do a hard workout they can detect gluconeogenesis by their ammonia-smelling sweat, due to the catabolic breakdown of the fats and protein from their own muscles.

In the same way that the athlete creates gluconeogenesis through vigorous physical exertion that draws on the body’s resources, so excessive stress can also cause a similar effect with the fight or flight response. Thus continuous over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and ensuing high cortisol levels, can also lead to the production of excessive ammonia.

So, the bacteria in the digestive tract break down proteins into nitrogen compounds, including ammonia, for absorption into the body. These protein compounds are then used to repair cells. This is all very normal and the body is equipped to handle the small amounts of ammonia produced this way.

We produce almost 4grams of ammonia per day just from our intestines. The bloodstream then absorbs this ammonia and takes it to the liver for processing. There the ammonia is turned into urea and re-enters the bloodstream, whereupon it is carried to the kidneys, and excreted from the body by way of the urine. However, if the liver is damaged, and the cells can not remove the ammonia from the blood, it enters general circulation resulting in toxic levels.

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF AMMONIA TOXICITY

Since there is no current medical belief in slight ammonia toxicity, we can get a handle on what the symptoms might look like by seeing extreme examples of the ingestion of massive doses of ammonium chloride by humans and experimental animals.

Early physical symptoms of elevated blood ammonia include fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the back, sides or abdomen, or other symptoms of liver and kidney damage. Excessive levels of ammonia hinder the production of the energy molecule ATP, which leads to fatigue and eventually, flaccid muscle tone. As well, ammonia raises levels of nitrogen-based, damaging free radicals in the body.

Toxicity symptoms can also include breathing difficulties (especially with a burning sensation in the lungs), glucose intolerance, and increased urinary output of magnesium, calcium and phosphate. Generally a large intravenous dose of ammonia will cause immediate hyperventilation, loss of equilibrium, brain damage, convulsions, coma, and death.

MENTAL SYMPTOMS OF AMMONIA TOXICITY

If blood ammonia levels remain elevated for too long, it soon affects the brain tissue, leading to symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, confusion, irritability, inability to concentrate, and delirium.

From the medical perspective, disorders allowing hyper amounts of ammonia into the blood, such as acute liver or kidney failure, are associated with hyper-excitability, seizures, brain edema, increased extracellular brain glutamate, and a reduction in serotonin levels. High levels of glutamate (an excitory neurotransmitter) in the brain, especially when combined with low serotonin (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) levels, are linked to ADD and ADHD, and could also be linked to a wide range of anxiety issues and unbalanced mental states.

Glutamate is known as an “excitotoxin” and excessive amounts of excitotoxins can cause brain cells to swell up and die. The other main excitotoxins are found in Aspartame (Nutrasweet) and MSG, as well as many other taste-enhancers used in commercial foods.

Reactions to excitotoxins include: headaches, eye inflammation, brain edema, central nervous and vascular system problems. When excitotoxins are fed to babies and young children they can cause disabilities including dyslexia, un-controllable anger, autism, schizophrenia, and seizures.

Mouse studies have shown that Acetyl-L-carnitine can prevent neurotoxic damage to the brain caused by ammonia. ALC also is used to treat depression and is a strong antioxidant. Protecting the brain from damage caused by excitotoxins requires adequate amounts of the nutrients vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. Also, keeping balanced blood sugar levels is critical to brain function and protection from excitotoxin damage.

On a more subtle level, the effect of ammonia on the brain include reduced cognition, lack of focus, diminished motivation, loss of sense of self, heightened emotionality and extreme mental fog. All commonly found symptoms these days.

In part 2, I will look at what we can do to remove ammonia from our body, both by supporting the organs involved in processing and disposing of it, and by taking supplements with an affinity for removing ammonia.

39 Responses to AMMONIA TOXICITY: Part 1

  1. Wow…ammonia has been destroying my family for at least 5+ years & although I’ve literally begged the medical system for answers, part 1/2 of this article had given me more information than 3 hospitals & multiple specialists! Please notify me as new facts are discovered.

    • Mine is just beginning and I am a person who has worked in a radiology department for 21 years. I think that some aspects of HIPAA are the worst if your family member is not informing you, and if your family member is one of those people that just does whatever the doctor tells them and they don’t know why or what is happening to them it is a family nightmare. In fact, I think in some cases it could potentially endanger people’s lives, including the patient’s. Why should a patient have those kinds of privacy rights that exclude the patient’s caretakers–which are not exclusively medical people. I often wonder being a person who is inflicted with autoimmune issues myself and having to work so very hard to figure out what the hell to say to the doctor to get treatment because the medical terminology wasn’t working. I mean seriously. I do really love my doctors I have right now because I can actually have a conversation with them and they don’t act like they know everything there is to know about my issues even though now I know excruciatingly too much. because I had to spend 7 years trying to get treatment and then 4 years getting the right doctors. Some doctors are real A holes when it comes to listening to patients. On the other hand, our insurance system has contributed to that issue because of limited time allowed. That really needs to change because if the patient could just have that initial time needed to get all of the necessary information. Listen to all the symptoms no matter how insignificant the doctor thinks it might be because it could be the actual missing piece. Good luck to you and do be pushy and armed with your information that you brilliantly gained through being proactive. Doctors hate that patients use the internet but if you use it right you will get the right answers and be able to do the treatment that you feel is best from an educated perspective.

  2. This great information. There are a few mutants genes along the methylation pathway that cause high ammonia levels. I have three of them- CBS, NOS, and BHMT.

    • I have some of those. Those pesky genomes! The wholistic doc told me I could bend or shape mine according the the food, environment, etc that I created. In other words, those genes could be effected by how you address them.

      Also, there is an enzyme that eats up extra ammonia. Tree Of Life in PA.

  3. “Ammonia is naturally produced in the body during “gluconeogenesis”

    Do you have references for this statement?

    Are there refs.about ammonia production during gluconeogenesis in the Liver since most gluconeogenesis takes place in the liver? I know that the liver will detox ammonia but it wont if one has Liver failure,liver enzyme deficiency,etc.

    Thanks

  4. I was admitted to the hospital as a result of ammonia toxicity on 3/13/16. I awoke with the need to vomit and kept on. I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva and keep it down. The last thing I remember was telling my husband that I needed to go to the hospital. 4-6 hours later, I was cognizant. Scared the hell out of me. I’d been symptomatic for 3 years and then the 2 weeks prior to last Sunday got increasingly worse. I’m not sure what to say…. It was an awful experience. Especially being told you can lose your mind and then die.

  5. I’ve had high levels for a year now. I took lactalose for awhile. It was very hard on my body. Last July my bowel tore. Ten months and three surgeries later my levels are still too high. My dr says take lactalose if you can handle it. Well I tried and I can’t. The side affects worried me after that ilostomy. Is there another medicine that might help me out? And I do have liver disease unfortunately.

    • I’m afraid that I am not up on pharmaceutical options, though I do believe if you use the substances mentioned in Part 2 of this blog, along with taking some clues from the comments, you will be able to remove the majority of ammonia from your body. However, if you have methylation issues it will require some testing, and a slightly different approach (injectable methyl-B12, methylfolate, and liposomal glutathione.

    • Another medicine may not be the way to go. Read part two of this article and use the 5 amino acids and bentonite clay, along with supporting vitamins.

    • Xifaxan works for hepatic and nonhepatic encephalopathy. It has kept my ammonia levels down ever since it first came out and I was prescibed it to replace lactulose.

  6. I have been dealing with non alcoholic stage 4 liver disease for over ten years now. I was given lactulose for the ammonia in the brain, but it never felt right to me. I was initially told to take it to help my bowel movements, but since I never had trouble, I never took it. They THEN tell me it’s for the brain! Glad I had already been drinking my organic green juices as it will do the same….

  7. This info was very helpful. My mom is in hospital now cause of high ammonia. She has cirosis of the liver.( non-alcoholic). And her kidneys are failing. She is totally in a fog and she has dementia and slurred speech. She stares off into space. I was wondering how deadly this was since nobody would tell me nothing at hospital. Now i know that its very serious. Thank you.

    • My husband had high ammonia levels and had a ct scan that revealed a shunt in his liver allowing unfiltered blood to circulate thru his entire body. Symptoms of extreme fatigue, falling asleep in his food and dementia symptoms. The radiologist inserted a screen and corterized the hole. Within 6 weeks all his symptoms disappeared. Even renowned neurologist missed this one. Check with your Gi doctor.

  8. My 77 yr old mother was diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the liver in July of 2016. She has never been a drinker. She has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was 31 years old. Her medication to treat it was methotrexate. I am told this is what contributed to her liver problems. The arthritis has had a terrible effect on her body. Unsteady when she could walk she has taken severals falls. One of which she hit her head pretty hard and had a subdural hematoma Burr holes to drain it became infected on one side of her head and she developed a Empyema. Which was removed, this happened in 2008. She fully recovered. Still falling now and then without any complications until last Oct. While in the hospital she had been given a restoril for sleep, and was left unattended in the bathroom and fell the next morning. She hit her head and suffered a subdural hematoma, a broken rib, and three dislocated fingers. She was black and blue all over. She is a fall risk and has been for years. The hospital took excellent care of her in ICU for four days following this. She had not been taking any meds like that for a long time. They stayed in her system to long, because of her liver I guess. This is just giving you her background. She recently suffered what was her first noticeable spike in her ammonia levels. She had told me she had found her finger in the bed and had put it back on. I figured this was ammonia and called her Dr. she said to take her in so we did. They were concerned with her loosing blood and transferred her to another hospital for testing. She was there for 4 days. We are sill waiting for those results. She was released on last Sunday a week ago. My sister told the nurses she did not look well. They said she was groggy she had just woke up. She took her home and barely got her in the door and she was so tired just wanted to go to bed. When I got home and checked her she was not well, unresponsive and we called 911. She is in the hospital now. Last Sunday she was put on a ventilator, and put into a coma, so they could figure it out. She had been giving propofol to sedate her all those days. They thought it was the subdural hematoma, or a stroke her symptoms were pointing that direction. A ct scan showed nothing. The next afternoon her labs reveled her ammonia level was 123. the started immediately trying to bring it down. The next day it was 91 the next day 76 the next day 56 the next day 36. She developed a pneumonia. So the tied to wean her off ventilator she did well breathing but did not want to wake up. So they left her on another day, and continued the propofol The next morning they weaned her off again and shut off the propofol. Breathing was good but she did not wake up. The did a bronchoscopy to clear her lungs. She did not wake up. Finally after several hours she tried to open her eyes Maybe for a second. That was it. The next day they removed the ventilator. She did well vital signs are good but she can only open her eyes for a second or two and can not speak right gurgling and moaning. She seems to understand some things she knows her name but wont squeeze your finger. This has gone on for 3 days what could it be? She does not seem to be improving. Her ammonia level is 26 now , but she seems damaged what would cause this?

    • My husband has been going through high ammonia levels since he was given a blood tranfusion with massive doses of iron for low hemo drops. He is in hospital now for high ammonia levels. Unknown he went unresponsive. This deep deep sleep as if under anthesia. He was given 3 bags of iv fluids before he started to come out of it. He wouldn’t open eyes couldn’t move body. After second bag of fluid moved right hand to scratch nose but still couldn’t respond.as quickly as he slipped into this state his ammonia level went down to40. Ct scans showing no seizures ref was good his Liver panel comes up normal gentic testing has shown no abnormally. This all started after a stent placement loss of blood transfusions of blood with iron, procuit shots and still no answers as to what’s causing this 3 yrs we have been waiting on answers as to cause of ammonia levels. We go through this every month. Being treated with lactulose zinc sulfate, and rifacimin and still went into this high ammonia level then unresponsive state this week was in that state from Thursday to Sunday. No one knows why or cause of it

    • Hi Karen,

      I am so sorry to hear about your mother. That is such a horrible way for her to have to live. I will keep her in my thoughts.

      I was hoping you or someone else in the chain may be able to guide me a bit. My brother started behaving strangely in April. He lost his temper with is boss and lost his job, he has since lost his wife and his house and is living with my mother.

      We had no idea what was happening to him because he lost his ability to walk properly, to drive a car, and had tremors, he was always confused and quite out of touch with things. After many tests (at a free clinic since he lost his health insurance when he lost his job) they said he has Ammonia toxicity. I had never heard to it but when I started to research, the symptoms are almost identical. I am afraid because I live overseas and I think my mom is really confused and isn’t helping matters. Granted she’s doing her best but she’s old. She does not want to believe it’s his liver but clearly it is and we need to help him.

      I did buy him groceries and paid their rent and I told my mom only to buy fresh fruit veg and oily fish and to give him still water and herbal tea without caffeine. I told her to cut out all diet sodas (he’s a massive fan of diet coke) and she has to help him quit smoking. I was also going to order glutamine powder for him. He is really bad and I fear he is close to death if he doesn’t get serious help.

      I think I should head over to the US but as luck would have it I am under the care of a neurologist and it’s just not feasible. Should I take a risk and go? I do not want to lose him.

      Please anyone help.

      Barbara

      • It sounds like the diet cola may be a big part of the problem: not only is aspartame a neurotoxin, but is is made in part with aspartic acid, something the body uses to detoxify ammonia. It is believed that high amounts of aspartame can cause the body to increase its dumping of ammonia. http://www.laleva.org/eng/2006/09/aspartames_cancer_producing_mechanism.html

        As well, the caramel color in colas is made with ammonia:”Caramel Color IV (synonyms: ammonia sulfite process caramel, sulfite ammonia caramel, sulfite ammonia process caramel, acid-proof caramel, beverage caramel, and soft-drink caramel) is prepared by the controlled heat treatment of carbohydrates with ammonium-containing and sulfite-containing compounds.”

  9. Also the hospital where she was having tests before she came home and went into coma, they were giving her norco for pain, Do hospitals screw up all the time like this. My mother is suffering greatly because of there mistakes. Her body and mind have never been the same since fall. Now she can’t talk. How does this happen?

  10. OMY heavens, I’m so sorry karen for you and your mom. I just happened to be reading this blog, and just wanted to drop u a line. I’m from Canada and thought I’d let u know I’m thinking about u and your mom. Try googling those Meds and see if they r compatible with what she is going through. You may want to consider a malpractice suit against hospital s and doctors. Get a copy of all the paperwork.

  11. “Ammonia is a normal by-product of processing nitrogen in the body, and is excreted as waste in the urine, in healthy people”.
    With all due respect I would like to mention that the second part of the sentence is misleading.
    Ammonia is mainly produced during the catabolism of proteins(though there are other sources of ammonia)and since ammonia is toxic to the body it is detoxified in the hepatocytes as urea which can be excreted through the urine.So humans basically excrete urea as the end product of nitrogen metabolism and not ammonia.This is the reason why humans are known as ureotelic animals(due to excretion of urea) and aquatic creatures are ammonotelic animals(excrete ammonia as such) and birds are known as uricotelic animals(excrete uric acid).

    • Aside from a basic healthy diet, low in refined carbs, avoiding bad fats and sugars, one should eat minimal amounts of animal protein, since they produce ammonia as a byproduct of digestion, and include lots of cruciferous vegetables, since they help detoxify ammonia.

      • Please be cautious recommending this low protein diet….one who is severely undermethylated needs a high protein diet that is not of plant or dairy protein, but animal. Plant protein is recommended to be avoided because commonly methylation problems can also be accompanied with copper toxicity , usually brought on by vegan type and ” greens” diets.
        Please refer to William Walsh Research Institute regarding supporting research for methylation issues, Pyroluria, nutrient deficiencies, etc. Mensah Medical nutrient protocol saved my life.
        Kindest Regards!

  12. My step father is currently dealing with this condition and has nearly every symptom listed. He is scheduled to follow up with both a gastroenterologist and an urologist. What will they be looking for? What might the course of treatment be? The medication they gave him initially has been making him throw up. They also prescribed an anti nausea medication to counteract this side effect. Is there anything we can do to help him feel better in the mean time?

    • Hi Linda: I am afraid I cannot really help you since I am not a medical professional. All I really have to offer is the material to be found in the second ammonia blog, and to suggest that you read the comments, since some of them are from people suggesting new drugs and modalities.
      In the case of your stepfather perhaps a strong probiotic product would be helpful (VSL #3 being the most therapeutic, if you can afford it) since many studies have shown probiotics to lower excessive ammonia levels in the body. As well they are gentle, don’t interact with medications and will also help with the nausea.
      https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425103316.htm

    • Certainly no homeopathic medicine would cause ammonia in the blood, unless it were designed to aid in detoxification. Homeopathic minerals, such as arsenic and mercury, can aid the body in removing the heavy metal versions of these minerals, so homeopathic ammonia should work to help the body remove toxic amounts of ammonia. You may wish to speak to a certified homeopath to follow up on the subject.

  13. Thank you so much for recognizing ammonia toxicity as a legitamite problem. I recently discovered unusually high amount of ammonia in the air and drain water. Although there is no ammonia coming into the home throgh our municipal water source, I discovered our the breakdown ptoducts of our eco-friendly cleaning products may be the source. Our water contains various amounts of chlorine used as a disinfectent making the problem even more deadly. I also appreciate the mention of ammonium chloride, which is overused to a large extent. It is a constant challenge trying to keep a clean home without the use of heavy chemicals. I have been unable to find a single product on the market that does not eventually cause severe issues when used on a regular basis. Although, I smoke cigarettes, I do not use them in the home and find small amounts of ammonia pleasant. (I am a dairy eating freak, although I am still confused as to why all my clothing smells like urine after over a year of VOC filtration and washing with products that have no labeling concerning the words ‘bleach’ or ‘ammonia’. I have quit Lysol a long time ago, despite the need for strong anti-bacterials due to various issues.)

  14. I have Alpha 1Antitrypsin deficiency. This is a genetic disorder that affects the liver & lungs. Also have stage four liver cirrhosis and have to monitor my ammonia levels. I was hospitalized for hepatic encephalopathy he when my ammonia levels reached 336. I was disoriented and confused at times but felt OK at other times. My doctor put me on lactulose and Zifaxin but my ammonia levels are continuing to rise day by day. If you’re uncertain what is causing your loved ones to be confused and disoriented and or have high ammonia levels. Ask your doctor to test them for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. A lot of doctors do not even know of this.

  15. my brother is 54 years old. His doctor told him he had high levels of ammonia when he had his blood work done about June 2017 . She put him on lactulose ,he ran out after 2 months ,had blood work done in August 2017 but they did it wrong so had to get it redone about August 28,2017, levels of ammonia are high again so he is on lactulose . He has a heart defibalotor, he is bi-polor. congrstive heart failure,his sugar runs low even takinf the lactulose.ostoprosis, breating drops real low when is a sleep so he is on oxygen when he sleeps I am his sister and his care giver this site was very helpful.Thank you for informing the public with this information.I get scared about what all he deals with,the doctors are surprised he has lived with everything but the ammonia levels which is really new the other conditions happened about 3 years ago.

    • As I pointed out in my blog on ammonia: “Magnesium is required by the body in adequate amounts to help maintain blood sugar levels, which we have seen is important to helping the kidneys to perform their detoxification function. Magnesium also serves a function in glutamine metabolism, by activating glutamine synthetase, an enzyme that also helps to remove ammonia from the cells.”
      Since the heart also depends upon magnesium you should ensure that your brother is getting as much magnesium as he can take, before reaching bowel tolerance (at least 600 mg elemental). If he cannot ingest high amounts of magnesium orally, it can be applied topically (magnesium oil).

  16. I’ve had psychotic episodes where I heard voices, become severely delusional and started to behave very strangely. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia but the funny thing is lack of sleep was what had happened just prior to each episode. Thanks for pointing to ammonia as the cause of lack of sleep. I now know parasites are releasing ammonia and the trick is to kill the parasites with herbs and by liver flushing.

    • According to Wikipedia: “The kidney’s primary function is the elimination of waste from the bloodstream by production of urine.” This includes excreting “toxic metabolic by-products such as urea, ammonia, and uric acid.”

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