Tips and Truths about Mercury

Mark Hyman, M.D. by Mark Hyman, M.D. | March 11th, 2010 | 4 Comments
topic: Detox, Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating

If you are heavy, it could be making you sick and tired and age prematurely. And I don’t mean heavy with fat …

I mean heavy with heavy metals — like mercury!  There’s no doubt about it, mercury is the most alarming, disease-causing source of environmental toxicity that I see daily in my practice. Many of my patients have toxic levels of mercury — and they’re not alone.

I personally suffered from mercury toxicity and chronic fatigue syndrome, which I cured myself from in part by getting rid of the mercury in my body. So, I know about this first hand.

I became toxic because I polluted myself by growing up on tuna fish sandwiches, eating sushi, living in Beijing (where homes are all heated with coal — the major source of environmental mercury load) and having a mouthful of amalgam — aka mercury — fillings.

All of these exposures, combined with genes that prevent me from effectively detoxifying metals in my body, led to a slow and significant poisoning of my cells and mitochondria. And the effects were obvious …

I felt weak and tired and couldn’t think. I had muscle pain and twitches, insomniadigestive problemsfood allergiesdepression and anxiety. It was only by discovering high levels of mercury in my hair and urine — and slowly detoxifying myself — that I was able to get better.

I have seen this over and over in my patients, too. From chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, to obesity, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, heart failure and heart disease, the message is clear …

We are being poisoned!

Health effects of mercury

We get mercury in our bodies from many different sources, including mercury vapors in ambient air, ingesting it via drinking water, fish, dental amalgams, vaccines, occupational exposures, home exposures including fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, batteries, red tattoo dye, skin-lightening creams, over-the-counter products such as contact lens fluid and neosynephrine, and more.

You absorb about 80 percent of inhaled mercury vapor and nearly 100 percent of the mercury in fish through your gut.

Once this mercury is in your body, it is then primarily distributed in the kidneys and brain. The only way it can get out of your body is via urine, feces, expired air and breast milk. The major reason mercury is toxic to human biology is because it has the ability to bind to sulfur-containing molecules in the body (found in nearly every enzyme and in the mitochondria), as well as other chemical binding sites in the cells.

The symptoms and diseases these exposures have caused are varied and mimic many other conditions. Nervous system toxicity can cause erethism (“mad hatter syndrome”) with symptoms of shyness, nervousness, insomnia and memory problems; laughing, crying and dramatic mood swings for no apparent reason; and the inability to concentrate. Other neurologic symptoms may include encephalopathy (non-specific brain malfunction), nerve damage, Parkinsonian symptoms, tremor, ataxia (loss of balance), impaired hearing, tunnel vision, dysarthria (slurred speech), headache, fatigue, impaired sexual function and depression.

Kidney toxicity leads to proteinura (protein in the urine) and acute renal failure. Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and colitis. Skin toxicity causes allergic dermatitis, chelitis (cracked corners of the mouth), gingivitis (gum disease), stomatitis (sores in the mucous membranes of the mouth) and excessive salivation.

Clearly, mercury toxicity is VERY serious business!

10 truths and tips about mercury toxicity

  • Industrial exposure to mercury is significant and mostly comes from coal burning (220 million pounds a year) and chlor-alkali plants.
  • The main ways that humans are exposed to mercury are from contaminated fish and dental amalgams or silver fillings.
  • Mercury can affect nearly all your organs, especially the brain, heart, kidneys and gut.
  • Some of us are genetically better adapted to detoxify mercury than others, leading to variable effects within the population.
  • You should reduce your exposure by avoiding large ocean fish (like tuna, swordfish, shark and tilefish) and river fish. Eat only small wild fish. If it fits in your pan, it is probably OK.
  • Blood tests are relatively worthless for analyzing mercury toxicity, unless you have had a significant recent exposure or eat a lot of sushi or tuna.
  • Hair tests only check for mercury from fish, not from fillings, so they only give you a partial picture.
  • The only way to find out your total body load of mercury is to take a medication with sulfur molecules that binds to the mercury like fly paper. This is called DMSA or DMPS. This test should ONLY be done by a trained physician and involves taking one dose of this medicine, followed by a six- or 24-hour urine collection to see how much comes out. (In my opinion, the most reliable testing is done by
  • If you are toxic and sick, you may consider addressing your dental health by seeing a biological dentist who can safely help you deal with mercury in your mouth. Going to see a conventional dentist who drills out your fillings without any precautions or protection can lead to serious health consequences. I strongly advise against it. However, amalgam filling removal CAN be done safely and effectively by a dentist trained in the correct techniques.

Finding out if you are poisoned by mercury, limiting your exposures and getting the mercury out of your body is absolutely critical if you want to achieve lifelong vibrant health.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.


  1. WOW! What a great article-well written. When I was 9 yrs old, my dad insisted that I try shark when eating at a seafood restaurant. My parents wanted me to try many new things/foods to be well-rounded. Anyway, I got extremely ill from the shark and I realized about 6 months ago that it was probably due to the mercury in the shark. I think I had had mercury poisoning.

    I did have all of my amalgem filling removed about 5 yrs ago via a conventional dentist and I do not eat much sushi (never really have). In fact, every time I ate cerviche or raw salmon in sashimi I immediately started to feel nauseus and I just assumed I was allergic to the salmon, I know it is the mercury.

    Today, I try to eat as clean as possible, avoiding additives, excitotoxins like MSG and have purchased various ingredients to start detoxing my body of all of the chemicals/mercury etc. My mom suffered with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue for years! The doctors told her it was triggered by an accident. I believe it is the mercury and Candida.

    I will re-tweet this one for sure!

    Karla D. | March 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. This is great information. Growing up fishing in the San Francisco Bay we had no idea how contaminated the fish we were catching were. It wasn’t until Fish and Game came out with recommendations of how much fish you should eat on a weekly basis (one serving) to keep from getting mercury poisoning. That was the end of my fishing in the bay.

    Home Remedies For Yeast Infections In Women | August 3rd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. I remember attending a friend’s party and eating raw shark that was sitting out. Not realizing the danger of spoiled fish I got sick to my stomach and had a fear of eating any kind of fish cooked or not. It wasn’t until a few years ago a friend took me to a sashimi restaurant and talked me into trying it. It was so much better than I expected I became a fish eater again. Now to read about the levels of mercury in fish I’m afraid I’ll have to go back to fearing fish.

    Thanks for the info!

    Kathleen Stevens | September 13th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. Male, 42 yrs old. Kidney donor. No previous major health issues before this. Back in February I recited a tetanus booster after hurting my knee. Over the next week I began to feel very on edge and just strange. On a few occasions I began shaking violently. It was extreme, like hypothermic type shaking. I would be in a warm room and still start violently shaking as if I were on the verge of a full on seizure. This would occur while just hanging out with my kids or friends and not feeling anxious at all. Over the next week or so I began feeling very short of breath, tired and increasingly anxious. A few days later the neuropathy took hold, mainly on my left side (the shot was given in my left arm). The intense tingling and crawling sensations went down my left arm, left leg, left side of face and the top of my head. Within days the neuropathy on my face was accompanied by a large area of numbness on my cheek and mouth.

    I suspected that what was happening had something to do with the shot but I was unaware of the themirosal connection so I began to blame it on the tetanus toxoid. I told my physician about my idea of the shot causing something to happen. She on the other hand, came to the conclusion that it was just severe anxiety and depression. I was so confused and felt so helpless by then that I started to get desperate to find out what was causing it. I knew it was something physical and I even remember telling my wife and mom several times that I felt like my body had become “toxic” or was poisoned.

    Eventually the symptoms got so bad, I became very nervous about any kind of public situation. Even hanging out with family made me feel claustrophobic, very shy and aggrophobic. It was like I was going insane and I began to lose all hope.

    One night I ended up going to the ER because I was so short of breath, dizzy and shaking so violently that I was unvoluntarily clenching my teeth. I was unable to stand, laying on our bed and telling the paramedics that I suspected it was something to do with a booster shot. I’m sure they thought I was just nuts. At the hospital (Swedish hospital in Denver- terrible hospital!) I was told by the ER dr that I was just having a panic attack and that I was suffering from major depression that was caused by “renal insufficiency” based on my slightly lower kidney function (i had already explained to the fool that i was a kidney donor). All he told me was that I should see my family dr to get on an SSRI. Now I’ve got to pay $950 for his “expertise”.

    Over the next few days I became very suicidal and actually had to destroy a small caliber gun we kept in the house because I was terrified as to what I would do. This lead to me finally seeking counseling and out of desperation for staying alive, I went on Zoloft. I hate antidepressants but the small dose saved my life!!

    I ended up going to a naturopath doctor that a family friend told me about. I told him about my symptoms and he started to suggest some tests. Then, I mentioned the fact that it all began shortly after a tetanus shot and at that point he knew exactly what is was. After checking a small amount of my blood on a dark field microscope, he discovered mercury as well as a lot of small parasites (most likely the result of mercury damage to my stomach and intestines). The fact that mercury was discovered in such a small amount of blood made it obvious that I had a significant amount in my body.

    I am now on a herbal regimen and diet to help cleanse myself. I’d love to try the DMSA but I hear it is hard on the kidneys and since I have one, I’m not willing to take that risk.

    Thanks for letting me share my story. Great blog.

    David | September 15th, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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