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, insomnia, digestive problems, food allergies, depression 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.
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.
- Many chronic diseases may be caused or worsened by mercury, including neurologic disease, ADHD, autism, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and more.
- 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 www.doctorsdata.com.)
- 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.