It’s one of the world’s most under acknowledged causes of illness. Elevated levels of it are linked to heart disease, impaired cognitive function, chronic fatigue syndrome, immune system dysfunction, hormone imbalance, and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Your average physician and dentist don’t have a clue about the devastating damage this poison can cause in the human body. But now a bombshell study, published in the world’s top diabetes journal, may finally change all that. The hidden-in-plain-sight mystery toxin I’m referring to is mercury.
Researchers from the Indiana University School of Public Health found that adults who were exposed to higher mercury levels when they were younger had a whopping 65 percent increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life.1 The study tracked 3,875 American men and women between the ages of 20 and 32 for 18 years. Even after controlling for dietary and lifestyle factors such as omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium—both of which can help with blood sugar metabolism and can help reduce the toxic effects of mercury—researchers found that the jump in risk remained.
Hidden heavy metal may wreak havoc with your pancreas
Have you ever wondered why some people who seem relatively healthy otherwise develop type-2 diabetes? Mercury toxicity could be the reason. Mercury that was unknowingly being ingested when eating fish or from decaying amalgam fillings could have caused the cells of the pancreas to malfunction allowing glucose to build up in the blood. Also, toxic metals such as mercury can disrupt normal enzyme function in all your cells.
With its link to a 65 percent increase in diabetes risk, mercury toxicity is now on the same list with the other two widely known causes of diabetes: refined carbohydrates and high-sugar foods. My friend, make no mistake about it, this is a game changer. A poor diet, not enough exercise, and mercury exposure from the time you’re in the womb is a triple whammy that can almost certainly send you down the road to diabetes.
Mercury is highly toxic to human health
I routinely screen patients for elevated body levels of toxic metals, including mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum, and cadmium, using fully accredited medical laboratories to ensure accuracy. Elevated levels of any toxic metal can be treated with chelation and detox therapy. When these metals are removed from the body, patients typically find that good things happen: energy improves, the mind becomes clearer, digestion improves, autoimmune response markers come down, skin conditions resolve, and pain levels are reduced.
Conventional medical doctors and dentists commonly claim that mercury has nothing to do with health problems or that lab tests are somehow inaccurate. But the countless positive heavy-metal detox experiences of my patients refute this ridiculous assertion. The fact is, there’s a mountain of evidence showing that mercury is a dangerous toxin that can harm both the human body and the environment. Even the World Health Organization acknowledges this. For years they’ve published guidelines for acceptable mercury levels. Their publication “Exposure to Mercury: A Major Public Health Concern” says it all in its title, and clarifies the risk in the first sentence: “Mercury is highly toxic to human health.”3
Seeking out sources of mercury exposure
Mercury occurs naturally in the environment in several different forms. Human beings can neither create it nor destroy it. It’s found in the earth’s crust and in rocks, including coal. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Coal burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States.”4 It’s also released into the atmosphere as a byproduct of gold and mercury mining, and in the manufacturing of cement, pesticides, chlorine, mirrors, medical equipment, and through dentistry (amalgam fillings), industrial leaks, and corpse and waste incineration.5
The most common forms of mercury are elemental mercury, methyl mercury, and inorganic mercury compounds. The elemental form is commonly (and safely) used in medical equipment such as thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, barometers, and some types of light bulbs. However, if the elemental mercury isn’t enclosed in a container it will give off vapor. High levels of this vapor breathed in over a short period of time can be fatal. The two other forms are what we’re most commonly affected by.
Elemental mercury is no longer safe when it’s released into the environment as a byproduct of coal burning power plants. In fact, it’s a major source of human exposure to the toxic metal. According to the WHO “It can stay for up to a year in the atmosphere, where it can be transported and deposited globally. It ultimately settles in the sediment of lakes, rivers or bays where it is transformed into methyl mercury, absorbed by phytoplankton, ingested by zooplankton and fish, and accumulates especially in long-lived predatory species, such as shark and swordfish.”3 And, of course, fish that eat the toxic methylmercury pass that mercury on to humans when we eat the fish, which explains why fish are ultimately the biggest source of mercury toxicity in the human body. The more methyl mercury a fish feeds on, and the longer it lives, determines how much mercury it passes on to us.
Fish are a major source of mercury toxicity
Shockingly, a recent study found that between 43% and 100% of the fish from nine countries (including the United States) contained mercury at levels so high that eating them more than once per month would be unsafe.6 The biggest risk is to children, especially those who are still developing in the womb and being exposed to mercury when the mother consumes unsafe fish (mercury passes through the placenta into the bloodstream of the fetus). However, adults are affected, too. Richard Gelfond, the CEO of the movie company IMAX is a good example of just how dangerous mercury exposure in adults can be. Gelfond developed a balance problem that became so severe he couldn’t even cross a street without his wife holding his hand. After seeing many specialists a neurologist finally thought to ask him how much fish he was eating. It turns out Gelfond, a fish fan, was eating two meals of fish a day. His diagnosis? You guessed it—mercury toxicity.7
Do you have a mouthful of mercury?
Dental amalgams (silver fillings), which contain approximately 50% mercury, are a source of exposure to the troublesome inorganic mercury. A study in Journal of Dental Research analyzed mercury vapor concentration in 46 people, 35 of whom had amalgam fillings.8 Researchers found that participants with amalgam fillings produced mercury vapors that were nine times greater than baseline levels in participants with no amalgams. Chewing increased their mercury concentration by six-fold compared to non-chewing mercury levels—a stunning 54-fold increase over people without amalgam fillings.8 (If a dentist tries to tells you silver fillings don’t increase body mercury levels direct him to this study published in a reputable dental journal.) And to make matters worse some of the mercury from fillings that enters the digestive tract is transformed into methylmercury, the type of mercury commonly found in fish.
Another form of inorganic mercury compounds are known as mercury salts. They have long been used in folk medicine and in herbal formulas developed by traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine practitioners. It would be rare for Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine herbalists in the United States to use formulas that contain this very toxic form of mercury. However, herbal supplements and teas imported from China and India have been found to contain mercury and other contaminants. Therefore I recommend using only herbal products that are harvested and manufactured in the United States, or at least independently tested for toxic metals and other contaminants.
Diagnosing mercury toxicity
There are several tests that can be used to diagnose your mercury burden. These include hair, urine, stool, toenail and blood analyses. For children, hair analysis is usually the easiest test to use. For adults any of the tests…or a combination of them…can be used.
When testing finds elevated levels of mercury, especially the methyl mercury type, the first step in treatment is to eliminate the source. This means avoiding mercury-laden fish, especially tuna, swordfish, and shark. (In fact, I recommend this for everyone as a preventative measure.) And the proper removal of amalgam fillings is critical (a holistic dentist can take care of this).
Next, you should start on a chelation and detoxification program. The key to successfully removing mercury from the body is to make sure the body’s detoxification systems are working properly. The liver and kidneys are particularly important because they work to metabolize and excrete mercury out of the body. A healthy diet that contains adequate protein, fiber, and nutrients is important for these organs to work properly. Most mercury is excreted through the stool. This requires enough fiber in the diet to bind and carry the mercury out so that it’s not reabsorbed through the gut right back into the bloodstream. A diet high in vegetables is critical. Ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and psyllium seeds can boost your fiber levels to aid with the elimination of mercury. Adequate filtered water is necessary for proper detoxification as well.
Glutathione helps you metabolize mercury
Glutathione is a valuable antioxidant that supports your body’s ability to metabolize mercury. It works on a cellular level to help your body to detox from mercury. There are several ways to increase glutathione levels. These start with intravenous, transdermal, and inhaled or nebulized glutathione, all of which must be administered by a healthcare professional. Or you can take some additional supplements, which will naturally stimulate your own glutathione production including:
Selenium—200 mcg daily
N Acetylcysteine—1000 mg daily
Whey protein—25 grams daily
Vitamin C—1000 mg twice daily
Alpha lipoic acid—600 mg daily
Milk Thistle—500 mg daily
Glutathione levels can also be increased orally. Technological advances have allowed us to make a form of the supplement, called S Acetyl glutathione, that can survive stomach acid. A typical dosage is 200 mg taken two to three times daily. There are a number of good glutathione products available from Max International.
More supplements that help with mercury detox
Several small human studies have found that chlorella, a type of algae, may support mercury detoxification. The algae appear to bind with mercury in the digestive tract helping to eliminate it. A typical adult dose is to work up to 1000 mg twice daily.
Probiotics are the good bacteria in the digestive tract which also help to metabolize mercury. They are an important part of the detoxification activity in the gut. Take a quality probiotic daily.
Vitamin C not only supports glutathione levels, but also aids in the detoxification of mercury in several ways. It acts as an antioxidant and also increases bile production. Take 1000 mg twice daily. Multivitamin and mineral formulas provide a base of nutrients that aid your organs and cells in eliminating mercury. Take as directed.
For patients with high levels of mercury or conditions I feel are directly caused by their mercury toxicity I also use more aggressive protocols. This can involve the oral use of DMSA (Meso-2, 3-dimercaptosuccinic acid) which is a chelating agent shown to chelate heavy metals including mercury. It has been used for the treatment of heavy metal toxicity since the 1950’s. Research has shown that it’s safe and effective. I typically have patients use 250 mg to 500 mg a day for several weeks with breaks to help pull mercury out of the body. Another approach I use is the intravenous administration of DMPS (2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid), which similar to DMSA works to pull mercury out of the body’s tissues. I’ve found that one treatment every 3 weeks for 5 treatments is very effective in reducing mercury levels.
Saunas, whether they are steam, dry, or infrared, can help to eliminate mercury as well. Some practitioners also recommend colonics to support colon cleansing as part of a mercury detoxification regimen.
The length of time it takes to eliminate mercury from the body depends on many factors. This includes the health of the patient, how high the mercury levels are, type of chelation program used, genetics (people vary in their ability to detoxify mercury based on their genetics) and if the source of the mercury contamination is eliminated (such as fish consumption or amalgam fillings). For some patients it takes a few months while for others with a high body storage level it can take six months or longer.
During treatment I find that some patients have a temporary increase in their mercury levels as their body releases stored metal. This is normal and means the chelation treatment is pulling the mercury out of the tissues it’s stored in. Over time the levels will drop. I very rarely see side effects with mercury chelation. If a patient’s mineral levels dip too low I have him supplement with extra minerals and reduce the strength or frequency of his chelation program. Your holistic doctor can use tests to determine when you are done with treatment.
It’s important to avoid mercury contamination and to get your levels tested and treated if elevated. This is particularly true if you have a chronic disease including diabetes. I suspect researchers have only scratched the surface on the detrimental effects of mercury on human health. Fortunately we already have effective methods for preventing, identifying, and treating the problem.
Used with permission from Dr. Mark Stengler’s Health Revelations newsletter (www.healthrevelations.com)