It is likely you are accumulating mercury and other heavy metals at a disturbing rate. This is occurring at a time when your body is already bombarded with multiple chemical assaults, making it harder to keep its natural detoxification system working smoothly and efficiently.
The two primary sources of mercury exposure are dental amalgams (mercury-based fillings) and seafood consumption, followed by thimerosal-containing vaccines and mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants.
Other significant environmental offenders are chlor-alkali plants (which make products like chlorine bleach and PVC), trash incinerators, cement kilns, and gold mining. These industries are loading our environment with inorganic forms of mercury that are then converted in the soil and water to a type of mercury calledmethylmercury (MeHg) — which then accumulates in the fish you eat.
Dental amalgams are comprised of 50 percent elemental mercury. This form of mercury evaporates from the surface of the amalgam and is inhaled, absorbed into the blood, and then converted to inorganic mercury, the most toxic form of mercury to cells. Inorganic mercury builds up far more in your organs of elimination — it’s 100 times as high in your kidneys and liver than in your brain. But when it does make its way into your brain, it’s far more damaging than any other form.
A Two-Headed Dragon: Toxicity and Inflammation
It’s an interesting fact that some people with high mercury exposure don’t become toxic, yet others with relatively low exposure do. Why is this? Why does one person get really sick from her amalgams while another is perfectly fine?
The difference lies in your ability to detoxify naturally. You already have a system in place for removing mercury and other heavy metals from your body. Mercury’s half-life can range from 40 to 120 days, and the faster you can clear it out, the less you’ll be affected.
It’s important to realize that people are either slow detoxifiers or fast detoxifiers, and a small genetic subset are super slow detoxifiers. If you are in the super slow group, your detox system is significantly impaired and the result can be mercury overload. How quickly you detoxify on your own depends on a several factors, such as your exposure level, genetic makeup, genetic expression, and overall health. For example, if your progesterone levels are low, you can’t detoxify as well, and unfortunately, decreased progesterone levels are common today.
Additionally, people who are hypersensitive to metals will have toxic effects at much lower levels than other people. When it comes to the buildup of heavy metals in your body, the news is all bad. Heavy metal toxicity produces a wide range of adverse biological effects.
Your brain is a primary target for heavy metals, which results in many neurological symptoms, including depression and anxiety, irritability and memory loss. Mercury overload can even lead to major neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Heavy metals also target your kidneys, liver, heart, pituitary and thyroid glands, and increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, a mercury detoxification protocol can significantly improve insulin sensitivity and metabolic syndrome. Mercury, especially from dental amalgams, can accumulate heavily in your digestive tract where it attaches to your gut epithelium.
What You Need to Know about Mercury Testing
Traditional mercury testing involves testing either your hair, blood, urine, or stool. However, all of these tests have drawbacks. They primarily measure total mercury load — and inaccurately at that. But most importantly they don’t give you any information about the forms of mercury in your system or how efficiently you are getting rid of them.
Traditional mercury tests don’t answer questions like, how much of your mercury load is from the seafood you eat? How much from amalgams? How well are your kidneys and liver eliminating it?
The two principal forms of mercury accumulate differently in your body, and are eliminated by different pathways. For example, mercury levels in your hair only reflect the mercury from the fish you eat. But mercury levels in your urine reflect the mercury coming from your dental fillings (plus some of the fish-based methylmercury that has broken down into inorganic mercury). The only way to determine if there is a problem is to compare your hair and urine levels with levels in your blood. So, if mercury testing is to be meaningful, it must measure both of the following:
- Exposure level: Overall mercury level for each of the two main forms of mercury (methylmercury, related to your fish/seafood consumption, and inorganic mercury, related to dental amalgam exposure)
- Excretion ability: How well your body is getting rid of each kind of mercury, regardless of your overall mercury level
A newer testing method called “mercury speciation ”does just this — it measures both of these factors. This test uses blood, urine and hair to give you a more comprehensive picture of how your body is eliminating mercury and where the process may be blocked. This information can be immensely helpful in preparing a successful detoxification plan. For more information aboutmercury speciation testing, refer to my recent interview with Dr. Shade.
Your Body’s Natural Detoxification System: The Glutathione Machine
Toxicity is not just the level of a toxin — it’s your body’s response to a toxin, which depends on the strength of your natural detoxification system. Many people don’t understand that your body comes with its own built-in detoxification system. It’s a common myth that once you ingest mercury, it stays in your body forever.
Your body has a system to efficiently remove mercury and other heavy metals, as long as your detoxification system is working properly. The problem is, many of you have one that’s broken, and one of the principal causes is inflammation. Your genetic makeup is another factor. As Dr. Shade says:
“Your genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger.”
The glutathione “supersystem” is your body’s main detoxification system. Glutathione binds to heavy metals, but it doesn’t do it alone — it requires the assistance of enzymes, antioxidants, and transport proteins.
Old age, impaired genetics, poor diet, and toxic exposures of all kinds impair your glutathione system. Some people try to supplement with glutathione or its precursors and expect the system to jump up to speed but for the most part this doesn’t work very well as typically this is done orally with non-liposomal forms or done with IV glutathione, which is very expensive, inconvenient, and only marginally more effective. A far more effective strategy is to upregulate the expression of the genes that produce the enzymes and transport proteins that assist glutathione in doing its job.
Efficient detoxification depends on a series of seamless reactions that bind toxins to shuttle molecules and “escort” them out through a series of doors. Specifically, in order for your glutathione detoxification system to operate well, it requires the following three elements. If you have a shortage of any one of these three key elements, your cells lose their resistance to mercury, so it can accumulate and make you sick:
- Glutathione in your cells: Your body has to manufacture most of its own glutathione (biosynthesis), so it needs adequate building blocks
- Glutathione s-transferase (GST): An enzyme responsible for prying the mercury OFF the cellular proteins, then linking it TO the glutathione in the cell
- Transport proteins: A series of transport proteins (multi drug resistant proteins, or MRPs) are responsible for getting the conjugated mercury out of your cells and into your blood, as well as from your blood into your liver and small intestine, and into other places so it can be eliminated
Before You Do Anything Else, Optimize Your Diet
As with nearly every other health challenge, your diet is a critical factor in supporting your body’s detoxification system. In fact, consider dietary optimization the “pretoxification” phase, which should last for two to six weeks before starting the full detoxification phase.
Your goal is to remove inflammatory and allergenic foods such as sugar (especially fructose/HFCS), processed and packaged foods, fast foods, most starch and grain. Your diet should be low in carbohydrates, moderate-to-low in protein, and high in beneficial fats (as high as 50-70 percent). Proteins repair mangled protein molecules and supply sulfur, and fats repair your cell membranes. This type of diet not only prepares your body for detoxification but also has the additional benefit of improving your insulin sensitivity and reversing type 2 diabetes.
To read Dr. Mercola’s full article click here.