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Mercury Detoxification Considerations

Unfortunately we have many exposures to mercury these days and some level of management is required to help prevent the poisonous effects of mercury exposure.

Mercury can come in three main forms:

  • Elemental
  • Inorganic
  • Organic

Organic mercury is the most toxic form and more readily crosses the blood brain barrier. The most common sources of mercury include:

  • Amalgam fillings (by far the highest source)
  • Fish, particularly large predator fish
  • Water
  • Air
  • Vaccinations, although this is a very small quantity comparative to the other above sources/

Some of the above is our own making (industrial pollution, fillings etc), whereas a certain amount is natural.

Mercury from amalgam fillings

A typical amalgam filling is about 55% mercury. The amount of release of mercury from the filling is proportionate to the amount of surface area, and once released bacteria in the digestive system aid the absorption.

Mercury from fish

It has been shown that the amount of mercury excretion through urine is proportionate to the amount of fish eaten in a diet. See table below for details on lower to high levels of mercury in fish.

Low

  • Sardines
  • Tilapia
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Scallops
  • Salmon
  • Crayfish
  • Freshwater Trout
  • Ocean Perch
  • Mullet
  • Pollock
  • Atlantic Mackerel
  • Anchovies
  • Sole
  • Plaice
  • Catfish
  • Squid
  • Crabs
  • Flounder
  • Herring

Moderate

  • Pacific Mackerel
  • Cod
  • Canned Tuna
  • Lobster
  • Snapper
  • Skate
  • Hake
  • Haddock
  • Freshwater perch
  • Monkfish
  • Halibut
  • Sea Trout
  • Sea Bass
  • Freshwater Bass

High

  • Canned Albacore Tuna
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • King Mackerel
  • Fresh / Frozen Tuna
  • Marlin
  • Grouper
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Gulf Filefish
  • Tuna Sushi
  • Bluefin Tuna

Mercury in air and water

Both our air and water can be sources of mercury. Whilst this can be directly effected by where, for example in the UK the highest concentration of mercury is found in the north west of the country and also central parts of England, it is hugely effected by what is going on the other side of the world for some. For example 40% of the human release of mercury comes from China where they are still using coal for energy. This has the ability to travel globally and impact every one of us, including a developing fetus where mercury will be passed on from mother to baby.

What effect does mercury have on the body?

Symptoms of low dose mercury toxicity are wide ranging. Many are linked to neurological issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Unintentional dropping things
  • Moody
  • Confusion
  • Change in sense of smell and/or taste
  • Coordination problems
  • Headache
  • Shakiness in hands

The reason for the high incidence of neurological issues is that the brain can act as a storage unit for mercury.

There also appears to be an increased risk for mercury overload when progressing through the menopause or those that suffer with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Our bone acts as the main storage point for mercury and thus any bone loss may stimulate the release of mercury into the system.

Fat loss diets may also contribute to an increase in toxic burden due to the release of toxins stored in fat cells, and this may be a reason why supporting detoxification during fat loss is a wise decision.

Other areas of health that seem to be affected by mercury overload include cellular energy production, sleep disturbances and digestive problems.

Safe Intervention Strategy

Rather than specific intense mercury detoxification protocols, often the best way to reduce your mercury load is to remove the exposure sources as much as possible and support detoxification pathways, antioxidant status and support certain nutrients in a gentle fashion so to not over burden the body with mercury and allow for effective elimination.

Our body excretes mercury through:

  1. Liver/Bile/Gut
    • Primary route of excretion (80-90%)
    • Binds to glutathione
    • Proper excretion depends on the health of the digestive system and adequate fibre, good bacteria and correct pH
    • Without adequate digestive function a large majority of mercury is reabsorbed
    • Very important to stimulate bile and glutathione to excrete mercury
  2. Hair
  3. Kidneys/Urine

Intervention options for reducing mercury load

  • Removal of amalgam fillings – MUST be done correctly by a biological dentist.
  • Assess fish intake and choose only low mercury containing fish.
  • Support the mother antioxidant glutathione. Some of the best ways to up-regulate glutathione production include alpha lipoic acid (ALA), N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC), and whey protein.
  • NAC also directly binds to mercury, especially the type of mercury found in amalgam fillings.
  • Support bowel regularity, fluid intake, fiber, relaxation and stress reduction.
  • Under the support of a qualified practitioner consider the use of DMSA.
  • Assess and provide selenium if required as this directly binds to mercury, particularly the form found in amalgam fillings, it also helps prevent oxidative damage, probably due to its roll in glutathione production.
  • General liver support
  • Probiotics
  • Amino acids
  • Good water intake
  • Infra red saunas
  • Adequate sleep
  • Appropriate movement
  • Why glutathione

Glutathione is the most important intracellular and intra-mitochondrial antioxidant. It has the ability to bind and transport mercury out of cells and the brain. It also neutralizes the oxidative damage caused by mercury.

As well as all the above it is one of the key predictors of healthy ageing. So if you want to stay looking younger then supporting glutathione is a must.

As well as ALA and NAC other compounds that may help stimulate glutathione production include resveratrol and milk thistle.

Conclusion

Before any detoxification protocols can start, you should always create a foundation of health to work from. This will include healthy eating habits, food choices, optimising sleep health, reducing stress and adequate but not excessive movement.

Once these food and lifestyle foundations are in place, and as long as there is sufficient evidence to support detoxification you should look to working with a practitioner to find a safe and effective way that you can support detoxification and increase your health and longevity.

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