Mercury Toxicity- Are you at risk?
Heavy metals are ubiquitous substances, especially in industrialized countries. There are 16 heavy metals physicians routinely test. More than 1900 autoimmune diseases are now linked to heavy metal toxicity. Autoimmune diseases, immune dysfunction syndromes and treatment resistant conditions are linked to this type of chronic poisoning. A recent in a peer reviewed medical journal identifies men with mercury toxicity as being over two times as likely to have a heart attack than those with normal (non-toxic) levels. Chronic heavy metal toxicity and its treatment has been the subject of much controversy in the medical and dental communities and still is to this day. There are studies offered up by both sides of how significant or insignificant this is to human health. The American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) which celebrates it's 25th year anniversary this year is the leading American medical society for the study of heavy metal toxicity and its treatments (principally Chelation Therapy). As a member, I attended their annual meeting in November, 2002 in Phoenix and was convinced by the evidence presented based on international medical literature and data to consider this therapy in my private practice.
Closer to home, a subject of mine was not having the expected results with intense nutritional therapeutics and traditional medication (of which she was taking many pharmaceuticals). She continued to express immune dysfunction and a myriad of symptoms until it was discovered the cause of her resistance. Mercury toxicity. This article will focus on Mercury.
Industry contributes tons of mercury to our environment yearly. For example, coal power plants are responsible for 35% of the load dumped into our environment, medical waste incineration is responsible for 30%, and then there are sources, such as dental amalgams (~50% of a silver dental amalgam is actually mercury [Hg]). Another source is Thimerisol, a mercury based preservative found in vaccines, injectables and contact lens solutions. The water we drink is a potential for taking in this toxin as is the fish we eat. Larger fish, such as swordfish and shark are greater repositories for mercury. Still salmon, tuna, mackerel and bass have been shown to have levels higher than 1.0 parts per billion (ppb) deemed the limit by the FDA. To paint a clearer picture, 1.0 ppb of mercury is still 20,000 molecules of mercury present in each cell.
How does this happen? Mercury is released into the atmosphere as a vapor from industry which can travel miles until it comes down to earth in precipitation (rain) and enters our water and soil. Subsequently, the inorganic mercury is transformed by bacteria into an organic methyl-mercury, which is lipid soluble and freely passes through cell membranes, across the blood-brain barrier and placenta contaminating many body organs. Storing itself in our fat cells and especially our brains. If you have mercury amalgams, then mercury vapor is released by eating, drinking hot liquids or even brushing your teeth. These vapors are inhaled into our lungs and enter the body by that rout as well as by being swallowed. Obviously, those that are immunized with Thimerisol containing vaccines are being exposed from that source. A world environmental travesty is the over use of mercury containing anti-fungals in Africa's agriculture industry, which releases 100 tons of mercury laden fungacidals a year that vaporize and travels across the atmosphere in oceanographic weather patterns and will eventually find it way to U.S. soil.
What are symptoms of mercury toxicity? Some major symptoms include headaches, body pain, numbness, tingling, trouble with memory, trouble with concentration, gait and balance disturbance, various endocrine abnormalities and gastrointestinal disturbances. Also included are a number of autoimmune and immune dysfunction disorders, such as Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, IBS, Multiple Sclerosis and Systemic Lupus. Also on the list are CFIDS, Fibromyalgia, ALS, endometriosis and RSD.
How do I get tested? A very simple screening examination is made by the use of hair. Hair and nails are repositories for mercury (and other heavy metals) and is a relatively inexpensive screening tool. To have 16 heavy metals along with good elements analyzed, it will cost approximately $160. If there are high levels of mercury noted on hair analysis, then a chelation challenge or provocation test is ordered. This is where a chelation agent (a substance that pulls heavy metals out of your body) is given in a single dose and a 6-hour urine is collected. The chelating agent (usually DMSA) pulls mercury, for example, out of your cells and excretes them in your urine. DMSA, while FDA approved for lead detoxification, has an "off label" use for mercury detox. There are other agents like DMPS and D-Penicillamine that are used as well.
So if I have a high level what next? If the provocation test is positive, then a course of pulsed chelation sessions is prescribed to rid the body of the heavy metal. Unfortunately, mercury has a half-life of between 20 and 30 years, and mercury deposits quicker than the body can get rid of it on its own. Therefore, chelation therapy is necessary to treat this type of poisoning. Periodically, challenges are performed to follow progress. Other steps are to seek the source of contamination and avoid it, remove old mercury amalgams and replace them with non-toxic porcelain fillings and be cautious with which fish and seafood you consume. Vitamin C in high doses is useful alone or in combination with DMSA in chelating out mercury. Other nutritional recommendations are to replace sulfhydryl group containing amino acids and glutathione, since methyl-mercury has a high affinity for these compounds (the liver actually secretes small amounts of mercury via bile into the feces), so folks with liver disease are hindered in their ability to excrete even small amounts of mercury.
If you have concerns about heavy metal toxicity or mercury toxicity, seek guidance and a program from a physician with experience in chronic poisoning detoxification.