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Is mercury making you sick?

Without knowing it, mercury toxicity could be contributing to your chronic illnesses. High concentrations of mercury can cause liver and kidney damage, and neurological symptoms like multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson's disease. It can contribute to heart disease, autoimmune problems, and an underactive thyroid.

Mercury is not needed for any known metabolic function. We shouldn't have any in our bodies, but we do. Over the last 50 years, mercury toxicity has risen due to its use in industrial and agricultural applications, and the mercury in "silver" amalgam dental fillings. As these fillings begin to disintegrate, mercury leaches into your body. Mercury is found in some thermometers, cosmetics, fungicides, and pesticides. The combined waste products from these products have contaminated our lakes, rivers, and oceans, and have moved up the food chain into the fish we eat.

There is a strong connection between eating freshwater fish and accumulating mercury in your body that can contribute to increased heart attacks and deaths from heart disease. The very food we're told to eat to help our heart--fish--may contain harmful amounts of heart-stopping mercury.

Mercury toxicity

Dental amalgams appear to be the greatest source of mercury toxicity. An average filling contains 1/2 gram of mercury, the same amount that would warrant a fish advisory warning for a 10-acre lake!

When these fillings begin to crack and disintegrate, or are removed, mercury leaks into your bloodstream and lungs. All damaged dental amalgams should be removed by a dentist who provides you with a face mask and rubber dam to prevent you from additional exposure to mercury particles and vapors.

Mercury related Illnesses

Mercury toxicity can contribute to low thyroid, anemia, anorexia, colitis, depression, dermatitis, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, hypertension, insomnia, irritability, kidney dysfunction, poor memory, metallic taste, numbness, tremors, vision impairment, and weakness. It is an immune suppressant and has been associated with candida, digestive problems, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Although the connection between mercury and MS is not completely understood, mercury accumulates in the same parts of the nervous system where symptoms of MS originate.

If you believe you've been exposed to mercury, you may want to be tested. One study found that many symptoms of chronic candida, chronic fatigue, and multiple chemical sensitivity were identical to mercury toxicity. When amalgams were removed and supplements were given, these symptoms disappeared (Godfrey, J Adv Med).

Years ago, I counseled a young patient with early stages of MS who had a lot of amalgam fillings. His progress using nutrition was minor. We decided he should have his fillings removed and replaced. Afterward, his MS symptoms improved permanently.

Testing for mercury toxicity

Testing for mercury isn't cheap. Neither is its treatment. But if it's the cause of your problems, it's worth every penny. Various laboratories around the country test levels of mercury though hair analysis, blood tests, and urine tests. These tests cost between $50 and $200. Talk with your doctor about the most appropriate test for you. These laboratories will work with your doctor if he or she is not familiar with mercury toxicity and its removal. They will also give you the names of doctors in your area who have used their tests if you don't have a willing doctor. Two laboratories I know and trust are:

Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., 63 Zillioa Street, Asheville, NC 28801; 800-522-4762; e-mail: cs@gsdl.com. Great Smokies has a database of 10,000 doctors who use their products. Call them for referrals.

Doctor's Data Inc. (P.O. Box 111, West Chicago, IL 60186-0111; 800-323-2784) tests urine, stool, and red blood cells for signs of mercury, and also conducts hair analysis.

Removing mercury

To remove mercury from the body, chelation is better than using nutritional supplements, especially if mercury levels are high.

Chelation therapy: Substances used in chelation therapy grab onto toxins that are then eliminated in the urine. DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid) is the chelation drug used by most doctors and dentists. DMSA is especially effective in removing mercury from the brain since it crosses the blood-brain barrier. It also removes mercury from the blood, liver, and kidney, and has a low level of toxicity. Other chelation agents include DMPS (Sodium Dimercaptopropanesulfonate) and Dimercaprol (BAL).

Nutritional supplements: Nutritional supplements work best with chelation. But they could help by themselves if mercury is not high. Glutathione detoxifies and eliminates mercury and other heavy metals. But it's expensive. N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, known as NAC, is a sulfur amino acid that can help make glutathione in your liver and remove some mercury. NAC, along with MSM, another sulfur amino acid, can remove some mercury.

Nutrients to avoid

Lipoic acid is a strong anti-oxidant that can chelate mercury. If used in sufficient quantities, it can cause mercury toxicity symptoms. Use lipoic acid only under a doctor's care. When combined with DMSA, these symptoms are suppressed.

Avoid homeopathic remedies that are said to remove mercury. When a skilled medical doctor and homeopath like Dr. Fleisher says they don't work, they probably don't. There are no clinical studies that prove they're effective. They could suppress symptoms, but that's not the same as removing their cause. Homeopathic remedies can boost your immune system and strength, making it easier for your body to handle chelation therapy's detoxification. But don't use homeopathics instead of chelation.

Protect tourself from mercury toxicity

Take a multivitamin with chelated minerals. They have been shown to protect from mercury toxicity. Get a full 200 mcg of selenium, needed to activate enzymes used in detoxification. Sulfur amino acids like cysteine and methionine guard against mercury absorption.

Use a water filter with a KDF filter for all of your household water to reduce your exposure to mercury through bath and drinking water. Our Rainshow'r showerhead and Crystal Ball for baths both contain KDF filters (800-728-2288). Filters for drinking and cooking water should always contain KDF materials, made with copper-zinc granules that attract heavy metals, including mercury, to them. Inexpensive filters will remove chlorine, but not heavy metals. For information on drinking-water filters, call 800-243-8775.

Additional information

Dr. Cutler's book, Amalgam Illness, presents thorough information on mercury toxicity and its removal. It's a complex book and can be confusing. If you can read through some dense information, it could be helpful. It's ideal for any dentist or doctor. Available from Dr. Cutler for $35 by calling 425-557-8299.

Don't know where to start or what to do next? Naturopath, acupuncturist, and former dentist, Michael Lipelt, offers phone consultations ($60/hr) to help guide individuals through the maze of choices connected with mercury toxicity and removal. He can be reached at 707-829-2737.

Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome (DAMS, Inc.), P.O. Box 7249, Minneapolis, MN 55407; 800-311-6265, e-mail dentaltruth@ yahoo.com. A grass-roots organization with information on health problems caused by amalgam fillings.

Holistic Dental Association, P.O. Box 5007, Durango, CO 81301, e-mail: had@frontier.net. Will give you referrals to dentists in your area for mercury removal.

American Academy of Biological Dentistry, P.O. Box 856, Carmel Valley, CA 93924; 831-659-5385 For referrals to dentists.

Safe Nutrients to Help Remove Mercury

* NAC, 600 mg: One to two capsules three times a day between meals on an empty stomach.

* Vitamin C, 1,000 mg: One to two capsules three times a day with meals.

* Garlic extract, 500 mg with high allicin content: One capsule three times a day with meals.

* Probiotics (friendly bacteria) to repair gastrointestinal damage from mercury and for better bowel function to help eliminate it. Jarrow Dophilus EPS (one capsule with meals), acidophilus or Natren Healthy Trinity (one before bed).

* Chlorella helps detoxify mercury: One tablespoon in diluted juice sipped throughout the day.

* High potency multivitamin/ mineral with extra sulfur amino acids, like Vitality: Three tablets twice a day with meals.

Mitchell Fleisher, MD (804-361-1896).

Cutler, Andrew Hall, PhD, PE. Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment, 1999 ($35). Self-published. Order through: 425-557-8299, or e-mail AndyCutler@aol.com.

Fasciana, Guy S, DMD. Are Your Dental Fillings Poisoning You?, Keats Publishing, 1986.

Fleisher, Mitchell A., MD. "Mercury detoxification," Townsend Letter for Doctors, May 2001.

Godfrey, M.E. "Candida, dysbiosis and amalgam," Journal of Advanced Medicine, vol. 9, 1996.

Haas, Elson M., MD. Staying Healthy With Nutrition, Celestial Arts, 1992.

Huggins, Hal A., DDS, MS, and Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, FACC. "Cerebrospinal fluid protein changes in multiple sclerosis after dental amalgam removal," Alternative Medicine Review, vol. 3, no. 4, 1998.

Sehnert, Keith W, MD, et al. "Is mercury toxicity an autoimmune disorder?" Townsend Letter for Doctors, August/September 1999.

Werbach, Melvyn R., MD. Nutritional Influences on Illness, Second Edition, Third Line Press, 1996.
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Author:Fuchs, Nan Kathryn
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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