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Mercury Poisoning Toxicity

An In-depth Report on the Effects of Mercury Poisoning Toxicity
by Dr. Thomas Nissen

MERCURY: What kinds of symptoms does mercury cause?

Symptoms of mercury toxicity are many and varied, since mercury can both reach and affect nearly every cell in the body! Systemic (overall) effects can occur for this reason. The particular symptoms you experience first depend on your own genetic weakest links and on other toxic suppressors. The answers to the following questions below address the type of symptoms that can occur.

How does mercury toxicity affect the reproductive system?

Reproductive effects can occur, such as infertility, miscarriage and prematurity. Mercury lowers zinc levels, which then lowers progesterone levels. Progesterone is needed to bring a pregnancy to term. Birth defects, especially involving the brain and learning ability, can be caused by mercury, as the metal can pass through both the placental barrier and the blood-brain barrier contrary to prior belief. Low libido (sex drive) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are examples of a downward spiral of problems whose root cause is mercury toxicity.

Lowered progesterone levels can lead to infertility. PMS and infertility are common among many young female dental workers due at least in part to their mercury exposure. Male dental workers also suffer from infertility. Mercury lowers zinc levels, which in turn leads to lower testosterone (male hormone) levels.

Can babies absorb mercury from their mothers?

Mercury can cross the placental barrier, which screens out many harmful substances. This has been shown in both human and animal studies. Mercury is in fact, stored in the fetus before the mother. Mercury will also be transmitted to the infant via breast milk. Mercury from amalgam is stored in the breast milk and in the fetus at levels up to eight times that in the mother’s tissues.

How is the immune system affected?

It has been shown that mercury rapidly depletes the immune system. Mercury has been shown to induce auto-immune diseases. Mercury can cause an increase in the number and severity of allergies.

What other types of symptoms are caused by mercury?

Candida (yeast) overgrowth that is difficult to get rid of is also associated with mercury in the mouth. Mercury acts as an antibiotic, and, like medicinal antibiotics, it kills the friendly bacteria which help control yeast overgrowth.

Any of these symptoms can affect almost anyone with amalgam fillings. Some people, however, are especially sensitive, or allergic.

Replacement reactions, also called fight for site, occur when mercury (usually with a +2 charge) grabs the biological spaces which should be filled by necessary minerals. Symptoms that can be caused by a deficiency of minerals displaced by mercury include:

  • Magnesium: irregular heartbeat, receding gums
  • Iron: anemia
  • Copper: anemia, thyroid dysfunction, impaired digestion
  • Zinc: anorexia nervosa, loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite, low libido, PMS
  • Iodine: thyroid dysfunction

Some digestive problems can be caused by parasite or bacterial infection such as helicobacter secondary to immune system suppression by mercury. Mercury, in effect, opens the door like the Trojan horse so that undesirables can come in.

Mercury combines with bile and can cause bile from the gallbladder to become more alkaline, providing a favorable environment for parasites. These parasites can plug up the hepatic or bile duct so that needed digestive and other enzymes from the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas are not released. Gallbladder function then suffers.

Mercury acts as an antibiotic, and was used in some medicines until safer alternatives came along for this purpose. In the body mercury also acts as an antibiotic, and like medicinal antibiotics it kills off the beneficial bacteria which repel parasites and aid in digestion.

Yeast overgrowth with its attendant symptoms of fatigue, sweets cravings and vaginal infections is often traced to the antibiotic effect of dental mercury. Suspect this as a root cause when yeast is a continuing problem in spite of repeated treatment. The symptom (yeast overgrowth) will not likely go away until the root cause (mercury) is dealt with. The effect of dental mercury on normal gut flora is well documented.

Thyroid problems or mercury toxicity?

Endocrine problems such as low body temperature often improve rapidly when amalgam is removed, a sure sign that the amalgam was causing the problem in the first place. Normal body temperature is about 98.6 F orally.

People reacting to amalgam components often have a temperature range of 96.2 to 97.6 degrees, which can rise to 98.2 in as little as one day after amalgam removal and to 98.6 soon afterward. A low body temperature is a sign of low thyroid function, and many people have mistakenly been given thyroid hormone to remedy a symptom caused by amalgam fillings.

Synthetic thyroid hormone (thyroxin) can shut down the natural feedback cycle of the pituitary gland and its production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This shutdown then adversely affects the rest of the endocrine system. It would be far better to correct the cause of the apparent thyroid malfunction by removing the fillings that are responsible for the low body temperature, rather than prescribing supplemental thyroid hormone.

What are the mental symptoms of mercury toxicity?

Since mercury is so soluble, it can be easily absorbed through the roof of the mouth, which is less than an inch from the posterior pituitary gland. Mental symptoms of toxicity affecting the posterior pituitary include:

Depression, Timidity, Rage, Phobias, Anxiety, Lowered libido, Indecisiveness, Lack of self confidence, Compulsions, Mood swings

Mercury tends to accumulate in all tisues, but especially in the brain. Within the brain, mercury is stored prefentially in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.

Accumulation in the brain leads to mental and nervous system effects such as brain fog, depression, vision difficulties, and others as listed above. Mental effects are among the most common due to mercury's special affinity for the brain. Mercury inhibits the effects of certain neurotransmitters:

  • Dopamine: controls pain, well-being
  • Serotonin: relaxation, sleep, well-being
  • Adrenaline: energy and stamina
  • Noradrenaline, melatonin: sleep cycles

Inhibition of these neurotransmitters by mercury can account in part for the feelings of depression and loss of motivation.

Other mental/neurological symptoms include:

  • General neurological symptoms
  • Mental illness
  • Demyelinization, which can lead to such diseases as multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Developmental problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Psychological problems, including loss of function and memory, anger and emotionality, and timidity

How does mercury cause fatigue and lack of energy?

Mercury binds to nitrogen and sulfur in proteins, oxygen from the lungs, sulfur from the liver's detoxification systems, and selenium from the colon. Lower levels of body tissue oxygen due to mercury's binding it may lead to:

  • Fatigue caused by low blood sugar secondary to low blood oxygen
  • Parasite infestation by setting up an anaerobic (less oxygen) environment, and by lowering the level of the good bacteria which fight off parasites
  • An anaerobic environment also favors the development of yeast infections and cancer, since yeast is a fermenting spore and cancer is a fermenting cell rather than a normal respiratory (oxygen using) cell

Mercury binds with hemoglobin, which is responsible for oxygen transport to the tissues. This results in less oxygen reaching the tissues. The body attempts to compensate for this by increasing the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.

A normal or increased hemoglobin (oxygen carrying) level combined with symptoms usually associated with low hemoglobin such as anemia are often indicative of mercury toxicity. Copper is also required to prevent anemia, and mercury can compete for copper's binding sites. A lowered hematocrit (red blood cell count) can be indicative of lowered blood copper levels.

The terms hematocrit and hemoglobin, found routinely on blood test printouts, can be confusing. If blood is compared to a train carrying oxygen to where it is needed, hematocrit is a measure of the number of boxcars on the train (red blood cells), while hemoglobin is a measure of the carrying capacity of each boxcar, or red blood cell.

Other mineral levels can be lowered by mercury's tendency to fight for site. A deficiency of any of these minerals can lead to fatigue and other symptoms:
Cobalt, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are all required for energy.

  • Zinc is needed for the manufacture of adrenaline
  • A deficiency of zinc, copper, or potassium can lower adrenal activity
  • Cobalt, usually obtained from vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) prevents pernicious anemia, a cause of fatigue
  • Mercury blocks magnesium and manganese transport required for memory, resulting in lowered ability to concentrate

These mineral deficiencies may be primarily due to dietary deficiencies. However, deficiencies may also be secondary. The mineral may be in the body but cannot get to where it is needed because mercury has blocked the way. This is like putting a too-large battery in a toy - it won't fit in the slot made for a smaller battery, both denying power to the toy and blocking the slot from receiving the correct size battery.

Fatigue associated with mercury toxicity can be due to several of mercury's effects, including reducing adrenaline and neurotransmitter effects, reducing oxygen to tissues, and interfering with coenzyme A, which converts sugar to energy.

How can mercury increase the toxicity of other poisons?

Mercuric ion (Hg+2) binds to sulfhydryl groups (-SH) in proteins and disulfide groups (-SS) in amino acids. These sulfur containing groups have an important detoxification function in the body. Increased toxicity from chemicals and metals other than mercury can result from mercury binding these sulfur groups and preventing them from detoxifying the chemicals.

Mercury binding the bile lowers the ability of the body to absorb fat, leading to increased absorption of toxic oil-soluble chemicals such as solvents and pesticides like a dry sponge.

Selenium is an antioxidant which binds in place of oxygen and which protects against free radical damage from chemicals which can lead to cancer. Mercury can bind to selenium, making it useless for this protective purpose.

What else can mercury do?

Mercurous ion (Hg+1) pushes out Na+1 (sodium), K+1 (potassium), and Li+1 (lithium). Sodium and potassium are part of the cellular sodium/potassium pump which causes muscle movement. Interference with sodium and potassium can lead to muscle weakness for this reason. Leg and muscle cramps may be due to potassium deficiency.

Lithium is sometimes given as lithium carbonate to patients suffering from bipolar depression (manic depressive illness) since lack of lithium is one of the causes of the disease. Lack of lithium may itself be caused by mercury preventing lithium from working as it should in the brain.

Mercury is like the 200 pound bully attacking a 7 pound baby; the small baby doesn't have much of a chance. 200 and 7 are the molecular weights of mercury (the bully) and lithium (the baby) respectively. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar depression, maybe what you need is less mercury, not more lithium pills.

Mercury fights for binding sites in the kidney, another organ for which it has a special affinity. A mineral and electrolyte balance is needed in order for the kidney to perform its functions, and a poorly functioning kidney can lead to edema (fluid buildup in the body). These minerals are prevented from entering into their reactions when mercury is there to interfere.

Suppression of potassium by mercury also affects the kidneys which takes you from making adrenaline to maintaining electrolyte balance, and the lowered adrenaline level can lead to lower energy.

Detoxification systems such as metallothionein, cytochrome P-450, and bile are adversely affected by mercury. Metallothionein binds toxic metals in the body to prepare them for excretion. Mercury ties up this material so it cannot clear out other metals such as lead, cadmium, and aluminum.

Mercury from amalgam binds to -SH (sulfhydryl) groups, which are used in almost every enzymatic process in the body. Mercury therefore has the potential to disturb all metabolic processes.

Some people appear to be allergic to whatever food they eat. No matter what they eat, at least one thing in common is ingested - mercury (or nickel). Mercury released from amalgam during chewing may be the cause of most of the symptoms which seem to be caused by the food.

If a mercury vapor test, described later in this chapter, is done, it may show a low to moderate level of mercury initially, but a sharply increased level after chewing gum. This is also what happens when food is chewed. Such a test result combined with apparent allergy to most food points to mercury as a probable culprit. Nickel, which may also be contributing to the problem, is in stainless steel posts and braces.


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View our Signs and Symptoms of Heavy Metal Poisoning page.

   

Important - Test Yourself for Mercury and Other Toxic Metals

Tests that help to diagnose metal and chemical toxicity include blood tests, urine tests, and the analysis of hair, nails or other tissues. The most accurate of these are a chelation challenge test or a hair analysis.

Regular blood tests and urine tests are not accurate in diagnosing heavy metal toxicity, as they only tend to show what is happening in the body at that brief moment in time, and do not give the long-term picture.

This makes sense since the body works hard to keep the levels of nutrients in the bloodstream within fairly tight limits. If large fluctuations in mineral levels occurred, serious illness or even death would result.

A chelation challenge test needs to be performed by a doctor who specializes in chelation therapy. The patient is given a chelating drug, commonly DMPS or DMSA, and the patient's urine is collected and analyzed over a 24 hour period. This test is a highly accurate way of knowing just what heavy metals are present in the body.

The drawbacks to this method are that it requires a visit to a health care professional's office, it is expensive, and there is a possibility of side effects to the chelating drugs.

A hair mineral analysis is an excellent alternative way of determining what toxic metals are present in the body. In addition, it also measures the levels of essential minerals in the body, such as calcium, magnesium and zinc, and toxic metal and mineral ratios. This test can provide you with much-needed information about mineral deficiencies and imbalances in your body, especially if you're suffering from symptoms of heavy metal poisoning.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analyses (HTMA)

A tissue mineral analysis or hair analysis provides a unique reading of heavy metal and mineral levels in the cells over a two to three month period. It takes into consideration that toxins are stored in the tissues of the body, not in the blood. For instance, you can have normal copper levels in the blood, but high copper levels in the tissues.

The reason hair is used for testing mineral status and metabolic activity is because of it very nature. Our hair is formed from clusters of specialized cells that make up the hair follicle. During the growth phase, the hair is exposed to the interal environment such as blood, lymph and extra-cellular fluids. As the hair continues to grow and reaches the surface of the skin, its outer layers harden, locking in the metabolic products accumulated during the period of formation. This biological processs provides a blueprint and lasting record of metal content and nutritional metabolic activity that has occured during this time.

The precise analytical method of determining the levels of minerals in the hair is a highly sophisticated technique: when performed to exacting standards and interpreted correctly, it may be used as a screening aid for determining mineral deficiencies, excesses, and/or imbalances. HTMA provides you and your healthcare professional with an economical and sensitive indicator of the long-term effects of diet, stress, toxic metal exposure and their effects on your mineral balance that is difficult to obtain through other clinical tests.

It is important for the attending healthcare professional to determine your mineral status as minerals are absolutely critical for life and abundant health. They are involved in and are necessary for cellular metabolism, structural support, nerve conduction, muscular activity, immune functions, anti-oxidant and endocrine activity, enzyme functions, water and acid/alkaline balance and even DNA function.

Many factors can affect mineral nutrition, such as: food preparation, dietary habits, genetic and metabolic disorders, disease, medications, stress, environmental factors, as well as exposure to heavy metals. Rarely does a single nutrient deficiency exist in a person today. Multiple nutritional imbalances however are quite common, contributing to an increased incidence of adverse health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that mild and sub-clinical nutritional imbalances are up to ten times more common than nutritional deficiency alone.

To get an idea of how helpful a hair tissue analysis can be, think about this: Researchers using tissue mineral analysis determined, more than 100 years after Napoloen Bonaparte's death, that he had been poisoned by arsenic. Even though his hair sample was tested more than a century after his death, it still revealed pathological amounts of arsenic that had gradually proved fatal.


Introducting The Comprehensive Hair Analysis by Trace Elements, Inc.
Comprehensive Hair Analysis

A hair analysis usually needs to be obtained through a health care professional (which can be expensive). However, we offer a service that allows you to get a comprehensive hair tissue mineral analysis from a federally licensed laboratory called Trace Elements, Inc.

Each hair analysis contains a detailed 10-15 page report from the laboratory itself, which shows bar graph readings indicating high, low and reference range levels for toxic metals, essential minerals and significant mineral ratios.

It also includes a metabolic profile, recommendations for diet and supplements based on individual results.

Unlike some labs that test hair tissue analysis, Trace Elements, Inc. does not wash the hair at the lab. Washing the hair removes some of the loosely bound minerals and can reduce some mineral readings by 50 percent or more. The hair sample is prepared in their licensed clinical laboratory by using a series of chemical and high temperature digestive procedures. Testing is then performed using highly sophisticated detection equipment and methods to achieve the most accurate and precise results.

The Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis report details graph results for 8 toxic heavy metals/elements, 15 nutritional minerals/elements, 15 additional elements, 7 significant mineral ratios, and 9 toxic metal ratios. Once you purchase the hair analysis from us, we send you a hair sample kit with instructions on how to take the hair sample.

Comprehensive Hair Analysis Report
Comprehensive Hair Analysis Report

Nutritional Elements: Extensively studied, the nutrient elements have been well defined and are considered essential for many biological functions in the human body. They play key roles in such metabolic processes such as muscular activity, endocrine function, reproduction, skeletal integrity, and overall development.

Toxic Elements: The toxic elements or "heavy metals" are well-known for their interference upon normal biochemical function. They are commonly found in the environment and therefore are present to some degree, in all biological systems. However, these metals clearly pose a concern for toxicity when accumulation occurs to excess.

Additional Elements: These elements are considered as possibly essential by the human body. Additional studies are being conducted to better define their requirements.

Significant Ratios: If the synergistic relationship (or ratio) between certain minerals in the body is disturbed, studies show that normal biological functions and metabolic activity can be adversely affected. Even at extremely low concentrations, the synergistic and/or antagonistic relationships between minerals still exist, which can indirectly affect metabolism.

Toxic Ratios: It is important to note that individuals with elevated toxic levels may not always exhibit clinical symptoms associated with those particular toxic minerals. However, research has shown that toxic minerals/metals can also produce an antagonistic effeect on various essential minerals, eventually leading to distrubances in their metabolic utilization.

For a complete overview of the various sections covered in the Comprehensive Hair Analysis report, please click here.

To view details of the elements measured and to order the Hair Analysis, please click here.

Once you purchase the hair analysis from us, we send you a hair sample kit with instructions on how to take the hair sample. You then send the hair sample to the Trace Elements lab, and the lab sends us the detailed report/results, which we then mail to you. (Please note: international customers outside of the United States will be instructed to send the hair sample to us, not directly to the lab).


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For a list of Commonly Asked Questions about hair analysis, please click here.

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For information on how to remove toxic heavy metals, please click here.


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