Mercury Accumulation In The Body
Mercury Accumulation In The Body
Mercury toxicity and heavy metal toxicity are more common in Australia than one might think. There are three common ways we are exposed to mercury – through dental fillings, ingestion of contaminated fish or occupational exposure. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mercury as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern, as it can cause serious health problems.
So, what can we do about it? How can we unburden our bodies from the toxic effects of mercury? Functional Medicine can offer natural solutions to safe ways to rid the body of mercury that has built up over time and help restore your overall health.
What is mercury?
Mercury is a type of elemental metal found in the Earth’s crust that’s toxic to humans. It is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil. It is also found in food, industrial sites, dental fillings made from mercury amalgam, thermometers, light bulbs, cigarettes and cigarette smoke, old paint and batteries.
There are three different types of mercury:
- Elemental mercury: we know this form as silver fillings, or dental amalgams, which are made of about 50 percent mercury and the rest containing small amounts of silver, tin and copper. Fillings lose mercury as mercury gas, which we inhale and permeates the rest of the body.
- Inorganic mercury: this form of mercury is the result of corrosion. When the elemental mercury in dental amalgams are inhaled or swallowed, it attaches to another compound, forming inorganic mercury.
- Organic mercury: this form is also called methylmercury and is found in seafood. When we eat fish, the methylmercury is delivered directly to our intestines. Somewhat unfortunately, due to a process called molecular mimicry, which can be thought of as a case of mistaken identity, our body sees the organic mercury, thinks it’s a beneficial nutrient, and brings it out of the gut into circulation. 
Different forms of mercury deposit in different tissue compartments, which explains their different toxic profiles. Methylmercury is almost 100% absorbed across the intestines and also crosses the blood-brain barrier. Inorganic mercury is also absorbed through the intestines and crosses the blood-brain barrier, but much less so than methylmercury. 
People are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound.  If you consume high quantities of fish high in mercury, it can take up to a year for your mercury levels to decrease after you stop eating it.
What is mercury toxicity?
Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems, especially to unborn babies and young children. Mercury poisoning occurs when you expose yourself to too much mercury and your body reacts negatively to the compound.
Mercury poisoning is not something that happens quickly – it usually takes time for levels to build up in the bloodstream.
Mercury may have toxic effects on the body as a whole – the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
When mercury leaves the body, it does so slowly and through sweat, urine, faeces and breast milk.
What are the symptoms of mercury accumulation in the body?
Once inside your body, mercury travels to your heart, central nervous system and kidneys. Your body knows that mercury is not supposed to be there, so you’ll experience symptoms, caused by your immune system trying to get the compound out in the same way it would attack bacteria or germs. 
An accumulation of mercury in the body can present in many different ways. The most common symptoms are hair loss, fatigue and joint pain but there are many other possible symptoms, including the following:
- emotional changes (such as mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness)
- neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching)
- disturbances in sensations
- changes in nerve responses and/or
- poor performance on tests of mental function
- loss of peripheral vision
- “pins and needles” feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth
- lack of coordination of movements
- impairment of speech, hearing, walking, and/or
- muscle weakness 
Mercury and related health issues
- Researchers have found that mercury may cause imbalance in your gut microbiome, increasing the risk of candida overgrowth
- Mercury can cause damage to your gut lining, causing hyper-permeability or “leaky gut” in which holes in the gut barrier enable toxins and other unwanted matter to pass through from the gut into the bloodstream.
- If you carry one or more MTHFR gene mutations, your body has a more difficult time detoxifying so you could be at risk of mercury overload and developing an autoimmune disease.
- Mercury toxicity may put you at a higher risk of developing autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Graves Disease and Hashimoto’s as it can be recognised by the body as iodine, which is used in the production of hormones.
Testing for mercury in the body
There are several options when it comes to testing for mercury in the body.
You can undertake a:
- Red blood cell test – this test will examine your blood for heavy metal exposure in the past three months.
- Hair test – mercury is more likely to be concentrated in your hair than your blood so this is a good test for detecting mercury in the body. It can also detect mercury from a longer period of time, especially if your hair is longer.
- Urine test – a urine test can tell us how much exposure you’ve had to mercury, as well as how much is being stored in your body. 
How can you eliminate mercury from the body?
Firstly, there are a few steps you can take to rid your body of mercury:
- Have your mercury fillings removed – talk to your dentist about having them replaced with composite restorations. It’s really important that you see a dentist with speciality in the area so as not to release mercury into the body in the removal process.
- Balance your mineral profile and biochemistry. Ensure detox pathways are open and binders are used.
- Avoid seafood that contains high levels of mercury – although all fish and shellfish contain trace amounts of mercury, it tends to bioaccumulate or build-up inside larger fish. Some of the mercury-rich seafoods include different types of tuna, bluefish, tilefish, shark and swordfish.
- Change your skin care products to natural ones as many cosmetics contain heavy metals including mercury.  Look for products that do not contain lead acetate, chromium, thimerosal (a mercury compound), hydrogenated cottonseed oil or sodium hexametaphosphate.
- Eat organic foods free from pesticides and chemicals
- Eat a high fibre diet and drink plenty of filtered water to rid your body of toxins.
- Enjoy infrared saunas which are great for all over detoxification through sweating. Exercise is also a great way to detoxify – sweating the toxins out is extremely beneficial.
- Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables which enable your body to produce glutathione, the detoxification antioxidant.
- Increase your intake of probiotics to restore your gut’s health.
- On the advice of your Functional Medicine health practitioner, take selenium, Vitamin C and E which are known to detoxify and cleanse.
- Take the amino acid NAC, which is a powerful chelator, meaning that the mercury will bind to the amino acid. The mercury will then be extracted from the tissues and excreted naturally. In addition, NAC helps cleanse the liver which supports detoxification of heavy metal.
- Take amino acid glutathione which plays an important role in removing chemical from the body. Mercury toxicity also goes hand in hand with a glutathione deficiency as mercury interferes with its activity.
- Take chlorella, a green algae, which has been demonstrated to reduce the levels of mercury in the body.
- Chelation therapy using ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) is now performed to remove common heavy metals, including lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminium and calcium. By directly injecting the acid into the bloodstream, it binds with the excess minerals. 
- Brush your skin daily with a natural fibre brush.
- Take supplements which aid in the detoxification process of the kidneys and liver. These include milk thistle, dandelion, garlic, burdock and fibre.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
How can a Functional Medicine health practitioner help you to rid your body of mercury?
The impact of the environmental toxins we are exposed to every day, our diets and the fact that many of us didn’t have a choice when it came to what kind of dental fillings we were given, its likely that all of us have trace elements of mercury in our bodies.
It’s a good idea, if you are displaying any of the symptoms above or if you know that you may have been overly exposed to mercury in your lifetime, to have some tests performed by a Functional Medicine health practitioner.
At Advanced Functional Medicine, our team of experts can perform safe, rigorous testing to find out if you have elevated levels of mercury in your system. If you do, we can then work together to create a program that will detoxify your body from heavy metals naturally and return you to good health.
Contact us to find out more.