The Way Up "Mental cleansing & detoxification is as important as physicial purification in creating physical & mental health.
First we must learn how to still the mind.."
--Lao Tzu.

The Way Up Newsletter
Vol. 26, 01-15-01




MERCURY TOXICITY


NAMASTE & WELCOME TO THIS MONTH'S WAY UP NEWSLETTER!

MERCURY TOXICITY

Since the issue of mercury toxicity has been mentioned several times lately in the major media, lets look more closely. Recently 20/20 brought attention to the FDA warning that pregnant women should avoid eating swordfish, shark, king mackeral, & tile fish because of the risk of fetal damage from mercury exposure. Apparently the dose from just one serving has the potential to cause irreversible intellectual & neurological impairment in the vulnerable developing fetus. The fish industry claimed most fish on the market contained acceptable mercury levels. The 20/20 investigators purchased shark , swordfish, & tuna at sites around the country, & had the fish analyzed for mercury at reputable labs. About half the analyzed swordfish & shark had unacceptably high mercury levels. Some of the tuna did.
 
A few months ago I saw another news show which linked the increasing incidence of autism with the introduction of Thiomersal ( a mercury compound) in the vaccines which are given to children. The statistics looked pretty compelling, as the incidence of autism greatly increased in any country including this compound in their vaccines, after such inclusion. Also many parents reported the initial onset of symptoms occurred after their child was vaccinated. Obviously more studies need to be done & you can look into this more at www.cureautismnow.org/sciwatch/mercrfp.cfm
 
These news items caught my attention because I have been seeing a fair amount of mercury or other heavy metal overload/toxicity in my patients. This is a condition I started testing for in those with chronic symptoms/illness not helped by the usual treatments, & not explained by other diagnosis.

HOW DO YOU TEST FOR MERCURY TOXICITY?

Most testing has to be done through your Dr. but those wanting to do their own screening test can do a hair analysis for toxic elements obtained from http://www.kingjamesomegatech-lab.com If it shows mercury overload, you then need confirmation with the provocative 24 hour urine test for mercury & toxic metals. This is the test I use in my practice, available from many labs. I use Doctors Data Lab at http://www.doctorsdata.com , the Urine Element Profile For Toxics; or I use Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab at http://www.gsdl.com/assessments/elemental/

The tests have slightly different names at different labs. Here is how the test works. The patient is given a prescription for DMSA to be filled at a Compounding Pharmacy. DMSA is an oral chelating substance which removes mercury, lead & other toxic metals from the body primarily via the urine. It is also available from regular pharmacies in a dose of 100 mg/cap & is called Chemet. The patient is given1 days dose of 10 mg per kg (2.2#) of body weight to be taken in 3 divided doses over the 24 hours the urine is collected. This sample is then sent in a kit provided by the labs & is analyzed for toxins. Since the DMSA frees the mercury stored in the cells this provocative tests is a more accurate measurement of the mercury load in the body. The test results indicate whether treatment is needed & provides a baseline level against which to measure & compare after treatment.

BESIDES FISH, HOW ARE WE EXPOSED TO MERCURY?
 
The second most common mercury exposure of which most are aware is that in amalgams for dental fillings ( about which there is much controversy ). Interestingly, the Environmental Protection Agency instructs dentists to regard mercury amalgam as a toxic material while handling it before insertion & after removal, yet it is permanently put in the mouths of people for continuous exposure usually ranging from 20-400 mcg/cubic meter of body surface. The "safe" exposure level has been put at 20 mcg/cubic meter over 1 weeks duration, & 1 mcg/cubic meter for continuous exposure.
 
For more about these specific issues see http://www.holisticmed.com/dental/amalgam/.
MORE ABOUT MERCURY
 
Mercury is not only toxic & volatile, but is found many more places than in fish & dental amalgams. Our exposure has risen dramatically secondary to industrial processes.
 
The so-called "less toxic" inorganic mercury salts & metallic mercury can chemically change in the environment via a process called methylation to become the organic methlymercury which is highly toxic. This can be found in polluted air, water & soil. Mercury is used in the electrical, medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, & chemical industries.. It is in such items as insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, shampoos, hair dyes, toothpaste, soaps, paints, grains, processed foods, mercurial diuretics, vaccines, fluorescent lights, batteries, explosives, medical devices, petroleum products, & so on.
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OURSELVES?
 
With so much mercury around us why aren't we all toxic? Studies show that accumulation of toxic metals in the body & the development of toxic symptoms is influenced by age, nutritional status, & the composition of the diet.
 
As previously mentioned. developing embryos & newborns are far more damaged by mercury, which can also be transmitted from the mother through breast milk. Areas where there have been significant outbreaks & deaths from mercury toxicity revealed a higher number of deaths in infants & children.
 
Nutritional status is relevant for several reasons. First, certain nutrients are natural chelators of mercury. Chelators chemically bind to metals, minerals, & chemical toxins to help remove them from the body via the urine or bowel movements. Those with better nutritional status will be able to keep removing mercury rather than accumulating toxic levels.
 
These natural chelators are :
• alpha lipoic acid ;
• amino acids, especially cysteine, methionine, glutathione & taurine (amino acids are parts of protein foods) ;
• selenium;
• garlic;
• cilantro; &
• chlorella algae.
 
Significant levels of all minerals, Vitamin C, & Vitamin E also help to protect against the toxic effects & accumulation of mercury. Adequate dietary fiber increases acidophilus, bifidus, & other beneficial gut microflora which in turn metabolizes the very toxic methylmercury to the less toxic inorganic form & increases mercury excretion.
 
Toxic metals use some of the same binding sites in the cells as do amino acids & minerals. One way they exert their toxic effects is by binding to those sites & interfering with mineral & amino acid functions in the body. Likewise, if plenty of amino acids & minerals are present they can effectively compete with the toxic metal for the binding site--giving the metal no place to settle in & making it therefore more available for excretion--as it is unbound.
HOW ELSE DOES MERCURY DO IT'S DAMAGE?
 
The interference with the amino acid & mineral metabolism mentioned above can be damaging enough. But mercury also poisons somes enzyme systems. Enzymes promote chemical reactions & must be present & functioning properly , different enzymes for different chemical reactions. Mercury also alters the permeability of the membrane of the cells, it replaces structurally or electrochemically important elements in the cells, it blocks sodium currents, inhibits the transport of sugars, inhibits amino acid absorption in the brain, inhibits the synaptic uptake of neurotransmitters in the brain & can cause brain atrophy & cerebellar degeneration. This is only a parial list of the toxic effects.
WHAT ARE THE USUAL SYMPTOMS OF MERCURY TOXICITY?
 
Since methylmercury has a high affinity for the brain & nervous system, many of the symptoms are emotional, cognitive, or neurological. There is also a special affinity for the kidneys. The heart & blood building sytem can also be affected.
 
Acute intoxication is rare & usually from an industrial exposure. It is life threatening & treatment is different from that for the chronic form of toxicity which is far more common.
 
Chronic mercury overload can cause depression, weakness, fatigue, difficulty coping, timidity, seclusiveness, memory problems with difficulty thinking, irritability, tremors, general muscle spasms & tics, numbness & tingling or burning pain in the extremities, mouth or tongue, poor coordination, unsteady gait, & seizures. With increased severity there can be blindness, deafness, kidney failure, spastic weakness, coma & death.
 
Those with chronic mercury overload are more prone to immune system dysfunction such as autoimmune disease or decreased immunity.. They are more prone to chronic candida & other chronic infections. They have more allergies & more hormonal imbalances. There may be a greater incidence of mouth & tongue soreness & gastrointestinal symptoms.

HOW DO YOU TREAT CHRONIC MERCURY OVERLOAD?

 
There are varying opinions re treatment. I prefer to be less aggressive because excessive release of mercury from the bound to the unbound state can increase symptoms & severely stress the body. Extreme acute cases would be treated more aggressively in a hospital setting with aggressive use of prescription chelators.
 
My treatment of chronic mercury intoxication varies depending upon the level of mercury found in the testing. Certainly we also want to eliminate as much ongoing exposure as possible.
 
We want to remove the mercury from the brain, in particular. The best agents for this are alpha lipoic acid, glutathione, cilantro, chlorella, & DMSA. DPMS is an IV chelator often used for mercury. I do not like it as it is not as effective for removing from the brain & causes many more side effects that DMSA. We only add the DMSA if the mercury level is quite high, otherwise we try to chelate naturally & follow up with testing to make sure the levels are coming down. Even gentle treatment can sometimes worsen symptoms as we release the mercury from its bound state.
 
The Physicians Drug Reference says to treat with 10 mg/kg every 8 hours for 5 days, then every 12 hours for 2 weeks for a total of 19 days. They are assuming no complimentary natural substances are being used, as well. This is far too aggressive for me. When I add DMSA, I adjust the dosage & level of treatment to the patients tolerance, because many only tolerate very little. A trial approach might be 10 mg/ kg/ day in 3-4 divided dose every other day for 1-2 weeks, then 2-4 weeks off, then repeating & so on until mission accomplished. All the while we are using the natural chelators, alpha lipoic acid 100 mg 4 times a day, vitamin C 2000-10,000 mg depending upon laxative tolerance, N-acetyl cysteine 500 mg 2-3 times daily, a multi amino acid with breakfast & 3 in the afternoon , a good multivitamin mineral & sometimes an extra mineral formulation.
 
We follow up with testing in 2-6 month & go from there accordingly. Generally this approach is quite effective in bringing down the levels with minimum exacerbation of symptoms.
 
If you think you might be a candidate for mercury overload a screening hair anaysis is a good place for you to start. Otherwise, prevention is always the best policy.
If you know someone for whom this newsletter is relevent, please forward it to them.
Please visit to see all the previous newsletters if you haven't received them.
 
PART OF WRITING THIS NEWSLETTER IS DECIDING WHAT TOPICS ARE PERTINENT TO YOU, SO PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT INFORMATION YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE....
Until next month,
Priscilla Slagle M.D,

"The stilling of the mind removes impurities from it---. The mind can be
likened to a pool of water: when the water in the pool is undisturbed, the
reflection is clear; and so it is with the mind." -- Hazrat Inayat Khan

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