How to Test for and Address Mercury Overload
As I explained in last week’s article, mercury overload is a far more common issue than you might think, and I often see it as a root cause of chronic illnesses, including Hashimoto’s, Graves’, and autoimmune disease.
If you missed that article, be sure to check it out here to discover why mercury overload is so common and how it can lead to chronic health conditions.
In today’s article, I will cover the most accurate testing options for mercury exposure, how to reduce your exposure, and how to safely detoxify mercury.
Testing Options for Mercury Exposure
In my book, The Autoimmune Solution, I detail the testing options available for mercury exposure.
The first is a blood panel called a red blood cell test, or RBC, in which the lab uses a blood sample to examine your heavy metal exposure for the past three months. Now the reason this test only looks at a three-month time period is because the life of a red blood cell is only three months. For this reason, I do not prefer to use this test in my clinic because it’s not as comprehensive.
The second option is a hair test. This is a test I do use in my clinic because I find the results to be more accurate for a number of reasons. Toxins such as mercury are typically more concentrated in your hair than in your blood, making them easier to detect. Also, mercury can be detected over much longer periods of time in a hair sample, particularly if your hair is longer.
The third of test I use, and what is considered the gold standard for detecting mercury is a urine “challenge”. This test determines not only how much exposure you’ve had to mercury, but also how much of that is actually being stored in your system. To do this, you take a urine sample to establish your baseline heavy metal levels, and then take a DMPS solution that helps your body filter out, or chelate, the heavy metals in your system.
Over the course of the next six hours you continue to test your urine to determine how much of the heavy metals are being filtered out of your system, and how much is actively being stored.
Once you have determined if your heavy metal toxicity has resulted in long term storage, you can create an effective protocol to help you safely reduce your mercury levels.
As with any type of toxic exposure, I recommend a two-phase approach, phase one is to reduce your exposure, and phase two is to safely remove the toxins from your body.
Phase I: Reducing Your Exposure to Mercury
Though modern living continually exposes you to mercury, there are steps you can take to reduce this exposure and prevent further storage in your body.
Filter Your Air
Using a HEPA filter can keep toxic heavy metals such as mercury out of your air supply. Keep one in your home and office to ensure you’re not inadvertently inhaling mercury from nearby coal-burning plants.
Filter Your Water
Pollution and runoff from everything from manufacturing to industrial agriculture have resulted in heavy metals finding their way into a large number of aquifers.1 Despite EPA regulation, the permitted levels are still too high to be unsafe, or in some cases, there are no regulations at all.
Take control of what’s in your water with a high quality water filter for your sinks and showers. It’s important to note that mercury can also be absorbed into the skin, so even something as simple as a shower could be exposing you if your water isn’t being filtered.
Remove Amalgam Fillings
If you have these mercury-rich fillings, it’s time to talk to a biological dentist about having them replaced with a less toxic option.
Avoid Mercury-Rich Fish
Shark and tuna are both notoriously high in mercury, so try to completely avoid these types of fish. The Environmental Defense fund has a list of fish that are typically high in mercury and should be avoided, and those that are low in mercury and are preferred.
Be Choosy With Your Cosmetics
Look for companies that fully disclose the ingredients in their products, and avoid anything that contains any of these heavy metal compounds:
- Lead acetate
- Thimerosal (a mercury compound)
- Hydrogenated cottonseed oil
- Sodium hexametaphosphate
Eating foods that were grown without pesticides is an easy way to cut a significant portion of your heavy metal exposure out of your diet.
Make Informed Vaccine Decisions
If you do opt for flu and other vaccines for yourself or your child, be sure to ask your physician if there is a mercury-free option.
Phase II: Addressing Mercury Overload
Now that you know where mercury hides, it may be tempting to rush right into an intensive chelation program. However, it is important to take a measured approach.
When you begin to chelate, heavy metals are released from areas where they have been stored, but at a much faster rate than they were accumulated. The result is a dangerous risk of overwhelming your body with too many heavy metals at once and then subsequently reabsorbing them all.
That’s why I recommend a four-step approach to safely addressing mercury overload.
Step 1: Repair Your Gut
Leaky gut, which is when the lining of your gut has become permeable, increases the risk that mercury will be reabsorbed in one concentrated dose during treatment. Leaky gut is incredibly common, especially among anyone with an autoimmune and thyroid condition. Additionally, as I explained in my previous article, mercury overload and Candida overgrowth (which leads to leaky gut) often go hand in hand.
For that reason, I recommend that all of my patients start first by repairing your gut, which includes removing Candida overgrowth. You can learn more about my 4R approach to repairing your gut in this article and my books – The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection.
Step 2: Safely Flush Mercury with Coconut Charcoal
I then recommend adding in my Coconut Charcoal supplement. It contains charcoal which has very large surface areas to bind to mercury so that it can be safely flushed from your system
Step 3: Support Your Detox Pathways with Glutathione
Glutathione plays a critical role in the body’s natural detoxification process, and if you’re not getting enough, it could be causing your body to store more mercury than it should. Unlike most glutathione supplements available, the one I carry in my store is acetylated and therefore not broken down by the gut and is well absorbed.
Additional Tips to Support Your Detox Process
As you repair your gut and address mercury overload with supplements, I also recommend supporting your detox pathways using the tips below.
Test for and Address MTHFR Mutations
If you haven’t already been tested for MTHFR, talk to your doctor about seeing if you have this genetic mutation, as it can greatly impact how you absorb nutrients and detoxify mercury.
If you do have one or more MTHFR mutations, I recommend taking a Methylation Support supplement daily, which supports your body’s ability to detoxify mercury and other toxins. As someone with two MTHFR mutations, I take this supplement daily and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Eat Cruciferous Veggies
These vegetables are rich in antioxidants and can help your body more efficiently process any mercury that enters your system:
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard greens
- Cilantro (natural chelator)
Pee, Poop, and Sweat
To help your body flush toxins out of your system before they get the chance to be stored in your bones and thyroid, drink plenty of filtered water every day, and then be sure to work up a sweat with some exercise of a visit to an infrared sauna.
Saunas are a fantastic way to detoxify, but also help to balance your cortisol levels, relieve pain caused by inflammation, lose weight, improve circulation, and even purify your skin! I always recommend to my patients that they try to invest in one for their home for these reasons. I have and personally recommend these saunas from Sunlighten Saunas.
If you are dealing with mercury overload, or suspect that you are, and would like one-on-one guidance, I recommend setting up a wellness coaching session with Dana, my registered dietitian. She can help recommend testing options, review your lab results, and tailor a protocol to your exact needs.
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