MERCURY AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
“Different forms of mercury will cross your blood-brain barrier. Mercury can also displace other elements such as zinc and copper, by attaching to the receptors that would otherwise hold these essential minerals. Overall, mercury has a very strong ability to dysregulate your entire system, which is part of the reason why mercury toxicity symptoms are so difficult to pin down. Neurologically, it can take you into depression, or it can take you into anxiety. Similarly, it can make you hyperactive, or it can give you chronic fatigue.” - Dr. Christopher Shade Ph.D - former organic farmer, specializing in the environmental and analytical chemistry of mercury
The Most Common Sources of Mercury Exposure
There are two primary forms of mercury - inorganic mercury and methylmercury (organic mercury). Inorganic mercury was used in early paints, which is why we need to be careful when peeling paint layers in older homes. In terms of cellular toxicity, inorganic mercury rates the highest. While organic mercury penetrates our body very well, it's slightly less toxic to the cells than the inorganic form that gets released from our dental amalgams. Additionally some inorganic mercury in the body is formed by the breakdown of vaccine-based ethylmercury (another form of organic mercury). The two primary sources of mercury exposure are:
- Inorganic mercury from dental amalgam and vaccines (research on spreading out doses of vaccines versus periodic high doses show that periodic high doses have a stronger ability to penetrate the brain than distributed doses do)
- Organic mercury from fish consumption (mercury from coal-burning power plants is distributed in the air and is deposited in the ocean where it bio-accumulates in fish)
“In people who have had no fish consumption and don't have any amalgam exposure, we very rarely see any significant amounts of mercury." - Dr. Christopher Shade
On Detoxing Mercury
Detoxing cannot be achieved overnight. Most people will typically need an entire year to detox - it is lifestyle changes that are going to keep us effectively detoxifying. The biggest myth is that mercury is never removed from the body and it just builds up forever. Our bodies have a system for moving mercury and other heavy metals out. They may work in different degrees for different people, or may be totally disrupted in some, but we have a detoxification system. We're all highly individual, and exposure levels that will cripple one person may leave another seemingly unharmed. A major part of this individual difference in tolerance is the functioning of our body's detoxification system. If our immune systems are healthy and working well on all levels we will be able to withstand higher levels of toxins without experiencing obvious symptoms of toxicity. And we will be able to move the toxins out of our bodies much more efficiently.
Our Body’s Glutathione System
A healthy immune system supports a healthy glutathione system. The glutathione system begins the mercury detoxing process. It makes glutathione that binds to metals and can move them out of our bodies but it doesn't do that alone. First the mercury must be pried from the cellular proteins and linked to the glutathione. At the cell membrane there are active transport proteins that push the mercury-glutathione complex out of the cell and into the blood. Then it is pulled from our blood into our livers and then from our liver into our bile tract and into our small intestine. There are also transport proteins in our intestinal walls, pulling toxins from our blood into the intestines and in our kidneys as well - all parts of this system work as a team. If any one of these mechanisms is knocked out our cells will lose their resistance to the metal and bioaccumulation sets in. So in order to strengthen our detoxification system we need to optimize our immune system. Which in turn will strengthen the ENTIRE system from top to bottom within the transport chain, so that our bodies can pull the mercury away from the proteins it is bound to and transport it out of our bodies.
Strategies for Optimizing Our Glutathione System
There are a number of different options for doing this. Taking oral glutathione can be both expensive and ineffective. A more efficient way to optimize our glutathione levels is to provide our bodies with the precursor to glutathione, cysteine, in the form of foods that are naturally high in it. Whey protein, especially organic, grass-fed whey protein contains some of the highest levels of cysteine. If your body is making glutathione well, then just taking whey protein should be sufficient.
Other Foods That Help With Detox
The main family of foods that help to detox mercury are polyphenolic antioxidants like those found in green tea extract or pine cone extract plus sulfur-based foods such as garlic, which has gained a reputation for being good for mercury detoxification. Garlic contains sulfur molecules that trigger the translocation of the transport proteins into our cells. Thus they trigger a boost to our glutathione system. So it's really our glutathione system as a whole that is responsible for the chelating effect of these foods. And of course, vitamin C is a critical part of the antioxidant system. As the glutathione is used up as an antioxidant, it's getting oxidized and needs to be reintroduced through vitamin C. Vitamin C is constantly bringing electrons into the system, as well as its immune effects are building up the immune system. Vitamin C is an integral part of the whole system and can be found in foods such as grapefruit, oranges, kiwi, strawberries, red and green hot chili peppers, thyme and parsley, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.