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The 2 Most Toxic Metals You Don't Know You Have




I remember the first time I saw my heavy metals test results. Black bars, representing my levels of various metals, extended into the yellow and read toxic ranges. There were two metals that shot beyond the rest: lead and mercury. My rheumatologist glanced down at the test results, then at me, and said "lead and mercury together are lethal in 100% of mice." Now, I am not a mouse. But, this illustrates the toxicity of these two metals. With mold toxicity gaining attention (deservedly so), it is important not to forget about these 2 common toxins that wreak havoc on your health. So, what exactly do they do?




Lead

My late rheumatologist once told me “there is no safe level of lead.” Lead is one of the most problematic heavy metals, especially in children with ADHD. Lead is a poison to many body systems. One of the most prominent of which is the neurological system. Any level of lead can create cognitive and motor function changes.


Symptoms of lead toxicity in the neurological system include: 





Reading disabilities

Language disruptions

 Decreased verbal & visual memory

Delayed processing speed

Disruptions of executive functioning 





Lead can also have significant impact on a variety of other systems in the body














Clearly, lead has far reaching effects on the body. In fact, adults with lead blood levels between 5-9 micrograms/deciliter were found to have increased risk of death from any cause, as well as higher rates of heart disease and cancer (1). Although the symptoms of lead may sound complex, I consider testing for it in any patient with extreme fatigue, brain fog, and neurological complaints. 



Where Do You Get Exposed to Lead?















I was exposed to lead when I lived in a 100 year old house with beautiful but flaking lead paint. If you live in a home built before the 70s, that has not been remodeled, you should be thinking lead. I've seen patients with affinities for antiques or ceramic dishes with high levels of lead. If you suspect lead in your environment, your local health department or an environemntal hygenist can help you determine the source. You cannot detox until you remove the source!



Mercury




Mercury is one of the most common elevated heavy metals that I see and it is as concerning as lead. Mercury exists in three forms: inorganic, elemental, and methylmercury. Inorganic is poorly absorbed and thus, less concerning as a source of toxins. While you may have been exposed to methylmercury or inorganic mercury, I common see mercury toxicity from consumption of contaminated fish and from dental fillings.


Methylmercury: This type of mercury is found as a preservative in some vaccinations and in fish. It is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. It easily crosses the blood brain barrier and can reside in the brain for over 20 years. It also easily crosses the placenta and can be transmitted in utero. This type of mercury is excreted from the body through urine. The major organs it impacts are liver, kidneys, brain, spleen, and skin. 


Elemental Mercury: This refers to mercury in a liquid or gas form. The most common source of exposure to elemental mercury is from dental amalgams, which off gas mercury. This type of mercury is also found in thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs, and batteries; exposure may occur when these things break. Elemental mercury also easily crosses the blood brain barrier. It is excreted primarily in stool and through respiration, but can also be eliminated in saliva, sweat, and breast milk. In addition to impacting the brain, liver, and kidneys like methylmercury does, elemental mercury also impacts the thyroid gland, gastrointestinal tract, and organs of sexual reproduction. 


Like lead, chronic mercury toxicity can create symptoms of profound fatigue. Because it easily crosses the blood brain barrier, mercury also has a significant impact on the neurological system.


Here are some of the impacts of mercury on the Neurological system: 








Mood & Methylation Changes: Mercury requires a functioning methylation pathway to be efficiently excreted. The methylation pathway helps your body make neurotransmitters involved in reward and happiness. In the presence of mercury, this pathway is hijacked to help detoxify mercury and can lead to imbalances in neurotransmitters. Additionally, mercury independently inhibits certain enzymes involved in the degradation of excitatory neurotransmitters. The result is that mercury can contribute to anxiety, depression, paranoia, irritability, insomnia, and hypersensitivity to stimuli Mercury requires a functioning methylation pathway to be efficiently excreted. The methylation pathway helps your body make neurotransmitters involved in reward and happiness. In the presence of mercury, this pathway is hijacked to help detoxify mercury and can lead to imbalances in neurotransmitters. Additionally, mercury independently inhibits certain enzymes involved in the degradation of excitatory neurotransmitters. The result is that mercury can contribute to anxiety, depression, paranoia, irritability, insomnia, and hypersensitivity to stimuli.


Mercury is also a potent endocrine disruptor. Here are some of the impacts it can have on your hormone system: 


and decreased sensitivity to insulin as well as interfere with carbohydrate metabolism. All conditions are



associated with elevated body weight. 





Additionally, mercury may impact the gastrointestinal system in the following ways: 






 


The immune system is also impacted by mercury in the following ways: 







Mercury also impacts skin. I often see the effects of mercury in patients (and at one point in myself) manifesting as inflammatory acne. Here are some other ways it can disrupt skin health.



Beyond these individual systems, mercury has other far reaching impacts on the body including: 





With its extensive sources of environmental exposure and far reaching impacts on the body, mercury toxicity should be considered in any person with chronic illness. 




Reduce your mercury exposure by consuming low mercury fish. Download your free guide to mercury safe seafood here!




Mercury Safe Fish
.pdf
Download PDF • 106KB



As you can see, mercury and lead are poisons that you want to get out of your body. When my levels were at their hightest, I was a walking zombie. I barely slept at night and muddled through my days half asleep. My body composition was like a marshmallow, despite the fact that all I ate was salads. Over 10 years later, I am still working on detoxifying these poisons but I have seen tremendous progress. I hope you prioritize seeing this progress yourself as you detoxify mercury and lead.



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