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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Mercury is a Silent Killer: Exposure to mercury builds up, resulting in a whole life's accumulated burden of this toxic heavy metal, warns Dr. Alan Christianson of Scottsdale's Integrative Health.

Apr 03, 2012 06:16PM ● By Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD

Exposure to mercury is something we face every day. The threat is real, even small amounts, because it builds up, resulting in a whole life's accumulated burden of this toxic heavy metal.

Mercury exposure has been scientifically linked to memory loss, confusion, irritability fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism and a host of others. The main sources of exposure are dental amalgams, seafood, high fructose corn syrup and medications.

Dental amalgams are silver-colored fillings. They are made of 40 to 50 percent mercury. They gradually degrade and constantly leech mercury into your body. Amalgams are so toxic that the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) has written elaborate procedures that dental labs must follow when disposing of any unused material.

Seafood contains a type of mercury that is especially prone to end up in our brains. Even small amounts have been shown to impair the ability to select words, to process new information and worsen hand/eye coordination. The EPA was alarmed enough about this to issue a report to Congress in 1997 that at least 8 percent of American women ages 16 to 49 carried dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies from seafood.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener widely used by food manufacturers. The increase of HFCS in food over the last few decades has paralleled the rise in obesity over the same timeframe. It is now so common in our foods that the average American eats almost half a cup of it every day. A 2009 study showed that mercury was present in half the foods containing HFCS. Many factories that produce HFCS still use dated, low cost “mercury-cell” technologies.

Many medications use mercury as a preservative. This is especially common in vaccines. The FDA has a list of more than 130 prescription and over-the-counter medications which contain mercury. These include eye drops, nasal sprays, skin creams and hemorrhoid ointments. Mercury is readily absorbed into the body from any of these sources.

So, what to do about it? First, replace any old or unstable dental amalgams with newer non-mercury alternatives.

Avoid seafood or fatty fish known to be loaded with mercury, including mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish. Tuna is not one of the highest sources of mercury, but it is a fatty fish that many of us eat on a regular basis. The Environmental Working Group advises no more than four ounces of tuna per week for most adults. Lower mercury types of seafood include herring, pollock, salmon, sardines, shrimp and tilapia.

Avoid HFCS in your diet. This will also help lower your body fat.

Ask your doctor about mercury-free vaccines that are now available and ask your pharmacist about mercury in eye drops, nasal and topical products. Mercury-free alternatives exist.

If you have had past exposure to mercury sources or have symptoms that may be related, consider getting tested. Mercury can be tested via blood, urine, hair and stool. Some tests show only recent exposure, while others can show your total body burden. Talk to a doctor trained in environmental medicine to determine your best options. If untreated, mercury raises your long-term risks of Alzheimer's disease, heart attacks, diabetes and several types of cancer.

If present, mercury can safely be removed from your brain and the rest of your body. Those who do have mercury and get it out feel so much better. Common improvements include better mental focus, weight loss, easier word selection and healthier skin.

As always, never give up on your health: you can get better!

Dr. Alan Christianson is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease. His medical practice focuses on optimal diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disease. MyIntegrativeHealth.com.