How mercury affects health and what to do about it

Daniel Vinograd

Of all the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis, mercury is considered one of the most dangerous. “Mercury is the most toxic and poisonous non-radioactive, heavy metal substance on the planet,” says Tom McGuire, DDS, author of Tooth Fitness, Your Guide to Healthy Teeth (St. Michael’s Press). Mercury is now number three on the Top 20 list of toxic substances compiled by the US Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. Only arsenic and lead rank higher.

On average a person’s body contains between 10 to 15 milligrams of mercury. We absorb mercury when we breathe contaminated air, eat contaminated fish, receive vaccines preserved with mercury-based Thimerosal, or are exposed to a variety of pesticides, fungicides and petroleum products.

By Chrystle Fiedler

 

But your greatest vulnerability to mercury may come from the fillings in your teeth. “People with amalgam fillings are particularly vulnerable to a toxic overload of mercury,” says Myron Wentz, PhD, author of A Mouth Full of Poison. The Truth About Mercury Amalgam Fillings (Medicis).”The metal can poison every enzyme, damage every cellular structure, and kill virtually every cell in the body.”

Stress on the System

H ow much mercury is too much for the human body? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no known safe level. Mercury affects the brain and central nervous system, the endocrine system and can cause kidney malfunction. It increases the risk of heart disease, boosts your susceptibility to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, damages the immune system and can destroy stomach and intestinal epithelial cells. Fetal mercury poisoning problems can be compounded ten-fold when a pregnant woman has mercury amalgam fillings put in or removed during the first trimester of pregnancy.

“The metal can poison every enzyme, damage every cellular structure, and kill virtually every cell in the body.”

 

Initial signs of mercury poisoning include short term memory loss, mood swings, anxiety, depression, fits ofanger, irritability, indecision, excitability, fatigue and headaches. “There are more than 200 symptoms listed in the medical literature for mercury poisoning,” says David Engelsberg, DDS, who practices mercury free dentistry in Sarasota, Florida. “Mercury poisoning can happen with one large dose of mercury or constant small doses, as in the case of dental amalgams.”

Over the past twenty years, The Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome group (DAMS), a US based patient support group, has evaluated over a thousand peer-reviewed and government studies that show that mercury is either the principal cause or a major contributing factor in over 4° chronic health conditions including Alzheimer’s and low thyroid function. “Chronic mercury toxicity masquerades as familiar symptoms and illnesses,” says Leo Cashman, Executive Director of DAMS. “The most common early symptoms are fatigue and short term memory problems since the brain is one of the first organs affected. Mercury is a factor in cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, Lupus and Alzheimer’s.” “Mercury amalgam either causes, contributes or exacerbates any health problems you may have,” says Dr. McGuire.

The good news? Having your mercury fillings removed by a dentist experienced at extracting these types of amalgams may alleviate the health effects of mercury originating in your teeth.

 

Filled with Mercury

Dentists insert approximately J2 tons of mei’cury in the mouths of North Americans every year. “Mercury is dangerous, more poisonous than lead or arsenic,” warns Dr. Engelsberg. “Mercury vapors leaking from the fillingand their subsequent detrimental effects are a slow, insidious process. Health problems caused by dental mercury poisoning are often perceived many years after the amalgams are placed.” That’s why, in July, 2003, the California Dental Board began requiring that all dentists in the state supply patients with a dental materials fact sheet outlining the potential dangers of mercury fillings.

Conventional dental amalgam fillings consists of about 5°% mercury, 35% silver, 9% tin, 6% copper, and trace amounts of zinc. “Once the amalgam is hard, the mercury is bound within it but very small amounts are slowly released due to corrosion or chewing or grinding motions throughout the life of the filling,” says Dr. Engelsberg. The total amount of mercury released in your mouth depends upon how many fillings you have, the size of the surface areas, and your chewing and eating habits. “Teeth vapor levels are ten fold higher, during and after a meal, after drinking hot beverages or brushing,” says Cashman. Mercury vapor is the main route that mercury takes out of amalgam and it is absorbed at a rate of 80% via the lungs into the blood.

Mercury-free dentists use high-tech mercury vapor analyzers to measure the exact amount of vapor in your mouth. “Today, we can better detect mercury vapors in someone’s mouth than ever before,” says Cashman. “(Often we find) levels that would be of a concern (to workers) if you found them in (the air of) a factory.”

 

Filling Removal

Mercury fillings must be removed carefully. “As soon as a dentist touches a filling with a drill, mercury vapor comes pouring off,” notes Dr. Engelsberg. “When you take a breath it goes right into your lungs.” To prevent this, precautions should be taken by dentists during filling replacement. Mercury free dentists, (find them at www.mercuryfree.com, wsw.dams.com/ 1-800-311-6265 and www.iaomt.org) use a holistic approach, asking about your medical history and testing for compatibility of materials before taking out mercury fillings and placing new fillings in your teeth. During the procedure, a rubber dam, a dental air vacuum, and a mercury filtration system are employed to eliminate mercury-containing spray and materials. Oxygen keeps you from inhaling mercury vapors. Then the dentist replaces your fillings with biologically friendly composites. If you are unable to find a mercury-free dentist you can insist that your regular dentist follow the IAOMT protocol. (Visit www.iaomt.org for information.)

In addition, “You’ll also need nutri­tional support to strengthen your immune system and detoxification pathways to overcome the mercury exposure,” says Dr. Engelsberg. “Without this, some patients may experience severe fatigue, nausea and weakness. ” Women of child bearing age should have fillings removed a month or longer before trying to conceive; otherwise mercury from amalgams can be transferred from a pregnant mother to the developing fetus. Women should never have amalgam fillings removed during pregnancy or while nursing.

In other cases, those concerned about mercury fillings argue that fillings should be replaced with non-mercury amalgams as soon as possible. “The future costs of treating mercury-related symptoms and diseases far outweigh the immediate costs of having your fillings replaced,” says Dr. Wentz.

 

Mercury Detoxing

A procedure called chelation, that leaches heavy metals from the body, can assist the body’s detoxification mechanism in eliminating mercury and other chemical toxins from deep within your tissues. There are two kinds of chelation, intravenous and oral. Intravenous chelation is conducted under a doctor’s supervision. Oral chelation, typically is conducted at home using nutritional supplements that include natural chelation agents.

 

CleansingCorner

Herbs Etc.

Every medicine chest needs a few basic herbs that can be used to deal with a variety of situations. Herbs have a long history of traditional therapeutic use and also provide vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients needed for continued good health. Mullein and red clover are two versatile herbs whose healing properties have been known and employed for centuries. These herbs, along with other vital nutrients like fiber, can aid in restoring balance and help the body cleanse itself.

Mullein has been traditionally taken for lung and bronchial congestion, coughs, sore throats, aching ears and lymphatic congestion, it is considered an excellent herb for relieving lymphatic pain and can help calm inflamed nerves. Mullein is an expectorant and thins mucous primarily in the lungs and bronchial tubes.

Red clover has traditionally been used as a blood cleaner, supporting the organs that clean the blood. Traditional practitioners use it to break up lumps and tumors especially in the lungs, digestive system, and glandular system including the reproductive system. Red clover is anti-spasmodic and anti-tumor, it is mildly estrogenic and possesses mild blood-thinning properties.

Fiber or roughage is, technically, indigestible carbohydrate, ft helps keep the digestive system working efficiently by adding bulk and moving waste through the digestive tract faster. As it moves through the intestines, fiber can help reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar, it lowers toxin absorption by speeding its elimination from the digestive tract. Research also suggests that fiber may play a role in lowering the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

Within the body, the most powerful antioxidant free radical scavenger that helps eliminate mercury is glutathione (GSH), a small protein made up of three amino acids: glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine. “It’s the chemical nature of the sulfur-containing amino acid, cysteine, that accounts for the antioxidant punch of GSH,” says Dr. Wentz. GSH binds with toxins like mercury to prevent them from damaging structural proteins and inactivating enzymes. In that way, it is rendered water-soluble and prepared for excretion via the kidneys and bile. “Its power in the elimination of toxins is prodigious. ”

Unfortunately, if your body is suffering from an overload of toxins like mercury, your available supply of GSH is probably already stretched to the limit. This can reduce immune function and increase vulnerability to infection. Supplementing with N- Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) a precursor to cysteine can boost levels of GSH. In addition, the antioxidant supplement

A high protein diet with sulfur bearing amino acids can facilitate detoxification.

alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) may also enhance your GSH. Plus, vitamins C, E, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and beta-carotene and selenium can help reduce mercury toxicity and, in some cases, help replenish GSH.

Herbs like cilantro (Chinese parsley) and supplements like chlorella that contain high levels of sulfur can boost detoxification because they bind with mercury and aid in pulling it out of the body, says Dr. Engelsberg. “I use chlorella tablets and fresh cilantro. The sulfur in each combines readily with mercury and enables the body to excrete it.”

Dark green vegetables are also high in sulfur. A high protein diet with sulfur bearing amino acids can facilitate detoxification. Adequate dietary fiber from substances like sodium alginate also feed the beneficial microorganisms in the intestinal tract (these include acidophilus and bifidus), which, in turn, may increase mercury excretion.

Mercury Free

Getting rid of the mercury in your body is a big step toward optimizing your health. “With a natural approach we start low and go slow,” says Dr. McGuire. “Begin with one filling. If you don’t experience any problems, next time schedule two. Do it at your own pace. You don’t have to get sick to get well.” “It can only help and never hinder when toxic metals are removed,” says Dr. Engelsburg. “You’ll know if you’ve done the right thing for your health if you notice a difference in your energy level or a reduction in the kinds of symptoms associated with mercury toxicity.”

 

 – Chrystle Fiedler

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Dr. Daniel Vinograd, DDS |
10450 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92120 |
Phone: 619-630-7174    •    Dr. Vinograd, DDS, is a Dentist in San Diego, CA, offering services as a periodontist, and providing teeth whitening, dental crowns, invisalign, implants, lumineers, dentures, root canals, holistic, family and cosmetic dentistry.


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