What You Need to Know About Mercury Toxicity: The Dangers & How to Avoid Them
As environmental pollution continues to impact our air, water and soil, and awareness grows about the impact of chemicals in other areas of our life, there has been increasing concern around Mercury toxicity.
While there is definitely a lot more information circulating to help people understand it, the range of sources and contradictory reports can feel overwhelming and confusing to sort through. Here is an easy guide to help you understand the dangers of mercury toxicity, and how to avoid them.
What is Mercury Toxicity?
Mercury is a heavy metal present widely in the environment through natural expulsions and human inventions. It serves zero purpose in the human body, but because of its prevalence, we all carry trace amounts. However, many if not most of us actually have an accumulation of mercury, which is incredibly toxic to our health.
Mercury builds up over time in the blood, and while we do naturally expel it from our system, the process is slow, making toxic build-up a concern with consistent exposure. For some people who genetically are unable to detoxify as efficiently, it is particularly dangerous.
There are countless studies, mainstream, government-supported, and alternative, that emphasize its impact on our health. High or repeated exposure to mercury has shown to have the following effects:
1- Central Nervous System: The nervous system is most notably affected by mercury toxicity. Effects can include: anxiety, irritability, fatigue, brain fog, decreased concentration behavioural changes, sleep disturbance, depression, tremors, headaches, hearing issues, cognitive loss and impairment, hallucinations, ataxia, and even death.
2- Cardiovascular system: high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke.
3- Immune System: immune dysfunction/autoimmune disease, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity
4- Hormonal & Reproductive System: hair loss, abnormal menstrual cycle, infertility, neurological problems in infants
6- Digestive System: compromised gut health and mineral absorption leading to deficiencies of minerals such as magnesium, iodine, copper, zinc, and iron.
7- Elimination system: Increased protein in the urine, kidney toxicity and even failure.
Inherent to these effects is inflammation. Inflammation in the body makes people more susceptible to mercury toxicity in the first place. But mercury itself causes inflammation in the body, and so it is a vicious cycle. All the above listed effects are particularly devastating for pregnant women and their foetuses, children, and those with chronic illnesses.
How To Protect Yourself
The good news is that while it is difficult to avoid mercury present in the air, water and soil, there are notable ways to reduce your exposure and detoxify your system. Below is a simple info-graphic provided by Dr. Axe, that, while U.S specific, can be broadly applied.
Picture Source: https://draxe.com
To this graphic we would like to add a third common source of mercury: pesticides. Many pesticides include a number of heavy metals, and as such, repeated ingestion of produce grown with them will also be a source of mercury toxicity. It is advisable to buy organic produce whenever possible, particularly the ‘dirty dozen’: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomato, sweet bell pepper, hot peppers.
With that being said, in addition to the recommendation in the infographic above, to assist removing mercury from your system, eating foods that capture/absorb it is advisable. This includes seaweed, and all whole foods that contain insoluble and natural fibres. Fruits and vegetables are particularly effective, with strawberries (organic) most of all.
When it comes to dental fillings, you can seek out other options to replace amalgam. Make sure that you find a dentist who is able to safely remove them, not increasing your exposure in the process.
And finally, a note regarding fish. We are not suggesting you remove fish entirely from your diet, although there are other contamination concerns with fish that been circulating as well. It is important to be moderate with your fish consumption, and to greatly reduce or eliminate fish with the highest levels of toxicity.
Mercury builds up the most and goes into the higher end of the food chain, which makes larger fish the biggest culprits. The infographic below illustrates well.
You can also use the following mercury calculator to more accurately know the mercury levels and safe eating frequency of your favorite fish:
We hope you’ve found this overview helpful, and we look forward to your experiences and questions in the comments!