Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Drunk on Mercury

Drunk: "being in a temporary state in which one's physical and mental faculties are impaired by an excess..."

For years, I've been patting myself on the back for not having mercury show up on my hair and blood tests of toxic metals. I thoughtI had taken care of this adequately: a year of Modifilan (a brown algae product said to chelate metals), another of chlorella (a green algae particularly praised for its ability to grab mercury and other heavy metals), and to years of closely following the protocol of Patricia Kane for eliminating fat soluble toxins in the Detoxx book. I also went through a few bottles of PCA-Rx by Maxam, a great product with chlorella, took lots of ALA (alpha lipoic acid) by taking Poly-MVA, and (of course) got my two amalgam fillings removed.

It turns out that my efforts were not sufficient. For one thing, the dentist who removed my fillings didn't take any precautions to prevent breathing in and absorbing lots of mercury vapors. Mercury-free dentists today, like Dr. John Johnson in New Albany, OH, use a rubber dam to prevent absorption during the removal process. For another, mercury tends to be the last heavy metal excreted as the body cleans house, and I had barely begun to clean house when I relapsed in 2007. My detoxification pathways, from what I now know about the interlocking methylation/folate/transulfuration pathways, were not working efficiently enough to release metals. Consequently, whenever I tested, it looked as if my toxic metal load was low.

I recently read Hair Mineral Analysis: Finding Hidden Toxicities, by Andy Cutler, Ph.D. LINk This book cleared up questions I've harbored for years about how to read hair tests. YOU DON'T TAKE THEM LITERALLY. That is, if there is an unusual distribution pattern in the results of essential elements, like calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfur, phosphorus, zinc and copper -- to name the most commonly tested -- then the levels of toxic metals don't accurately reflect the levels stored in body tissues. Cutler has devised five counting rules to identify unusual distribution patterns.

The first holistic doctor I saw in 1994 -- the year I had to leave work due to unbearable fatigue, emotional distress, and insomnia -- ordered a hair test, handed me the results, and said I looked fine. A second test about 4 years later confirmed my 'good' results. A few years later, in the midst of my study of naturopathic medicine, I saw a friend's report from ARL labs which had eight typed pages of analysis. I signed up for an account with them, ordered books and newsletters, took hair samples every 3-4 months, and diligently followed their advice. Mercury never showed on a single test, although I did have high levels of antimony, aluminum and nickel, which often are retained when there is hidden mercury.

After reading Cutler's book, I pulled out all my old tests, followed his counting rules, and discovered that on every single one, I had a pattern of "deranged mineral transport due to mercury toxicity." It felt oddly happy. It's always nice to find something that could be causing my problems, other than God or bad luck, especially if it is something as capable of being fixed as a body burden of mercury. Cutler has a section in which he describes the toxicity effects of various metals. His portrait of mercury toxicity read like my autobiography.

Did you know that mercury intoxication was common among hat-makers because the felt they used was treated with mercury. My first role in a play, at 9 years of age in summer camp, was as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. I did cartwheels on entry. Someone up there has a strange sense of humor! :)

I stopped testing hair in 2006 and turned to coloring instead. Now, after reading Cutler and analyzing 12 years of hair tests, I wanted to see if anything had changed by supporting my methylation. So I did another test.

Here are the results:
BTW, If you are curious to see the test results, I posted them on Scribd at

Among toxic metals, only Aluminum goes above the normal range. That's good -- it's higher than I had before which means (since I no longer use aluminum pots, aluminum foil, or aluminum-based deodorants) I'm getting rid of stored reserves. I have low levels of excretion of 12 other metals. Mercury is one of them. The total toxic burden appears to be fairly low.

Then I look at the essential minerals, and follow Cutler's counting rules. 20 of them, are in the middle range between white and green, 10 of them are above 50%, 11 below 50% and only 1 goes all the way into the red zone.

Do these results meet Cutler's counting rules for hidden mercury intoxication? No. Cause for celebration? I can't decide. My symptoms, and my history, are very close to his portrait of chronic mercury intoxication, which I quote below, bolding everything that applies to me, past or present.

Cutler's description of mercury intoxication from
In an overall lifestyle sense, the fact that symptoms come and go leads to the victim having periods of weeks to years of being highly functional and productive, interspersed with periods of being nonproductive and having a hard time getting anything done. Life seems to progress in fits and starts. Great progress is made on projects which later get shelved for long periods. As the disease continues, the productive periods become shorter, fewer, and farther between.

There are emotional changes in mercury poisoning. Depression slowly sets in. Victims feel fatigued and listless. They lack motivation - even for crucial tasks. They lose interest in their surroundings and in their own life. They do not enjoy life, or experience happiness or joy. They experience constant fear e. g. of losing their job. They may be very tense. They feel hopeless. They have a sense of impending doom. Every small problem is discouraging. Minor difficulties seem overwhelming and insurmountable.

The altered emotional state of a mercury intoxicated person leads to impaired interpersonal relationships. They become increasingly irritable and sensitive, reacting strongly to relatively innocent remarks. They may not be able to take orders, instructions, or suggestions without losing their temper. They resent criticism and may interpret innocent remarks critically. They may have an exaggerated response to stimulation and become fearful or anxious and nervous. They may project their fears and anxieties onto others, making inappropriate criticisms or attacks. They become shy and avoid dealing with strangers. While timid, they may unexpectedly lose self control with strangers. They may wish to visit with friends and family extensively, often wishing to engage in long, repetitive conversations, then withdraw for prolonged periods of time. They withdraw more and more from social contacts.

Intelligence gradually deteriorates. Previously bright persons become dull and slow in thinking. They suffer from a progressive decline specifically affecting short term memory as well as the faculties for logical reasoning. Thus their ability to do things like balance the checkbook, do math, or play chess suffers. They lose the ability to concentrate. Memory problems may be more from distractability and inability to concentrate and pay enough attention to get things INTO their memory than an actual failure to remember things (thus they may complain of memory problems but do well on memory tests). They cease being motivated towards their work or other tasks. Thoughts become heavy, repetitive and pedantic. Creative thinking becomes progressively more difficult, eventually becoming impossible. They become unable to select the right words to convey their meaning, and make stylistic and grammatical errors. Their ability to express themselves declines progressively.

There is a distinctive cognitive symptom of being unable to think clearly without great effort. The best description for people who have not experienced it is of a hangover without pain. People who have experienced it will recognize the term "brain fog" as entirely descriptive.

As the victim's level of intoxication waxes and wanes they go through periods of life when they do or do not dream. Dreaming may be in black and white.

Early physical symptoms include dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), insomnia, daytime drowsiness, loss of appetite, a tendency towards diarrhea - often alternating with constipation, cold hands and feet, a tendency towards sweating (some people have the opposite symptom and do not sweat at all), flushing or reddening of the skin - particularly on the face and neck. Some people blush frequently, but others do not blush at all. Asthma is a symptom of chronic mercury poisoning. Digestive disturbances are also common.

The skin becomes dry, athlete's foot and toenail fungus progress, and the insides of the ankles, particularly behind the ankle bone and a bit above it become dry, itchy, flaky and peel. This often becomes painful and annoying enough to keep the victim up at night. Even after fungus and yeast infection has been eliminated hyperkeratosis, often with papular erythema and itching are common.

The hair becomes thinner, dryer, duller, less strongly colored, slower growing, and more brittle.

The biological clock is disturbed. Waking up late and staying up late is more common than being an "early bird." Try as they might, the mercury poisoned person simply cannot control their circadian rhythm.

Victims may become photophobic and find bright light uncomfortable and unpleasant. There may be visual disturbances, including alterations in color perception leading to reduced sensitivity to the color red, or color blindness. The ability to focus on distant objects may be sporadically impaired. Peripheral vision may be reduced in the most severe cases.

The hands and feet often become distinctly cold. This can occur suddenly and is most distinctive when combined with sweating. Later in more severe poisoning they may also tingle or lose feeling.

The effects of mercury on the mouth are receding, sometimes spongy gums that bleed easily and teeth that are 'loose' in their sockets and can be wiggled very slightly. It also causes excessive salivation and unusually bad breath.

Mercury interferes with the sense of smell which becomes less acute, and later with hearing, in which perception of sounds does not diminish as notably as the patient's ability to understand and interpret them - e. g. to understand speech directed at them even though they hear it clearly.

Victims often experience discomfort that feels like a "tight band around their head." They may also experience sharp points of discomfort in their ear canals at bedtime.

Mercury also interferes with the body's ability to regulate temperature. Victims may alternate between being hot and cold when the temperature isn't changing, or have to wear more clothes than other people, or have more difficulty than other people in staying comfortable while the temperature changes. Temperature disregulation also leads to 'night sweats.'

Most practitioners try to draw out mercury with chelation -- products designed to attract mercury molecules and pull them out through urine and stool. I've always been afraid to try most of them. In the past I heard terrible stories from friends who had tried this -- a few who got permanently worse --and because I was sensitive to everything I had tried, prescription drugs and natural supplements, I declined a DMPS injection offered by a physician hoping to help. From Cutler's reports of problems with injected DMPS, I'm glad I refused. On my own, I tried a fairly safe chelator known as EDTA (not especially good for mercury, but useful for lead and calcium buildup), but was unable to tolerate the side effects.

Fortunately, Dr. Yasko offers a safe, gentle protocol. After supporting methylation and the related detoxification pathways, as discussed in earlier posts, Dr. Yasko treats her autistic kids with a group of homeopathic RNA's designed to facilitate metal excretion. She starts very slowly and measures with weekly urine tests the amount of heavy metals coming out. This way, she is able to adjust to slow or accelerate the process.

The test results and the reports of her patients (mostly parents observing their kids) indicate she is getting results. It is a slow, steady process that takes several years. You can check out the progress reports of her patients on her forum: You will have to sign up for an account to read and to post.

Will old farts with CFS get good results too? I'm going to order Metals 1 today. Check back in a year or two for my answer. :)

If you've tried chelation or detox protocols to relieve symptoms of CFS, FM, ME, MCS, PTSD, OI, and related alphabet soup illnesses, leave a comment about your experience below.



  1. Dr. Cutler's reply to my test results:
    " Counts (and looks) completely normal to me.

    The possibilities are as always either the absence of mercury or a false normal, e. g. due to exposure being long ago or you taking a lot of nutritional supplements or having dietary and lifestyle modifications that make you feel better - which they do by affecting your biochemistry."

    I have done a lot of nutritional and lifestyle support. Good to know that it shows :)

  2. Do you think it is safe to do Cutlers protocl while on Yasko? I am slowly improving on yakso but i dont belive it will get out all mercury just make it more possible to leave the body. What do you thiink if I a having detox symptoms on Yasko?

  3. There's been a lot of discussion about this. I don't know the answer. I know alpha lipoic acid is important to his protocol, and that Rich van Konynenberg says maybe PWC's can't tolerate it because it pulls mercury from the brain and is a sulfur donor. For myself, I decided to stay with Yasko, do a bit more testing to see whether I am detoxing metals, and then-- when my glutathione levels are better -- if mercury starts to show on hair or urine tests, will try the ALA DMPS combination. Word of mouth says some people don't do well on it...

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Please add your comments here. If you have a question specific to your own condition, please e-mail me directly at I cannot give medical advice. If you want to suggest a product or therapy you think I should try, please let me know if you have used it, what you used it for, and how it helped you.