Mercury Toxicity
(Amalgam Illness)

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness): Overview

Mercury poisoning differs from the other forms of metal poisoning in that it causes neurological symptoms rather than digestive disorders. Mercury is usually targeted because it is the most common toxicity that most people have – for example, amalgams in teeth contain over 50% mercury.  The remainder is made up of silver and sometimes tin, aluminum and other metals.  The mercury escapes the amalgam as a vapor and is breathed into the body of the person carrying the amalgam.

Causes and Development

In cases of Acute Mercury Poisoning, the source of mercury poisoning is primarily contamination of food by polluted water containing mercuric compounds from industrial waste or organic mercury contained in some fungicides.  Food or feed grains treated with mercury-containing fungicides are a potential source for transmission of the metal through both animal and cereal foods.

Signs and Symptoms

The onset time for Acute Mercury Poisoning is one week or more, at which time the symptoms of numbness, weakness of the legs, spastic paralysis and impaired vision are noted.  Blindness and coma are extreme symptoms of the poisoning.

Diagnosis and Tests

In cases of Chronic Mercury Poisoning, the symptoms of low-level, chronic mercury exposure and toxicity can be very general and difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone.  In addition, individuals show varying levels of sensitivity to the presence of mercury: amalgam removal may be very important in the recovery process of one person, while for another it may be best to leave the amalgams in place.

Mercury Toxicity

Information On This Page

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness):

Symptoms - Aging

Symptoms - Bowel Movements

Symptoms - Cardiovascular

Symptoms - Food - General

Symptoms - General

Symptoms - Glandular

Multiple swollen cervical nodes may be a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)(Frequent/multiple) swollen cervical nodes
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck have been associated with known mercury toxicity.  Other sites reported include in front of the ear, under the jaw, and on the back of the neck.
Preauricular node problems may be a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Preauricular node problems
Swollen lymph nodes in front of the ear, under the jaw, and back of the neck are a possible symptom of mercury toxicity.

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular

Bulging eyes may be a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Eyes bulge from past/bulging eyes from hyperthyroidism or bulging eyes
Marked proptosis (bug eyes), or eye changes typical of hyperthyroidism have been associated with mercury toxicity.
(Severe) vision disturbances may be a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)(Severe) vision disturbances
Intermittent blurred distance vision is a sign of mercury toxicity.

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral

Symptoms - Head - Nose

Nasal congestion may be a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Nasal congestion
Mild nasal congestion / stuffy nose can be a sign of mercury toxicity.

Symptoms - Metabolic

Symptoms - Mind - Emotional

Symptoms - Mind - General

Being easily excitable may be a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Being easily excitable
Nervous excitability can be a symptom of mercury toxicity.

Symptoms - Muscular

Symptoms - Nails

Moving white lines across nails is often a sign or symptom of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Moving white lines across nails
All heavy metals cause Mees' lines on the nails.  These usually begin a few months after significant exposure starts and may be useful in identifying the source of exposure – dental amalgams or some unrecognized source – if you remember when they started.

Symptoms - Reproductive - Female Cycle

Symptoms - Respiratory

Symptoms - Skeletal

Symptoms - Skin - General

Conditions that suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness):

Aging

Alzheimers Disease may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Alzheimer's Disease
Because Alzheimer's patients often exhibit increased concentration of heavy metals such as mercury in their blood and brain, toxic exposure is believed to play an important role.  The areas of the brain that mercury favors are those involved with memory (amygdala and hippocampus).  Is is not just aluminum that is implicated in Alzheimer's.

Allergy

Autoimmune

Multiple Sclerosis may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Multiple Sclerosis
A 1987 study showed that the levels of mercury in the spinal fluid of MS patients was 8 times higher than normal.  [Silberod, R: A comparison of mental health of multiple sclerosis patients with silver/mercury dental fillings; Psychological Reports 70: pp.1139-51, 1992].  Mercury has long been linked to autoimmune diseases such as MS because of its affinity to attach to collagen tissue, which is the most common protein in the body.  Polluted by mercury infiltration, the collagen is seen by the immune system as 'not self.'

Circulation

Cardiomyopathy strongly suggests Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Cardiomyopathy
Mercury levels in the heart tissue of individuals who died from Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy (IDCM) were found to be on average 22,000 times higher than in individuals who died of other forms of heart disease.  [J Amer Coll Cardiology v33(6) pp.1578-1583,1999]
Angina may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Angina
Mercury poisoning may be causing chest pain or angina, especially in anyone under age 45.

Dental

Digestion

Immunity

Weakened Immune System may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Weakened Immune System
In vitro studies suggest that even low, environmentally relevant exposure levels of mercury, which are not toxic, still contribute to immune dysfunction by interfering with proper lymphocyte functioning.  [Scand J Immunol 50(3): pp.233-241]

Infections

Lab Values

High Total Cholesterol may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)High Total Cholesterol
Elevated total cholesterol greater than 270mg may be associated with mercury toxicity.

Mental

Poor Memory may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Poor Memory
Short term memory loss is initially the most common complaint associated with mercury toxicity.

Metabolic

Hypoglycemia may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Hypoglycemia
Heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and thallium poison the glucose metabolizing catalysts, thus reducing the flow of energy throughout the body.  It is interesting to note that the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning are similar to symptoms associated with hypoglycemia i.e.  hyperactivity, mood swings, manic depressive behavior, poor concentration and impulsive and unpredictable behavior.

Musculo-Skeletal

Muscle Cramps / Twitching may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Muscle Cramps / Twitching
Unusual tics or twitching of facial muscles have been associated with mercury toxicity, as well as with muscle cramps in cases of high occupational exposure to mercury.

Nervous System

Organ Health

Kidney Disease may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Kidney Disease
Kidney disease, including kidney failure, is a possible symptom of mercury toxicity.

Skin-Hair-Nails

Night Sweats may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Night Sweats
This symptom may be one of many associated with mercury toxicity.
Dry skin may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Dry skin
Exceptionally dry skin has been associated with mercury toxicity.
Male Hair Loss may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Male Hair Loss
Mercury toxicity can cause hair loss.
Female Hair Loss may suggest Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Female Hair Loss
Mercury toxicity can cause hair loss.

Symptoms - Environment

Counter-indicators:

Uro-Genital

Risk factors for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness):

Childhood

Dental

Bruxism (Clenching/Grinding Teeth) often increases risk of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Bruxism (Clenching/Grinding Teeth)
People with mercury amalgam fillings who grind their teeth or chew gum can suffer additional mercury release.

Supplements and Medications

Counter-indicators:

Symptoms - Food - Intake

High cold water fish consumption may increase risk of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Low/moderate/high cold water fish consumption
Although mercury occurs naturally in the environment, of bigger concern is the mercury that is released into the air through industrial pollution.  When mercury falls from the air into water, it is converted into "methylmercury" by bacteria in the water.  Methylmercury accumulates in streams and oceans where it is absorbed by fish as they feed in these waters.  Mercury levels are highest in older, larger predatory fish.  Larger predatory fish accumulate high levels of mercury by eating smaller fish (that contain mercury) who have eaten even smaller fish (that contain mercury).

Nearly all fish and shellfish contain trace amounts, but some fish contain much more, depending on how big they are, how long they live, what they eat, and where they were caught.  According to an FDA survey, the fish with the highest average levels of mercury are, in order:

(Highest levels of mercury – at least 1 part per million): tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper), shark, swordfish, king mackerel; ("Mid-levels" of mercury – around 1/2 part per million): grouper, orange roughy, marlin, Spanish mackerel, tuna.

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral

Having amalgam fillings often increases risk of Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Having amalgam fillings
It has been erroneously taught in dental school that amalgam is a stable alloy which does not release mercury in the mouth.  A person with 8 fillings releases 120mcg of mercury into the mouth every day.  As much as 17mcg of that gets absorbed into the body.  In its vapor form the mercury is fat-soluble, and favors lungs and mucous membranes at first.  Then it crosses tissue barriers, including the blood-brain barrier and also the placenta.  Mercury then accumulates in the brain, the gut, and the liver.

The largest study of amalgam toxicity ever done took place at the University of Tübingen in Germany in 1995.  With over 20,000 subjects, this study showed conclusively that mercury from amalgams is continually released in quantities large enough to be identified in the saliva.  The designer of the study, Dr. Peter Krauss, noted that in some patients the amount of mercury in saliva could be as high as 100 times the WHO 'safe' level.
Counter-indicators:

Symptoms - Muscular

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness) can lead to:

Circulation

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness) sometimes leads to CardiomyopathyCardiomyopathy
Mercury levels in the heart tissue of individuals who died from Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy (IDCM) were found to be on average 22,000 times higher than in individuals who died of other forms of heart disease.  [J Amer Coll Cardiology v33(6) pp.1578-1583,1999]

Recommendations for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness):

Amino Acid / Protein

Cysteine / N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) often helps with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Cysteine / N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)
The ability of NAC to enhance methylmercury excretion when given orally, its relatively low toxicity, and its wide availability in the clinical setting indicate that it may be an ideal therapeutic agent for use in cases of methylmercury poisoning.  [Environ Health Perspectives, 1998, 106(5): pp.267-71]

Earlier concerns over NAC causing mercury to accumulate in the brain and kidneys, as can occur with L-cysteine, now appear to be unfounded.  The initial concerns were opinions only, based on L-cysteine research, not NAC research.  Still, some clinicians feel that symptom worsening occurs with the use of large doses of NAC (over 300mg per day), especially if they already have elevated levels of L-cysteine.  If L-cystiene levels are elevated, cystiene containing products such as protein powders should be avoided.
L-Glutathione often helps with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)L-Glutathione
Glutathione can cross the blood-brain barrier; it can remove mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals from the brain.

Botanical

Chlorella often helps with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Chlorella
Using large doses of chlorella facilitates fecal mercury excretion.  After the intestinal mercury burden is lowered by other means, mercury will more readily migrate into the intestine from other body tissues where chlorella will aid in its removal.
Garlic may help with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Garlic
Garlic chelates heavy metals such as cadmium, gold, lead and mercury, and acts as a detoxifier.

Dental

Dental Metal Removal is highly recommended for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Dental Metal Removal
Dental amalgam removal is an important first step in reducing your ongoing exposure to mercury.

Detoxification

Chelation Therapy is highly recommended for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Chelation Therapy
EDTA is so effective at removing unwanted minerals and metals from the blood, it has been the standard-FDA-approved-treatment for lead, mercury, aluminum and cadmium poisoning for more than 50 years.
Attapulgite often helps with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Attapulgite
Activated Attapulgite (clay) chelates (bonds) with heavy metals throughout the intestinal tract.

Diet

High/Increased Fiber Diet often helps with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)High/Increased Fiber Diet
Sodium alginate as well as other gel-forming fibers have been shown to inhibit heavy metal uptake in the gut.
Cilantro may help with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Cilantro
Cilantro may help mobilize heavy metals from the brain and central nervous system.
Not recommended:
Increased Fish Consumption is often not recommended for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Increased Fish Consumption
There is increasing concern over fish, which are being found to contain significant levels of mercury.  These levels are coming from eating smaller fish which have been bio-accumulating mercury over time.  The large predator fish, such as swordfish/marlin, ahi (yellow fin tuna), king mackerel, shark (often sold as imitation crab), and tilefish have the highest accumulations because they are at the top of the food chain (well, almost!) Many people who consume significant amounts of these fish are showing very elevated levels of mercury in their hair.  The FDA is currently recommending most other fish as safe for consumption at amounts of 1kg per week or less.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Hair Analysis is highly recommended for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Hair Analysis
Hair analysis is a reasonable and inexpensive first step toward diagnosing heavy metal toxicity.

Mineral

Selenium is highly recommended for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Selenium
Selenium chelates heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and silver.
Molybdenum may help with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Molybdenum
Molybdenum may be useful in the treatment of certain cardiovascular conditions, asthma, allergies and mercury toxicity.
MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) may help with Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane)
Mobilization AND excretion are required for mercury detoxification.  Consuming foods high in sulfur such as garlic, onions, beans, and eggs or supplemental sulfur in the form of MSM can help move mercury around but it is only bound loosely and caution is advised.  There have been reported cases of reversible cataract development from individuals mobilizing mercury without excreting it.  Consult a qualified doctor for a detoxification protocol appropriate for you.

Nutrient

Alpha Lipoic Acid is highly recommended for Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)Alpha Lipoic Acid
Sources of sulfur such as alpha lipoic acid, MSM and garlic are helpful for protection against heavy metals in general and specifically useful in mercury toxicity.  Alpha lipoic acid should not be used alone, as it only mobilizes mercury with a weak bond.  Without additional chelators present, such as DMPS or DMSA, the mercury may just redistribute elsewhere in the body instead of being removed.

KEY

Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of; sometimes leads to
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of; sometimes leads to
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests; often increases risk of
Definite or direct link: strongly suggests
Definite or direct link:
strongly suggests
Strong counter-indication: often contraindicates; often decreases risk of
Strong counter-indication:
often contraindicates; often decreases risk of
May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
Very useful:
is highly recommended for
Often counterindicated: is often not recommended for
Often counterindicated:
is often not recommended for