DETOXIFICATION or “DETOX” the now popular self-help concept has swept the media by storm in the last few years. While popular detox programs have increased the overall health of the public, removal of heavy metals and chemicals are a more challenging endeavor. To ensure a safe detoxification a medically supervised detoxification protocol in a clinical setting is recommended.
HEAVY METALS are ubiquitous to our modern environment. While MERCURY, SILVER, LEAD, CADMIUM, ARSENIC and ALUMINUM are commonly found in the environment this article will focus on MERCURY. Due to off gassing of the earth’s crust, the combustion of fossil fuels and mining we are constantly exposed to mercury. This mercury enters our waterways and is introduced into the food chain (fish and shellfish) and eventually humans via consumption. Commonly consumed fish now contain methyl mercury with tuna, shark, swordfish and mackerel being some of the highest. In the Survey FDA’s Total Diet Study mercury was found in 100% of canned tuna.
Another source of MERCURY comes from the OUTGASSING OF SILVER FILLINGS that are routinely used in dentistry. In a test of total blood and inorganic mercury run by the NHANES in 2003-2004 (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) it measured positive for both total and inorganic in all participants aged I year and older.
Mercury is a persistent toxin and is able to cross the blood brain barrier and placenta. In utero is the first of a child’s exposure followed by the normal environmental exposures, vaccines and flu shots (www.vaccinessafety.edu/thi-table.htm) While mercury can be found in the blood, urine and living tissues it sequesters itself in fat and deposits in organs, glands and the brain.
MERCURY IS A NEUROTOXIN. The greatest storage of mercury is found in the LIVER, KIDNEYS, GUT and BRAIN. Common symptoms of mercury poisoning are fatigue, headaches, tingling, numbness, and vertigo, ringing in the ear, sensory disturbances, muscular weakness and cramping. Psychological symptoms include irritability excitability, restlessness, insomnia and depression. Immune symptoms include autoimmune disorders, low thyroid and infertility.
PREPARATION FOR DETOX. The most effective detox program needs to be well thought out with the patient’s total toxic burden and underlying health taken into consideration. Very often people take it upon themselves to begin some detox program they saw on the internet and detox too quickly resulting in a barrage of complicated symptoms. The number one recommendation for detoxification of heavy metals is to proceed in a slow and methodical manner. Support of the key eliminative organs, targeted supplement, medical foods, botanicals and exercise can gradually reduce the total body burden.
Using the model of a sink and garbage disposal, the sink is all incoming toxins and the liver is the garbage disposal in which the waste enters and must be broken down before it can properly enter the drainage system for final exit into the sewage system. This is analogous to the liver, kidney and gut. When toxins enter the liver they go through two distinct phases called PHASE 1 and PHASE 2 LIVER DETOXIFICATION. Both phases require specific nutrients and specific chemical reactions to occur in a sequential manner. If not the system can back up and toxins can reenter causing even more oxidative damage. If all goes well and the disposal works the pipes still have to be clean in order to drain properly. At this juncture the gall bladder must secrete bile in order to flush the toxins into the upper small intestines. Here the good flora of the intestines helps to metabolize byproducts and maintain homeostasis. In the gut Candida Albicans and certain intestinal flora can methylate elemental mercury which means they can help recycle it back into the system. This leads to higher methyl mercury levels in the body.
Therefore healthy elimination is key for detoxification. In addition the KIDNEYS must filter the blood to decide what is kept and what goes on as waste in the urine. Chronic health conditions that weaken the kidney have an impact on microcirculation and waste removal. Both the gut and the brain have built in barrier systems. The gut has the MICROVILLI and TIGHT JUNCTIONS and the brain has the BLOOD BRAIN BARRIER. Unfortunately both systems can be breeched. Healing gut and brain permeability is an important component to prevent further autointoxication. The brain’s half-life of mercury is 20 years. Also mercury has been shown to selectively concentrate in several areas of the brain (amygdala and hippocampus) that are involved with memory and it is also taken up by the retina.
While there are many detoxification protocols and products there are some specific substances for heavy metals. Modified citrus pectin with alginates from kelp are an excellent binding medium that pulls out heavy metals and radioactive particles from the environment without pulling out minerals. Zeolite also works as a binder for metals. Gluathatione is one of the most important antioxidants necessary for detoxification and helps to prevent neurodegeneration. Its production peaks at about age 50 but mercury depletes GLUTATHIONE which then predispose cells to oxidative damage. An absolutely amazing ‘You Tube Video” is that of Dr. David Perlmutter using a single Glutathione IV with a Parkinson’s patient and watching his neurodegenerative state change. Also amino acids like N-acetylcystine (NAC) help the body to recycle and make more Gluthatione. Other necessary nutraceuticals are Selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Garlic, Chlorella, and Whey Protein.
LIVER DETOXIFICATION uses many vitamins, especially B vitamins, minerals, branch chained amino acids, with Sulphur, Methy and Gluathatione donors to name a few. Methy donors can be had from methylated B12 and Folate. Sulphur donors can be obtained from Organic Sulpher, MSM and foods high in Sulphur like cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, and peppers. Herbs like dandelion, milk thistle, turmeric and all green food high in chlorophyll function as liver aids.
GASTROINTESTINAL DETOXIFICATION may need nutrients like L-Glutamine, Aloe Vera and Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice to aid in repair of a leaky gut. The intestinal tract will benefit from both pre- and probiotics and good plant fiber to enhance elimination. Sometimes charcoal and bentonite clay can be beneficial for absorptions of toxins.
KIDNEY DETOXIFICATION needs proper hydration, macro and mico minerals, ginger, Curcumin, Reishi mushroom and warming foods to the augment circulation. Remember the skin is also an eliminative organ so sweating, Epsom salt baths, infrared saunas, hot and cold showers will help eliminate toxins through the skin.
TESTING of HEAVY METALS can be done with blood, urine, and spectrophotometry of the living tissues. There are base line tests and challenge/provocative tests with DMSA, EDTA and IV chelation. In addition there is genetic testing to identify certain subsets of the population that do not possess the enzymes (P450 cytochrome) to properly detoxify and or have a genetic defects with methylation. An example is the Detoxigenomic panel from Genova labs, which identifies the genetic predispositions and detoxification functions to aid and support clinical guidance.
IN SUMMARY the therapeutic interventions for detoxification is an extremely important component of ridding the body of heavy metals. IDENTIFYING, AVOIDING and ELIMINATING the sources is vital. Removal of mercury laden dental fillings is a must to lessen the body’s burden and neurotoxic effects of mercury (www.IAOMT.org). Nutritional protocols to reduce the body’s burden along with diet and lifestyle changes also need to be implemented.
ADDITIONAL SPECIFIC THERAPEUTIC AIDS can augment detoxification: Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Lymphatic Massage, Yoga. Qi Gong and Breathing Exercises can enhance overall heath and circulation. Detoxification of heavy metals is a complex undertaking. A structured medically supported detox program takes time and mindfulness for a safe and symptomless journey. ~ Dr. Sherie Viencek, D.C., CBNS