The Silent Overload That’s Draining Millions of Women — And How to Beat It


At least 65 percent of women harbor mercury — even if they don’t have mercury fillings or eat seafood. “We get mercury in our body from vapors in the air, drinking water, fluorescent light bulbs, skin creams, contact lens fluid, and more,” says functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, MD. And mercury can affect every system, causing fatigue and issues with mood, memory, and the GI tract. Plus, the heavy metal accumulates over time, so the risk of overload rises with age.

“Mercury overload mimics many diseases, so loads of women go undiagnosed,” says Dr. Hyman. Plus, blood tests only detect recent exposure and won’t alert you to mercury in the brain, bones or other organs.”Very few physicians test for total-body burden of mercury, but the percentage of women with potential toxicity is likely very high.”

A doctor can run a mercury challenge test, which pulls mercury from tissues so levels can be measured in urine, says Dr. Hyman. Prefer a DIY test? Try a hair mineral analysis like 5 Strands Metals/Minerals Test ($34.50, Amazon). But given how common overload is, all women can benefit from the steps below to detox and reduce exposure.

“Cilantro and chlorella act like magnets for heavy metals, especially mercury,” says women’s health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD. “It’s a strategy naturopaths have used for years, and it works.” Studies show that in tandem, cilantro and chlorella remove up to 91 percent of stored mercury. To get the perks, she suggests adding a handful of fresh organic cilantro and one teaspoon of chlorella powder to a daily smoothie. Try this one from Anthony’s ($12.95, Amazon).

Opt for small fish like trout and flounder. They’re lower in mercury, says Dr. Hyman. His advice? “If you can fit the entire fish in your pan, then it’s probably a good choice.”

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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