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Study: “There Is No Known Safe Level of Mercury Exposure” — How to Avoid the Toxin to Outsmart Fatigue and Brain Fog

Is your favorite seafood high in mercury? Learn where the toxin hides and how to avoid it

Feeling exhausted, achy, and anxious way too often lately? The toxic heavy metal mercury could be literally dragging you down. When mercury accumulates in the body, as experts say it does for many of us, it can damage cells and organs to impair brain function and sap energy. And those are just a few of the symptoms of mercury toxicity. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with the draining impact of mercury toxicity. Just ask Julianne Boyajian: When she learned mercury toxicity was the reason for her constant health struggles, she eliminated the overload with a few simple strategies. And as a result, she recaptured her youthful vitality.  Keep reading to learn more about this sneaky problem and the remedies.

What is mercury toxicity?

Mercury is the most toxic heavy metal in the environment, say authors of a study published in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology. Found in the thick, rocky layer that surrounds the earth, mercury is released naturally via volcanic activity and weathering of rocks. But the World Health Organization notes that human activities such as industrial processes, burning coal and mining are the major ways mercury makes its way into the environment.

From there, mercury enters soil and water and accumulates in the food chain. Fish is a well-known mercury source: a study in the journal Toxics found that some commercial species exceeded the recommended mercury level of .5 parts per million. Plus, EPA experts found worrisome mercury concentrations in fish collected from 541 sites in U.S. rivers and streams. But fish aren’t the only source. Researchers reporting in the journal Scientific Reports found high levels of mercury in vegetables and grains grown near coal-fired power plants. And as functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, MD points out, “We get mercury in our body from vapors in the air, drinking water, fluorescent light bulbs, skin creams, contact lens fluid and more.” 

How much mercury is safe?

Why that’s a problem: The mercury we’re exposed to on a regular basis gets stored in body tissues, where it damages cells and disrupts their function. In fact, research reveals mercury has a damaging impact on nearly every internal organ and body system. And the resulting symptoms of mercury toxicity can prove draining at best. Dr. Hyman suffered from them himself and recalls “I felt weak, tired and couldn’t think.” And while the EPA contends blood levels of mercury at or below 5.8 micrograms per liter are no cause for concern, Austrian experts beg to differ. In a study published in Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care they note mercury is so highly toxic, there’s no known safe level of exposure.

Are mercury toxicity symptoms sabotaging your health? 

A doctor can run a mercury challenge test, which pulls mercury from tissues so levels can be measured in urine, says Dr. Hyman. But if you suffer from the mercury toxicity symptoms below, high levels of the heavy metal could be to blame.

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog
  • Forgetfulness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Canker sores

How to outsmart mercury toxicity symptoms naturally

Acute, severe cases of mercury poisoning are typically treated with an intravenous therapy known as chelation, which delivers compounds that bind to mercury and remove it from the body. But given how common mercury toxicity is, experts say all women can benefit from the following strategies.   

Consider this combo

Cilantro and chlorella (a type of green algae) help detoxify mercury, note scientists reporting in the Journal of Herbmed Pharmacology. “It’s a strategy naturopaths have used for years,” notes Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, who explains cilantro and chlorella act like magnets for heavy metals — mercury included. She recommends adding a handful of fresh organic cilantro and 1 tsp. of chlorella powder to a daily smoothie.

Enjoy ‘little’ fish

A study in the journal Public Health Reports determined mercury levels were 36% higher in people who ate fish three or more times weekly compared to their counterparts who ate fish one to two times per week. And large predator fish can be especially problematic, since mercury accumulates in their tissues as they feast on small fish. That’s why Dr. Hyman advises opting for smaller species such as trout and flounder. His easy rule of thumb: “If you can fit the entire fish in your pan, then it’s probably a good choice.” The Natural Resources Defense Council also offers a free wallet card that provides information on fish that are typically lower in mercury. Among those highest in mercy, according to the organization: swordfish, mackerel and tuna.

Consider a selenium supplement

The mineral has a powerful ability to bind to mercury so it’s excreted from the body. In fact, findings in the journal Environmental Science and Technology reveal that taking 100 mcg of selenium daily increases excretion of mercury by 174%. Note: Too much selenium can trigger symptoms such as skin rashes, hair loss and nausea, so check with your doctor before supplementing. (Click through to learn how selenium can keep your thyroid healthy)

Filter your water

woman pouring water from a filter; symptoms of mercury toxicity
BartekSzewczyk/Getty Images

The latest data provided by the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water database suggests millions of Americans are exposed to water that harbors detectable levels of mercury each year. Fortunately, activated carbon filters can remove more than 90% of mercury from water. Buy them at ZeroWater for $29.99 and up.

Related: Always Tired? The Secret To All-Day Energy Could Be as Easy as the Right Water Bottle

Mercury toxicity success story: Julianne Boyajian, 55

Rebecca Stark Photography

This isn’t right. The guilt is unbearable, Julianne Boyajian thought to herself as she collapsed on her bed. “I’d just gotten home from work. But instead of having dinner with my family, I could only manage to walk straight to my bedroom and go to sleep. It was no way to live,” recalls Julianne. “I knew my son needed me. He was having trouble at school and could benefit from homeschooling­, but I just didn’t have the energy to ‘show up’ in his daily life, and that fact crushed me as much as my fatigue.

Illness ruled Julianne’s life

“Growing up, I was always sick: mono, strep throat, sinus infections, the flu. I remember being on antibiotics for seven years straight. So as an adult, I worked really hard to try to be healthy. I exercised, ate organic foods and kept my weight in check. But optimal health still seemed out of reach. Fatigue, brain fog, body aches and constipation remained a part of my life.

“Then a few years ago, my symptoms began to worsen. My occasional body aches grew into daily pain. I was suffering so much that I started to feel like I was missing out on life. I lived a mile away from the beach, but I never had the energy to go there and enjoy it. I even had to quit the job I loved as a hotel event coordinator because of my crushing fatigue. At that time, I became mostly bed­ridden for nine months.

Searching for relief

“As bad as I felt on the inside, it started to show on my outsides. At one point, I developed a skin rash resembling hives. ‘Maybe allergies?’ one doctor told me, but he wasn’t sure. Another doctor said bluntly, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. The Western care model is really focused on acute care, not chronic care.’ Finally, after seeing my rash persist for a full year, my dermatologist told me, ‘Don’t come back. There’s no point. We can’t help you.’

“I turned to natural remedies, but my body wasn’t responding. I had so many supplement bottles in my house that I could have opened my own store. I was scared that my problems would keep snowballing. For example, one day I felt a pain shoot in my leg, and I worried I might be developing something permanently debilitating, like MS. I started to feel hopeless and thought, There has to be more to life than just muddling through symptoms, waiting to grow old so it can finally all be over.

How Julianne found answers

“Then one day, I connected with a friend of a friend, who had a homeopathic health background. When he asked if I’d been exposed to toxins, I told him I’d avoided food with pesticides for years, but our conversation got me thinking about my sickly childhood. I grew up playing on my grandfather’s farm, which likely had pesticides, and I swam in the nearby creek where he mined mercury. It was ages ago, but I began to wonder if those toxins and heavy metals could be behind my current issues.

“Armed with this theory, I found a naturopathic doctor. He confirmed my suspicions, saying, ‘Eating organic isn’t always enough when you’ve had prior toxin exposure.’ He explained that stored toxins can attack the gut flora years later, causing food sensitivities and digestive issues. Plus, he said candida yeast fuses to trapped heavy metals in the body, causing rashes, fog, fatigue and pain. He diagnosed me with candida and an overload of heavy metals, including mercury. When I told him I’d tried a candida-eliminating diet years earlier and it hadn’t helped, he said sometimes a toxic overload is so high that detox methods fall short: ‘You end up shifting the chemicals in your body from one place to the next, triggering new symptoms. The real goal is to flush them entirely.’ He advised using supplements that would go deeper to detox my body.

Healthy at last!

“While researching online, I came across a product called Biome Medic from Purium, a company co-founded by health expert Dave Sandoval, author of The Green Foods Bible. It worked by gathering toxic particles in my gut and removing them through waste. I started taking it, and within three weeks, my rash was nearly gone and I felt better. My pain had lifted.
“I kept making changes, like drinking wheatgrass. The more I cleansed, the better I felt. My constipation ended, and I even lost weight. My latest test showed no candida and dramatically reduced heavy metals. I’m still healing, but I love the progress I’m seeing. I have the energy to go to the beach. I feel 20 years younger, and hopeful for the first time in 30 years! When I tell people I spent nine months unable to get out of bed, they think I’m lying. They can’t believe I was ever sick!”

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more stories on removing toxins, keep reading:

Top MD: “The Air Inside Our Home Can Be 100x More Polluted Than Outdoor Air” — How to Outsmart Toxins to Feel Your Best

The Delicious Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie That’s Freeing Women From the Toxins That Make It Impossible to Lose Weight

Add This Powder to Your Drink to Flush Toxins, Ease Inflammation, and Nix Allergy Symptoms

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