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Yet, there are literally millions and millions of people suffering with mercury poisoning and neurodevelopmental disorders have surged by over 30 percent in the last decade.
What you need to know about mercury exposure
Although mercury can make its way into the body through contaminated seafood, vaccines, and emissions from factories and coal power plants, the main source of exposure is from mercury-based dental amalgams. The World Health Organization notes that the typical absorbed dose from amalgams is 100 micrograms a day.
One of the most disturbing facts of mercury exposure is its association with neurological disorders, behavioral problems, autism spectrum disorder and mental illness. Many experts point to the soaring rates of neurodevelopmental disorders in this country as a testament to the toxic effects of mercury.
Mercury, which can destroy the protective myelin sheath that covers the nerves, is highly damaging to the neurological system. In fact, researchers report that autism is often accompanied by oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and increased inflammation – all of which are consistent with mercury poisoning.
In addition, mercury exposure can cause deficiencies and imbalances of essential minerals such as zinc and copper, a condition associated with ADHD. Mercury exposure also interferes with the production and function of various neurotransmitters, including the “calming” body chemical GABA – thereby promoting the development of depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
Mercury interferes with antioxidant defenses
Chronic mercury exposure also depletes nutrients in the body, promoting oxidative stress and interfering with antioxidant defenses.
Mercury’s ability to bind to sulfur and selenium causes it to severely limit the beneficial oxidation-fighting and cancer-fighting effects of these antioxidant minerals. This interferes with the immune system’s ability to identify cancerous cells, and causes it to attack normal, healthy cells – triggering the development of autoimmune disease and cancer.
Mercury also binds to glutathione, the body’s premier antioxidant, which is designed to detoxify mercury and other heavy metals. In addition, mercury attacks the disulfide bonds in collagen, triggering arthritis and connective tissue disorders, while also damaging the cell mitochondria that synthesize energy.
Mercury exposure promotes cardiovascular and digestive diseases
Mercury exposure contributes to heart disease by causing the oxidation of blood vessels and creating endothelial dysfunction. In one study of patients with heart failure, mercury levels in the myocardium, or middle layer of the heart wall, were found to be 22,000 times higher than normal.
Mercury alters intestinal flora, increasing the presence of undesirable bacteria and pathogens such as Candida. Digestion is impaired because of mitochondrial dysfunction. Mercury also increases the risk of food sensitivities, especially gluten and casein, and contributes to “leaky gut.”
As if this weren’t damaging enough, chronic exposure to mercury is linked with insulin resistance, hypoglycemic symptoms and metabolic syndrome – a constellation of unhealthy conditions that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat and high levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol.
Susceptibility to mercury varies with the individual
Vulnerability to mercury depends on a variety of factors, including exposure, nutrient status, lifestyle and genetics. Over the last ten years, however, researchers have documented over a dozen common genetic variations that cause increased vulnerability to mercury toxicity – and many more are likely in existence.
It can be difficult to diagnose mercury toxicity, as mercury can accumulate throughout the body without showing up in blood, urine or hair. In addition, symptoms of mercury toxicity are common to many other illnesses, and may appear long after exposure.
Following a nutrient-dense diet and taking supplements advised by a knowledgeable naturopathic physician can help modulate the effects of mercury exposure.
High-quality fats, organ meats such as liver, organic olive oil and bone broth can help replace depleted minerals and amino acids, while probiotic foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the intestine. Foods high in vitamin C can provide antioxidant benefits and rebuild damaged collagen, with Brazil nut, sesame and pine nuts helping to replace magnesium, zinc and selenium.
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