Dental Mercury Exposure:
By Helen Lofgren, B.A.,
UPdate Fall 1996
This is a follow-up to the writer’s article on Mercury Amalgam fillings
which was published
in our Summer, 1996 issue.
Few if any
of us are free of mercury exposure and accumulation within our bodies.
Aside from environmental industrial-agricultural/food-chain disasters such
as Minimata Bay in Japan, and direct human of animal consumption of mercury
contaminated grain, or the infamous ‘mad hatters’ of the last century,
and certain other work-place or domestic exposures, the primary exposure
to mercury for most people is their mercury-amalgam ‘silver’ tooth fillings.
These restorations forever off-gas mercury vapour which is absorbed directly
through the tissues into the brain, or inhaled through the lungs, where
it enters the bloodstream and from there is deposited in tissues throughout
the body. In combination with bacteria present in the mouth, mercury
vapour from fillings converts to methyl mercury which is many times more
toxic than metallic mercury. Particles of metallic mercury and other
toxic heavy metals from the fillings, including highly toxic nickel are
ingested as well, through normal wear and tear as the mercury-amalgams
are subjected to the forces of chewing, grinding, heat and cold, bacterial
action and acidic erosion. Mercury is present in the guta percha
of root canal extractions where it is inserted deep into the jawbone and
from there, readily absorbed. It can also be present in the pink
material of dental plates, and as tiny dark fragments in the mouth tissue
known as ‘mercury tattoo’, or in the bone.
What to do?
There are many excellent references, some of which I list below, and I
refer you to the cover articles in the Summer 1996 AEHA National UPdate
and another article, “Peeling the Onion…,” as well as a review of Casdorph
& Walker’s excellent Toxic Metal Syndrome: the Effect of Heavy Metals
on the Brain, in the Spring 1996 Update for additional information.
Optimal nutrition is key to detoxifying from mercury exposure and minimizing
its effects; diet plays a major role in the maintenance or regaining of
health for the mercury exposed or mercury toxic person.
For over 25
years, Dr. Hal Huggins, D.D.S., M.S., of Colorado Springs, has been a pioneer
in ferreting out the dietary requirements and nutritional needs for recovery
from micro-mercurialism as the long-time, low dose exposure characteristic
of that from mercury-amalgam dental restoration is known. You may
find some of these recommendations surprising, as I have, but doing the
best I can to follow them, I must admit that I do feel better, and when
I do not comply, I feel the consequences.
Huggins’ recommendations, as well as to those of Queen, and Taylor; is
to eat adequate amounts of sulfur-bearing animal protein. This means
eggs every day, beef at least three times per week, turkey, chicken, and
a variety of game if available. Finding a source of organically or
biodynamically raised and-or free-range, hormone and drug-free animal protein
is very important and well worth the added expense and effort. One
does not need huge quantities, but it is needed on a regular basis.
Animal protein should be cooked as little as possible, and never micro-waved
to avoid inactivating proteins. Dried beans, and generous amounts
of onions and garlic daily provide added sulfur. To be avoided are
fish and seafood if any sort, including ‘farmed’ or cultivated, which are
readily contaminated with methylmercury in the food chain, as well as the
seaweeds which are also affected by coastal contamination. Freshwater
fish, are also subject to heavy metal, chemical and other pollution.
Pork causes a particular clumping of red blood cells when eaten and is
to be avoided. Other foods contraindicated are cheese, especially
hard cheese, chocolate, refined carbohydrates, white flour as well as sugars,
soft drinks. Avoid drinking any more than 4 oz. of liquid with meals,
including ½ hour before and after because more interferes with protein
metabolism by diluting essential digestive enzymes.
On the recommended
list is butter, but never margarine, between 1/8 and ¼ pounds/day.
(I’m working up to 1/8, but I’ll never make it to ¼!). The
rationale for this startling recommendation is to stimulate the liver to
adequate production of bile which binds readily to mercury for excretion
in the stool. Dairy products other than butter are to be avoided
according to Huggins, though others recommend daily consumption of live-culture
dairy products such as plain yogurt.
salt, necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid, an essential in
protein metabolism and the transport of nutrients through cell membranes.
Huggins observes that given free access to salt, no one eats it by the
cupful; our consumption is limited by our need for this essential nutrient.
The problems with salt come with preservatives such as sodium nitrates
found in preserved meats and sodium benzoate found in many commercially
prepared foods including soft drinks, MSG, salt substitutes, sea salt which
is often contaminated from the pollutants of coastal waters from which
it is harvested, and others.
What about cholesterol and high blood
is essential for the brain, and if there is not enough from food sources,
the body manufactures it. Even persons eating no cholesterol can
have high blood levels. Huggins has conducted experiments in which
those with high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, as well as low
levels, have followed the above diet. What he has observed is that
blood pressure normalizes and cholesterol levels come to normalize at 221
mg/100ml blood (observed also by Emmanuel Cheraskin, M.D., D.M.D., &
Dr. Melvin Page, D.D.S. at earlier times and other places), leading Huggins
to conclude that the normal level for cholesterol is 200-225 mg/ml, a much
narrower range than the accepted standard of 150-330 mg/ml. The villains
for both high blood pressure and high cholesterol are sugar, caffeine and
alcohol. Avoid these, as well as smoking, follow the diet, and both
each of us will be healthiest when following our ancestral diet, that is,
the diet of our forebears, because human evolved over time to adapt to
a diet of the foods that were locally available. For some, this can
be readily determined but for many others of mixed background, optimal
diet is much less obvious. For example, persons of African ancestry
can usually tolerate a greater amount of fruit in their diet than can those
of more northern origin; Scandinavians and other northern peoples usually
thrive with more fish in their diets, except that it is now contraindicated
due to almost universal contamination. To aid in determination of
one’s personal optimal diet, information, biochemical testing and recommendations
are available through Huggins’ Clinic.
of fresh vegetables daily, mostly raw, some lightly cooked, dried beans,
nuts and some whole grains, are recommended. Some fruit is recommended,
just not 5 or 6 servings/day. Organically or biodynamically grown
produce and grains are most desirables. Standard commercial grain,
especially wheat, is fumigated with methylmercury, with as much as 4 inches
of volatile mercury to be found in the bottom of storage silos, so it can
be particularly detrimental. Juices are not recommended in the diet
as one needs the fiber that is discarded in juicing in order to fully utilize
the nutrients while minimizing the impact of their sugars. Fruit
juice without its fiber component is a sugar-fix, and sugar in any form
disrupts digestion and metabolism and fosters the over-growth of candida
in the gut. A small amount of pure honey, from unsprayed sources,
raw, unadulterated, unfiltered, unheated and unpasteurized is allowable
for those who need a bit of added sweetening.
cautious in recommending nutritional supplementation, believing as many
do that supplements without their healthy food components can do more harm
than good, often accumulating in various tissues in forms that cannot readily
be used by the body. He believes that many of the high levels of
mineral seen in blood and hair chemistries actually represent these unhealthy
accumulations. Calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc are among the
minerals that can be detrimentally stored. Calcium can become plaque
in blood vessels. Various minerals can occupy other sites.
For example, one of the principal destinations of mercury (though never
a dietary supplement) liberated from dental restorations is the hemoglobin
of the red blood cells which is essential for life as it is the carrier
and distributor of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Unfortunately, mercury has an affinity for hemoglobin greater than oxygen’s,
readily coming to occupy as many of the four oxygen sites on each hemoglobin
molecule as it can find, thus depriving the body’s cells of essential oxygen.
To compensate, the body may produce more hemoglobin, suggesting in a blood
profile a healthy situation when really it represents the body’s attempt
to compensate for a type of anemia. This can be an explanation for
the fatigue reported by some persons who have what look to be high levels
of hemoglobin. Vitamins can pose problems, too: Vitamin B12, cobalamin,
greatly accelerates the absorption of mercury in the tissues.
of mercury is the brain, where it can be responsible for emotional-behavioural
changes, loss of memory, and Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple sclerosis
can occur as the mercury attacks the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve
fibers; arthritis and other immunological of collagen diseases, and heart
irregularities to name a few may also be induced. Mercury readily
crosses the placental barrier where it can cause chromosomal damage and
can be measured in the infant brain in case of autopsy. It can be
introduced to both the woman and the fetus via the sperm, and is found
in mothers’ milk.
testing, specific individual recommendations can be made for optimal diet
and nutritional supplementation in forms most readily usable by the body
to foster its ability to cope with and excrete mercury and other toxic
substances. Many people benefit from taking digestive enzymes and
vitamin C in their most digestible forms. Aside form individual variation,
there is another pitfall to supplementation, and that is, if one still
has implanted mercury, e.g. mercury-amalgam fillings, even if, and especially
if they are covered with gold or other metallic crowns, or in the presence
of metallic bridge of orthodontic appliances, root canal filled teeth or
stray bits of mercury in the tissues, there is a danger with supplementation
of accelerating the release of mercury through oral galvanism, and hence
its absorption by the brain and elsewhere, with the very real possibility
of increased symptomology.
What about vegetarianism and the
recommendation for consumption of animal protein?
believes that a vegetarian diet can be healthy for certain already healthy
persons, but strongly urges vegetarians to adopt consumption of sulfur-bearing
animal proteins and butter during their period of mercury detoxification.
Consuming eggs and poultry will be adequate for those who object to consumption
of red meat, but just as for others, fish and seafood are to be avoided.
He reports never having successfully detoxified a mercury-toxic patient
who has remained totally vegetarian. A vegan who is particularly
well informed is surprised to hear this and suggest that: 1) With the percentage
of the population that is truly vegetarian as low as it is, Huggins’ sample
is likely too small to be meaningful; 2) People mean many different things
when they report they are vegetarian, from the idealistic teenager who,
relatively uninformed, eats little besides peanut butter and jam sandwiches
and is really on his or her own with respect to diet, to persons whose
diet is more varied but still haphazard, to a very few who are genuinely
well informed and willing to become educated to what may for them be an
entirely new way of eating, often with foods that at first seem very strange.
Perhaps Huggins’ experience with vegetarians has not included those who
are well enough informed and diligent in pursuing their dietary needs.
My vegan informant says she has yet to pursue a problem of nutritional
deficiency with even the strictest vegan diet that can’t be solved.
for daily consumption of certain nutrients such as eggs, onions, garlic
and butter are problematic in the case of allergy, and obviously conflict
with the intent of rotational diets, thus complicating the decision of
what to do. Duck eggs are of a different food family than chicken
eggs and can offer some variety. There must be room for some dietary
flexibility in mercury detoxification, even if particular choices may speed
up or slow down the rates of recovery, but avoidance of sugar, caffeine,
alcohol, smoking and other toxic exposures are critical, just as they are
for recovery from chemical sensitivity of other origin.
A diet essentially
the same as that described here for mercury toxicity is prescribed successfully
by some alternative practitioners for the relief and/or cure of arthritic
symptoms, so it can be well addressing the fundamentals of nutrition for
optimal health. This should come as no surprise as the focus of most
of Huggins’ career, and the subject of his master’s degree has been the
relationship of diet and health. If this diet is new to you, it can
provide some real food for thought, but only your own research and information-gathering,
combined with your experience will tell you what is right for you ad your
own particular body chemistry. Bon appetit!
Helen Lofgren is a teacher, educator
and mother. She has long been interested in environmental health
issues and their effects on the family. The more she learns the more
she asks. Helen has been active in the AEHA since its inception in
Halifax and before, in its precursors, and is a long-time member of its
Board of Management.
1. Huggins, Hal A., D.D.S. It’s All
in Your Head: The Link Between Mercury Amalgams and Illness 5th ed., 194p.
Avery Garden City, NY 1993, or 3rd or 4th ed., It’s All in Your Head: Diseases
Caused by Silver Mercury Fillings, 236p. 1989 or 1990, tel 1-800 331-2303
2. Queen, H.L. Chronic Mercury Toxicity:
New Hope Against an Endemic Disease The Doctor’s Guide for Lifestyle Counseling.
Vol. 1 Queen and Co., health communications, Inc. P.O. Box 49308 Colorado
Springs, CO 80919-9938. 1998
3. Taylor, Joyal, D.D.S. The complete
guide to Mercury Toxicity from Dental Fillings: How to find out if your
Silver Dental Fillings are Poisoning You and What You Can Do About it.
Scripps Publishing, San Diego, CA 1998
4. Casdoeph, H. Richard. M.D. &
Ph.D, and Walker, Morton. Toxic Metal Syndrome: How Metal Poisonings
Can Affect Your Brain. Avery. Garden City, NY 1995.
5. Ziff, Sam & Ziff, Michael F.,
D.D.S. Dentistry Without Mercury. Bio-Probe Inc. P.O. Box 60820,
Orlando, FL 32860-8010. 1985.
6. Huggins & Huggins, personal
7. Prudholm, T., personal communication.