Mercury - You've Got to Go. (Amalgam filling removal and detox)
Learning is like mercury, one of the most powerful and excellent things in the world in skillful hands; in unskillful, the most mischievous.
— Alexander Pope 'Thoughts On Various Subjects', The Works of Alexander Pope (1806), Vol. 6, 406.
A few years back, I spent the better part of a year preparing my body for the replacement of my amalgam dental fillings and eventual mercury detox. This process involved A LOT of research to understand how detoxification works, why mercury (and other heavy metals) are so dangerous, why to even get my fillings removed in the first place, and how to properly do it. I will try to keep the science to a minimum, but will include many of my references for anyone wanting to do some further reading.
My Amalgam (Mercury) Filling Removal and Detox Protocol
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I had been suffering from terrible symptoms for quite a while before getting my fillings replaced, and the symptoms were continuing to get worse, even starting to affect my work and home life. Some of the symptoms I experienced were: nervousness, anxiety, increasing irritability and mood swings, numbness in my extremities, severe memory problems, horrible brain fog, fatigue, and depression. I knew I needed to take action very soon, because I was headed down a difficult road otherwise.
Intro: Elimination Pathways
The body has 7 different pathways it uses to remove toxins and other waste. Blood, Skin, Colon, Kidneys, Liver, Lungs, Lymph. (You could actually count an 8th if you are nursing - breast milk is also an elimination pathway.) The problem is, we need all of these channels to be working in order to properly eliminate all the junk that accumulates from our everyday modern lifestyles and avoid permanent damage. These channels have not evolved quickly enough to keep up with the demands that a rapidly advancing industrialized society has placed on them. There just hasn't been enough time. As a result, we are finding ever increasing rates of diseases, disorders, and an overall decline in general health and well being. We often contribute it to "life" and getting older, but this is not the case at all.
Think of our bodies as funnels.
We funnel in all of this stuff at once: pesticides and heavy metals from our food sources (and playing with broken thermometers in high school chemistry class), smog from poor air quality, bpas, dioxin, PCBs, GMOs, electromagnetic radiation, parabens and other chemicals from our beauty products, medications, cleaning solutions, formaldehyde from our houses, paint VOCs, cigarette smoke - first or second hand, carbon monoxide from our vehicles, vaccine additives, and who knows what else at our jobs, and everywhere else we go. It's a wonder we don't all keel over right here on the spot! We don't because our bodies are absolutely amazing. We can process and remove all of this junk and STILL grow, and repair, and move, and think, and do all that other amazing stuff we do. When our funnels get too clogged up though, the other areas start to slow down and not work properly either.
One of the keys to good health is to make sure your funnels are working properly. The easiest ways to do this are to avoid the junk as much as possible, and to properly support the channels when they need it. Some of them might need a little extra help in getting that clog moving as well, which was what I had to do. While all of the elimination channels are important, if I had to pick two to really focus on as the main workhorses, I'd have to pick the colon (really the whole GI tract) and the liver. The GI tract takes it all in, while the liver does most of the processing.
Detoxing: Do's and Don'ts
Before I get into the details about my own procedures, I should mention that in doing my research I noted that it is very important not to do any of this supplementation or detoxification when nursing, or if planning to become pregnant within the next several years at least. Since we had our One and Done child many years ago, I'm in the clear.
My journey began with a switch to organic food whenever possible. Since it really is a journey, my change in lifestyle was a slow, but sustainable one. I usually recommend to people looking to change their lifestyles, to choose one new thing per week. I mean there is A LOT to change if you are a typical American. I actually have a board on Pinterest called To Do: Natural Life Makeover, so I can remember what I've changed, and what I still have to do. I want to really stress that not everyone wants to or can change everything. That's not the point. We don't all want to be off-the-grid-hippie-dippie-communal-compound-living people (well, some of us do). Just doing what you can, little changes at a time, can make a huge impact on your current and future health.
Step 1: Dietary Changes
So first I switched to organic food. This also means food that is minimally processed, and probably not a name brand. (I'll save my conspiracy theory thoughts on Big Ag/Big Pharma/Our Govt for another blog.) I read ALL labels. Here's a hint: just because it says "organic" doesn't mean it's good for you! Here's another hint: if you can't pronounce an ingredient, or don't know what it is, it's probably best avoided. I'm still working on this myself because, Frankly, I can't quite bring myself to eat only fresh stuff ("One Ingredient Foods") ALL the time. I need some carbs and dairy, once in a while knowwhatImean? If you are stressing over the cost and availability of organic foods, there are some helpful charts available to tell you the top 10 dirtiest foods (foods you should ALWAYS buy organic), and the top 15 cleanest foods (foods that it's ok to buy conventionally grown if organic isn't an option). Organic meat, dairy, and eggs are also priorities for me.
I will tell you, the most painful part of changing what I eat was ditching fast food. For me, I couldn't see just get a salad from one of those places. It's the fries and burgers you go for anyway, right? So I rarely go at all anymore. It's a cold-turkey, constantly reminding myself that those places are POISON, I always feel like crap after eating that stuff anyway, thing. No more soda either. Poison, poison, poison. And it's tough. So tough. Why, even though we KNOW something is poison, do we still eat/drink/smoke it? Or even want it? The mind is a funny thing. Thankfully there are more and more healthy fast food places like CoreLife, Panera, Chipotle, and Jason's Deli popping up everyday.
Step 2: Supplemental Support
So, switching what I ate was the major step in making sure my GI channel was working properly. I also had to do some repair work, as I was having symptoms of leaky gut and generally have always had digestive issues. This involved the introduction of some really beneficial foods and supplements. I make my own bone broth for the necessary minerals (in general, the best supplements are those from a whole food source and not those that have the USP stamp on it which were made in a lab and often are not used properly by the body, if at all), I take a daily probiotic supplement, a high potency garlic supplement, and a high quality fish oil supplement. I drink 1/2 my body weight in fluid ounces a day of filtered tap water. I avoid antibiotic medications. In an otherwise healthy person, these are completely unnecessary and actually serve to do more harm that good, with rare exceptions.
There are fantastic, naturally occurring antibiotic foods that don't do any damage to the body and work just as well. Eating organic naturally increased my dietary fiber because I started eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains but I also started adding in some Aloe Vera juice to my morning smoothie. This helps things...ahem...flow better, which naturally detoxifies the body.
Because I worked in a scientific research lab with some really nasty environmental toxicants, I started taking an herbal concoction called Enviro-detox that has things like burdock root, dandelion, fenugreek, ginger, clover, echinacea, and milk thistle in it to protect me from everyday exposure. These are all herbs known to help in removing toxins from our body.
The next step was getting my sluggish liver working optimally for the major stress I would be putting it under when I mercury detoxed after my fillings were replaced. To start this out, I avoid as many chemicals as physically possible, any and all over-the-counter medications. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cough medicine, etc. These compounds put a lot of stress on the liver, and there are other, natural remedies that work fine for my needs. I also added in a liver cleanse formula that contains many of the ingredients in the Enviro-Detox, but also has things like parsley, black cohosh, gentian, goldenrod, and angelica root.
Like most SAD, sugar eaters, I also battled with candida (yeast) issues that can manifest in some people as skin rashes, athlete's foot, jock itch, thick toe nails, etc. Candida actually has the very important purpose of binding to mercury in the blood and gut, and is important for certain functions elsewhere in the body, but having too much of it can be detrimental. There needs to be balance. The problem is, if our other elimination channels are not open, when we kill off the candida, mercury then is freed up to move into other organs and cause issues elsewhere. Candida death also releases some nasty side-effect causing toxins. So it is important to make sure the GI tract and liver are working properly before taking something like yeast/fungal detox, which I added into my regimen. The last two things that I specifically added for the intention of cleansing and preparation were activated charcoal and bentonite clay. I took the activated charcoal before bed, on an empty stomach, and with nothing other than the bentonite and water. Activated charcoal is awesome at binding to toxins in the gut (in fact it's so good, there is a report of a scientist that took it along with a lethal dose of arsenic and suffered no ill effects whatsoever), but it also binds to medications and nutrients so it's important not to take it within an hour before or two hours after eating or taking meds. Bentonite clay is a tad controversial as it contains aluminum, which may be linked to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, but I feel confident taking it with the activated charcoal.
SteP 3: Removal
So after introducing all of these supplements (and a few others for general health, like vitamin C, D, B-complex, zinc, and spirulina), and taking them for approximately a year (and seeing dramatic results in my overall health), I decided it was time to get those fillings replaced. It also took me a long time to find a dentist that I was confident would replace them in the safest manner possible.
I found one though, and absolutely loved her and her whole office. They are holistic and modern which are both very important to me. Holistic because they won't needlessly prescribe medications and modern so they use minimally invasive techniques. They recommended some herbs to take (or not to take) before my treatments. Unfortunately, because I also had 2 composite fillings that needed to be replaced, my treatments required two separate visits. They were able to schedule them within a few weeks of each other though, so I could get started on my detoxification as soon as possible.
Incidentally, I knew I would have to get new x-rays because it has been many years, and I am a new patient, so I made sure to really up my vitamin C and take lots of kelp a week before and a week after getting them so my thyroid was nice and protected. It is important to note that I stopped taking any vitamin C supplements 24 hours before having the fillings replaced, as C is known to reduce the effectiveness of anesthetics (a necessary evil for me to get this stuff done).
Step 4: Detoxification
So two weeks later I had the second treatment done and my teeth were officially clear. Immediately following both treatments (I mean like, as soon as I got in my car), I popped a bunch of activated charcoal. As soon as I was no longer numb, I started taking cilantro. Cilantro is highly effective in mobilizing mercury. This is critical in getting it out of the body. I also increased by vitamin C again and started taking MSM and super algae instead of just spirulina. MSM is important because of it's sulfur component (which garlic also has). Mercury has a high affinity toward sulfur. For this reason it was also important that I increased my protein intake (protein also has a lot of sulfur). Since I normally only eat meat a few times a week this was a tiny bit challenging for me. The switch to super algae was because it contains chlorella which is also excellent at binding mercury (it's all that chlorophyll).
There are many risks in doing a mercury detox. The main one is in not having those elimination channels open. If they aren't open, and you start rapidly pulling mercury out of storage, it has nowhere to go but into organs like the brain where it can cause brain fog, major headaches, lethargy, and all sorts of other issues. I made the mistake of accidentally doing this when I binged on homemade pineapple salsa one day and ate almost an entire bunch of cilantro. The effects were disastrous and took me almost a whole year to recover. It is so important to have the body properly supported with a good diet, routine cardiovascular exercise, and quality sleep.
I stayed on this protocol for about 6 months, adjusting supplements as needed, and tapering back down to a maintenance protocol after that which includes a daily probiotic and digestive enzyme with each meal.
I also go for regular massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatments, for added health and healing. I really want to do some Bikram yoga as well, because sweating is a fantastic toxin release (remember that skin is another channel).
Here are a few more links to the protocols that I adapted to suit my own needs:
I purposely did not provide dosage info for the supplements above because this blog is not intended to be a protocol for others to follow in their own detoxification pursuits. I am sharing what has worked for me, and being that every person is uniquely made, everyone should use a protocol tailored specifically to them. I cannot stress enough, the importance of doing your own research, and working with a trained naturopathic professional. Just like knowledge, nature is powerful stuff!