This long-term inflammation often lurks silently, below the threshold of perceptible pain, but it is a common risk factor for a broad range of diseases and health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and many others.
Learn how Dr. Blum and other Doctors utilize elimination diets to help patients identify issues in their diet.
Are you concerned about your exposure to mercury from the food you are eating? If you eat fish at all, then you should be. This can be confusing, but is very important because mercury can cause autoimmune disease and other health-related problems. That is why I decided to dedicate our April newsletter to this topic…to shed some light on this issue and to help you decide what to eat, and what to do to protect yourself from this environmental toxin.
Where do you find mercury and what is it?
Mercury is part of a group of compounds called heavy metals. There are ‘good’ heavy metals like iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. They are good because humans require these metals to function properly. However, keep in mind that these too can be toxic at excessive levels.
On the other hand, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and plutonium are ‘bad’ toxic metals and if they accumulate in the body over time, can cause serious illness. For our purpose today, I will focus on mercury because there is plenty of data that explains what it does in the body and how we are exposed.
Where does Mercury come from?
There are 2 main sources of mercury that we are exposed to. First, mercury is released into the air from coal burning power plants and from volcanoes. After it settles in the oceans and soil, we end up eating it from the fish or plants or animals that grow and live in these places. The big fish eat the little fish, and the mercury bio accumulates, which means it gets more concentrated in the bigger fish. For a list of the worst fish with the highest level of mercury and those you should avoid, CLICK HERE.
The other main source of mercury is the vapor released from silver fillings. While this is somewhat controversial, there is enough evidence suggesting this is a real issue, and why I recommend replacing your fillings if possible. For more information on how to do this properly, CLICK HERE.
There are also other places you can be exposed to mercury, like in the preservative of some vaccines, and old thermometers. But fish and silver fillings are the biggest problem.
How does mercury accumulate in your body and make you sick?
Your body was created with multiple detox systems in place to clear out the mercury you are exposed to. One of these, called the glutathione system, is very active in your liver and also in all the cells in your body. If you are exposed to more mercury than this system can handle, the mercury can build up in your body and cause damage to your nerves, thyroid, immune system (autoimmune disease, for example), and all the cells in your body by causing something we call oxidative stress. This simply means that you run out of the important antioxidants that your body needs to protect itself, resulting in free radicalscreated by the mercury that can then damage the tissues.
To protect your cells and tissues, it is critical that you keep your liver detox system in tip-top shape by eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables with plenty of color. In addition, you can take specific antioxidant supplements to boost your glutathione. Our favorite and most convenient way to do this is by taking our BlumBox Immune & Antioxidant Support Packets, created for just this purpose CLICK HERE.
What can you do to help your body release the stored mercury?
Our approach to lowering your mercury level begins with finding and removing all of your exposures. In our Nutrition@Blum section below, Mary will review how to find the mercury in your diet, and recommend foods that will help pull it out, and foods that will help support your body’s detox systems.
The next step is to support your liver and its ability to clear this metal out of your system. The best strategy is to do a liver detox program once or twice/year, and to make sure you are eating foods with selenium, sulfur (onions), cruciferous veggies, and lots of antioxidants. Our nutritionist can help you with a personalized program, or you can join one of our signature Detox Groups. If you eat a lot of fish or suspect you have too much mercury already, both of these are good options. For more information or to join our next detox group, CLICK HERE.
Lastly, we do not recommend doing a treatment program yourself, because removing mercury should be medically supervised.
We know that most of the mercury ingested in your body comes from seafood, which is why we recommend decreasing your fish intake to 1-2 times/week from the safe list above. Instead of eating lots of fish, eating more plant-based sources of omega-3s from hemp, flax and chia is a great way to get the nutrients you need. Also, there are certain foods that, when paired with fish, will actually help remove the mercury from your body. These include Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, garlic, chlorella and turmeric, which all contain chelating agents that bind to mercury in the gut and in the tissues to safely remove these toxins.
I also recommend adding deeply colored fruits and vegetables to your diet. Berries, pomegranates, tomatoes, prunes, and pink/red grapefruit provide flavonoids that protect your body from the damage mercury can cause while also providing antioxidants to assist the liver in detoxification. And don’t forget about cruciferous and allium vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, radishes, arugula, watercress, onion, garlic, leeks, and scallions! These are all sulfur-containing powerhouses that prevent the build up of mercury and are critical for your liver detoxification pathways to safely remove this toxin. Incorporating all of these foods into your diet is the perfect example of how food really isyour best medicine.
For your weekly fish dish, we love this low-mercury, flavorful recipe rich in nutrients that will help your body clear out toxins.
Heavy metals, and toxins in general, can be a trigger for brain fog and mental dullness. If this is something you are experiencing, there are different ways to detoxify your mind. One of the most effective tools is to be mindful about the information you take into your mind: bad news, fear-inducing news, gossip, and useless information can all clutter your mind.
So what can you do? Be proactive and turn off the radio or television when you listen to things that make you feel anxious, angry, or bored. Ask your friends and family to stop telling you the juicy, but destructive, gossip and tell them that you are being kind to your mind by making a choice about what’s really important for it to hear.
I recently heard about a study that showed that the people who are the happiest are those whose thoughts are about what or who are right in front of them–meaning present time. So keep your mind centered on what you are doing right now in the present, and don’t let it wander off looking for worries or troubles. The secret to happiness is a happy mind that is enjoying the moment!