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The practical application of nutrition science

Mercury Toxicity: Associated Symptoms and ConditionsRonald Grisanti D.C., D.A.B.C.O., DACBN, MS, CFMP


The respiratory system

Up to 80% of inhaled mercury vapor is absorbed through the lungs. From here it travels to all the other tissues and organs of the body in the circulation, but particularly concentrates within the kidney, liver and brain.

The presence of mercury in the lungs causes chronic breathing disorders including:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Breathlessness
  • Persistent cough
  • Bad breath

Compromised cognitive function

Mercury is both highly neurophilic (which means that it binds tightly to nerves) and highly lipophilic (which means that it binds tightly to fats). When distributed around the body in the circulation it is absorbed into the nerve endings that regulate all the functions of the body (the autonomic nervous system). From there it slowly tracks up the nerves into the central nervous system, in what is known as retrograde axonal transport.

It prevents nerves regenerating by disrupting the protein tubulin, disrupts nerve function and also attacks the insulating myelin sheaths surrounding some nerves.

Mercury from amalgam easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can damage any part of the central nervous system including the master endocrine glands at the base of the brain which control both the nervous and endocrine systems.

The levels of mercury in the brain have been shown to be directly related to the number of amalgam fillings in the mouth. Whilst mercury is highly detrimental on its own, its destructive power can be increased 100 fold by exposure to other toxic metals such as aluminum, lead or cadmium.

Mercury can produce a host of mental, emotional, and behavioral changes and what are considered 'psychiatric' disorders by disrupting neurotransmitters, interfering with endocrine gland function and hormones and causing destruction of nervous pathways.

The effects of mercury on cognitive function include:

  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Difficulty finding words
  • A lack of initiative
  • An inability to concentrate
  • An inability to make decisions and
  • Lack of motivation
  • Changes in mood

Mercury is also known to have profound effects upon mood including:

  • Fears
  • Anxieties
  • Irritability
  • Fits of anger
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Withdrawal
  • Being easily embarrassed
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling easily discouraged
  • A loss of sense of humor
  • Life seems an endless, joyless struggle

Psychiatric symptoms

  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • A persistent death wish
  • Suicide attempts
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
  • Manic-Depressive Disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum disorders
  • Peripheral nervous system symptoms

The profound disruption of nerve structure and function leads to difficulty with motor nerve function including:

  • Difficulty articulating words
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty doing fine tasks such as typing or adding numbers on a calculator
  • Tremors
  • Ticks and twitches (especially of the face and eyes)
  • A loss of coordination andRestless legs

Reproductive and sexual function

Mercury is also recognized to collect in the reproductive organs in both men and women where it can cause a variety of disorders including infertility.

It is known to directly cross the placental barrier in pregnant women and also to concentrate in breast milk and mercury levels in newborn babies have been shown to be directly related to the number of amalgam fillings in the mother's mouth.

The symptoms of mercury toxicity in both sexes include:

  • A low or non-existent libido
  • Precocious or late puberty
  • Infertility

In women, the effects of mercury on reproductive function include:

  • Heavy, missed or irregular periods
  • Severe period pains
  • Pre-menstrual tension (PMT)
  • Miscarriages
  • Still births

In men, mercury accumulates in the reproductive organs and particularly the testes causing:

  • Impotence
  • Premature ejaculation
  • Low sperm count, defective sperm and sperm with poor motility

The urinary system

Mercury from dental amalgam fillings is also recognized to severely impact kidney function such that animal studies have shown a 50% reduction within a month of placement of the first amalgam filling.

Effects of mercury on the urinary system include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent nocturnal urination (2-3 times a night or more)
  • Incontinence (especially in women)
  • Difficulty urinating (especially in men)
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • A variety of kidney and bladder diseases.

The musculoskeletal system

Mercury also accumulates throughout the body in muscles and joints causing the muscle tenderness and pain familiar to fibromyalgia sufferers and the joint pain, stiffness and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis.

The symptoms of mercury toxicity on the musculoskeletal system include:

  • Tender, sore muscles
  • Rapid muscle fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Low-back pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Jaw joint or Tempero-mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD

The cardiovascular system

In particular, mercury seems to collect in the heart muscle and valves and has been found at 22,000X the levels found in the blood. Mercury is strongly associated with elevated levels of homocysteine and cholesterol and heart attacks.

It also causes red blood cells to rupture and replaces the iron in hemoglobin so that the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood can be reduced by half. Mercury also causes a weakening in the walls of the small blood vessels leading to a reduced blood supply to the organs and tissues.

The cardiovascular symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Angina or chest pain
  • A racing heart beat
  • Abnormally slow or rapid heart rate
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Frequently feeling faint
  • Elevated blood cholesterol and homocysteine levels
  • Easy bleeding and bruising

The endocrine system

Mercury disrupts hormone production and release from the endocrine glands, and also blocks the receptors which allow the hormones to dock on to the target cells in the tissues.

The endocrine system has a high requirement for specific trace minerals and accumulation of mercury within the glands may occur because of the chemical similarity to the essential mineral, zinc.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning in the endocrine system include:

  • Hypoglycemia and dysglycemia (low and poorly controlled blood sugar respectively)
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland)
  • Hypoadrenalism (under-functioning adrenal glands)
  • Constant fatigue (adrenal and thyroid gland exhaustion)
  • Poor physiological response to stress

The oral cavity

Mercury also collects in very high concentrations in the jaw bones and the soft tissues of the mouth. This is a result of it being a heavy metal that literally sinks to the bottom of each body compartment including the jaws and pelvis and the fact that mercury is driven into the tissues of the mouth which act as a cathode to the anode of the amalgam fillings.

Mixing gold and amalgam restorations in the mouth is also recognised to increase the amount of mercury vapour given off several fold and placing gold crowns over amalgam cores particularly drives mercury into the surrounding bone.

Symptoms of mercury toxicity in the mouth include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Mouth ulcers
  • A metallic taste
  • Excessive salivation
  • A loss of the sense of taste
  • A burning, red, inflamed mouth
  • ‘Bald' patches on the tongue or cheeks (includes geographical tongue)
  • Dark spots on gums ('amalgam tattoos')

The ears: Hearing and balance

Mercury also seems to collect in the many sensory nerves of the ear that serve hearing and balance. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Poor balance
  • Tinnitus (ringing or whining noises in the ears)
  • Pain in the ear canals
  • Poor hearing and deafness
  • Difficulty interpreting what you hear

Skin, hair and nails

For the body, the skin is a major route of excretion and it will try to expel mercury via the skin leading to itchy rashes, and dry, flaking skin. It can also strange crawling sensations and reddening of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It also seems to interfere with the regulation of perspiration so that some people become unable to sweat while others sweat profusely. Symptoms include:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Peeling or flaking skin on the hands, feet and face
  • A puffy face
  • Red, flaky skin around the eyes
  • Thick, red skin on hands & feet
  • Pricking, stabbing, fizzing or crawling sensations in the skin (vermiculation)
  • Very itchy rashes
  • Eczema and psoriasis

Mercury also seems to interfere with the autonomic control of perspiration causing:

  • Excessive perspiration
  • An inability to sweat
  • Night sweats

The quality of the hair and nails is also adversely affected causing:

  • Loss of axillary, pubic, body or head hair
  • Greying of hair
  • Dry, thin, wiry, dull hair
  • Weak, flaky nails that split and tear easily

The nose and sinuses

Some of the mercury vapor from amalgam fillings adheres to the lining of the nose and sinuses from where it can be transported directly into the brain and cause the following symptoms:

  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Poor sense of smell
  • Chronic or recurrent rhinitis
  • Nasal congestion
  • A persistently sore throat
  • Chronic tonsillitis


Mercury appears to collect within the eye balls themselves leading to the appearance of 'floaters' (dark cloudy areas), but also adversely affects the muscles controlling focussing of the eyes and lens and the sensory nerves of the retina itself leading to:

  • Intermittent visual blurring
  • Deteriorating peripheral vision or 'tunnel' vision
  • Bulging eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty focussing
  • Poor color vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Difficulty moving the eyes

The digestive system

Much of the mercury from dental amalgams is swallowed along with foods or in the saliva and the digestive system is usually one of the first to be affected. Mercury binds with and blocks the actions of digestive enzymes leading to poor digestion and the development of food intolerances.

It also alters the normal ecology of the colon, favoring the overgrowth of yeasts (most commonly Candida albicans) and suppressing the growth of 'friendly' bacteria which can lead to the development of intestinal permeability or a so called 'leaky gut'. Digestive symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • Food sensitivities and intolerances
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Malabsorption
  • Leaky gut
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn

The immune system

The immune system is one of the first casualties of mercury toxicity. It causes a reduction in the number of natural killer (NK) cells which are responsible for policing tumors and viruses leading to the development of chronic viral infections and cancer.

The effects of mercury toxicity upon the immune system include:

  • Chronic, recurrent or frequent infections.
  • Chronic or recurrent yeast infections.
  • Mercury actively promotes the overgrowth of yeasts such as Candida albicans causing thrush, 'jock' itch and athlete's foot.
  • Allergies and sensitivities. Mercury alters the ratios of T-helper cells to T-suppressor cells so that the immune response is turned on more readily but not terminated, leading the immune system to over-react to a wide variety of foods and chemicals.
  • Autoimmune diseases. Mercury binds to proteins on the surface of the cells of the body (the histocompatibility complex), leading the immune system to identify them as being foreign and initiating one of the 100 or more autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma or Hashimoto thyroiditis.
  • Various cancers. The undermining of the immune response and in particular the disabling of the natural killer cells leads to the development of one of the most prevalent immune deficiency disease of all: cancer.

The Lymphatic system

The lymphatic system works to drain and filter excess fluid from the tissues and to initiate an immune response if required. The effects of mercury toxicity on the lymphatic system include:

  • Water retention (especially of the legs)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (especially in the neck)

General symptoms of mercury toxicity

Last, but not least, mercury particularly accumulates in the mitochondria ('powerhouses') of the cells where it poisons energy production. The presence of mercury in the circulation and the effects on energy production lead to:

  • Profound exhaustion and fatigue (chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia)
  • Low body temperature
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Changes in appetite
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Anemia
  • Difficulty getting to sleep
  • Early waking
  • Insomnia
  • Sleepiness during the day

Illnesses associated with mercury poisoning

There are a wide range of illnesses that have been linked with mercury poisoning including:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease (AD)
  • Colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Cancer

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