Are you confused about the health benefits versus risks of eating fish? Even leading health authorities seem puzzled and give conflicting advice. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommend eating 2-3 servings of fish per week, yet the FDA and EPA warn us of dangerous mercury levels in fish. Fish consumption warnings from the FDA make me nervous. The FDA’s public safety approach is ethically questionable, allowing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals into our country’s food, water and air. So, I assume mercury from fish consumption is a real public health threat if the FDA warns us without any monetary or public positioning gain. Mercury is one of the most toxic elements on our planet. Negative health effects of mercury include neurological, immune, cardiovascular and reproductive damage. Mercury has been implicated in diseases like Alzheimers, ALS, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. Mercury damages chromosomes, making it a factor in development of cancer. The toxic effects of mercury are vast and even a small amount can have devastating results. Still want to add seared ahi to that salad?
The reality is we are all exposed to mercury. Symptoms may be as subtle as headaches and fatigue or could manifest as a debilitating neurological disease. Fortunately, nature provides us with substances that help our bodies metabolize, bind and remove mercury. Here are my top 10 tips for reducing toxic mercury effects:
1. Eat plenty of sulfur-rich vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard greens, cilantro, watercress, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and mustard greens. Choose organic as pesticides are a major source of heavy metals.
2. Eat foods rich in Cysteine.Cysteine is an amino acid necessary to make an important mercury binder called metallothionein. Turkey, eggs, red pepper and oats are good sources of cysteine.
3. Reduce your exposure. Larger, older fish tend to be higher in mercury. Steer clear of shark, swordfish and marlin. Choose small aku over large ahi. Avoid or replace your mercury fillings.Be aware of other mercury sources like long-acting decongestants and nasal sprays, skin bleaching creams, waterproof mascara, antibiotic eye drops, some drain cleaners, fungicides and pesticides.
4. Take a chlorophyll supplement. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, is nature’s heavy metal chelator. It aids your body’s detoxification system by binding and eliminating toxins like mercury. Chlorella powder is an excellent option.
5. Take a good quality whey protein powder. Undenatured hydrolyzed whey protein contains amino acids that restore your body’s natural glutathione, an essential antioxidant severely depleted in mercury toxicity. Make sure to get a good quality whey protein, free of hormones, casein, antibiotics, artificial flavors, colorings or sweeteners.
6. Eat plenty of flavanoids. These polyphenolic compounds found in plant foods reduce heavy metals and help protect tissues vulnerable to heavy metal damage. Eat plenty of dark berries, organic strawberries, green tea, spinach, dark greens, organic apples, onions, garlic and ginger.
7. Eat organic whenever possible. Pesticides and herbicides are major sources of heavy metals. Choosing organic reduces your toxic exposure.
8. Build up your beneficial intestinal flora (good bacteria). Healthy intestinal flora help convert mercury to its less toxic, easier to eliminate form. Eating cultured foods like organic keiffer and taking a good quality probiotic supplement can help prevent toxic mercury effects.
9. Eat plenty of fiber from whole plant foods. Mercury passing through the digestive tract has the potential to reabsorb into circulation. Fiber helps bind and prevent mercury from re-entering circulation.
10. Assess total body burden. A random blood test does not accurately reflect mercury body burden levels. You can be suffering from mercury toxicity and have a negative blood test. The body, in its wisdom, recognizes the toxicity of mercury and quickly moves it out of circulation and into tissues where it will hopefully do the least damage. A hair test may be used, but this just shows recent exposure versus total body burden. A 24 hour urine test after taking a chelator (chelator = substance that pulls metal out of tissues & binds it) is a more accurate test for assessing total body burden. Make sure to see a doctor who is familiar with testing, chelation protocols, risk assessment and follow-up treatment. (very few are)