Mercury Toxicity and Graves Disease

Published 7/5/2012

Whenever I consult with someone for the first time, one of the tests I will recommend is a hair mineral analysis.  This is a relatively inexpensive test that can detect mineral imbalances, such as copper, selenium, magnesium, chromium, etc.  But I also use it to look at the levels of heavy metals, such as aluminum, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury.

While you ideally want the levels of these heavy metals to be zero, I realistically expect to see traces of all of the heavy metals in every single one of my patients.  Even when someone receives treatments to remove heavy metals, it won’t eliminate 100% of them.  In any case, while high levels of any of these heavy metals can cause health issues, there is no doubt that high levels of mercury concern me the most.

Mercury Can Trigger An Autoimmune Response

Although I think it’s safe to say that most cases of Graves’ Disease isn’t caused by high mercury levels, it is possible for a heavy metal such as mercury to trigger an autoimmune response, thus leading to this condition.  There of course are other potential factors which can trigger an autoimmune response.  But if someone is found to have high levels of mercury, then this eventually needs to be taken care of.

There are numerous factors which can lead to high mercury levels.  Dental amalgams are one of the biggest factors, as the vapor from the fillings can be released upon chewing.  So anyone who has silver fillings eventually should get these replaced with white composite fillings.  And I would highly recommend getting this done by a biological dentist, who will take the necessary precautions that many general dental practitioners won’t take.  Eating a lot of fish can also lead to high mercury levels.  In fact, eating any type of fish is likely to have some mercury, although larger fish such as swordfish usually will have more mercury than smaller fish such as salmon and sardines.  Other sources of mercury include some vaccines, contact lens solution, and occupational exposure is also a possibility.

Removing Mercury From Your Body

Some healthcare professionals take an aggressive approach when it comes to addressing mercury toxicity.  I know some doctors who will recommend chelation therapy to everyone with high mercury levels.  I’m not completely opposed to chelation therapy, but I don’t think it should be the first treatment option in most cases of high mercury levels.  This is especially true with an autoimmune condition, as while it’s important to lower the levels of mercury when they are high, doing so aggressively can potentially exacerbate the autoimmune response.  So for example, if someone has high mercury levels and has multiple silver fillings, sometimes it’s not a good idea to get these fillings removed right away.  Many times one should first focus on suppressing the autoimmune response and controlling the inflammation before trying to remove the mercury.

Once this is accomplished then it is fine to remove one’s silver fillings.  If someone absolutely needs to get the silver fillings removed, then I will have them do so before beginning a natural treatment protocol, and not in the middle of their recovery.  Of course just removing the sliver fillings alone isn’t enough.  Minimizing one’s consumption of fish can help, as I probably would recommend eating no more than a couple of servings per week of small fish.  But even if one greatly reduces their exposure to mercury, this won’t eliminate the mercury that is currently in their body.  As I mentioned earlier, it isn’t possible to get rid of all of the mercury in the body, as some of it is deeply embedded in the tissues.  So even if someone goes through chelation therapy, they still will have trace amounts of mercury in their body.

While chelation therapy is an option, I usually take a more conservative approach at first.  One thing to keep in mind is that balancing the minerals can help with toxic metals.  For example, if someone is toxic in cadmium, then they are usually deficient in zinc, since cadmium displaces zinc.  So one of the ways to address a cadmium deficiency is by consuming higher dosages of zinc (not too high though).  Similarly, many people with high mercury levels have a deficiency in selenium, and taking higher dosages of selenium can potentially help to lower the mercury levels.  Certain herbs can help with the detoxification process as well, and this is the approach I usually take initially.  Upon retesting the heavy metals, if the mercury levels remain high then I will move onto other more aggressive methods such as sauna therapy, and if necessary chelation therapy.

I realize that some healthcare professionals will disagree with me, as there are many who will argue that if mercury possibly caused the autoimmune response, then it makes sense to do everything possible to remove it from the body immediately.  So they will tell their patients to get all of their silver fillings right away, and after this is done they will recommend chelation therapy or another method to get rid of the mercury.  And to be honest, some people do okay taking this approach first, and of course many people feel much better when having the mercury levels lowered.  The problem is that one can’t predict how people with Graves’ Disease and other autoimmune conditions will respond, as while some will feel better when trying to remove the mercury immediately, others will feel worse.  I’m not suggesting that there aren’t times when one shouldn’t be aggressive initially, but I’m very cautious with my patients with autoimmune thyroid conditions.

In summary, mercury has the potential to trigger an autoimmune response, leading to a condition such as Graves’ Disease.  As a result, I recommend a hair mineral analysis to everyone to determine the levels of heavy metals, which of course includes mercury.  And while anyone with high mercury levels needs to get this addressed, I tend to take a more conservative approach, as my initial goal is to suppress the autoimmune response and control the inflammation, as sometimes being aggressive with the removal of mercury can worsen the condition.  So while there are times when I might take a more aggressive approach, usually I focus on the autoimmune component and inflammation, and at the same time balance the minerals, which will help with high mercury levels.  Then upon retesting if the levels are still high I will look into more aggressive approaches.