Sushi, Cigarettes and a Glass of Water…

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

November 01, 2013

  • Toxic heavy metals attack both the rich and poor
  • Sushi and cigarettes pave the way to poor health
  • Quick and easy ways to zap this threat

I have a wide variety of patients. Some of them are what you would call “well-off.” Others not so much. But when it comes to patient treatment, they all get the same battery of blood work and testing.

One of the tests I order for all of my patients is heavy metal testing. And I’ve always wondered why so many of my higher income patients often have high levels of mercury in their blood.

And thanks to some digging and a new study, I finally have some answers!

You see, British researchers recently took a look at data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). And what they discovered was quite interesting.

It turns out people who are “better off” are prone to higher levels of mercury.

They also have greater concentrations of arsenic, cesium and thallium in their bodies. These heavy metals are all associated with eating seafood – like sushi, fish and shellfish.

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On the other end of the spectrum, people with lower financial status had higher levels of lead, cadmium and antimony. The researchers attributed the accumulation of these metals to job risks and higher smoking rates.

This study just supports what functional physician’s like myself have known all along.

It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you make. All of us are at risk for a build-up of toxic heavy metals. And there is a whole boatload of them that we’re exposed to every day.

The environment is laden with heavy metals. Most of them are a result of industrial waste. But anyone who eats a fish sandwich, inhales secondhand smoke, drinks a glass of water or simply breathes the air can be exposed.

Several factors determine a person’s susceptibility to heavy-metal toxicity. Three of the biggest include diet, exposure to pollution and genetic makeup. The sneaky part about chronic exposure to low levels of heavy metals is that most don’t cause health problems right away. It’s a lifetime of exposure that spells trouble.

To confound matters even further, heavy-metal toxicity masquerades as a host of other ailments, so it can fly under the radar of conventional healthcare practitioners.

Heavy-metal exposure can leave you feeling weak, sick and tired. It can also lead to depression, irritability and mood swings. Even worse, they can cause tremors, autoimmune diseases, chronic infections and cancer.

This is why I normally run tests for heavy metals and organic pollutants on all of my patients who agree to be tested.

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Now these tests don’t show the body’s complete burden of stored toxins. But they do reveal enough to know what you might need to remove and detox from your body.

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Luckily, there are simple ways to minimize your exposure to heavy metals and curtail potential dangers. The key is to be proactive about what you can change and mindful about what you can’t.

Choose your seafood carefully. One of the most common sources of mercury today is from the fish we eat. According to the National Resource Defense Council, the fish with the highest mercury content include bluefish, grouper, mackerel (Gulf, Spanish and king,) Chilean sea bass, tuna (yellow fin, blue fin, big eye,) marlin, shark, tilefish, orange roughy and swordfish.

I recommend avoiding these fish and sticking with ones that are lower on the food chain. They contain much less mercury. These include salmon, herring, sardines, trout and flounder.

Take control of your water supply. Drinking tap water – and even showering in it – exposes you to all sorts of toxins and heavy metals. Even with government guidelines your public water supply isn’t nearly as pure as you would think it is.

You see, the EPA allows certain levels of contaminants in our water supply. This includes things like mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals. And even if the levels are pretty low, you certainly don’t want to be drinking them every day. (Remember, the effects are cumulative!) Many of them can also be absorbed through your skin.

Investing in a good distiller will remove these metals and other toxins from your drinking water. There are also filters you can install to your faucets and shower head to reduce these contaminants and, in some cases remove them altogether.

Quit smoking/avoid secondhand smoke. It’s no secret that smoking increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and other lung diseases. But most people don’t realize the tobacco in cigarettes is laced with all sorts of chemicals and metals. In fact, it’s estimated that cigarettes contain at least 4000 chemicals.

Some of the heavy metals you’ll find in cigarette smoke are arsenic, cadmium, chromium and nickel. And whether you’re the smoker or the one breathing in the secondhand smoke, you’ll be exposed to all of them.

I prefer trying alternative methods like acupuncture or hypnosis before resorting to the patch or nicotine gum. And I caution against using the new electronic cigarettes (who knows what is in them!) or Chantix. But quitting is a personal quest and it’s important for you to find what works best for you.

So if you’re avoiding the obvious heavy metal problems, what about the heavy metals already in your body?

The good news is this.

Integrative medicine offers a way to remove some of these heavy metals from our bodies. It’s a process known as chelation.

If you have an unhealthy level of these pollutants, it may call for chelation therapy. Chelating agents, like FDA approved EDTA, are compounds that bind with heavy metals and carry them out of the body.

Intravenous EDTA chelation has a direct and powerful effect on the body. But it can be expensive and time consuming. Fortunately, oral chelation may be an option.

I recommend finding a high potency oral chelation supplement that contains EDTA, as well as n-acetylcysteine and alpha lipoic acid (both of which help regenerate glutathione to move mercury out of the body), DMSA (another FDA approved chelator for mercury,) vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc.

Tyrrell J, Melzer D, Henley W, Galloway TS, Osborne NJ. Associations between socioeconomic status and environmental toxicant concentrations in adults in the USA: NHANES 2001-2010. Environ Int. 2013 Jul 23;59C:328-335. [Epub ahead of print]