Mercury: The Quintessential Anti-Nutrient

by Sara Russell, PhD, NTP, and Kristin G. Homme, PE(ret.), MPP, MPH
From the Townsend Letter January 2017


  • The chronic effects of cumulative, low-dose mercury exposure are underrecognized by both mainstream and alternative health authorities and, consequently, by the public. Mercury can cause or contribute to most chronic illnesses, including neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, adrenal and thyroid problems, autoimmunity, digestive disorders, allergies, chemical sensitivities, mental illness, sleep disorders, and chronic infections such as Lyme and Candida. Mercury toxicity should be suspected in individuals experiencing multiple health problems.
  • Diagnosis of chronic mercury toxicity is often difficult because the body’s natural defenses may mask or delay symptoms. Natural defenses are a function of genetic susceptibility, epigenetic factors, micronutrient status, and allostatic load (cumulative wear and tear on the body). Furthermore, individuals who retain mercury may counterintuitively show low levels in blood, urine, and hair.
  • The developmental window from conception through early childhood is one of extreme vulnerability to mercury. Mercury is an epigenetic toxicant (affecting future gene expression) as well as a neurotoxicant. Damage may be permanent; therefore, prevention is key.
  • For most people mercury is the most significant toxicant in the body. By promoting oxidative stress and depleting antioxidant defenses, including the glutathione system, mercury impairs the body’s response to toxicants in general including mercury itself.
  • Mercury toxicity creates a need for extra nutrition, both to repair damage and to provide ample enzyme cofactors that can push blocked enzymes. Carbohydrate intolerance can be a symptom of mercury toxicity, and fat can be a preferred fuel. Many people with chronic mercury toxicity have found a nutrient-dense diet to be a useful starting point for symptom relief. Individualized supplementation may also be helpful to overcome the extreme nutritional depletion and unnatural toxic state.

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