About a month after I had my amalgams removed, I started making some serious gains. Namely, for the first time since I had started taking narcotic painkillers nearly two years earlier, I was finally able to start reducing my use of them. I always knew that when the pain decreased, I would be able to quit using them. I never liked them -- they didn't provide steady pain relief, and they caused side effects. Believe it or not, the Tylenol portion of the pain-killer actually increased my pain before the narcotic part (hydrocodone) would kick in and take away the pain, roughly 30 minutes after taking it. I react to many, many medications, even at extremely low doses, which is fairly common for people with fibromyalgia.
Well, this was a very exciting development, as it was a clear marker of change -- I would not be able to reduce my use of the painkillers if the pain I was using them to control wasn't decreasing. Then, within about a month of starting chelation, I was able to stop using painkillers altogether. Yep, after two years of daily narcotic painkiller use, I was done. And I never went back. It was great not to have to go through each day with my thinking ability affected by a drug -- I felt more "alive", more aware of the little details of day-in day-out life, and more like my old self. While I wasn't pain-free, my pain was reduced to a level I could tolerate and deal with without the drugs.
There are many theories and opinions on how to chelate properly. The theories that always made the most sense to me involve a dosing schedule that keeps blood levels of the chemical chelator as steady as possible around-the-clock. Otherwise, without steady levels of chelator available, when the "half-life" of the chelator has passed (i.e., the time required for half the amount of the chelator to be eliminated from the body or to be converted to another substance), the portion of the toxic metal that didn't make it out of the body would begin to be re-released back into the blood stream and body. This phenomena is known as "resettling", and it is akin to being re-poisoned in a way, because your tissues are being exposed to mercury (and other metals) in a new toxic event. And, unfortunately, there is no way to avoid it. First of all, there is no way to keep the chelator at exactly even levels throughout a chelation cycle, and second, you would not want to chelate every day continuously. Because chelators remove the toxic metals out the body's liver/bowel or kidney/bladder routes, this toxic outpouring is extremely hard on those organs and they need time to repair and recover. Thus, it is important to take rest periods between chelation cycles. Second, in a way that will be described in further detail in an additional post (because it is so important), a large part of the chelation process occurs not when actually taking the chelators, but when on rest periods, when the body shifts stores of mercury in deeper tissues and organs to more superficial tissues due to concentration gradient differences.
When you chelate, you stir up, or "mobilize", mercury and other toxic metals from the various places it is stored in your body. Because the chemical chelators have a stronger affinity for the mercury than do the proteins in your body, the chelators can bind to the mercury and pull it away from its tight bonds with your organs and other tissues (recall that the word "chelation" originated from the Greek word for "claw"). But, unfortunately, only a portion of the mobilized mercury will then actually be excreted by your body, through the aforementioned routes. This probably reflects, in part, the extreme toxicity of these substances to your excretory organs. The rest of the mercury will be redistributed among the tissues of your body as the chelator begins to be used up. In the words of mercury-detox authority Detriech K. Klinghardt, MD, PhD:
There is a difference between mobilizing and detoxing. Mobilization means stirring [mercury] up in its hiding place. Mobilization may lead to excretion. It also may lead to redistribution. The body had done the best it could by storing [mercury] wherever it stored it. By mobilizing, we tell the body that we know better where to put it. We don't.
Detoxifying or detoxing means mobilizing and moving it out of the body. There are not true detoxifying agents. All we have is mobilizing agents. The body has to do the excreting with the help of the proper agents. The body is not always able to do this! Often perpetuating factors are present that disable the body's mechanisms to detox. (D. Klinghardt, "Mercury Detoxification Perpetuating Factors, Problems, and Obstacles").
So, as you can see, chelation is a difficult, challenging process fraught with ups and downs. Maybe someday we'll have super-detox drugs or other mechanisms that can not only strip the mercury away from our own tissues, but also assure that nearly 100% of that mobilized mercury then gets out. When those drugs are invented, chelation will be an easy straightforward proposition that will lead directly to improved health. This is not how it works today.
While using the DMSA, I kept improving: reduced muscle pain, increased mental clarity, less anxiety, improved eyesight, increased energy, less allergy-type problems, improved sense of well-being, etc. I was doing cycles of 3 days "on" (taking small amounts of the DMSA every 4 hours or so, around the clock, for those 3 days), and then taking 4 to 11 days "off" of the DMSA. But, about a month after starting the DMSA, I started developing some troubling side effects. For example, the front of my neck started feeling uncomfortable and hurting. When I wore any T-shirt that contacted the front of my neck, it became very bothersome and I would keep adjusting it so it wasn't resting on the front of my neck. I went and saw an internist, who did basic bloodwork and X-rays to rule out any more serious causes (e.g., lymphoma, thyroid disease). Once he ruled out those possibilities, he basically said that he didn't really know, but we could run more sophisticated diagnostic tests if I wanted. However, he had a strong suspicion that it was more likely related to my fibromyalgia than anything else. We didn't discuss the chelation.
Unfortunately, this problem wasn't going away. And, to say it was annoying or uncomfortable would be a big understatement. Who knew that the front of one's neck, which probably 99% of people are never even aware of, could be such a continuous source of pain and discomfort? I mean, it hardly seems like the most sensitive part of the body. I knew the problem was likely from mercury since it developed while mobilizing mercury with DMSA, and that the doctor was right, it probably was a fibromyalgia-type reaction in the muscles of my neck to that mercury. But, as I continued to try to chelate it out with the DMSA, it just kept getting worse. I was quickly becoming very discouraged by this turn of events. I'm not sure why my neck was a resettling point for the mobilized mercury -- perhaps because it was draining from my head where I have a ton of it because of the fillings? -- or why it wasn't clearing out from my neck. I was very, very dispirited by the fact that, after finally finding something that could make me feel better, it also simultaneously seemed to be hurting me.
I tried to soldier on like this for 4-5 months. The DMSA chelation went from being helpful, to plateauing, to causing me to regress and go downhill. Chelation became so painful and problematic that I was forced to admit to myself that I was not going to be able to continue. I also think that the redistribution effects of the mercury were causing some mental depressive-type effects, as I was seriously down during this period.
Luckily, I had a friend who was highly mercury toxic, and who was also chelating at the same time. She suggested a different type of mercury chelator, 2,3-dimercaptopropane-1- sulfonate (DMPS). I had heard of DMPS, which is commonly administered by intravenous (IV) injection. There is a certain amount of anti-DMPS lore on the Internet, like the infamous site DMPSbackfire.com, which had always scared me away from DMPS. But, at this point, I didn't care and didn't have anything to lose, so I located a practitioner (naturopathic physician) who administered DMPS IV's. I queried him about side effects or problems with DMPS, but he had never had any. I also did a lot of research. It turns out that DMPS is a more potent mercury chelator than DMSA -- in fact, it is the most potent mercury chelator we have today. For example, in one study on rabbits acutely poisoned with mercury and then treated with various chelating agents, "DMPS was the most efficient chelator, removing 86 percent of the mercury in three hours, with DMSA being the next-most efficient, removing 65 percent of the mercury." (Patrick L., "Mercury Toxicity and Antioxidants: Part 1: Role of Glutathione and Alpha-Lipoic Acid in the Treatment of Mercury Toxicity," Altern Med Rev., 7(6):456-471, Dec. 2002). (I italicized acutely because, believe me, DMPS cannot remove 86% of mercury from chronic exposure in three hours!)
Actually, I think that it is DMPS' effectiveness that leads to the supposed increased side effects seen with this drug. I have obtained the original DMPS manufacturer's (Heyl of Berlin, Germany) "scientific monograph" on DMPS, and I can definitely say that it is a well-studied and well-researched drug, particularly in Europe. DMPS was originally developed in the former Soviet Union in 1958, where it was used for industrial workers injured by exposure to heavy metals, but it was not available outside that country until 1978. This was because DMPS had potential use as an antidote to the chemical weapon Lewisite (ah, the good ol' Cold War). In 1978, Heyl announced its synthesis and distribution to the western world. Since then, DMPS has been widely used as a chelating agent for both diagnostic and treatment purposes, and it is used extensively in Europe and on a more limited basis in North America as a treatment for mercury, arsenic, and lead toxicity. It is a registered drug in Germany where, due to its long record of safety, it is available without a prescription.
Overall, I think DMPS has several advantages over DMSA, the principal advantage being that it is a much more effective mercury chelator -- it has made all the difference in the world in my own recovery. Actually, many doctors believe that, when used properly, DMPS actually has less side effects than DMSA, and from my 1.5 years of experience with both types of chelators, I would definitely agree with this. Other advantages include the fact that DMPS appears to remain in the body for a longer period of time than DMSA. Also, DMPS acts more quickly than DMSA, probably because its distribution is both extracellular (outside of cells) and intracellular (within cells), where DMSA appears to be distributed only extracellularly. And, DMPS is available for intravenous and intramuscular use, as well as in oral form, where DMSA is only available in oral form. Furthermore, DMSA appears to cause more yeast problems than DMPS, possibly in part because more DMSA remains in the gut than DMPS (only about 20% of an oral dose of DMSA is absorbed from the GI tract -- the other 80% travels through the GI system unabsorbed -- versus about 50% for oral DMPS). This may draw more mercury into the gut, and thus increase the presence of yeast (causing a yeast "flare-up") due to the sequestering effects of yeast described previously. Also, a higher percentage of DMPS appears to be excreted through the kidneys than with DMSA, which presents certain advantages over the liver/bowel route, such as avoiding the "enterohepatic reuptake loop."
(The enterohepatic reuptake loop refers to the fact that while large amounts of bile acids are secreted into the small intestine every day, only relatively small quantities are lost from the body. Bile, containing bile acids, is a thick, yellowish digestive fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder that helps eliminate cholesterol from the body, helps the body digest fats, and transports many waste products and toxins (including mercury). Approximately 95% of the bile acids delivered to the upper part of the small intestine are absorbed back into the blood stream in the lower part of the small intestine, so not too much of the mercury that is attached to glutathione or cysteine (detoxification) molecules in bile actually makes it out of the body).
And finally, DMSA appears to deplete cysteine. This is bad because cysteine is a sulfur amino acid that is a precursor to glutathione, the body's cells' main antioxidant and detoxification mechanism. Thus, DMSA may lead to further depletion of cysteine and glutathione stores, which are often already low in metal toxic patients. I think this may be part of the reason why I actually started going downhill while using DMSA.
Anyway, while it may sound like I'm completely against DMSA, this is not the case. Because everyone is biochemically different from each other, I am sure there are many people who can tolerate DMSA just fine, and for whom it will be effective. It was definitely somewhat effective for me, but, simply put, there was a night-and-day difference in my recovery between DMSA and DMPS. More specifically, if it weren't for DMPS (over the DMSA), I would not be writing this blog today because I would not have made the recovery that I did. And, I think that DMPS is the closest thing we have to a "silver bullet" for treating mercury toxicity (although, it is actually far from a panacea). If you get beyond the lore, DMPS should be able to make substantial waves in the world by legitimizing mercury toxicity as a cause of illness, because these illnesses can now be cured or substantially improved.
Thus, I was not surprised at all in the past year when I started hearing that the biggest gains ever recorded in treating autism were being made by the use of DMPS. (I've got a lot to say about autism, which I predict will soon be proven to be largely caused by the mercury preservative in vaccines, thimerosal. In addition to the efforts of the indefatigable parents of autistic children who have pushed this issue despite fierce political, legal, and medical resistance, I think NY Times writer David Kirby's new book, Evidence of Harm (released April 1, 2005), will ultimately be the proverbial crack in the dam that unleashes the flood on this issue).
The leading research group looking at nutritional, genetic, and chemical factors involved in autism -- DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) -- has long held the view that DMSA is the appropriate chelator of choice for autistic kids. But, Dr. Rashid Buttar of North Carolina was not having any luck treating his own autistic son with DMSA. Yet, he had successfully treated numerous adult patients with intravenous DMPS -- but, giving an IV wasn't a viable option for small children. And, according to Dr. Buttar, the oral form of DMPS causes gut problems in autistic children, such as absorption difficulties and yeast issues. So, Dr. Buttar formulated the DMPS for transdermal delivery -- a cream that seeps through the skin and is absorbed directly into the body, skipping the GI system. He calls this formulation TD-DMPS. Apparently, unlike DMSA, this treatment protocol worked -- five months after initiating treatment with the TD-DMPS, Dr. Buttar's son started to speak with such rapid progression that his speech therapist commented she had never seen such rapid progress. Apparently, today, Dr. Buttar's son is even ahead of his normal peers in math and verbal skills, etc.
Dr. Buttar also has conducted a study on 31 autistic children using the TD-DMPS protocol, and has reported that, currently, 22 of those children have been completely "cured" of autism (i.e., no more autistic symptoms). This is remarkable in that no other treatment protocol has used the c-word as even a possible outcome of treatment. Dr. Buttar presented this information to Congress in a presentation on May 6, 2004. This outcome also was part of a story on chelation in the Feb. 15, 2005 edition of the Wall Street Journal: "A Radical Approach to Autism: Some Physicians, Families Tout Metal-Stripping Drugs, But Benefits Are Unproved." Dr. Buttar has stated that, in his son's case, the DMPS was 10 times more effective than DMSA at removing mercury.
One of the DMSA proponents' main arguments for using DMSA over DMPS is that DMSA is thought to cross the blood-brain barrier, where DMPS is generally believed not to do so. (The blood-brain barrier is a barrier that protects the brain from harmful substances in the blood stream, while still supplying the brain with the required nutrients for proper function). Thus, it is thought, DMSA can chelate mercury out of the brain, where so much of the mercury goes and causes problems, while DMPS cannot. Of course, this has a flip-side problem: when the body levels of mercury are high, there is some possibility that the DMSA will transport mercury into, not out of, the brain. (Recall my "brain-lock" when I took the DMSA shortly after amalgam removal). Anyhow, based on my own experience, I want to set the record straight: there is no question that DMPS helps pull mercury from the brain, and, for me anyway, much more effectively than DMSA. How do I know? Well, some of the mental symptoms I've been dealing with got much worse -- "flared up" -- after my second DMPS IV, and then, over the course of my treatment, have gotten much, much better and even largely disappeared. In fact, the improvement of these symptoms (e.g., anxiety, irritability, compulsiveness, irrational fear, depression, etc.) has been far and away the best thing to come from this whole saga. This improvement despite DMPS' inability to cross the blood-brain barrier is easily explained through the law of osmosis. If the connective tissue and vascular system (i.e., the portions of the body accessible to the DMPS) are free of heavy metals, but the brain and nervous system have a high heavy metal burden, then given enough time, the heavy metals will shift from the brain into the other tissues where the body can excrete them.
OK, that's my tour of the basics of the chemical chelators for mercury. But, who cares about the science and statistics of it all if it doesn't work... luckily, I can say the use of DMPS has turned my life around. I have been using DMPS for about a year, both orally and intravenously, and from the first dose, I knew this was going to make a big difference. Within two IV's, that nagging neck pain started getting better. And there was no looking back from there. Here are some of the improvements I have experienced:
(1) my muscles are working a lot better -- they're stronger and more flexible;
(2) I'm not as cold, both in my core and in my hands and feet -- my thyroid seems to be working better;
(3) my short-term memory and cognitive ability are hugely improved;
(4) my joints work much better -- far less popping and "loose" feelings;
(5) my hair is thicker, stronger, and growing back (slowly) in some of the places I lost it;
(6) I have far less allergies / pain from allergies;
(7) my low back feels so very much better than it used to -- it's not pain-free, but, generally, it rarely hurts;
(8) my fatigue is almost entirely gone now -- it's been a slow process, but I'm back to basically full energy;
(9) I'm much more calm / less anxious;
(10) my heartbeat is "steadier";
(11) my outlook / sense of optimism is way up;
(12) my sense of well-being is way up;
(13) my blurry vision is gone;
(14) my fibromyalgia / whole-body pain is probably 85-90% gone;
(15) my body feels much, much more relaxed than it did before;
(16) my nasal / eye pain is gone;
(17) my appetite has stabilized -- no more hypoglycemia, huge hunger attacks, etc.;
(18) I have excellent exercise capability -- amazing strength and endurance, and I can get my heart rate up way higher than I could previously;
(19) my chronic sinusitis is substantially better;
(20) my seborrheic dermatitis is nearly gone after over 15 years;
(21) my skin is more "supple" -- it has more color, tans much easier (while I was sick, it would burn quickly), and looks more moist;
(22) I have an easier time swallowing;
(23) I tolerate alcohol much better;
(24) my cravings for sugar are down, although this increases or decreases depending on when I am chelating;
(25) I have more self-confidence and self-esteem;
(26) I enjoy socializing with other people more;
(27) I no longer get eye pain while looking at a computer screen (from ultraviolet light?);
(28) I tolerate all types of foods better (i.e., less food allergies);
(29) I am able to wear contacts much more comfortably, presumably because my eyes are much less dry;
(30) I have more motivation to get things done;
(31) my carpal tunnel symptoms are gone;
(32) while not gone, my floaters are much lighter and, somehow, much more mentally tolerable;
(33) I no longer have an eye twitch in my left eyelid;
(34) I no longer get headaches -- at all;
(35) I rarely ever have a sore throat;
(36) I no longer have reflux at all;
(37) I no longer have restless legs syndrome (RLS);
(38) my blood pressure is totally normal again; and
(39) my TMJ problems are gone.
So, to say I've made a miraculous recovery would almost be, well... an understatement. Basically, I've either recovered or hugely improved from numerous incurable chronic diseases that are plaguing our world today. I want to get the message out there: there is hope, and maybe a cure. Since I had no idea what to expect when chelating, it is hard to believe that these improvements are merely due to the placebo effect, as I had no preconception that many of these things could be caused by mercury poisoning and therefore could be improved.
Hands down, the most significant change I've experienced is the improved mental / emotional functioning that I've mentioned. What's particularly interesting is that I've rolled back not only all of the mental anxiety, irritability, and depression (not to mention cognitive dysfunction) I've experienced over the past seven years, but actually from long before that time. And I had no idea that could happen, or that I was suffering neurotoxicity-induced anxiety before I was officially sick. I'm referring to the time when I had my first fillings placed, when I was 18. My years in college were difficult in many ways, which I had just attributed to the stress of a new environment and my personality. Well, it turns out that some of that worry, perfectionism, compulsive tendencies, fear, irritability, etc. were not just my personality, but rather symptoms of a disease -- and now, mostly gone. If I had written down what changes I expected to occur from chelating before I started, there's no way I could have predicted I would feel as calm, relaxed, healthy, happy, sharp, and resilient as I do today.
Since mercury is a neurotoxin, it seems fairly plausible that micromercurialism is ramping up people's anxieties and irritability, or driving certain vulnerable people to depressive states. This seems especially likely based on what I have personally experienced, and what others I know have experienced, after removing mercury. A psychologist I know once told me that, "if the cure to anxiety and depression are ever discovered, 99% of us [psychologists] will be out of business." (We weren't discussing mercury or toxicity issues). First of all, that's a very eye-opening statement on life in contemporary America, but second, the huge implications are obvious.
I cannot say that I'm a-ok today. My recovery is still in process, and I'm still struggling with the up-down process that is chelation. I'm not sure if there are things that will never fully recover because permanent damage has occurred, although, to be honest, I really don't worry about this that much. Also, I swear I'm learning new stuff every day. For example, chelation had recently plateaued for me again, and I had been struggling to understand why. Finally, after a few months, I think I got it and I'm now making huge gains again. I will post my information on this soon, but I have to say it once again flies in the face of what 95% of the alternative practitioners are saying, or failing to say. This is why getting better through detoxing today is a lot like frontier medicine in the Wild West, and everyone is on their own. (I think a lot of the advice out there is actually making people worse and hurting them).
So, I hope that this catalog of my seven year odyssey -- from good, normal health, through the depths of disease and dysfunction, and now back again (and then some) -- has been helpful to you, or at least interesting. Looking back over what I've written, I'm amazed myself at what I've been through. But when you're trying to deal with the daily grind of coping and survival, it's just one foot in front of the other, so you don't really get a chance to see the forest for the trees. However, if you happen to be able to find a mountain, you can climb it and see the whole forest for what it really is. Here's to adding a little bit of altitude!