So now you've read a cataloging of my various strange symptoms, conditions, and experiences that I went through for about five years without any real explanation. I tried to list as much stuff as I could so that: (1) you can see the breadth of how much can go wrong in a previously perfectly-healthy person from mercury toxicity; (2) you can perhaps see shades of your own problems; and (3) you can maybe even make some connections between your own problems that perhaps you hadn't considered before. But now, I get to tell the best part of the story -- the happy part where I finally start getting some answers and improvement.
So, after years and years of continuing downturns, backslides, and deterioration, I was pretty unsure of what to do. But I just kept trying theory after theory to determine what could be causing me these problems. For example, some of the things I suspected and sought treatment for include: too little serotonin (a neurotransmitter), too much serotonin, yeast/candida overgrowth, Wilson's syndrome (too little T4-to-T3 thyroid-hormone conversion), magnesium deficiency, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hypoadrenalism (underactive adrenal glands), carbohydrate metabolism problems, reactive hypoglycemia, as well as many other assorted theories and treatments for my GERD and sudden-onset back problems. Unfortunately, nothing really worked, and most everything I tried, particularly if it was a drug, made me worse. Plus, I was really bothered by the fact that none of these contemporary alternative medical diagnoses could be a unifying theory for all of my problems. For example, I'm sure I was hypothyroid, and/or had problems utilizing thyroid hormones peripherally in my tissues, but why? What would cause this? I see sweeping statements that some great percent of people show clinical signs of hypothyroidism, but why would that be? Is it a weakening genetic pool? Hypothyroidism, like most all endocrine dysfunction, seems more like a symptom of a disease then an actual cause.
Still, there wouldn't be people out championing these various syndromes if practitioners weren't seeing real world improvement in treating them. Thus, I don't really think any of them are "wrong" -- I just think people have stopped a little short of the original, "master" cause of the cascade of these diseases. Thus, I think mercury toxicity causes yeast/candida overgrowth, causes hypothyroidism, causes sertonin imbalances, etc. In fact, mercury is the only substance that has been scientifically proven to be capable of causing all of these imbalances and system breakdowns, because it is so highly toxic. Thus, the concept of widespread mercury toxicity provides the only true possibility of a unifying theory. And, in a non-coincidence, it is sitting in nearly 200 million people's mouths (or more -- by some counts, 90% of people have fillings), and has been injected into nearly every single person via vaccines. I can't imagine that there are many people out there who have never had a single filling nor had a single vaccine.
Anyway, at this point in my story, it had been about five years since I got that first Hep B vaccine and my eyesight started fluctuating, the headaches developed, etc. I'd been working for most of this period under these conditions, with an already-stressful corporate law job becoming about ten times harder with the pain, fatigue, and stress of these strange symptoms. So, I decided it was do-or-die time, that I had to quit my job and focus on getting better or it was never going to happen. I still didn't have an explanation, though, and was just hoping that by being able to devote my full energies to the problem, I could identify it and start turning it around. The scary part is that I know if I didn't happen to identify the actual (true) particular cause, I could still be chasing various theories and probably becoming pretty despondent by now. Knowledge is by the far the most important tool I ever had.
Before I quit my job, I decided to try one more alternative practitioner. This particular doctor happened to be a very big believer in vitamin C as a sort of cure-all, and that candida (yeast) really was the cause of many inexplicable problems like my own. So I started on a really heavy and varied vitamin and supplement regimen to address these issues, which was the first time I'd really tried this route. Inexplicably, I had sort of a dual reaction -- in some ways I got better, and in some ways I got worse. Among other things, I was taking several anti-candida supplements -- e.g., caprylic acid, garlic, pau d'arco tea, and Nystatin (oral prescription antifungal powder that tastes pretty much like soil, which is where it is grown). Because I was having problems with some of these (e.g., the pau d'arco tea gave me a sore throat whenever I drank it -- strange for a soothing tea!), we decided to try a more potent oral systemic antifungal drug -- Diflucan.
I give you this history of my anti-candida treatment because, when I started Diflucan, I was hit with fatigue the likes of which I had never experienced before. In fact, as I alluded to elsewhere, my fatigue really started when I began this general vitamin and supplement program. But, with the Diflucan -- whoa! I happened to be in Mexico on vacation, and I remember I barely had the strength to drag myself down to the beautiful Carribean beach, only to pass out on a beach chair once there. What a waste of a vacation! I was so down and depressed during this time it wasn't even funny. Of course now, in retrospect, I know what was happening to me. I was experiencing what alternative practitioners call a "die-off", or Herxheimer, reaction (named after the German physician who first observed this reaction). Basically, the theory says that "you have to get worse before you get better" -- that as you kill yeast organisms, they die and release toxins (referred to as "endotoxins" or toxins internal to the yeast cells), which then cause your already overstimulated immune system to overreact. Some Herxheimer-reaction symptoms include chills, headache, flu-like symptoms, itching and rashes, fever, night sweats, muscle aches, joint pains, mental fog, and extreme fatigue. Sound familiar? (hint: these are also, curiously, the exact symptoms of mercury toxicity).
I don't fully agree with the Herxheimer/die-off theory per se. It's not that I don't agree with the concept of getting much, much worse as you kill off the candida (or other bacteria or organisms, depending on the disease). And I can assuredly say from many, many experiences with this phenomena, it definitely happens. It's just that it's extremely unlikely that unknown endotoxins from fungi or bacteria happen to cause the exact same symptoms as raw mercury exposure. And, in fact, it's not a coincidence, when you consider that yeast cells can bind up a quantity of mercury equivalent to approximately their own weight. (Murray, S.D., and D. K. Kirby, "Sub-cellular Localization of Mercury in Yeast Grown in the Presence of Mercuric Chloride," J. Gen Microbiol., 86:66-74, 1975). The yeast in your body sequester the mercury coming from your teeth and other sources, so killing the yeast cells will re-release the mercury right back into your body, causing in effect a re-poisoning.
In our bodies, the uptake and binding of mercury appears to be a survival mechanism for the yeast cells, which are microorganisms, i.e., they are alive and independent from us. Because daily doses of mercury are delivered to the gut from a person's fillings (and which can be methylated by these same yeast cells -- more on that later), these yeast cells bind the mercury to their cell walls so as not to be killed by it. Remember: mercury is antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, cytotoxic -- it kills almost everything -- hence why it's used as a preservative in vaccines. And, one leading theory states that the immune system permits the yeast to overgrow in a sort of "deal-with-the-devil": although letting the yeast overgrow requires providing nutrition for the microorganisms (and hence depriving our own body of nutrients), and having to deal with their metabolic byproducts (toxins), it also saves the cells of our bodies from being suffocated and killed by direct exposure to the mercury. The problem is, with the balance of yeast to other assorted "good" bacteria close to the tipping point because of this compromise, the yeast can easily get out of control, as is the case with antibiotic use, sugar overconsumption, steroid use, birth control and other hormonal treatment, etc.
I have much more to say on the mercury-yeast connection. But this is just an introduction so you can understand why I was getting sicker while on this anti-candida treatment due to the Herxheimer reaction -- I was being re-poisoned through the equivalent of an acute mercury exposure. On an interesting sidenote, the details of Dr. Herxheimer's study (in 1902) when he noted this phenomena are rarely discussed. He was actually studying the treatment of syphiliatic lesions (i.e., from syphilis) with mercury. Yep, you read that right -- they used to treat syphilis with mercury -- because, remember, mercury kills viruses, including presumably the syphilis virus. The only problem is, this solution happens to be worse than the original disease. In fact, it is theorized that advanced (or tertiary) syphilis, generally considered to cause madness, might have been an effect of the mercury treatment, and not a result of the disease. Point-in-fact, in William Shakespeare's time, syphilis was treated with inhaled mercury vapor. Some doctors believe that Shakespeare's tremulous signature on his will, his social withdrawal in later years, and even his baldness might all be due to a mild degree of mercury vapor poisoning.
But, I diverge... back to my own story. Luckily I wasn't breathing mercury vapors to treat syphilis, but I was taking supplements and powerful prescription anti-fungals that were re-releasing mercury into my system. (Other supplements I was taking that were problematic, as I would later discover, included zinc and alpha lipoic acid). So I was fatigued -- really, really fatigued -- and also having lots of other symptoms, including difficulty getting along with people, anxiety, and frequent headaches. Also, strangely, I started getting some metallic taste from my lower right teeth for the first time ever. "Metallic" is probably the best way to describe the taste -- maybe like what you'd taste if you bit down on a sheet of aluminum foil.
Well, about this time, the doctor who had started me on the anti-fungals and supplements suggested I take a "hair test". A hair test is easy -- they snip off an inch of hair at the nape of your neck where it has most recently grown. It turns out that hair is a good marker for potential toxins and minerals. While minerals and toxins are transported in very dilute concentrations in the blood, they are also incorporated in the structure of the hair's protein because blood bathes the growing hair follicles. In fact, toxic minerals can concentrate in the hair at several hundred times higher than blood levels. Hair tests are frequently used by scientific and government researchers to determine things like lead and mercury levels. Because hair tests are really an indirect means to measure body stores of various elements, they are often used as a sort of screening test for the body burden of toxic elements. However, I think my doctor just wanted to make sure my minerals were not out of balance. But, these results would change my life. (Hopefully soon I will post my initial results, as well as a subsequent hair test I had done roughly 1.5 years later, so you can see the dramatic comparison between the two, demonstrating the effectiveness of chelation).
For each toxic element and mineral, the test gives a result value, a reference range, and a percentile value. The reference range is what range a "normal" test subject would fall within. The percentile value is how you compare to other test subjects that the lab has processed and/or the general population. Thus, for example, my aluminum concentration was 9.1 parts per million (ppm), while the reference range was less than 7.0 ppm. This put me at about the 75th percentile, meaning I have more aluminum in my hair than 75% of people. Aluminum was my third-highest toxic element, and bismuth was my second (too much Pepto-Bismol? -- active ingredient bismuth). My first? Mercury. The reference range is less than 1.1 ppm, and I had 3.3 ppm, which was enough to be higher than 95% of people. When I pointed out this high result to my doctor, he suggested it was not a big deal, that it just showed that I was successfully excreting mercury. But, I countered, don't I have to have a lot of mercury in me to excrete a lot? Of course this is true.
Well, this result and the metal taste coming from my teeth was enough for me to schedule an appointment to have my amalgams removed. At this point, I wasn't sure if this was my problem at all, but it seemed like a logical enough proposition, so I thought I would move forward with it, like any number of other medical theories I had pursued. So, two months later, I had my four amalgam fillings removed (you can see a picture of them here). There are many theories on how to remove fillings and in what order, but the most important precautions that any amalgam-removal specialist must follow are: (1) a dental dam (i.e., a sheet of rubber that prevents mercury chunks from going down your throat); (2) a separate source of oxygen for the patient (i.e., a respirator for you so you don't have to suck in those mercury vapors created by the drilling); and (3) high-speed suction to remove as much of the mercury vapor as possible. Other niceties include anaesthesia like nitrous oxide (i.e., laughing gas), and mercury-scavenging systems to collect mercury vapor in the dentist's office that escapes the high-speed suction. Some mercury-free dentists recommend removing amalgam fillings in a quadrant-by-quadrant fashion, and not crossing the midline of the mouth during a session. In general, with less fillings or through the use of anaesthesia, these rules are apparently less important.
While I don't have a clear memory of the removal process (but it sure was funny on that laughing gas -- ha ha, just kidding, laughing gas doesn't make you laugh), I do remember one thing very vividly. When she was examining me, the dentist commented that my back right filling was "leaking" (i.e., failing and disintegrating). Then, when the dentist was removing the fillings on my right side, I remember this distinct sudden surge of relief -- a relaxation on the right side of my body and the sense that a giant weight had been lifted. Also, the nitrous oxide suddenly felt more potent and I felt more relaxed. I believe this was because, upon final removal of the filings, the electrical currents flowing in my mouth caused by electrogalvinism ceased, once and for all. Electrogalvinism is a battery effect where dissimilar metals and saliva in contact with each other give rise to electrical currents. Those currents, as they've been measured by scientists (or anyone with a sensitive voltmeter), are orders of magnitude greater than the electrical current that the brain operates on, so you can see the potential for interfering effects. I had no idea I would feel this sudden relaxation of my body, so it was a complete "shock" (if you'll pardon the pun), and a very distinct feeling.
Over the next month or so, I started immediately noticing some mental changes -- I felt clearer, more focused, more relaxed, and had an easier time socializing right away. Also, my right TMJ pain eased immediately and my hair started becoming thicker and fuller. However, I also had increased body pain, canker sores, a bad sore throat, and increasing stomach pain, and felt more tired. This decline is understandable in light of a Swedish study showing that plasma mercury levels rose three- to four-fold immediately after removing amalgam fillings in study participants, then declined to the pre-removal levels at about one month, and finally were reduced to 50% of the initial value at about a year. (Molin M., Bergman B., Marklund S.L., Schutz A., and Skerfving S., "Mercury Selenium, and Glutathione Peroxidase Before and After Amalgam Removal in Man," Acta Odtontol Scand., 48(3):189-202, 1990 June). I don't think that all of the additional mercury absorbed from amalgam removal in this study necessarily made it out of the participants' bodies after a month, but it did leave their vascular systems, and surely a lot of it was naturally excreted. Similar to the study results, I had clearly aggravated symptoms for about a month after my removal. Yet, other symptoms, primarily mental, improved quickly.
Another interesting thing that happened to me during this time was that six days after the amalgam removal, I tried my first dose of a chemical chelator -- 2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid, or DMSA. I didn't take much, only two 100mg capsules, but its effects were unbelievable: (1) my right TMJ pain increased substantially; (2) I had huge mental and coordination effects, becoming very slow, fuzzy, and disoriented; (3) I had some mild depression; and (4) I had a very difficult time speaking. In a sense, it was like a sudden case of "brain-lock". It was a really scary and unpleasant feeling. In retrospect, I probably had too much "loose" mercury floating around in my system to use this chelator. DMSA is thought to cross the blood-brain barrier and is hypothesized to redistribute mercury to the brain, so given that I was overflowing with mercury at this time, it was probably not the best point to try this chelator. However, the fact the chelator could cause these surprising effects definitely was a message: mercury is at the core of your problems.