Hair Testing for Mercury
Ever wonder WHY your hormones are low and out of alignment? Or you may have noticed a time when your health and energy seemed to inexplicably go downhill and you're not sure why? One of the grossly undertreated and surprisingly common reasons is undoubtedly related to heavy metal overloads, particularly mercury. This is something completely ignored by the vast majority of physicians here in the U.S. I am 55, and I have never had a physician test for heavy metal exposure.
So why is it important to look for mercury overload?
Reason #1. It is surprisingly common, mostly due to mercury (metal) fillings and thimerosol exposure. Estimates range between 1% and 5% of men.
Reason #2. Symptoms of mercury overload (and other heavy metals and nutritional deficiencies) can lead to symptoms very similar to low testosterone.
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Reason #3. High enough levels of mercury can actually lower testosterone levels and lead to hypothyroidism. (See my page on
Testosterone and Mercury for some examples.)
Reason #4. Mercury gets trapped in neurons behind the blood brain barrier and does not often come out easily
unless "coaxed." Mercury overload thus affects millions of men for decades.
Even worse, until recently the general public simply did not have access to testing or inexpensive, non-invasive protocols. Doctors will not test for it, except in rare and extreme cases, and costs for many of the standard lab tests are very expensive.
However, that all changed here in the U.S. when hair testing became publicly available and general knowledge about the subject began to spread. Now you can get hair testing done at a top notch lab, check out your results and then bring it a practitioner. Furthermore, there are great lay textbooks out there which can give you an incredible background in mercury and how to deal with it. Probably the most well-know of these books is
Hair Test Interpretation and Amalgam Illness, Diagnosis and Treatment by Dr. Andrew Hall Cutler. Be forewarned that these are not light reading however! (His Ph.D. is in Chemistry.)
NOTE: Many PCPs (primary care physicians) will criticize hair testing, even though they know next to nothing about it. I will include many case studies, if I may use the term, in my link
Hair Testing Summary Page that hopefully will convince you that hair testing
can be both practical and potentially life (and hormone) saving.
DISCOVERY and ANALYSIS: To actually find out if you are (probably) overloaded with mercury, you can start with a hair analysis test. Strangely enough, you cannot just look at the hair test results and go by whether or not you are high in mercury or not. The reason for this is simple: high mercury individuals usually do not have high plasma levels of mercury. The mercury is stored in various tissues, particularly the brain, where it often wreaks havoc for decades.
So how do you diagnose elevated tissue mercury then? It turns out that you
can look at something called "mineral transport." Mercury attaches to many enzmymes and thus disrupts the body's handling of minerals and metals and so you typically end up with numbers or patterns that do not fit the general populace. Dr. Cutler's claim to fame is that he came up with a way to estimate the extent of this disruption based on hair test results.
To show you how useful this can be, I've shown my wife's hair test results below. Note that the front end lab company that we used was Direct Labs, who mailed us out a hair test kit. The name of the test was "Hair Toxic & Essential Elements-DD KIT" for those interested. We cut samples of my wife's hair and mailed it in the prepaid envelope. where it ends up in well-known hair analysis lab called Doctor's Data. Doctor's Data then sends the lab results back to Direct Labs, who posts it on their web site for your or your practitioner's review. (I do not have any affiliation with Dr. Cutler, Direct Labs or Doctor's Data.)
MY WIFE - MERCURY OVERLOAD? Doctor's Data displays your hair test results in tabular and bar graph form as shown below. It seems incredibly straightforward on the surface of it. For example, check out my wife's results below from July of 2015:
So all you have to do is look at what is low and what is high and you're done, right? Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Again, what you actually have to do is see if you have an unusual pattern of mineral and metal levels. This then effectively tells you if you have dysfunctional mineral transport and likely are struggling with mercury overload. Dr. Cutler goes into great detail in his book
Hair Test Interpretation about how to do this and has basically has four rules that look for abnormally low / high values, abnormally "dead" values, and then a fifth one that covers the grey areas. While it is true that his books are expensive, he also has made it available free online.
Of course, just a casual look at my wife's results and it becomes apparent that she seems to have many extreme values, especially in the bottom section called "Essential and Other Elements." (This is actually the only section used for Cutler's Five Rules for Deranged Mineral Transport.) She has four values (calcium, magnesium, lithium and strontium) that are all in the red zone. This violates Cutler's Rule #3 and indicates mineral transport issues.
Does it makes sense that my wife could have a heavy mercury burden? Absolutely and here is why:
a) She had a mouthful (five) of mercury fillings and had them removed about 10 years ago.
b) When they removed the fillings, they did not do anything special to protect her from the vapor.
c) Mercury that settles in brain tissue in particular can become trapped in neurons and cause issues for decades. In other words, even
though it had been ten years does not mean she was "out of the woods," because she had never been chelated.
So are the results conclusive? Are we going to talk someone about chelation or use Dr. Cutler's protocol? Unfortunately, two of her four extreme values (calcium and strontium) are, according to the inforation Doctor's Data sends in their lab results, common in hair products. Therefore,
there is a chance that the hair samples were contaminated even after the washing that the lab does. We decided that she would not do anything to her hair for several months and
then we would retest, since it would not be at all surprising if she had high levels of stored mercury.
NOTE: I am NOT a doctor or a researcher. This information is strictly to make men aware of the toxicity issues out
there and to start investigating their own health as my wife and I have already started doing. Your plan should be to a) get
informed, b) get a good doctor (or naturopath) and c) work with him or her.