how do you purge mercury from your body?
September 29, 2009 4:56 PM   Subscribe

how do you purge mercury from your body?


Lately my consumption of sushi has ramped up. I'm starting to get concerned about how much of mercury I've probably accumulated in my body. (I do not show any symptoms of mercury poisoning, & AFAIK I think I still have a long way to get there).

However: is there a medically verified way to purge mercury from your body?

My google-fu tells me that if I had genuine mercury poisoning then a Dr. could give me perscription medication that purges mercury, and there are several drugs that can do this.

Short of that, however, my google-fu seems to indicate that there are a number of health-food type cures that assert that a particular vitamin/mineral/vegetable matter etc. remove mercury from your body. Now, the assertion may be correct, but it seems that many of these claims are made by web sites trying to sell you vitamins, or alternative-medicine sites that make me wonder if their claims are accepted by mainstream medicine...

So I ask: is there anything that is genuinely, widely agreed-upon by the medical profession, to remove mercury from one's body, short of perscription drugs?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the usual therapies are dangerous, and should not be used unless you're pretty sure you have mercury poisoning. If you are not acutely poisoned, you should probably just wait (and don't eat any more mercury-rich fish!).

However, you can check your mercury levels with a simple blood test -- I had this done in April after an exposure scare. Why not have it done?
posted by grobstein at 5:09 PM on September 29, 2009

What prescription is available? I have no idea how you could do this.
Give EDTA to cheleate it?

I don't think there is decent way to remove lead from your body. But you could try to eat algae powder before your sushi. Algae membranes have strong adsorption for heavy metals. But I guess this would be more of a placebo but if it makes you sleep better...
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:31 PM on September 29, 2009

The easiest way, honestly, is to stop eating things containing mercury and let your body take care of it. It's not overnight, but over the course of months your body will excrete it and your Hg blood level will fall.

I would only be concerned if either woofing down a lot of tuna (if you are, you do know it's being wiped out, right?) or if you're a woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant. If you're a guy, well, you can get away with six tuna rolls a week (but again, GOING EXTINCT).

If you're concerned about mercury but love your sushi, then choose items with lower mercury levels. In general, though, you're not going to get into mercury poisoning land unless you're eating high mercury sushi items day in and day out. And if you do, chelation is a nasty therapy.
posted by dw at 5:33 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Some argue that a diet heavy in cilantro will help purge your body of heavy metals like mercury. This link has some details, but if you google 'cilantro' and 'mercury' you can find more. I don't know how pseudoscientific it is, but unlike pills/teas/crap off the internet, eating a bunch of cilantro can be easy and cheap. My dad actually buys cilantro extract and takes a few drops a day. He claims it's also good for memory.
posted by farishta at 6:29 PM on September 29, 2009

Actress Daphne Zuniga talks a bit here about her experience with chelation therapy.

Best thing is to seriously curtail your intake of tuna and other fish with known high mercury contents now. Any kind of OTC product that you can get at Whole Foods or other "health" food store that claims to remove "toxins" is most likely bollocks and won't remove a nanogram of mercury.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:47 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You want to read about metallothionein

You might also want to read a few of these papers, and take a zinc supplement

Since there is a dearth of research showing regular seafood consumption causes mercury toxicity (excluding pregnant women), your fears are probably unfounded.
posted by zentrification at 8:14 PM on September 29, 2009

Chelation therapy is for people who have sustained heavy-metal poisoning, as in repeated industrial or lab exposure. You do not need this because you eat fish, no matter what crackpot health guru tells you you do.

The best way to get rid of mercury you've eaten is, as others have said, to stop eating it and let your body process it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 PM on September 29, 2009

So I ask: is there anything that is genuinely, widely agreed-upon by the medical profession, to remove mercury from one's body, short of perscription drugs?

Yes: time.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was just listening to a December, 2008 episode of the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and they mentioned Jeremy Piven's supposed mercury poisoning. When asked how to remove mercury from the body, Dr. Steven Novella said, beside chellation therapy, just wait.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:12 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

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