Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Isn't mercury poisoning really the problem. Should I have my fillings removed?
I think this is a bad idea. May physicians who treat Lyme integrate alternative and complementary ideas and methodologies. Many believe that chronic heavy metal poisoning is a big part of the problem. There is no easy way to measure levels of mercury and other heavy metals. Blood and urine levels are not accurate since the metals are bound up in tissues. Some doctors give patients a chelating agent, which mobilizes the tissue bound metals and then collect a urine specimen. The released metals are excreted through the kidneys and can be measured in the urine specimen after a chelation challenge. We do know that heavy metals are toxic to the nervous system. We know that the developing nervous system of neonates and children is especially susceptible. All young children are routinely screened for lead poisoning since this is well know to cause significant cognitive problems in the developing brain. There is a controversy about a possible link of a mercury preservative in the MMR vaccine and childhood autism. There is however very little evidence to support the notion that heavy metals have a major impact on the mature brain and central nervous system unless the level of exposure is truly massive. Doctors who test by the described method find excessive levels of heavy metals in 95% of their patients. There is no evidence that Lyme patients have higher levels than the general population. Unfortunately, we all live in a toxic soup of poisons and chemicals. Our produce from South America is still laden with outlawed pesticides including DDT. Our farm raised fish is full of PCB, our wild fish is contaminated with mercury. Our water is full of toxic perchlorates and other chemicals too numerous to mention and many unknown. It sound bleak, but our bodies are amazingly tolerant and resilient to the affects of these toxins. The healthiest population in the world, with the highest percent achieving life spans that exceed 100 years live in Japan and the surrounding islands. The also consume huge amounts of mercury in their favorite food, tuna. The mercury in our amalgam dental fillings is sealed off. The process of removal creates a lot of mercury dust which is like to radically increase adsorption of this toxin, at least on a temporary basis. I think an approach to chronic Lyme which is too "holistic" is problematic. It is very costly. It takes physicians and patients down the wrong path and it tends to marginalize the relative importance of the chronic infection. It creates the false impression that all these other issues are making the patient ill, when there is no evidence to back up this theory. Most patients treated for chronic Lyme, if the diagnosis is correct get better when the focus is the chronic infection. I see many patients who have years seeing other doctors who have treated everything but Lyme. Sometimes patients are told that all these other things must be treated first. I have found that these patients are poorer, but not better. It is true that heavy metals are toxic. But I treat the obvious before chasing after red herrings which likely have little bearing on that which makes chronic Lyme patients ill.