By Dr. Mercola
Chlorella, single-celled fresh water algae, is often referred to as a near-perfect food, with a wide range of health benefits.
A recent study investigated the effects of chlorella on methylmercury transfer to fetuses during pregnancy. Pregnant mice were fed diets containing either 0% or 10% chlorella powder, along with methylmercury in their drinking water.
Two neonates were randomly selected from each mother mouse within 24 hours of birth, and examined for mercury in the blood, brain, liver, and kidneys. The mothers were also examined for mercury. According to the study1:
"The blood and brain [mercury] levels of both neonates and mothers in the [chlorella powder] diet group were significantly lower...
The results obtained here revealed that continuous [chlorella powder] intake suppressed [methylmercury] transfer to the fetus, in addition to effective suppressing [methylmercury] accumulation in brains of the mothers."
Methylmercury is a neurotoxic compound widely used in industrial applications. It accumulates in fish, which has led to widespread advisories against fish consumption by pregnant women. In fetuses and developing infants it can have negative effects on attention span, language, visual-spatial skills, memory and coordination. An estimated 60,000 children each year are born at risk for neurological problems due to methylmercury exposure in the womb.
Do You Need to Detox?
Heavy metal toxicity, just like chemical toxicity, has become one of the most pressing health hazards of our day. Whether you recognize it or not, your body is assailed by chemicals and heavy metals on a daily basis. The two primary sources of mercury exposure are:
The average individual has eight amalgam fillings, from which they could absorb up to 120 micrograms of mercury per day. For comparison, estimates of the daily absorption of mercury from fish and seafood are 2.3 micrograms, and from all other foods, air, and water is 0.3 micrograms per day. Adults with four or more amalgams run a significant risk of mercury-related health problems from them, while in children as few as two amalgams will contribute to health problems.
It's important to realize that mercury and other heavy metals accumulate in your body, and your levels therefore increase with age. Such bioaccumulation also pose a direct threat to the developing fetus in pregnant women, as mentioned above.
While detoxing was once considered a 'fad,' in today's world, regular detoxing has become more or less a necessity, especially if you're planning a pregnancy. It's wise for most people to proactively remove metals from their body before becoming plagued by symptoms. If you already have symptoms (see below), then ridding your body of metals may help resolve them.
Cilantro can be used as a synergetic aid along with chlorella. It's particularly useful to take when consuming seafood.
Chlorella's effectiveness was demonstrated in a study last year2, where mice given chlorella along with methylmercury excreted approximately twice the amount of methylmercury in their urine and feces, compared to mice not treated with chlorella.
Signs and Symptoms of Mercury Toxicity
As mercury and other heavy metals build up in your body over time, they can produce chronic symptoms that you might never associate with your love for sushi, or your dental fillings. Mercury is especially damaging to your central nervous system (CNS), and studies show that mercury in the CNS causes psychological, neurological, and immunological problems. Some of the symptoms of mercury build-up and toxicity include:
✓ Aching joints
✓ Depression, irritability, anxiety
✓ Digestive distress and reduced ability to properly assimilate and utilize fats
✓ Impaired blood sugar regulation
✓ Female reproductive problems such as menstrual difficulties, infertility, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension and premature birth
✓ Neuron degeneration
✓ Central nervous system damage
✓ Kidney damage
Mercury Testing: What You Need to Know
Traditional mercury testing involves testing either your hair, blood, urine, or stool. Challenge tests that implement a chelating chemical, such as DMPS or DMSA, are also commonly used. However, all of these tests have drawbacks. They primarily measure total mercury load — and inaccurately at that. But most importantly they don't give you any information about the forms of mercury in your system or how efficiently you are getting rid of them.
Traditional mercury tests don't answer questions like, how much of your mercury load is from the seafood you eat? How much from amalgams? How well are your kidneys and liver eliminating it?
The two principal forms of mercury accumulate differently in your body, and are eliminated by different pathways. For example, mercury levels in your hair only reflect the mercury from the fish you eat. But mercury levels in your urine reflect the mercury coming from your dental fillings (plus some of the fish-based methylmercury that has broken down into inorganic mercury). The only way to determine if there is a problem is to compare your hair and urine levels with levels in your blood. So, if mercury testing is to be meaningful, it must measure both of the following:
- Exposure level: Overall mercury level for each of the two main forms of mercury (methylmercury, related to your fish/seafood consumption, and inorganic mercury, related to dental amalgam exposure)
- Excretion ability: How well your body is getting rid of each kind of mercury, regardless of your overall mercury level
A newer testing method called "mercury speciation "does just this — it measures both of these factors. This test uses blood, urine and hair to give you a more comprehensive picture of how your body is eliminating mercury and where the process may be blocked. This information can be immensely helpful in preparing a successful detoxification plan. For more information about mercury speciation testing, refer to my recent interview with Dr. Shade below.
How to Use Chlorella
Preferably, you'll want to take it in the morning. Many chlorella products are sold in small tablets, typically 500 mg each, which means you should take several tablets a day. According to Ginny Banks, an expert in functional foods and nutraceuticals:
"It's not something that you just take occasionally like some herbs or some supplements. Chlorella is something you want to be taking every day… You need to be getting at least 4 grams each day of chlorella to get the benefits that it provides."
I recommend starting with a lower dose and slowly work your way up to 4 grams. Taking it with food can help alleviate nausea. Mild diarrhea may also occur. For more information and guidance on detoxing mercury, please see my full protocol.
To Get the Health Benefits, Make Sure You're Getting a Good Product
One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a chlorella product is its digestibility. The key to its detoxing abilities lies within the membrane of this single cell, but the cell wall of chlorella is actually indigestible to humans.
"Broken cell wall" is the term most often used to describe that it has been rendered digestible. If a product does not specify that the cell wall has been broken, you're likely flushing your money down the toilet as the chlorella will simply pass right through you without doing you any good. And detox is certainly not the only benefit that you'll miss out on.
Chlorella has a number of other health benefits. The web site GreenMedInfo has assembled a list of studies 3 that found evidence of over 40 different health conditions that chlorella can help to prevent or ease. Here's a sampling of some of the health benefits associated with this green algae:
✓ Repairing nerve tissues
✓ Increasing your energy levels
✓ Enhancing your immune system
✓ Normalizing your blood sugar
✓ Improving digestion
✓ Normalizing your blood pressure
✓ Promoting healthy pH levels in your gut, which in turn helps good bacteria to thrive
✓ Removing potentially toxic metals from your body
It is important to realize that any mercury detoxification is a marathon and NOT a sprint. You do NOT want to do this quickly. Even if you believe you are healthy you want to start this process SLOWLY as you could easily cause severe flare ups. I am one of the healthiest people I know and when I did my program I did it over six months. Some people may need to do it far more slowly and may need a few years to effectively eliminate the mercury safely.
Your Most Important Goal: Removing the Source of Exposure
The very first goal is to plug the hole in your leaking ship. You must remove your source of mercury exposure, whether it's primarily from the seafood you eat or from amalgams (or both). Mercury speciation testing, as described above, can help you identify which source is problematic. There is little point in embarking on a major detox mission if you continue exposing yourself to the offender... that's like trying to bail water out of a sinking boat. Avoid the consumption of contaminated fish and seafood. Most fish and seafood are now contaminated, unfortunately, but some types are worse than others. Avoiding fish is relatively easy, but having your amalgams removed is more involved and costly and must be done with great care. You should do this ONLY with the help of a qualified biological dentist as you can become quite ill if your amalgams are extracted incorrectly.
However, if you have a mouthful of amalgams it is no mystery that you have exposure that ideally needs to be addressed. Just be very careful about jumping from the frying pan into the fire and have your mercury amalgam fillings removed by a non-biological dentist like I did. That mistake caused very serious damage to my kidneys that still troubles me 20 years later. You can find a trained and qualified dentist from the following list: