Frequently asked questions about heavy metal toxicity and mercury poisoning

I’m going to keep a list of the questions I’m getting asked by friends, family and others about heavy metal toxicity:

  1. How did you get tested and what kind of doctor did you use (mainstream/ alternative)?
  2. What is the best test for diagnosing heavy metals?
  3. How reliable is the urine challenge test?
  4. If I want to chelate, do I need to wake up at night?
  5. Where can I find Andy Cutler’s resume?
  6. Why should I avoid foods high in sulfur?
  7. What is methylation?


1. How did you get tested and what kind of doctor did you use (mainstream/ alternative)?

My tests were done by MD’s, the first one about six years ago by the famous Dr. Galland in New York City and the second one a few months ago by my general practitioner. Both doctors are the type who don’t accept insurance and charge hundreds of dollars an hour because they are open-minded. Generally I think doctors like that are referred to as Holistic or practicing Integrative Medicine.

My dad is a scientist so I grew up in a home where alternative medicine would not have been embraced. Now I think that one of the reasons it took me so long to discover the source my problems is that I only consulted MDs over the past 15 years. Had I visited a Naturopath and maybe a nutritionist, I’d have probably avoided wandering in the dark for so many years! I may have also avoided being hurt by doctors.  I did a number of therapeutic trials guided by my MDs which were very intense and left me ‘never quite the same’.  Those therapeutic trials include:

  • powerful antibiotics to test the ‘hidden infection’ theory
  • 30 days of diflucan to test the candida theory
  • Medrol dose-pack to rule out lupus
  • radioactive bone scan to test who the f*** knows
  • CT scan to look for tumors on adrenal glands
  • another CT scan at Mayo Clinic probably to rule out cancer
  • two different powerful combinations of anti-parasitic chemicals (I can’t call these medications because they are poisons)

2. What is the best test for diagnosing heavy metals?

Chelation trials are the definitive test. Side effects or improvements with chelation confirms toxicity.  But, all amalgam fillings must be removed before this test. If mercury is causing adrenal fatigue, it is poisoning your adrenals, pituitary and/or hypothalamus. The only way to chelate mercury out of those organs is with ALA. When you start chelation with ALA you will know whether or not mercury is causing you fatigue.

An essential elements hair test is very useful too. It’s inexpensive, easy to do and can be done right away with amalgams still in your mouth. If it shows deranged mineral transport, then there is a very large probability of mercury poisoning. There are other clues on the test that point to mercury. Hair tests will catch mercury in many cases. There are false negatives. Some with normal mineral transport turn out to respond and get better with chelation.  You can order your own test (‘essential elements’ DDI test, use the AUT code for a discount) and interpret your own test results with this book.

There are some things that show up on a hair test that are helpful. It’s helpful to know your copper, arsenic and lead levels. Sometimes other metals show up. Sometimes you’ll find signs of adrenal fatigue, and other clues to your health issues.

3. How reliable is the urine challenge test?

First, the urine challenge test (my results here) is one that the average MD will not know anything about and would probably try to make you feel like an idiot for suggesting. Heavy metal toxicity is not their thing.

In some of his interviews Andy Cutler explains why challenge tests have little diagnostic utility.

  1. DMSA and DMPS only chelate from extracellular spaces. A one time challenge will only get a small bit of the metals there – not representative of body burden, and NOTHING from the central nervous system and brain where it makes a lot of people sick.
  2. Some people are more tolerant to heavy metals and some more sensitive. The tolerant ones can have high levels on a challenge test and not be sick. The sensitive ones can have a very small quantity of metals mostly in the brain and be very sick.
  3. Some people are not excreting metals well and will have low numbers on a challenge test but still be very toxic from the metals in their brain and organs.

The challenge test may also make you sicker because you’ll get a one-time, high challenge dose which redistributes metals in your body.

4. If I want to chelate, do I need to wake up at night?

If you want to chelate safely, yes.

There are other protocols such as intravenous, but I will strongly caution anyone considering any “easier” or quick form of chelation to read Amalgam Illness before doing it. The problem with intravenous is that it pulls mercury and other metals out of the organs  which is good,  and all would be well if you could continue the IV for three or four days.  But what happens is, you go home and the chelator gets excreted before it can finish removing the metals from your blood.

So you’ve got metals circulating in your blood and no more chelator.  Then, they resettle in new places affecting new organs and you get sicker. This won’t happen to everyone of course,  but it will happen to many.  The doctors won’t tell you about it because they don’t even know about the havoc they wreak many times. And when they do know, they’ll just say something like “Well, it doesn’t work for everyone.”

I personally have been badly hurt by well-intentioned doctors.  And they don’t really know about it because I haven’t told them.  They don’t call six months later to find out how I’m doing and why I haven’t scheduled a new appointment.  They’ve moved on to the next patient long ago. That’s my personal experience anyway and that’s why I prefer to follow Dr. Cutler’s protocol and not take a chance on the quick fix. I’ve tried to many of those already (not chelation treatments)  and some of them have left me feeling like I never was the same again.

It’s a gaping blackhole for the doctors knowledge about the efficacy and safety of the treatments they prescribe.

I’m not talking about your average doctors either.  My doctors have always been the sort that charge hundreds of dollars an hour and are theoretically well-informed.  I even paid $800 to see Dr. Galland in New York. Spent almost $20,000 at the Mayo Clinic too… they all failed to put together the pieces of the puzzle when all the knowledge existed.  I don’t have some exotic, never-seen-before illness.  Heavy metal toxicity affects millions of people in the US.

Running through my three primary doctors over the years including Mayo Clinic, here’s where each of them failed:

  • too young, lack of experience, failed to see my case as a mystery and take personal initiative to solve
  • too comfortable with status quo, failed to research unusual case characteristics or take initiative
  • narrowminded reliance on easy diagnosis of ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’

5. Where can I find Andy Cutler’s resume?

It’s on his website. Note he has a PhD from Princeton in chemistry. Admittedly not a beautiful website, but nevertheless, a very impressive guy.  Reading his books has been very influential for me regardless of a few bad reviews on Amazon for organization and format.

 6. Why should I avoid foods high in sulfur?

Mercury is known to cause intolerance to foods high in sulfur possibly because the sulfur binds Mercury enough to move it around in the body but not enough to get it out. You’ll find a  low-sulfur food list here.

7. What is methylation?

Methylation is a central and vital process in the whole body and if it gets disturbed, all sorts of things go wrong. Mercury is known to disrupt this process. There are lots of different supplements that you can take to improve this, but the basic ones are: B vitamin complex, folate and vitamin B12. All of these are recommended by Cutler and you can learn the details here.

24 thoughts to “Frequently asked questions about heavy metal toxicity and mercury poisoning”

  1. nice site…I am mercury toxic for 34 years most of the time not knowing. This is a very serious issue and life changing in how it can slowly debilitate you. I am stunned at the mainstream medical community that is still not aware or accepting of the fact many of us are merc toxic….it defies any simple logic and that group is supposed to be “highly” educated. I can say that since i first realized i was merc toxic 13 years ago…many more people are aware of such connections to illnesses. One thing to all, dont stop detoxing unless you are 100% sure all the merc is out…long time toxicity can be very harmful. thanks

  2. Hi Renae: I am very sorry to hear of your great distress. The Golden Rule: When in doubt, STOP supplementing. I didn’t see your email yet so in advance of it arriving I have a couple of questions. What is your HTMA copper and zinc level? What are your Na/K and Na/Mg ratios. Is your MTHFR expert an MD or naturopath? One thing I have learned from the school of hard knocks is to NEVER introduce more than one supplement at a time or you won’t have a clue which one is problematic. You also need to use one supplement long enough to see if you don’t have issues in the short term. I am talking a week or two. What is the supplement that you believe triggered the psychosis/epliepsy? I have no medical knowlege regarding the eplispsy issue. I look forward to speaking with you at your earliest convenience. In your case, not having seen your HTMA, I wouldn’t get hung up on trying to find “proof” of the copper overload. You had a potent internal source of copper for 5 years with the copper IUD. You have DIRECT CAUSE AND EFFECT.How many markers for hidden copper do you have? Imagine if everyone needed absolute proof of mercury poisoning?! Without Dr. Cutler’s theory of statistically deranged trace hair mineral transport we would all be screwed. The metal is in the tissues, The same is true of copper. Hidden copper markers are exactly analagous to Culter’s deranged hair mineral assays. They are an indirect indicator of what can’t be seen directly. Hidden copper rules are exactly like Dr.Cutler’s Counting Rules. By the way I just got Eric’s/your email. Talk to you shortly.


  3. Hi Mark,
    Thank you so much for your response and genuine consideration. I really would love to speak to you directly sooner than later- I’m currently in a very bad way as I’ve been working with a MTHFR specialist who started me on a programme and after taking the first lot of supplements last I night had a complete physcotic break. I spent eight hours in pure hell convulsing and shaking and it wasn’t till this morning I read that one particular supplement can cause seizure activity (I have Temporal lobe epilepsy whic affects me mentally rather than physically) at this stage I thought I would be better correcting my gene mutations (mthfr a1928c comt and Mao all of which can cause anxiety and the inability to tolerate meds ) before trying to detox as these genes stop toxin release but I’m unable to put ANY kind of supplement in my mouth without adverse affects- after last night I’m terrified to move forward with any kind of programme but also can’t live my life in a state of constant fear and fatigue. As I mentioned my HTMA shows “hidden copper” which also bothers me as I’d prefer hard evidence before embarking on this hellish ride of copper detox. I’m happy for Eric to pass my email directly on to you if you’d rather not post yours.
    Thank you so much for your time.

    1. so sorry for the delay in connecting you guys – just sent an email to the two of you… -Eric

  4. Hi Renae: I have never heard of anyone using a provoking agent to test for copper overload, even those with Wilson’s Disease. As I mentioned in an earlier post you may not learn much from Serum copper or Ceruloplasmin either, although that is how doctor’s monitor Wilson’s Disease. They typically use Penicilimine to drop their copper level. Once you see the typical side effects you will be running as far from it as you can. Neither of these two blood test values showed anything unusual in my case even when my hair values were more than eight times above the ideal levels. We will be able to discuss the precise details of some typical protocols once we connect directly but for the benefit of others who may be interested Eric has nailed some typical approaches. Like Eric I avoided high copper foods, in my case avoided drinking water from sources using copper plumbing, and took a range of supplements antagonistic to copper, such as zinc, high dose Vitamin C, and molybdenum. I am going to tell you up front that you have done some great leg work already Renae but this is an endurance race, NOT a sprint. From the time I first realized I was copper overloaded, which like yourself, you probably discovered accidentally ( by running a HTMA ), to when my levels returned to normal ( 20-25 PPM), was three years. I ran a HTMA every three months more or less for a total of 14 HTMA. I tracked the rise and fall and subsequent raising again a second time of my copper levels as my body gained the strength I needed to get through the dumping phases which can be really challenging. I had great support from Dr.Richard Malter who as I mentioned in earlier posts knows more about copper overload, especially in women, than probably any person on earth. The journey however is yours to make, and you will be handsomely rewarded for your courage and ultimate success. I say this as someone who has done it and am now in the last stages of reducing an astronomical lead level in provoked urine tests, thousands of percent over the maximum permissible. The mercury comes last. Not to deviate away from the copper subject but for you and also Eric you may not know that the body will only let you chelate one metal at a time typically. I spoke with Wendy Pitblado in Canada who is a neuronal toxicologist who used to work at Doctor’s Data Lab and oversaw the results of thousands of DMSA provoked urine tests, and she says that lead will always leave the body first, and only then will the mercury levels come down. The presence of the two together is simply too toxic for the body to deal with. That is what I am seeing in my last four DMSA provoked urine tests. The lead is dropping, and then rises if I stop chelating, and falls again after I resume chelating. The mercury values have barely budged. Blood levels for both are low. In your case Renae I would very strongly suggest that you work only on dropping your copper levels. Under no circumstances would I suggest you do a Cutler style chelation round or you are grooming yourself for a potential catastrophe. Believe me when I tell you that your plate will be full getting your copper down. As you get stronger your body will shed some of the other heavy metals you have stored as a result of under active adrenals just by regaining your strength. Once your adrenals are supported correctly you will feel better within literally 24 hours. You are going to want to run saliva cortisol and DHEA levels over twelve hours. It is not too expensive a test and you can order it yourself for $125. In my personal experience serum cortisol values are useless for adrenal insufficiency but most endocrinologists take the numbers as definitive. My values were always in the “normal” range, but my saliva levels were totally flatlined. I don’t want to overload you with too much technical stuff so easy does it. What I can promise you is I can save you an incredible amount of personal search and experimenting and fast track you to the right supplements, and the right people, so you can get your life back on track as quickly as possible. Take solace that you have have found the right place here on Eric’s blog to rapidly get the knowledge from people have have done what you are about to begin. We’ll be talking soon. God bless!


    Mark Power

  5. Hi Eric: The two sleep supplements that worked very well for me are Ambesleep and Pure Sleep (from Advanced Bionutritionals). The latter has no Valerian and I am using one capsule per night. I take a pause from it one and a while. You won;t feel anything taking copper unitl your body says it has enough and it is time to dump what I don’t need. When you are dumping your anxiety, fatigue, and maybe brain fog will spike big-time. These symptoms typically lasts about 24 hrs. If it is a heavy dump it can freak you out. After you have been through a few dozen dumps you’ll click in to cause and effect and become an expert in riding out the storm. Copper is stored in various parts of the body including the brain, liver, the testicles. Iused to have strong testicular pain like I had been mildly kicked in the family jewels. Sitting for long periods was very painful. Since my copper levels have normalized at 25 PPM (down from 202) this pain left me never to return. This was becasue my testicles fell off (just kidding) 🙂


    1. thanks Mark! all good to know:) I’m restarting my zinc today and still waiting impatiently for my HTMA results…

  6. hi Eric,
    Thanks for the interesting read, I k now I’m a little off topic but I believe I have copper toxicity- I match all the symptoms, fear, hair loss, fatigue, pms problems, ovarian cysts and sudden onset seizures (I had a copper IUD for five years) my problem is my blood and urine show normal levels which we all know can be deceitful but my HTMA shows “hidden copper toxicity” several of the Drs. I’ve worked with have agreed that copper does seem to be my problem but I would like it clarified before I begin chelation. My dr suggested the urine challenge test which although I was apprehensive was going to do until I read the protocol:- 400mg of DMSA every 2 hours for a total of 2700mgs collecting urine for 24 hours! That just seems like a huge amount to me as I’m already sensitive to any supplement or medication- I’d hate to be pushed back further than I already am although I want proof. I’m practically bed ridden at the moment obviously no longer able to work, 35 years old with a beautiful family- would you suggest the urine challenge test? And do you believe some heavy metals stay hidden until the detox protocol begins?
    Thank you.

    1. hi Renae, so sorry to hear about your setbacks! my urine challenge test involved 55 mg of DMSA maybe four times a day which is reasonable I think. 400 mg every two hours sounds scary to me… I wouldn’t do that much. I also don’t believe the urine challenge test is necessary. You can start following a copper lowering protocol easily without the help of any doctor. Look at all the recent comments between Mark and I on this page and make sure to read

      Hope this helps!


    2. Renae, when I read Mark’s answer I realize that I didn’t really give you the best answer. The copper urine test which I did recently is a 24 hour collection which does not involve any challenge substance at all. I did also do a heavy metals challenge urine test a long time ago and that’s the one that involves much lower levels of DMSA than you were talking about… I agree with Mark and I get the feeling that your MD is not well informed.

      Even for testing heavy metals, the urine challenge is not really necessary. You can just take some ALA every three hours for three days and if you have any side effects, you’ll know you have mercury toxicity. You could probably do the same with DMSA to test lead toxicity. Ideally though a hair test is best because it will cover much more ground showing you copper, mercury, lead and much more…

  7. Don’t be so fast judging conventional allopathic doctors, I’ve seen many alternative practitioners who’ve acted the same greedy way, they all live under strict regulations if not from their professional body then from large insurers, they treat their operation as a business rather than a healing centre, they have weekly quotas, product sale commissions, referrals to their buddies in same circles, inflated prices for their open-mindedness (telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear).

    Many of them are new age spiritualists who believe in earth worship, gaia and the like. There is a worrying overlap of beliefs in this group of alternative people and it ain’t good when it comes to treating your family’s health objectively. On the other hand, allopathics follow an even stricter protocol of tests and treatments that harm people, probably why so many of them appear depressed and have lost all their vitality – seeing they can’t heal their patients after 6 years of gruelling medical school and test.

    1. Thanks for the reminder, I hadn’t really thought about that but no doubt what you say is absolutely true. It’s funny how I got focused on judging MDs – maybe because I haven’t delved much into the alternative health practitioner world. It is an amazingly bizarre landscape!! It reminds me of how much luck is necessary for someone with chronic health problems to find real help..

  8. How can a 3 year old be accurately tested? Can they take the urine challenge test? My older daughter 15 took it she was found to have Lead aluminum cadmium and uranium. How could she have gotten contaminated with .20 of uranium? I want to test my youngest who was recently put on the autism spectrum. Shes improved greatly with supplements and change in diet. We were also exposed to mold recently After hurricane sandy In east  coast. My mothers place  where we  moved while getting remediation has on going contructions near  by. Seems like the perfect storm of environmental challenges. Working to find doctors to help has been a Herculean task. Still looking really.  Thank you for your candid recovery journal. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I would get a hair test from doctors data – it’s much safer and more reliable. you can order yourself (link is above somewhere) and use this book to analyze the results. you can also get help in the FDC forum with the results if you want…

      My impression is that most autistic children have a mercury load and improve when chelated.

      1. THank you so much for your response. I was on the fence about doing hair test.  Now I will definitely purchase it. I assume the place to do  is the one linked on your page somewhere. Btw, how do they chelate on a 3 year old? My eldest is being offered the DMSA EDTA IV. I’m wary of this because its a drug and not familiar with the side effects but that you shoulhave mercury fillings and that it effects bones. What in your opinion is the best way to chelate of metals including uranium?

        1. Evelyn, IV chelation is considered dangerous by experts like Dr. Cutler. It works great for some people and leaves others severely damaged. I would strongly urge you to join the frequent dose chelation Yahoo group and introduce yourself and explain your situation and I promise you will get much deeper advice than I can offer, and you will hear from parents who have safely chelated their children.

  9. I used to be a professional money manager an my view is that you should view doctors in much the same way as stockbrokers.

    1. Their main goal is to sell a product. The best commissions for stockbrokers are often so called structured products, but they also make money selling plain stocks and bonds. For doctors, the products are: tests, pills and operations.
    2. Most of the so called research is very biased to sell these products. The banks will of course make sure that they have some analyst that stands behind whatever they are peddeling and the pharma companies have to a large extent transformed medical research into paid PR. They will design and conduct the studies and then, more or less directly, pay academics to sign it.
    3. They all have fine degrees but they are set in a very rigid system were they more or less must follow whatever is the accepted truth of the moment.
    4. They are very focused on make sure that they can not be blamed if things go wrong. This conributes to point 3., since the best way is to make sure that you are doing “what everybody else is doing”.
    5. They are regulated by various bodies that lay down “professional standards”. Again, this contibutes to point 3. above. For medical doctors, this is often very detailed, i.e. if somebody comes in with a specific set of problems, you are supposed to give him test a, b and c and then depending on outcome, give him pill d or e. If you do anything else, you may be liable or lose your licence.

    In both cases, my view is:

    • Never, ever go to these people with a general question, i.e I don’t feel well or how should I invest my money.
    • Instead, start by reading up and finding out as much as you can. Then, if you must, you can go to them with a specific request, i.e. buy IBM stock or give me a precription for DMPS.

    In addition, when it comes to mercury toxic people, my view is that doctors are far worse that worthless, they are many times directly harmful. A very common effect of mercury is to make the affected person prone to procrastination and this was very much the case for me (Dr. Cutler also writes about this in his book). If you are affected like that, going to “normal” doctors may be highly counterproductive. They will all, in one way or another, tell you that mercury is not a problem and this is highly likely to undermine the small amount of resolve that you may have worked up.

    Therefore, my view is that it is much better to simply try out the Cutler program and see what happens. If you take ALA, that I have read a lot about, there is absolutely nothing that indicate that it should be in any way harmful if you are not affected by mercury or other metals. So if you try it, as recommended by Cutler, and you feel significant symptoms coming or going, you can be almost certain that you are poisoned.

    This is also far simpler and cheaper that running to doctors.

    All of the above is of course my very personal opinion but I gave up on doctors years ago and think that that was one of the best thing that I have ever done.

    Anyway, end of my rant… I am on day four of 200 mg ALA and may not be100% clear in my thinking.

    1. Thank you Viking, someone needed to say that! There are lots of ways to get hurt by doctors, and I should probably expand on that a little by including a little of what happened to me which to start with includes having paid for three scans using contrast agents which might explain my high thallium and barium levels …

      1. Talking about scans, I had significant peripheral neuropathy before chelating and I am sure that they would have loved to test and scan and test and scan……That they pump you full of thallium and barium was more than I knew but it does not suprise me at all. And if you come back and say that it made you sick, they would probably tell you that it was “all in you head” and sell you some antidepressant pills…..

        1. That reminds me of the Mayo Clinic where the psychologist assigned to evaluate me wanted to label me with “depression” which of course they consider a possible source of chronic fatigue. He wouldn’t acknowledge that it was normal for a person who thought he might be dying (albeit rather slowly), whose life was in freefall because of physical disability might naturally feel depressed about it.

          1. What’s the best way to get mercury out of my brain, post Flu vaccination?

            I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle twitches, brain fog, and a host of other symptoms ever since my Flu shot six weeks ago, which is why I suspect it’s from the Thimerosal.

            Any help on this topic would be great!

            1. I believe ALA is very effective but the safest way to use it is probably frequent dose chelation and it is difficult to do…

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