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On Detoxing Mercury

According to Dr. Shade, effective detoxification is highly dependent on your glutathione and sulfur metabolism. For example, when your glutathione and sulfur levels increase, you’ll typically see higher levels of mercury coming out of your hair.

It’s important to realize, however, that detoxing cannot be achieved overnight. Or even in a few weeks. According to Dr. Shade, most people will typically need an entire year to detox, depending on how sick you are. The sicker you are, the longer it will take, simply because you have to go slower when you’re ill.

“But then you have to keep in mind one of the aspects of detoxification. You got to be mindful of that, and incorporate a lot of this into your life. I mean a lot of it is lifestyle changes that are going to keep you effectively detoxifying. Then, once or twice a year go back in for whatever period of time it takes you. Go back and do another detoxification, because even if you get all the mercury out, you’re continuously exposed to all kinds of things. I mean, you’ve got the airborne mercury coming in. You’ve got little bits through the food. Then you have cadmium, arsenic, and lead coming in… you’ve got all the different organic toxins… pesticides and herbicides… chlorinated organics… mold-based toxins… toxins from organisms that live in your GI tract, if you don’t have a perfect biotic flora…

… Probably, the biggest myth that’s got to be destroyed immediately is that mercury will stay in your body until you go in there with a chemical chelator and pull it out — that mercury is never removed from the body and it just builds up forever. That is completely a myth. We’d all be dead if that were the case.

You have a system for moving mercury and other heavy metals out of your body. They may work in different efficiencies for different people, or may be totally disrupted in some, but you have a [detoxification] system.”

How Your Body Detoxifies Naturally

One of the central problems in modern toxicology is the failure to fully understand the vast disparity amongst the population in their ability to deal with certain toxins, and their ability to detoxify them. We’re all highly individual, and exposure levels that will cripple one person may leave another seemingly unharmed. A major part of this individual difference in tolerance is the functioning of your body’s detoxification system. If your detoxification channels are working well, you will be able to withstand higher levels of toxins without experiencing obvious symptoms of toxicity.

“The core of the detoxification system is the glutathione system,” Dr. Shade says. “Notice that I don’t say, ‘it’s glutathione.’ No, it’s the glutathione system.

Glutathione binds to metals and can move them out of your body, but it doesn’t do that alone. If we look at what the requirements for resistance to metals and effective detoxification (meaning not only the resistance but shuttling them out), you need healthy levels of glutathione in your cells. You [also] need activity of… a phase II detoxification enzyme called glutathione S-transferase. This is an enzyme that’s responsible for prying the mercury off the cellular proteins and linking it together with the glutathione. [Lets say] those two parts work: You have the glutathione; you have the glutathione S-transferase — now you have a mercury-glutathione conjugate in the cell. Now you’ve got to get it out of your body.

At the cell membrane, you’ve got active transport proteins, called multidrug resistance proteins, which pushes that mercury-glutathione complex out of the cell and into your blood. From there, you got another one at the liver… [which] pulls it from your blood into your liver; and another one that dumps it from your liver into your bile tract, to go into your small intestine. You have also got some of these transport proteins in your intestinal walls, pulling [toxins] from your blood into the intestines. And you have got them in your kidneys as well.

You have to have all parts of this going.”

If any one of these mechanisms is knocked out, your cells will lose their resistance to the metal, and bioaccumulation sets in. So in order to strengthen your detoxification system, you need to optimize the ENTIRE system from top to bottom within the transport chain, so that your body can pull the mercury away from the proteins it is bound to, and transport it out of your body.

Strategies for Optimizing Your Glutathione System

There are a number of different options for doing this. Taking oral or intravenous glutathione can be both expensive and ineffective. A more efficient way to optimize your glutathione levels is to provide your body with the precursor to glutathione, cysteine, in the form of foods that are naturally high in it. Whey protein, especially organic, grass-fed whey protein contains some of the highest levels of cysteine.

“Taking oral glutathione in a capsule is very inefficient, because your peptidases will break down the glutathione into its amino acids,” Dr. Shade explains. “… You’re left with precursors, or whey protein, which I think is probably the best precursor. Though, at the same time, you need to upregulate the activity of the synthesis enzymes that are making it from the precursors… [T]he other thing that we use a lot, which is a little bit more specialized, is liposomal delivery of glutathione…. At the same time, you’re also bringing in phosphatidylcholine, which has its own therapeutic benefits by helping to repair the cell membranes. The cell membranes are very highly damaged by metals and the free radical cascades that are catalyzed by them.

We use a lot of this liposomal glutathione. We have recently taken on the manufacturing of that that’s making a very small, high integrity liposome. But aside from liposomes, whey protein is my favorite way to get those precursors into the body.”

According to Dr. Shade, if your body is making glutathione well, then just taking whey protein should be sufficient. But if your detoxification system is severely compromised, the liposomal glutathione can serve an important function as it can offer immediate relief against the oxidative stress caused by the mercury. He typically recommends using both for people who are ill.

“Once you have repaired the system and you’re getting it working again, then the whey protein can sustain you,” he says.

But it’s important to remember that there’s more to your glutathione system than just glutathione. You also need the proper enzymes and proteins that work together with the glutathione to eliminate the mercury. These include:

  • Glutathione S-transferase
  • Glutathione synthetase
  • Gamma-glutamylcysteine ligase

Phylogenomics — Gene Activation through Superfoods

“This is a beautiful part of the science called phylogenomics, ‘phylo’ meaning plants, and ‘genomics’ meaning genes,” he says. “What we’re finding is that genes are not always [expressed]…

What are triggers to start expressing these genes?

We’re finding that whole families of genes that can be upregulated together. There’s protein out in the cytoplasm called the Nrf2 protein. It’s held in place there by another protein called the KIP1. When certain chemical triggers hit it, it translocates into the nucleus. When it does so, a whole family of genes that have what I call the promoter region (it’s a way to turn on families of genes and it’s called the antioxidant response element) turns on at once. These are genes that code for production of intracellular antioxidants, as well as production of these phase II enzymes like glutathione S-transferase, and production of these phase III proteins for transport. You’re helping turn up the whole system at once.

What are the things that trigger this?

Well, a lot of these things that we consider ‘superfoods.’ The main family of food chemicals that do this or plant chemicals are polyphenolic antioxidants like you would find in green tea extract or pine bark extract. The one we use the most is called Haritaki. We have a blend called Clear Way Cofactors, where we bring together what we think are the best polyphenolics for doing this. The other side of it is the sulfur-based chemicals.”

The Importance of Sulfur Compounds for Your Detoxification System

One sulfur-based food is garlic, which has gained a reputation for being good for mercury detoxification. As explained by Dr. Shade, garlic contains sulfur molecules that trigger the translocation of the Nrf2 proteins into your cells. Thus they trigger an upregulation of your glutathione system. So it’s really your glutathione system as a whole that is responsible for the chelating effect, but the sulfur compounds in the garlic upregulate that system, allowing it to do its job.

“You would want to use the whey protein in conjunction with some of these polyphenolic antioxidants, with the crucifer family, or garlic. Then you would get the enzyme up, as well as bringing in the precursors,” Dr. Shade says.

As a side note, allicin is NOT the chemical responsible for upregulating the enzyme system. Allicin is part of what gives garlic its antimicrobial effect. According to Dr. Shade, taking garlic oil capsules is just as good as eating raw garlic, maybe even better, for upregulating your glutathione system. Another important sulfur compound is lipoic acid, which helps regenerate vitamin C and E.

“Vitamin C — this whole defense system that we’re talking about is part of the antioxidant system,” Dr. Shade says. “You need a lot of electron donors in there, feeding into the system. You’re going to transfer those electrons into the glutathione. As you’re using the glutathione up as an antioxidant, it’s getting oxidized and needs to be reintroduced… That’s the use of vitamin C: constantly bringing electrons into the system, as well as its immune effects building up the immune system. Vitamin C is an integral part of that. But you’re not going to do vitamin C alone. That’s a very myopic scene. But it is a strong player. It’s always there. It should be one of your main pawns in this game.

Then you look at lipoic acid. Lipoic acid is a very potent upregulator of the glutathione system and specifically R-lipoate. So, without the lipoic acid, you have got two forms: You have S-lipoic acid and R-lipoic acid. These are like amino acids where you’ve got D amino acids and L amino acids.

L amino acid is the only one that fits into the biochemistry, and D does not. S-lipoic does not fit into the biochemistry. I mean, it can act as an antioxidant in the body. It can do some functions. But it can’t upregulate the glutathione system. Only the R-lipoate fits into this Nrf2 mechanism to upregulate the glutathione system. That’s why we have a liposome that’s a mixture of vitamin C and R-lipoic acid. You can take high doses of this without running into bowel intolerance and very effective delivery of that lipoic acid. That’s the common sulfur chemical that we use the most.”

Other Helpful Players

Astaxanthin, which I’ve previously written about at great length, is one of the best performers when it comes to protecting your ENTIRE cell from damage, and as such, it can be an important ingredient to help optimize your detoxification system as a whole. Dr. Shade agrees, stating:

“You got the cytosol, or cytoplasm, that’s water-soluble. Then you got the membranes that are fat-soluble. You need to take care of both the water side and the fat side. I think astaxanthin would be a great thing to incorporate into the systems.”

Another commonly used detoxification tool is chlorella, which will help detoxify your system via your gut. Chlorella is a binder, meaning that it binds to the heavy metals present in your gut, which serves two important functions as it:

  1. Prevents absorption and/or re-absorption (many metals can be excreted into your bile and then be re-absorbed), and
  2. Prevents the metals from irritating your intestines by holding them away from the epithelia of your intestinal wall. This helps prevent inflammation