Mercury Fish Myths
One of the biggest myths is that once consumed mercury will hang around in your body forever. Everything in the human body is constantly turning over. "Mercury will leave the body over time in the urine, feces, and breast milk."[WebMD]
The half-life of mercury is 70 days in the body as a whole, 50 days in blood, and 72 days in hair. Regularly eating, the same amount of seafood each week results in the methylmercury content of your body plateauing out at a steady state where your mercury intake would be equal to your rate of excretion in about 5 half-lives or approximately in one year.[IPCS Inchem]
Furthermore, over the last one hundreds years the evidence is mixed as to whether or not the levels of methylmercury contained in fish due to pollution is increasing. While the public usually assumes that the amount of mercury in fish has dramatically increased, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that mercury levels have actually gone down.
Omega-3 EFAs and Fish
Effective Fish Eating Strategies
Non-organic mercury in seawater is converted into more toxic methylmercury by algae. Tiny fish eat the mercury containing algae, which are in turn eaten by bigger predator fish. Predator fish likewise experience mercury turnover in their bodies. Nevertheless, fish predators are constantly eating and regularly consume huge quantities of fish. It should be rather obvious that bigger, older, predatory fish contain the highest concentrations of methylmercury. Large swordfish are reported to contain 0.995 ppm of mercury, whereas sardines have 0.013 ppm, canned Albacore Tuna 0.350 ppm, and shrimp the lowest at only 0.001 ppm.[Wikipedia]
In other words, it is advisable to eat smaller fish for a lower methylmercury hit. Some "of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, and salmon."[WebMD]
Whole Food Fiber Promotes the elimination of Mercury from your diet.
In natural health, fiber and water promotes detoxification. Thus, as long as you eat fish as part of a whole meal your body will be naturally protected from mercury.
For what it is worth, NaturalNews recently reported:
"The practical application ... is that people who are concerned about eating mercury in fish can now help defend themselves against that dietary mercury by making sure they consume fresh fruit, bread, high-fiber vegetables or even a fiber supplement with that same meal. By doing so, they will vastly reduce their body's absorption of the mercury from the fish (greater than 99% in some cases). ... Mercury is the most easily captured toxic element, as mercury tends to stick to everything. Eating a meal of tuna together with a whole apple (fresh, raw and complete with its natural fibers) will help protect against the mercury in the tuna." -- MCC
"Insoluble fruit fibers are extremely effective at capturing mercury during digestion." One of the most effective foods at absorbing mercury during digestion is reported to be peanut butter. -- Blocking mercury in your diet
One 2010 research study utilized high-fiber probiotic fermented mare's milk to reduce the toxic effects of mercury in rats. In this study both fiber and probiotics were found to offer protection from the toxic effects of mercury.[Abdel-Salam 2010]
In other words, if you are tempted to snack on a can of sardines for example, simply try eating a whole banana, pear, apple, or even some bread immediately before the serving of fish. Thus, including the fiber naturally contained in whole-foods along with a meal of fish would enhance mercury elimination from your body through your gut.
The Selenium Health Benefit Value Theory
How are fish able to survive at all in mercury-polluted water? The answer is selenium. Most ocean fish contain more selenium than mercury. Selenium is precisely why most seafood is not and has never been a threat to adults. In scientific jargon: selenium has a high binding affinity for mercury, a methylmercury-selenium antagonism exists in most biological systems, and the selenium sequestration mechanism of mercury toxicity explains why.[Heath 2010], [El-Begearmi 1977]
The selenium health benefit value theory states that as long as adults eat seafood that contains more selenium than mercury, they are protected from its neuro-toxicty. This is because both methylmercury and selenium try to attach to the same receptors in the human body. A recent research thesis looked at 52 different commercially available varieties of canned fish. The paper explained in great depth the Selenium Health Benefit Value theory and concluded that eating most seafood is perfectly safe for mature adults because seafood usually contain more selenium than mercury, including Star Kist canned tuna.[Gyamfi 2013]
In other words, selenium does not enhance mercury elimination from your body. Rather, selenium naturally protects people against the negative effects of mercury contained in the human body. This strongly suggests that supplementing with extra selenium every time that you eat fish of any type would be advisable.
A new role for probiotic supplements.
There is a strong potential for probiotic supplementation to enhance the elimination of heavy metals (arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, and mercury) from food in general.[Abdel-Salam 2010] Some bacteria probiotics exhibit a high binding affinity for mercury. Thus, the wise use of probiotics is a proactive approach that should be taken on a regular basis long before a meal of fish is consumed.
"Lactobacilli and potentially other bacterial types used in the food industry or as probiotics are ideal organisms to use as an adjunct tool to prevent/reduce heavy-metal toxicity and prevent absorption of metals into the human body. Lactobacilli have a strong track record of safe application in the food industry and as probiotics, and they have the ability to bind and sequester metals."[Monachese 2012]
WARNING: Prenatal methylmercury exposure from fish consumption is NOT recommended.
Expecting or pregnant females as well as for babies and young child are strongly advised not to eat fish of any type since the developing human brain during the prenatal period is ten times more sensitive to mercury neuro-toxicity than adults are. For this group, animal forms of the Omega-3 EFAs should be obtained only from expensive fish oil products and supplements that have been purified by molecular distillation to remove their mercury content.
In conclusion: the Natural Health Perspective submits that people should include fatty cold-water fish in their diet for their omega-3 EFA content. In addition, fish are an excellent food source for minerals in general, such as iodine and selenium. Try to eat 3 or four servings of small ocean fish a week, the size of a deck of cards or 100 grams (i.e., 3.5 ounces) in weight. Further, the Natural Health Perspective subscribes to the selenium health benefit value theory.
To summarize, there are several effective natural health strategies that offer protection from methylmercury exposure.
- Minimize your intake of mercury
- Be selective about the fish that you eat. Smaller ocean fish are best.
- Limit fish consumption to three or four servings a week.
- Enhanced mercury elimination through the gut
- Eat fish as part of a whole meal or at least along with some high-fiber foods.
- Supplement with a good probiotic that contains Lactobacilli.
- Provide protection against newly absorbed mercury
- Supplement with extra selenium every time that you consume fish.
This article is strictly about organic methylmercury that is contained in all fish. It does not cover the health dangers of inorganic mercury from silver amalgams or organic ethylmercury that is often used in vaccines.
Sources for this article include: