Dear Friends and Patients:
Many of our readers may remember in August 2015 there was a toxic wastewater spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at an old gold mine in Colorado. The EPA is now revealing the spill at the Gold King mine is much worse than initially stated, where an estimated 880,000 pounds of toxic metals were released. Metals released in the spill are believed to include cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc as well as arsenic. Tributaries of the Colorado River in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona were exposed. The Animas River in New Mexico, for example, is used to irrigate crops through irrigation ditches, ranching and even for home use by residents. There is no way to completely know what the environmental impact or effect on human health or the environment will be. Another disaster recently in the news is lead poisoning of the residents of Flint, Michigan, through contaminated municipal drinking water and lead pipes. Lead is especially harmful to children with their developing brains and many experts feel there is no such thing as a “safe level” of lead. Heavy metals and metalloids can be toxic or poisonous at relatively low dosages or intakes. Toxic metals have been associated with multiple diseases by scientists and they’re dangerous because they tend to bioaccumulate. Over time, relatively low levels that may be considered non-toxic will increase to become toxic in biological organisms, including humans. They can enter the body by food, water, air, supplements, vaccines and dental work. Traditional medicine defines a toxic level of a heavy metal as a certain microgram amount in the blood or urine. However, in my opinion, this way of evaluating toxicity ignores genetic and biochemical uniqueness of each individual. For example, some people become sick with a single alcoholic drink whereas others can drink a large amount of alcohol without seemingly being affected. A better definition would therefore be for a given individual toxicity is exhibited when the level or retention exceeds physiological tolerance. This definition also takes into account the combined effects of multiple toxins that may exhibit a synergistic effect on a person. Allergies to metals may also have an occult or unusual presentation (and can be tested through a lab that offers MELISA services).
Mrs. C’s Unusual Story of Muscle Weakness
Mrs. C is a 61 year old LPN who saw me initially several years ago with a very unusual story. Her main complaint was a long-standing history of fatigue, generalized muscle weakness and intermittent heaviness of the legs. She had already been evaluated by numerous physicians including some at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville but her symptoms remained a mystery.
Mrs. C stated she was concerned about mercury toxicity and on her own took a variety of herbs including cilantro, chlorella, milk thistle and fish oil. She would also go into a sauna and feel better afterward. When she stopped this regimen in 2008 her symptoms of fatigue would return. She was also having a sensation of her body being “disconnected at the waist.” Mrs. C saw a chiropractor who performed an oral DMSA challenge test that reportedly showed a high level of both lead and mercury in her urine. DMSA is an oral chelating agent with a product name of Chemet. It is a drug approved by the FDA to treat children with lead poisoning.
She also went to her dentist who ordered a MELISA test for silver allergy that was returned positive. MELISA is a blood test for the diagnosis of metal allergy and it is used worldwide by healthcare professionals to determine whether a patient is hypersensitive to metals commonly used in dental restorations or medical implants. Her dentist began replacing her mercury amalgam fillings and her crowns with a zirconium metal material. (So-called silver fillings are actually only 30% silver and 50% mercury. In my opinion, this poison does not belong in a human being’s mouth.) Mrs. C stated that when half of her old crowns were removed, the disconnected feeling in her mid-body resolved and that when the last of her crowns were removed, an “abnormal gait” she felt she was experiencing also resolved.
In 2010 she fractured her ankle and underwent a surgical repair with a stainless steel metal plate and screws. She did well postoperatively for about 2 months but again developed fatigue. “My legs felt like they were wrapped in concrete.” She also had a return of the weakness of all her muscles, and also the sensation “that my body was disconnected at the waist.” In late 2010 she had her surgeon remove the metal plate and screws and almost immediately she started feeling better.
Mrs. C reportedly saw numerous health care practitioners, including a neurologist, where screening for multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease, vascular studies, nerve conduction studies and MRI scans of her spine were all negative. A creatinine kinase test was high at >1500, which indicated muscle inflammation, but muscle biopsies were negative for any known disease. A visit to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville resulted in a diagnosis of a peripheral neuropathy of undetermined etiology.
This patient told me at her initial interview at the Center that her hair, urine and blood were tested elsewhere for mercury in 2010 and the test results were negative, as were her tests for vitamin B12 deficiency based on a blood level. Extensive testing at the Center, however, showed a functional vitamin B12 deficiency and an increased retention of lead and cadmium on provocative urine testing. There was no indication of an increased body burden of mercury. Her history did not reveal an obvious source of her toxic metals in either water, food, paints or plumbing, but her husband did smoke cigarettes in the home for 15 years, potentially exposing her to cadmium that is known to bioaccumulate in tobacco leaves. Of interest, at the time the patient initially saw me she stated she was using a stainless steel teapot, but stopped this for a few weeks and her symptoms of fatigue and muscle weakness improved.
Mrs. C elected to undergo a series of calcium EDTA chelations to reduce her body burden of lead and cadmium, and was placed on both oral and IV vitamin B12 replacement with Methylcobalamine. Mrs. C was advised we did not know if chelation therapy would help her symptoms. By the 21st chelation she felt well and her muscle weakness and fatigue had totally resolved. Her CK lab value also dropped to 342, still consistent with myositis (muscle inflammation), but this was significantly improved. This abnormal lab was to be re-evaluated by a neurologist of her choice.
Although the outcome in Mrs. C’s case was a favorable one, the credit really goes to this patient who had the courage and perseverance to keep looking for answers, and the willingness to go through a treatment where there were no guarantees as to the outcome.
A Word About Glutathione and Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue can have a multifactorial basis and is not specific for an adverse reaction to toxic metals or chemicals, although in a recent article of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers at the University of Arizona found that severe chemical sensitivity was a factor in up to 50% of chronic fatigue patients. These patients would also experience a flare up of their allergies and asthma. Chronic fatigue is often associated with joint and muscle pain (e.g. fibromyalgia) and impaired short-term memory and concentration. These symptoms can be a sign of oxidative damage and glutathione deficiency. Glutathione protects the mitochondria in your cells from free radical and oxidative damage (mitochondria are your cell’s “power plants” that create energy within your cells). Glutathione detoxifies a large number of pollutants, carcinogens, heavy metals, pesticides and radiation. Glutathione is required by your immune system in the mass production of T-cell’s to fight infections and prevent cancer.
Glutathione must be made within the cell. It is composed of three amino acids: glutamic acid, glycine and cysteine. Glutamic acid and glycine are readily available in your diet, but cysteine is a problem. Cysteine is available in raw milk and fresh eggs, but is denatured in pasteurization and cooking. NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) is a synthetic form of cysteine and can be used to raise glutathione levels. Glutathione can also be given in pill form, but much of it can be destroyed by a person’s stomach acid unless it is in liposomal form (such as the Essential GSH Pro we use at the Center). It can also be given intravenously, with patients often feeling better within one to three treatments.
Glutathione levels can be measured in both red blood (RBC) cells and plasma. While RBC levels are used in many research papers, there is confusion which approach is best. One study using a specific liposomal glutathione in autistic children showed that after glutathione supplementation, plasma levels change first, followed by RBC levels. In normal individuals, intravenous glutathione increases plasma levels for only 10 minutes, so it is difficult to identify patient populations that consistently have low glutathione levels. At the Center we look at glutathione deficiency on a functional basis using a Spectracell lab test. Glutathione is added to a person’s white blood cells in a culture and if the cells live for a significantly longer period of time with added glutathione compared to no-added glutathione cultures, a person has a functional deficiency and could benefit from glutathione supplementation.
It should also be noted glutathione occurs in both the reduced form, available for use, and the oxidized form, where it needs to be reduced again before it is active. The IV and oral forms of glutathione used at the Center are the reduced form and are ready to provide an antioxidant benefit upon use.
Probiotics vs. Heavy Metals
An article in the August/September 2015 edition of the Townsend Letter discussed the research of a Canadian microbiologist, Gregor Reid, PhD, using probiotic-enriched yogurt to protect people against absorption of mercury and arsenic from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. Reid and his team studied 60 pregnant women and 44 children near Lake Victoria in Africa. The area is known for gold mining. Mercury is used in this industry, and spews into the lake, contaminating the fish which the local people heavily rely on in their diet. The website www.mercurywatch.org estimates hundreds of tons of mercury are used annually by small-scale gold prospectors and just a few grams of mercury can be toxic over wide areas.
In this study Reid used fresh, locally made yogurt enhanced with 10 billion colony forming units of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 for 25 days. Children in the control groups either received whole milk or no intervention. Pregnant women used daily yogurt for up to 3 months or no yogurt supplement. In the study, the pregnant women using the yogurt infused with Lactobacillus rhamnosus reduced absorption of mercury by up to 36% and arsenic by up to 78%. While the results obtained in the children studied showed benefits and lower toxin levels, the sample size and duration of treatment did not allow statistical significance.
Reid hypothesizes the probiotic microbes may passively sequestrate and bind to the heavy metals in the gut, and harmlessly eliminate them out of the body in the stool before they can make their way into organs such as the brain, heart, liver, etc. and do damage.
Patient Success Story – Trileana Diet Program and 30 Pound Weight Loss
Mrs. A is a 54 year old patient who was concerned about a steady increase in her weight since age 40. At the time she saw me her weight was 170 pounds on a 5’ 4” frame. At age 18 her weight was in the 120-130 pound range. “I was able to lose some weight on Slim Fast but the weight came back as soon as I stopped.” Mrs. A was otherwise healthy except for asthma. A Trileana diet program (formerly Releana until the name was transferred to another company) was discussed where the patient would be placed on a carbohydrate restricted, 500 calorie diet under medical supervision. The patient would also use sublingual HCG (human choriogonadotropic hormone). This concept was originally developed by Dr. Simeons, a British physician, in the 1970s. He found his patients would lose, on average, a pound a day, on this program, and if they followed a maintenance diet program that restricted carbohydrates but did not limit calories, the weight loss would be sustained. His hypothesis was the HCG in microscopic amounts would correct a hormonal imbalance in the hypothalamus of the brain, allowing a person to lose weight and eliminate fat around the waist and thighs. It has been our experience at the Center that this diet works and that over 90% of patients do not regain more than 5 pounds a year after completing the diet if they are faithful in avoiding excess carbohydrates and sweets.
Mrs. A saw me again in February 2016, having completed the Trileana program in several months, and was delighted to weigh in the 130-134 pound range. She was delighted to now be wearing size 6 pants, previously wearing a size 12 prior to the start of the diet program. Also, she felt great and had a lot of energy.