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Depression and Mercury Toxicity

Depressed woman

The pop impresario, Simon Cowell, recently confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he suffers with depression. His admission comes in the wake of a slew of other high profile figures who have also come clean about their battles with depression in recent times.

Examples include the best-selling author Marian Keyes; the UK TV presenters Fern Britton, Fiona Phillips and Judy Finnegan; the UK actresses Denise Welch, Beverly Callard and Emma Thompson and the pop singer Robbie Williams who have all either revealed lifelong battles with depression or bouts of crippling depression. 

The UK Daily Mail newspaper columnist Allison Pearson has recently stepped down from her column due to depression and Daphne Merkin of The New York Times describes her depression as being "The sadness that runs under the skin of everything, like blood, beginning as a trickle and ending up as a haemorrhage, staining everything." 

There have also been some high profile suicides after some public figures lost their battle with depression. The best-selling author Susan Morgan who wrote under the name Zoe Barnes, the fashion designer Alexander McQueen and his friend the magazine editor and style icon Isabella Blow have all recently decided death was preferable to continuing to live.


Facts about depression

The sobering facts about the increasing incidence of depression in the general population include:

  • A US National Institute of Health study showed an increase of over 500% in the rate of depression and chronic neurological problems in the last 30 years
  • A random sample of US high school students found that one in eight had been diagnosed with depression
  • According to US National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiological Catchment Area (ECA) samples, otherwise healthy people born in recent decades face a 10 fold increase in the incidence of major depressive episodes compared to those born in earlier decades
  • More than 6 million Americans over 65 years of age suffer from major depression and another 5 million from depressive symptoms
  • In a Polish study 23% of people attending health clinics for other reasons were found to be depressed when properly assessed


Women and depression

Whilst men can and do become depressed, women appear to be the main victims as revealed in the following statistics:

  • Women are diagnosed with depression at twice the rate of men
  • One in ten women of all ages have depression at any given time  
  • One in eight women aged 16 - 34 years have been diagnosed with depression
  • Whilst UK National Health Service figures for the period 1993 - 2007 show no change in common mental disorders in men, the figures for women rose by a fifth in women aged 45 - 64 years old
  • Nearly two-thirds of women will suffer from depression at some point in their lives
  • In their report The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness Betsey Stephenson and Justin Wolfers found that whilst the lives of women in the USA have improved by many objective measures in recent decades, subjective measures of wellbeing show that happiness has declined in both absolute and relative terms.


And those are only the statistics relating to depression!

If you were to include all the women who suffer with premenstrual or menopausal tension; eating disorders such as anorexia and/or bulimia; those who self-harm; those who are addicted to alcohol, smoking, recreational or pharmaceutical drugs; those with anxiety disorders; those with obsessive-compulsive disorders and those with dysphoria (a constant feeling of unease and emotional instability) there would scarcely be a 'normal' woman left standing.

So what is going on? And why is it that women are so vulnerable?  


Psychogenic reasons for depression

The trouble is that depression is regarded as being primarily psychological - because it can be and often is.

Depression can follow a serious stress or a cumulative series of stressful or traumatic events. It is because of this common misconception, that many think you have to be depressed about something and would question what figures like Simon Cowell, Emma Thompson or Robbie Williams had to be depressed about, because to many their lives seem enviable from the outside looking in.

And yet this is to miss the point. We all have personal sadnesses and our own 'hidden' histories which we may deny to ourselves let alone reveal to others. 

Sometimes people just feel plain unhappy, low and tearful and cast around for a reason why they feel the way they do. And, if you look long enough and hard enough, you will find justification for your feelings. Many believe that depression is essentially repressed anger - possibly stemming from incidents in childhood and in order to recover you may well need to address some deep emotional issues. 

Although women of any and all ages are vulnerable to depression, middle-aged women may frequently struggle with conflicting pressures. Looking after children, being responsible for ageing parents, physiological challenges like the menopause or perimenopause, working and still being expected to be the main housekeeper, cook and bottle washer can all take their toll on mental health.

The middle years can also see you beset by divorce or separation from long-term partners, coping with the illness and death of parents and the initial enthusiasm felt for a career may have stalled in office politics and as you realise there may be twenty more working years stretching ahead. The growing independence of children may signal clearly that your usefulness in that particular arena of life may be coming to an end. 

The deaths of the older generation and some deaths in your own may also act as sharp reminders that if there was anything you had wanted to do with your life - you need to make it happen soon. 

Also, the accumulation of not having enough 'me-time' when you are not defined by all your roles can mean that you can have lost a sense of yourself and what you liked to do and who you used to be when you weren't being somebody's mother, daughter, wife or employee.

So as you can see there are many reasons why your enthusiasm for life might start to sag in the middle years, and these have all been exhaustively examined elsewhere. However, there is another major explanation for these findings which is often grossly overlooked - and that is physical in nature. 


Non-psychogenic causes of depression

The middle years of a woman's life also coincide with a period when toxins that have been accumulated from all sources over a period of decades are beginning to undermine both physical and mental health. This can be aided and abetted by the following factors:

  • A nutrient deficient diet
  • Consumption of artificial foods such as MSG and aspartame
  • Stress at home and in the workplace
  • Exposure to pro-inflammatory toxins
  • A lack of essential fatty acids


Both women and men biologically age at nearly twice the expected chronological rate during their forties. This finding may be due to accumulated toxicity and particularly to the delayed effects of a difficult childhood.

The explanation for this is that the normal processes of detoxification are suspended during stress which leads to the accumulation of much greater levels of toxicity for those with stressful childhoods than others. So stress and trauma can in a very real sense lead to both mental and physical problems and this can require both detoxifying the additional toxic load and processing the trauma in order to resolve the underlying issue.

However, another proposed factor is that neurological birth defects and developmental conditions caused by the toxicity of our environment, which may have been too subtle to be identified sooner, can start to be evidenced in mid-life. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences indicate that such defects may affect up to 40% of all children in the U.S.A. and lead to the effects of toxicity experienced in the womb manifesting decades later.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the three substances that have the greatest impact on human health are mercury, lead, and arsenic and exposure to these toxic metals are known to cause anxiety and/or depression. 

Many may have been exposed during childhood to leaded water pipes and may have unwittingly taken on a body burden of lead. Arsenic is commonly used in wood preservatives from where it finds its way into chicken meat and eggs as the birds peck around in arsenic-contaminated soil and feed. However, for most mercury toxicity from dental amalgam fillings has been established to be the biggest source of toxicity for most people by the World Health Organisation.


The role of chronic mercury poisoning in depression

The key to unlocking the mystery of the epidemic of depression may lie in the fact that women bind mercury from dental amalgam fillings at 2-3 times the rate of men and this interferes with their hormonal and reproductive cycles. It is impossible for a woman to be physically and emotionally healthy if her hormonal cycles are dysfunctional - female health is intimately connected to reproductive function. 

Chronic occupational exposure to mercury has long been documented to cause depression and anxiety and acute exposure to cause chronic depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviour. There are also many studies of people suffering with depression and major neurological diseases that have established that chronic mercury poisoning from dental amalgam fillings may play a major role in the development of these conditions.

In particular, those suffering with depression are often found to have a lot of high negative current dental amalgam fillings which indicates that these fillings are highly electrically active and emitting large amounts of mercury vapour (click the link to see the Smoking Tooth Video if you have not already done so).

Whilst the psychological, mental and emotional effects of chronic mercury poisoning have been recognised for Millenia, the early manifestations are subtle and on a continuum of what is considered ‘normal’ and are often attributed to psychological causes - both by health professional and by the sufferer. Symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, impaired judgment and clumsiness, impaired cognitive function, mood swings, headaches, fatigue, loss of libido and depression.

In brief, the many ways in which chronic mercury poisoning can cause depression include:

  • Directly killing and damaging neurons (nerve cells)
  • Disrupting and blocking the synthesis, release and binding of brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and serotonin which control moods and promote feelings of wellbeing
  • Promoting widespread oxidative damage and inflammation throughout the nervous system
  • Inhibiting energy production by blocking mitochondrial respiration
  • Interfering with and inhibiting the actions of essential minerals such as magnesium and zinc which are important cofactors in a lot of enzyme reactions. Subnormal levels of zinc have been associated with treatment-resistant depression and low levels of magnesium have been associated with a wide range of psychiatric symptoms ranging from apathy to psychosis.
  • Directly damaging the structures of the cell such as the DNA, mitochondria and cell membranes
  • Inhibiting the function of the astrocytes in the central nervous system. These cells are responsible for providing nutrients to the neurons, repairing damage and maintaining the blood-brain barrier
  • Activating the microglia cells in the brain, which produce large amounts of neurotoxic substances such as glutamate which promote inflammation of the brain and stimulate the region associated with anxiety
  • Depleting detoxification via substances such as glutathione and thiols which leads to increased toxicity of the nervous system
  • Killing neurons or inhibiting repair by preventing the synthesis of tubulin 
  • Generally causing systemic methylation deficiencies which prevent effective detoxification throughout the body so that the individual becomes more toxic with time
  • Causing deranged glucose metabolism. This in turn, leads to cravings for substances such as carbohydrates and alcohol and the brain is highly sensitive to low or poorly controlled glucose levels which are a direct cause of depression and poor mood modulation
  • Causing low blood folate levels
  • Blocking the synthesis of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) causing fatigue and depression
  • Inhibiting the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine which is involved in impulse control leading possibly to suicide, aggression and compulsive and/or obsessive behaviours
  • Decreasing levels of lithium which protect the brain 
  • Causing a dysfunctional digestive system which can lead to the overgrowth of yeasts such as Candida albicans. These yeasts produce an array of toxins including ethanol and acetaldehyde which have direct depressive effects upon the brain of their host
  • The presence of yeasts and parasites also compete for with the host for essential dietary nutrients


As you see mercury can have multiple catastrophic effects upon the delicate mechanisms and structures of the brain and central nervous system and because of the insidious nature of these symptoms you may not recognise the cause, which will manifest as tearfulness and depression. The conventional medical solutions are either to prescribe antidepressants or psychotherapy, neither of which address this major underlying cause.

This also explains why people with depression will usually have other health problems including being overweight, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, insomnia or fatigue.


Hormonal deficiencies and depression

Oestrogen imbalances in post-menopausal women, low testosterone levels in some men and low levels of the adrenal hormones DHEA and cortisol (particularly where stress and obesity are present) have also all been found to be common factors in depression.

However, underlying thyroid gland deficiencies are a very common and often unrecognised cause of depression and this too is primarily caused by toxicity. Short-term treatment may require supplementing with the synthetic thyroid hormone, thyroxine and longer-term treatment can involve detoxification to restore thyroid gland function. 

Postnatal depression may often be attributed to postpartum thyroiditis (P.P.T.) which is a transient thyroid gland dysfunction that affects about 7.5% of mothers after giving birth that may take a year to rectify. Once experienced it is quite likely to occur with subsequent pregnancies and one in four women with a history of postnatal thyroid problems will go on to develop permanent hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid gland) in the following decade.

If you supplement thyroxine for an under-active thyroid gland and you get pregnant, some experts recommend immediately increasing your dose by between a third and a half because the effects of thyroid deficiency upon the developing embryo are so severe and because pregnancy places an increased strain upon an already struggling system and may help to prevent spontaneous miscarriage. In any event, you should at least have your thyroid hormone levels closely monitored throughout pregnancy, after the birth and whilst nursing. 


Chronic mercury poisoning and the pineal gland

Mercury (along with fluoride and other toxic metals) has been shown to particularly accumulate in the pineal gland. This reduces levels of melatonin and this is thought to be a major factor contributing to the toxic effects of mercury.

Melatonin is a potent antioxidant that works within the central nervous system and particularly protects against methyl mercury toxicity. It is also a hormone that is converted during daylight hours to serotonin (the feel good hormone). 

Insomnia can be the result of low melatonin levels and ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) the result of excessive melatonin production (or poor serotonin conversion), and both can result in depression.


Suicide, pituitary gland function and chronic mercury poisoning

Several metals such as mercury from dental amalgam fillings and nickel- and gold-containing crowns have all been shown to be major factors in reducing pituitary gland function. 

This is evidenced by the fact that dentists at autopsy have been found to have 800 times more mercury in their pituitary glands than 'controls' ie: non-occupationally exposed, but still toxic individuals! This finding may well account for why dentists have much higher levels of emotional problems, including depression, divorce, alcoholism, suicide, etc.

In fact, suicidal thoughts are a direct symptom of low pituitary function and appear to be a major factor in suicides in teenagers and other vulnerable groups. Mercury toxicity reduces amounts of the posterior pituitary hormone oxytocin and supplementing oxytocin extract when combined with replacement of metals in the mouth has been found to alleviate many mood disorders.

The pituitary gland hangs by a stalk from the underside of the brain and, as such, it is vulnerable to damage. A historic blow to the head or an accident involving loss of consciousness may have damaged this delicate organ and the effects may not be obvious immediately. These individuals can also pose a greater suicide risk at a later date. 


Chronic mercury poisoning: The unrecognised cause of depression

It is my firm conviction that many of the ills we are witnessing are caused by several generations of use of one of the most potent toxins known to man - mercury - in dental amalgam fillings. This particularly applies to depression and mood disorders as mercury is a potent neurotoxin (attracted to and highly damaging of nervous tissue) and a potent biochemical toxin (blocking the biochemical reactions within the body).

Chronic mercury poisoning is rarely looked for or diagnosed for a number of complex reasons, not least of which is that it is hard to detect because it binds so tightly to nervous tissue. Dismissed as 'nerves', neurosis or dementia, the true cause goes untreated and so for many, depression becomes a life sentence. 

I state this with some confidence based upon my own personal experiences and the experiences of many practitioners who have produced lasting improvements in mood by replacing dental work and effective detoxification of heavy metals.

Depression can and does kill people, but it can also suck the enjoyment out of life - no matter how talented, or fortunate you are. 

If you know someone who struggles with any of the issues examined in this article, please send this link to them.

It could save their life.

Or certainly restore their life to them.


Further resources

You might also be interested in the following: 

Read button

Endocrine Gland Disorders

Postnatal Depression

Book Review of Adrenal Fatigue

Common Male Health Problems

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Mercury Toxicity Questionnaire

Antidepressant Prescribing Up

Research: Depression and Mercury Toxicity 

Many other scientific papers are available on this and other topics on the Research page

The subject of recovering from chronic mercury poisoning from dental amalgam is covered in detail in the book Chronic Fatigue, M.E., and Fibromyalgia: The Natural Recovery Plan

Video button

Smoking Tooth Video

Mercury and Neuron Degeneration

Depression: Understanding and Healing It


Or for all media use the Search facility at the top of the page


Depression and mercury toxicity: Article summary

This article examines the statistics which show an increasing number of people - and especially women - are or will become depressed at some point in their lives. The article looks at the psychogenic reasons for this and also the non-psychogenic reasons which include metal toxicity in general and especially chronic mercury poisoning from dental amalgam fillings.


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The Natural Recovery Plan Newsletter June 2010 Issue 6. Copyright Alison Adams 2010. All rights reserved
Dr Alison Adams Dentist, Naturopath, Author and Online Health Coach

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