The Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Drug Administration recommend fish as part of a healthy diet, but consuming too much contaminated fish can elevate mercury levels in the blood and cause mercury poisoning, which affects the nervous system.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork explains that the element mercury enters the food chain when environmental pollutants released into the atmosphere fall in rain or snow. It accumulates as methylmercury in the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans and contaminates the fish supply.
• Burning, itching and numbness of the body
• Irregular heartbeat
• High blood pressure
• Problems with vision, hearing, speech and coordination
“A lot of times, the symptoms are very subtle,” Dr. Travis explains. “But exposure over time can be very dangerous.”
How to prevent mercury poisoning
Toxic mercury levels can cause birth defects, so pregnant and nursing women are cautioned to limit their intake of seafood that is high in mercury. The FDA and the EPA announced in June 2014 that they are revising their joint guidelines on fish consumption, last updated in 2004, in an effort to encourage those who might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and young children to eat more fish but to eat a variety of fish from choices that are lower in mercury.
Fish containing high mercury levels:
• King mackerel
• Yellowfin tuna akami
Fish containing low mercury levels:
• Canned light tuna
“If you’re worried and you’re getting bizarre nervous system symptoms – perioral numbness, pins and needles [sensations] in your hands and feet — your doctor can test your mercury levels and have a pretty quick diagnosis,” Dr. Travis adds. “If you avoid mercury products, usually, it will slowly drop in your system and those symptoms will resolve.”
Also, cilantro has been shown to be a highly effective and natural solution to ridding the body of heavy metals. Try this recipe for cilantro tea.
• Finely chop cilantro into 8 teaspoons
• Steep in one quart of boiling water for 20 minutes
• Once cooled to a comfortable temperature, sip this tea throughout the day for two to three months to gradually rid your body of mercury