How Mercury and Heavy Metals Impact Our Health

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When you think of mercury, you probably think of the liquid that tells the temperature in a thermometer. While it might be a useful tool, if the thermometer breaks, it can cause some serious health effects.

This is why, as of 2012, the EPA’s been trying hard to replace industrial and laboratory mercury thermometers with viable alternatives.

That’s a great initiative, but the fact is, there are many other ways you can be exposed to mercury and other heavy metals. 

In this article, we’ll discuss heavy metals, how they affect your body, and what you can do to counteract these effects.

How Mercury and Heavy Metals Impact Our Health | Naturopathic Dr

What Are Heavy Metals?

The term “heavy metals” refers to metals you can find naturally on the planet. The most common ones you’ll find are mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, copper, and iron.

Many of these heavy metals have significant applications in industries such as medicine and agriculture. However, some of them can be dangerous if you’re exposed to enough of them. This is because your body can’t easily eliminate them and accumulate over time.

Where Do You Find Heavy Metals?

As we’ve said above, you can find heavy metals naturally on this planet. However, you can also find some within your own body! 

Some heavy metals are necessary for balanced bodily functions; these include zinc, copper, and iron.

Other places you can find heavy metals are in your food, the air, and from water pollution. This is why even though fish can be good to have in your diet, there are concerns about heavy metals.

It’s advised that you limit your fish and shellfish intake to only once a week and completely avoid fish if you’re pregnant.

You can find heavy metals in industrial settings as well. Food containers or dinnerware or glazed eating containers may have improper coatings or lead-based paint. You may see warning signs for these in shops that have cheaper food containers or tableware for sale.

Let’s look at the top 4 heavy metals we are regularly exposed to.

How Mercury and Heavy Metals Impact Our Health | Naturopathic Dr


The most common way we get mercury toxicity is through the fish we eat. Because of this, you need to be mindful of how and where your fish are sourced. Ideally wild, caught, Pacific fish is best but quite honestly everything in the ocean is contaminated.  It’s a matter of limiting mercury if you eat fish, not avoiding it. Other sources include mining of mercury, gold, and silver ores.

Here are some common symptoms of mercury exposure:

  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Depression
  • Coordination, muscle pain, tremors
  • Hair loss
  • Stomach issues
How Mercury and Heavy Metals Impact Our Health | Naturopathic Dr


Common sources of lead are in the air we breathe, flatware and ceramics we eat from, old lead water pipes, and even ourselves!  Lead likes to be stored in our bones so as we age and start to lose bone mass, lead will leach out of our bones and re-expose us adding to our body’s burden.

And as we mentioned above, lead can also be found in paint, which has a full application across many of the things we use, including the paint in our houses and the makeup we use.

Some common symptoms of lead exposure include:

  • Abdominal pains
  • ADHD
  • Joint pain and muscle pain
  • Decreased cognition
  • Depression & Panic
  • Fatigue
  • Gout
  • Headaches
  • Hearing loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood swings
  • Parkinsonian presentation
  • Short-term memory loss
How Mercury and Heavy Metals Impact Our Health | Naturopathic Dr


You mostly get arsenic through your diet. For example, if you ingest non-organic food that contains pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and contaminated seafood, rice, and especially our water.

Common symptoms of arsenic exposure are:

  • Sore throat, rhinitis, sneezing
  • Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • Decreased cognition 
  • Red skin
  • Swollen skin
  • Spots on your skin
How Mercury and Heavy Metals Impact Our Health | Naturopathic Dr


If you work in an industrial setting, then you may have to worry about cadmium exposure. This is because, over time, you’re exposed to it through ore processing, smelting, or welding of alloys that have cadmium.

Another way you may get cadmium exposure is by inhaling cigarette smoke, either firsthand or secondhand.

Unfortunately, soy/tofu and sunflower seeds are also commonly contaminated with cadmium.

Symptoms of cadmium exposure can be:

  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Bone loss
  • Periodontitis
  • Blood sugar dysregulation

Keep Heavy Metals From Affecting Your Health Negatively

We must be mindful of what we put into our bodies. We need to respect our vessels that will be with us until the day we die. We only get one body per lifetime, after all.

Naturally, we’d forget how relevant our bodies are and that what we put in them matters significantly. But each day is new, and we can start to improve. 

Previously, you may not have known just how mercury and other heavy metals impact your health. But awareness is the first and most crucial step toward improving your health. Overtime, new information and awareness grows in terms of unknown harmful toxins in our environment and how they influence the evolution of natural medicine treatments.

The next is to turn to all-natural remedies. If you’re not sure where to start, then feel free to look into naturopathic medicine. A professional in Washington, DC will be able to help with your unique situation.

Are you ready to delve into naturopathic medicine? Then book an appointment with our doctor now.

About The Author:

Picture of Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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