Mad as a Hatter? If you’re trying to get pregnant, this is one thing you should absolutely be aware of

Sometimes you feel like you do everything right: you avoid processed food, you eat organic and avoid the usual ‘nasties’. You exercise, prioritise sleep, but still something feels not quite right…

Feeling tired and achy for any prolonged period of time, alongside issues with anxiety, feeling down, skin breakouts and digestive issues could of course be caused by a lot of factors. They do seem more and more common however, and interestingly are also being increasingly associated with depression.

The symptoms above have also been associated with heavy metal toxicity.

What is this? Why is it a problem?

Heavy metals - think aluminium, lead, copper, mercury etc. - have existed naturally since the beginning of time, so what’s the issue? As usual, it's down to what we have done with them. We know that since the Industrial Revolution the production and emission of metals has increased at an explosive rate. The trouble is these metals are not biodegradable and will persist in the environment, meaning that the presence and emission of heavy metals is cumulative, i.e. the more we produce the more there is.

That means there is an awful lot in our environment, and we also know that too much is never a good thing.

This is where the problem comes in.

Do you ever wonder where the phrase ‘Mad as a Hatter’ comes from? Well - believe it or not - it comes from heavy metal toxicity. This sums up how it can affect our bodies. Back when no one realised there was an issue with mercury, it was used in the production of hats. Mercury Nitrate specifically was used in large quantities and caused a whole host of issues in the workers who were exposed to it: tremors, speech issues, emotional instability and hallucinations. This stuff is no joke!

Ok - so what do you have to watch out for specifically and why?

First off, let’s be really honest, unless you live in a micro bubble you just cannot avoid these things. They are in pretty much everything. From aluminium cans to foil, to batteries, to your pots and pans and also in our old friends pesticides and herbicides (click here to find out why these are a huge issue). So the key thing is to know is which ones you really need to be wary of and why:

Mercury
There has been a huge raft of research over time showing that mercury is essentially a neurotoxin. This is now broadly accepted.

But what really is a neurotoxin?

Well, essentially this is any substance which is attracted to the nervous system of a mammal and disrupts it. The bad news is that it doesn’t stop there, it is also known as a cytotoxic (i.e. damages your cells), immune-toxic and nephrotoxic (i.e. damaging to your kidneys, which should help excrete it) and most scary of all is the fact that it can cross the sacred blood-brain barrier and get into the cells in your brain.

It is also increasingly said to disrupt hormone function and aggravate autoimmune conditions and has been linked to conditions like obesity, ADD, Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s and heart disease.

Not what you want.

So we’ve established that it’s pretty bad... but where do we pick it up from and how can we avoid it?

A few sources:

From fish - it is known as Methylmercury. This form of mercury is not soluble and therefore not excreted very quickly. This means that the higher you go up the fish food chain and the longer the fish live, the higher the mercury content. This is known as bioaccumulation. Think of it this way: it starts with algae and plankton, which contain traces of mercury. These are then eaten by small fish (like salmon or pollock) which take on that mercury, plus their own. They are then eaten by tuna, which are then eaten by swordfish. The swordfish have taken on all the mercury along the food chain, which is why you should avoid the largest fish at the top of the food chain (shark, swordfish, king mackerel etc.)

What to do? It is not about avoiding fish altogether as fish is a great source of many things we (and a growing baby) really need - Omega 3 being just one example. It is simply about being aware and being smart. Eating fish two or three times per week and focusing more on smaller fish: salmon, sardines, mackerel and shellfish. Limit your intake of larger fish.

Dental fillings/amalgam. It is less common practise now, but in some cases metal dental fillings contain as much as 50% mercury. How does this get in to your system? It actually gets in to the body via inhalation (for example when you’re drinking hot liquids) and therefore enters the blood through the lungs. One thing to watch out for is getting these removed while you are pregnant, as disturbing them could release a lot of the toxin into your body in one go. Better to get it done ahead of time. Make absolutely sure if you are going to get these removed you consult a licensed expert for this procedure as well as your doctor.

Finally; despite the fact it is pretty well appreciated by most respected authorities that this is NOT good for us mercury is still present in SOME vaccines in the form of a preservative known as Thimerosal. Sounds strange but it is unfortunately true. Although most vaccine companies now do not use it, it has NOT actually been banned in places like the US so it is ALWAYS worth checking if you’re pregnant and having a vaccine to see if it contains Thimerosal or any other mercury derivatives, as some vaccines (including flu) may still contain it.   

Aluminium
Another known neurotoxin which has been shown in several studies to cause neurological issues, to interfere with genetic expression and to threaten general cell functionality.

Where is it found? Unfortunately it is pretty prolific: found in certain processed food, cookware and deodorants; even in the air and baby formula(!) The good news however is that actually only quite a small amount actually gets absorbed into the body (especially if you have a healthy gut - click here to be reminded why this is so crucial for your baby). The thing to watch out for is large exposures, which would be more difficult for the body (especially one under stress) to filter out, and once again in vaccines.

The good news is that you can get aluminium-free deodorant now, which I would always go for. It is just not worth exposing your body if you don’t have to. I also tend to avoid cans (not sure much good comes out of a can anyway!) and when you’re cooking its best to avoid metal on metal (use a wooden spoon) and non-stick pans as they can release toxins themselves. It can also come from surprising sources: certain antacids and soy formula for babies. Avoid as much as you possibly can as these elements are not to be underestimated. For those who would like to read more on this it is well worth reading the work of the MIT professor Stephanie Seneff, who writes prolifically around the subject.

However aluminium (or specifically aluminium hydroxide) is sometimes used in vaccines as an adjuvant. What is an adjuvant? It is essentially used to boost the body’s own immune response to a vaccine. The one that some sources cite as a problem and link to risks for new babies is the Hepatitis B vaccine, which can contain as much as 250 micrograms of aluminium vs. the 4-5 mg exposure that’s deemed safe for a newborn per day. Vaccination is a very personal choice (not to mention a contentious subject) and obviously a lot of good comes from it. Ultimately it comes down to your own personal assessment of the risk vs. the reward. However, just make sure when you’re making the decision you’re aware of exactly what is in each vaccination and the side effects. Particularly if you have any genetic vulnerabilities in your family. Always ask your doctor for the details. There’s no downside to having the information and being prepared.

A common pushback? Aren’t the exposures we are getting very small?

You may hear the argument that we are only exposed to tiny amounts of these substances, however, that is somewhat missing the point. The problem is that we are continually exposed to small amounts of a wide variety of man-made chemicals. They can build up and can start interacting with each other. That’s when we have a problem.

As the MIT professor Stephanie Seneff argues (link to her full article below)
‘Exceedingly small doses of toxicants containing aluminum and mercury, ones that might have negligible effects if administered separately, become injurious or lethal if combined’.

Fluoride and lead
Stephanie Seneff’s paper looks at environmental toxins and their impact on babies, and makes the point that if you are exposed to a lot of these toxicants together and then add in fluoride in the water supply (it is added in some geographies) you get a very nasty toxic combination.

Really? Fluoride?!

The bad news however is that fluoride (particularly in the form of hydrofluorosilic acid or sodium silicofluoride rather than the less harmful sodium fluoride) ‘is a lead-binding agent which actually ensures more rapid and complete biological uptake of any traces of lead in food, water and air from any source whatever’.

So once again, its not necessarily that these things are terrible in small amounts and in isolation - it’s the combination.

Why on earth is fluoride added to water then??

Well, it has been shown to prevent tooth decay, however what has become more accepted is that this only really applies to fluoride applied topically to the teeth rather than via drinking water. Human studies have been carried out and one such study (looking at 11,000 children) showed that fluoride exposure during the early years can damage a developing brain.

Once again being educated is key. Your local authority is often the one that takes the decision to fluoridate water. The bad news is that regular or basic water filters won’t remove this, what you need is a reverse osmosis filter, which sadly isn’t cheap. If your baby is having formula vs. breast milk however it is an investment worth making if you live in an area where the water is fluorinated.

So: what to do?

Awareness and avoiding excess exposure where you can is key and the first step. Detox from this is a whole separate subject (coming up) and should not be attempted during pregnancy and approached with caution if you’re trying for a baby as releasing toxins from cells means there is a period of time where they are in the body.

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.