Higher mercury levels have become more prevalent as many people switch to a pescatarian diet or eat sushi and poke bowls multiple times per week. Although measures have been taken to remove mercury from our every day life through inhalation and other metal exposure, mercury levels in fish are rising.

In my integrative sports nutrition practice, I often suggest comprehensive lab work when a new client starts to work with me for their nutrition coaching. Elite level athletes take a test called a NutraEval which includes organic acids, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamin D, minerals heavy metals, toxins and antioxidants. Surprisingly, this year one of the common findings has been high levels of mercury, which then leads to deficiencies in other areas as a result of the high mercury.


Elemental (in thermometers, dental fillings/amalgams )
Inorganic (batteries, disinfectants, some vaccines)
Organic (methylmercury in fish (specifically fish that have longer lives), water, soil, air, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides)

Most cases that we see are from fish. After fish we see cases from amalgam fillings however in a younger population they are not as common b/c most dentists stopped using them years ago. Another source can be water, if you are using well water or you have very old pipes in your home. Well water should tested and an entire house water filter should be used, including showers.  The EPA releases a list of fish that contain the most mercury and the ones that have the lowest. Fish that have longer lives such as tuna and shark have higher levels of mercury. My favorite fishes to suggest are wild salmon, black sea bass, trout, flounder shellfish and Safe Catch brand tuna. Some fish oils can also contain mercury, make sure the product you are using says that it’s tested for mercury.

mercury levels in fish



Mercury is a neurotoxin, it can affect your mood, depression, psychological stability and memory. Some physical signs are headaches, gingivitis, loss of taste, disturbances in vision, hearing and speech, as well as tingling and numbness in fingers and toes, lack of coordination and muscle weakness. High levels of Mercury are also correlated with autoimmunity and gut/digestion problems as mercury can permeate the intestinal membrane.. Mercury will build up over time which means you may not have symptoms but once you do it’s a sure sign that you have extreme levels in your body. Levels over 4.35 mcg/l of blood are considered high. In NY state, levels over 5 mcg/l must be reported to the state so they can reduce exposure.

Not everybody feels symptoms, mercury is one of the most dangerous toxicities because it can be present and build up over time. If you see elevated levels and you have no symptoms you still need to take action to lower your mercury levels.


We have a few ways to go about lowering mercury levels. First, we have to find the source, what is causing the mercury in your body.

If it is from dental fillings you have to have them removed. If it is from fish and other food products you should stop eating those foods and start a detox process. The process of detoxing mercury is one that should be supervised by a licensed and experienced professional. Because chelation therapy bonds to all metals you can eliminate other essential metals while detoxing mercury if you are not careful.

Depending on how high your mercury level is depends on the action you should take to remove it. I don’t have any hard set rules or regulations but I do have some of my own recommendations based upon various levels I have seen. It also depends on your financial situation. Not everybody can afford to have IV chelation therapy, some people have to do a more affordable process at home which will still be helpful but not as aggressive.

Option 1 is IV Chelation therapy-¹Chelation is a binding process where certain agents bond to toxins to help the body detoxify. Picture an ion which grabs onto the toxin and assists it to leave the body like a bouncer at the club. It then assists the toxin to be excreted through the kidneys in your urine.  Common chelating agents include DMSA, DMPS, CaEDTA, mgEDTA, NaEDTA. ²  Each one of those chelators binds to different toxins for mercury the most common used is DMSA. It can not be done orally because it is limited by gut dysbiosis and absorption rates are as low as 20%.  A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) who specializes in this type of therapy is your best course of action. You must be sure to replace any other essential. minerals that you can be removing during this process such as zinc, iron and magnesium. Because mercury often depletes most antioxidants including glutathione, vitamin C, selenium and alpha lipoic acid you may also want to have your doctor include them in the IV. They are also used as bonding agents to mercury and will help the removal process.  It is common practice to do a glutathione push prior to doing DMSA.

After the IV session the doctor will often do a provoked urine test to see if the chelation therapy worked. There is some scrutiny over this test b/c it can show higher levels than would be found if you didn’t do the chelation process. In cases where there are known high levels of mercury present this is a good way to notice the detox process is occurring. A provoked urine test is done by taking a base line urine sample, then the IV chelation therapy is done and over the next 24 hours you will collect urine. That sample will then be sent to a lab and the results will show the increase of mercury in your urine from baseline to after the chelation therapy occurred.

The best way to know that the detox process is working is by retesting the blood about 3 month after following the protocol of your choice.

The other option to remove mercury is oral, by way of  citrus pectin , chlorella  , cilantro, Vitamin C, Alpha Lipoic acid, liposomal glutathione and  N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). We used to use activated charcoal but we found that activated charcoal removes the good minerals which we need in our body along with the toxins which makes it not the best action to take for detox. These oral supplements will also bond to the mercury and remove it from your body over a period of time. I often recommend that people who continue to eat fish take chlorella prior to the meals that contain fish and of course avoid all fish which contain medium or high levels of mercury.


Whole blood testing is the preferred way to test for organic mercury which is what is found if fish.  A 24 hour urine test (non provoked) is another way to test for chronic exposure of metallic (dental fillings) and inorganic mercury. You can order these tests through a functional medicine nutritionist, Naturopathic doctor or traditional MD.

If you are concerned about having high levels of mercury or eat a primarily fish based diet you can ask your healthcare provider or functional medicine nutritionist to order a blood test for you to test your heavy metals.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3654245/
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16708769/

* I am not a medical doctor, everything in this post is based upon my education and experience. Please seek advice from a medical professional if you feel you have a problem with mercury or any other medical issue*