In the last weeks and months much has been written about the health benefits of Vitamin D. Vitamin B12, which apart from Vitamin D is one of the most used nutrients, is also very popular. While many users report great benefits after taking high doses of these vitamins, some of them have adverse effects.
Learn to know how dietary supplements can interact with heavy metals that have accumulated in the body.
When high dosages of supplements can be harmful
As I am working with nutritional medicine or so called orthomolecular medicine myself, this article is not a tract against the intake of dietary supplements or the therapy with vitamins and co. On the contrary I want to contribute to the general knowledge about the impact and interaction of supplements.
Similar to other treatments of alternative medicine, the therapy with supplements is supposed to work almost without any side-effects. That´s why most supplements are free for sale. But, where there is an impact there might be a side-effect or at least an undesirable impact too.
In fact, the therapeutic bandwidth is high. In a trace element like zinc it´s about ten times more then the daily requirement. The normal daily requirement is about 10 mg, a prophylactic long-term application of 25 – 50 mg is generally no problem, in acute cases ingesting 100 – 150 mg per day is possible. The water-soluble vitamin B12 is administered in high-dose therapy with 1000 µg daily. That´s even 300 times (!) more then the daily requirement of 3 µg. Due to the high therapeutic bandwidth direct side effects or signs of overdosage appear relatively seldom. That makes micronutrients apparently a perfect alternative for self-treatment.
The multiple described positive effects of variable micronutrients lead someone to take all possible forms of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, antioxidants and so on in a high daily dose. Yet a targeted diagnosis and intake of specific nutrients absolutely makes sense. Even though that´s not enough. Counterbalancing deficiencies with the matching nutrient reaches its limits when poor nutrition is in the way or toxic elements interact with the ingested substances in often unknown manners.
The last mentioned problem is to be lit up for heavy metal burdens. Particularly when it comes to the most toxic heavy metal – mercury.
Nothing brought the burden of mercury in the human body as much into consciousness as dental amalgam fillings made of amalgam and other composites.
Amalgam fillings consist of about 50% mercury and depending on the composition of up to 40% silver, 30% copper or tin and small amounts of zinc and other metals. Up to the 1990´s they have been put in almost every hole in the tooth without hardly any concerns. Then the results of scientific studies and expert articles about the harmful impacts of amalgam, written by medical doctors and naturopaths, reached a greater audience. Yet the criticism against amalgam is there since it was invented back in 1831 (Mutter, 2002). Since the 1970´s dozens of studies have been published about its harmfulness.
Despite of clear evidence about the toxicity of amalgam, until today (2015) it remains the only filling material that is paid by compulsory health insurances without additional costs for the patients in Germany. The only exclusion are allergies against one of the composites of amalgam. Then even the costs for the extraction of the old fillings are being paid. What doesn´t mean that the replacement is made with the needed caution and safety. Safety measures like cofferdam, breath protection and the needed detoxification are often forgotten. They lie in the hands of the treating dentists, naturopaths and the patients themselves.
I think there is no doubt about the harmfulness of amalgam and that the fillings should be replaced and that the body should be detoxified after. But unless this has happened, it´s of utmost importance to be aware about the heavy metal burden and to give credit to this fact during the therapy with micronutrients.
Vitamin B12 methylates mercury
Vitamin B12 and its derivates are known for their capacity of mobilizing mercury. Especially the organic methyl cobalamin can cause problems. It is popular due to its high bio availability. But if there´s a burden of mercury, it can modify the less toxic inorganic mercury (Hg2+) into the high toxic organic methyl mercury (MeHg) due to giving its methyl group.
Methyl cobalamin and adenosyl cobalamin are the active forms of vitamin B12. Inactive forms like hydroxo cobalamin and cyano cobalamin are changed into the active components inside the body. Therefor these two forms can cause problems too in the case of a mercury burden.
Main source for inorganic mercury (Hg2+) are amalgam fillings und remaining burdens after unprofessional replacement of the fillings and lacking detoxification. Dentists using amalgam claim that metallic mercury (Hg or Hg0) is used in amalgam, which is only resorbed as vapor and becomes toxic easily when it gets drilled out. Yet due to oxidation of Hg or electric reactions between the different metals that are used in amalgam, Hg turns into Hg2+.
If then Hg2+ gets methylated – for instance due to methyl cobalamin – the so produced methyl mercury enters via saliva the entero-hepatic cycle and gets reabsorbed (Chapman, 2000). It mainly cumulates in brain and liver, causing neurological symptoms and damaging the liver function.
Megadoses vitamin C, vitamin B12 and folic acid problematic when there is a mercury burden
Megadoses viamin C, vitamin B12 and folic acid lead after exposition to Hg2+ to higher amounts of MeHg in brain and liver (Chapman, 2000) (Zorn, 1990). Depending on the combination of the nutrients, also higher concentrations were found in muscles and hair. Although these results were shown in a mouse model, apparently it came to a transformation of the less toxic inorganic Hg2+ into the organic highly toxic MeHg. The main factor seems to be the methylation of Hg2+ into MeHg caused by B12.
In orthomolecular medicine vitamin B12 is used in doses of 1000 µg daily and more, without to expect (direct) toxic side-effects. It is especially helpful to reduce chronic nitrosative cellular stress through its capacity to bind NO (nitric oxid) and thus protect the cells (Kuklinski, 2015) (Weinberg, 2009).
The fact that cobalamines can bind mercury is well know in orthomolecular medicine. For that reason they are used together with the sulfur containing chelators (DMSA/ DMPS) which strongly connect to mercury, so the toxin can be washed out with the urine.
High dosage vitamin B12 therapy only in a mercury free body
My recommendation therefor is to use vitamin B12 in high doses only for a short period and if there is a proved deficiency and then up to a maximum of 1000 µg per week unless a mercury burden has been excluded. The usage of high daily dosages between 500 µg and 2000 µg and more is not recommended until the body is detoxified.
If you have to take Vitamin B12 supplements in high doses daily – perhaps because of nitrosative stress – then take only adenosyl cobalamin. This active form of B12 has no methyl group and therefor does not enhance the methylisation of mercury.
Like that it should be clear, if there are or have been any amalgam fillings. If they were replaced, then how? With cofferdam, breath protection? Was a complete detoxification done after? If yes, which methods have been used and for how long? Which symptoms appeared during detox, which of them passed and which stayed? In my opinion a save and complete detoxification is only possible with the Klinghardt-Triad wild garlic – coriander – chlorella and the chelators DMSA/ DMPS and EDTA. Detoxing only with homeopathic remedies and bio-resonance is not enough as to my experience. The best method for testing is an urine control test after chelation.
Counteracting the (re-)intoxication with methyl mercury
If there is a burden of mercury, high doses of methyl cobalamin should not be administered. Especially when side-effects like headache, foggy thinking or other neurological symptoms appear, the dose should be minimized. Even though vitamin B12 is water-soluble, it can be stored in the liver and isn´t excreted in large amounts due to its entero-hepatic cycle. Therefor stopping the supplementation might not be enough.
Due to the fact that also MeHg follows the entero-hepatic cycle and is reabsorbed, it has to be detoxified from the body with appropriate measures.
Selenomethionin inhibits the toxicity of mercury
In addition to the intake of vitamin B12, selenium should be taken. At best in the form of seleno-yeast or selenomethionine. Especially L-Selenomethionine can reduce the toxicity of mercury (Moreno, 2014).
The impact of the inorganic selenite (sodium selenite) is contradictory. In a study form the 1980´s Japanese scientists observed the redistribution of mercury to the brain in a mouse model. Depending on whether the mice were fed with inorganic or organic mercury, the redistribution caused accumulations in brain, liver or other organs. In a review of the German institute of risk evaluation (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, BfR) from the year 2004, the contradictory data regarding the impacts of sodium selenite and selenomethionine was pointed out. They came to the conclusion, that sodium selenite would not cause a clear risk (BfR, 2004).
Personal opinion: I don´t put much trust in the institute (BfR) since they announced lately that the toxic herbicide glyphosate, which is widely used in German agriculture, wouldn´t be a risk for the consumer.
Charcoal tablets bind heavy metals in the intestine
Charcoal tablets can be used as an antidote to bind mercury and other heavy metals in the gut and inhibit a reabsorption of the toxins. The bound metals can then be defecated. However the intake of charcoal tablets shouldn´t be proceeded in the long run, because needed minerals and trace elements are also bound and excreted. These should be substituted in temporal distance to the intake of charcoal.
Chlorella algae detoxes heavy metal safely
Also the good old chlorella algae contains vitamin B12, which helps mobilizing heavy metals. Thanks to chlorophyll and sporopollein in chlorella, the metals aren´t reabsorbed into the enterohepatic cycle and are excreted with the feces.
If there is a mercury burden or assumed to be or when there are any adverse effects during the therapy with high-dosed vitamin B12 – such as vertigo, headache, “brain fog”, other neurological symptoms, exhaustion, etc. – the B12 intake should be stopped and instead chlorella should be given. If an amelioration happens, a mercury burden can be assumed. This should be verified with appropriate testing methods and in the case of a positive test, it´s time to detox. Only after this, the therapy with high-dose vitamin B12 can be continued, if that´s still necessary at all.
EPA and DHS protect the cells against methyl mercury
Due to the contamination of the oceans, sea fish is the main source of organic methyl mercury (MeHg) absorbed through food.
At the same time the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, that are contained in sea fish and sea algae, protect against the toxic effects of methyl mercury. The protective property goes back to the inhibited uptake of the toxin into the cells and an accelerated natural cell death (Nøstbakken, 2012). The accelerated apoptosis was observed in vitro by Nøstbakken only then, when the omega 3 fatty acids and methyl mercury both were applied. This means that without methyl mercury there was no accelerated apoptosis observed in the healthy cells. EPA and DHA helped the mercury intoxicated cells to die early and create space for new healthy cells.
EPA and DHA from seafood
The consume of sea fish is controversial. Alternatively EPA and DHA can be taken with cleaned fish oil or algae. The problem with molecular distillated fish oil could be that critical values of still remaining mercury are set up to high, the processing was faulty or the damageable omega 3 fatty acids have been damaged through the processing. Unfortunately I have no reliable information or neutral research results about that. As alternative to the relatively cheap fish oil the quite expensive krill oil became popular. It comes from the Antarctic krill and is also rich in EPA and DHA. The little shrimp like animal stands in the beginning of the food chain. Therefor krill normally contains much smaller amounts of mercury compared with the big predatory fish at the end of the food chain that are used for fish oil production.
Amalgam removal and heavy metal detoxication
The limiting of vitamin B12 intake can be a temporary measure to reduce the absorption and toxicity of mercury. Additionally the consumption of food containing a heavy metal burden as well as the inhalation of toxins (smoking, also passive, exhaust fumes, etc.) should be prevented as good as possible. The uptake of trace elements and minerals, the consumption of DHA und EPA containing fatty acids makes sense in any case.
Yet in the long run it makes absolutely sense to detox from heavy metals. First still remaining amalgam fillings should be removed professionally. Here most important is to take attention on protective measures, such as cofferdam and breath protection. Look for a dentist who offers these services! The dental restoration should be prepared with filling up deficient trace elements and minerals and accompanied by substances like charcoal tablets and chlorella.
After the dental restoration you can start with the proper detoxication. This can be started with the established triad wild garlic – coriander – chlorella after Dr. Klinghardt, eventually supported by fasting. The success of this method can be evaluated as a result of the amelioration of symptoms and laboratory tests. If this kind of detoxification is not enough, chelators like DMSA or DMPS may be needed. This form of heavy metal detoxication should be done with the help of an experienced physician or alternative practitioner.
Glutathione and L-cysteine can be harmful – it depends on the right moment
Both substances are used for heavy metal detoxification. Cysteine can build heavy metal complexes due to binding the toxins with its thiol group. Furthermore it protects enzymes like carnitine which help in detoxing. The problem is that binding toxins doesn´t necessarily mean that these are excreted too. Cysteine can work as a carrier for MeHg through the blood-brain barrier and transport the toxic mercury into the central nervous system (Chapman, 2000).
With glutathione there is a similar problem. The sulfur containing antioxidant protects the cells against toxic heavy metals. At its best when it is built in the cells themselves. When it´s taken as a supplement and the user has a mercury burden in his soft tissues, then the mercury can be transported from the intercellular spaces into the cells where it´s even more harmful. Dr. Mutter therefor recommends to use glutathione not before the last phase of detoxification (Mutter, 2002).
If glutathione, L-cysteine or a acethylcysteine shall be applied in the course of a mitochondrial therapy, first it should be clear that there are no greater mercury burdens or amalgam fillings in the patients organism.
Vitamin D supports the uptake of essential minerals as well as toxic elements
It is commonly known that vitamin D is an important factor in the resorption of calcium. But also magnesia and the essential trace elements copper, zinc, iron and selenium are easier metabolized in the presence of vitamin D. Unfortunately the uptake of toxic elements like lead, arsenic, aluminium, cadmium and strontium are supported through vitamin D (Schwalfenberg, 2015) (Moon, 1994). On the other hand cadmium and lead block the activation of 25(OH)D2 into the active 1,25 vitamin D in the kidneys. Yet vitamin D does not enhance the uptake of mercury. It even protects the cells in the case of a mercury burden (Schwalfenberg, 2015), presumably due to an increased glutathione synthesis in the cells.
Combine Vitamin D with minerals and trace elements
Fortunately the resorption of toxic elements can be reduced when the organism is provided with enough essential minerals at the same time. Therefor it´s important – especially when using high vitamin D doses of 10.000 i.E. per day and more – to take care for a sufficient supplementing of magnesia, calcium, zinc, selenium and other essential trace elements.
The effect of vitamin D as a protector against heavy metals is contradictory
Vitamin D is supposed to have a detoxifying effect, cause it enhances the intracellular glutathione level (Jain, 2013, 2014). Yet higher glutathione levels are also found during a mercury burden caused by a counterregulation of the organism (Cabaña-Muñoz, 2015). This leads to the assumption that also other heavy metals (whose uptake in contrast to mercury is enhanced by vitamin D) lead to such a counterregulation. If the increase of the glutathione level directly depends on vitamin D or on the reaction against the also absorbed toxins, remains unclear.
On the other hand vitamin D is capable to reduce ROS (reactive oxygen species) and inflammatory cytokines and thus protects the cells (Jain, 2013). Probably in this way the undesirable side effects of the absorbed toxins can be neutralized during a high dose therapy with vitamin D.
Yet there´s the remaining risk that albeit oxidative cell damage due to heavy metals can be prevented temporary, they might accumulate at the same time in the tissue. For that reason its makes sense to eliminate potential sources of heavy metal as far as possible. Important heavy metals with a relation to vitamin D are lead and cadmium as well as the no less toxic metal aluminium.
When vitamin D is poorly tolerated, detox heavy metals!
While many profit form a high dose vitamin D therapy without noticeable side effects und reach a better state of health, some users poorly tolerate even quite low doses like 5.000 or 10.000 i.E. per day. If a deficiency of micronutrients that co-act with vitamin D – like magnesia, vitamin A or vitamin K2 – can be excluded – the reason may be additionally uptaken heavy metals.
The detoxication of heavy metals with affinity to vitamin D can be performed with the Klinghardt triad – wild garlic – coriander – chlorella. If due to testing results that is not enough, chelators like DMSA/ DMPS are very helpful to detox lead and arsenic. To detox aluminium it will need EDTA, best in the form of calcium disodium EDTA.
COMT polymorphism as the cause of B12 side-effects
Before attributing unwanted effects to heavy metal contamination after ingestion of high dose methylcobalamin, certain genetic disorders should be considered. Thus, polymorphisms of the COMT gene or MTHFR gene can cause methylation disorders. Remember: Methylation is not bad in itself, yes, a vital metabolic step. Only the methylation of large amounts of inorganic mercury should just be avoided.
The COMT gene is responsible for the normal production of the COMT enzyme (catechol-O-methyltransferase), which uses methylation to metabolize neurotransmitters and drugs. In addition to the COMT enzyme, the MTHFR enzyme (methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase) is required for methylation processes. For example, MTHFR plays a role in the degradation of homocysteine to methionine. Also, disturbances in the MTHFR gene can thus lead to undesirable reactions after the high-dose ingestion of B12 supplements.
In these gene polymorphisms, however, the active forms of folic acid (active form = folate) and of vitamin B12 (active forms = methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin, inactive forms = cyanocobalamin and hydroxycobalamin) are needed because the inactive forms due to methylation errors cannot be recycled sufficiently. Genetic tests can show if there is a problem with any of these two genes. So before you blame mercury, genetics should be included. Also, the question after which forms of vitamins (active / inactive) symptoms occur, can play a crucial role.
All in good time, right form and amount
The intake of supplements can be of great benefit. In the same time attention should be paid on the right amount (dosage), form (chemical compound) as well as the right time.
The different nutrients play together like a team and support each other in their effects. Their interaction with each other, as well as with other substances such as heavy metals, should be considered, because beneficial effects could neutralize each other or even change to the opposite. To prevent these negative effects, an adequate and substantial anamnesis and diagnosis is of utmost importance. If this is considered and dealt with you can get the greatest health benefit out of the therapy with micronutrients.
Reinhard Clemens, alternative practitioner and teacher for medicine in Berlin, Germany
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