Mercury and seafood are risk factors for autoimmune disease

February 15th, 2015 by Dr. Keith Nemec

One of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood, a new University of Michigan study says.

The findings found that mercury — even at low levels generally considered safe — was associated with autoimmunity. Autoimmune disorders, which cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, affects nearly 50 million Americans and predominately women.

“We don’t have a very good sense of why people develop autoimmune disorders,” says lead author the associate professor in the departments of Internal Medicine in the division of Rheumatology, Environmental Health Sciences, and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical and Public Health Schools.

“A large number of cases are not explained by genetics, so we believe studying environmental factors will help us understand why autoimmunity happens and how we may be able to intervene to improve health outcomes. In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity.”

Autoimmune disease — which can include such conditions as inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis — is among the 10 leading causes of death among women.

Researchers analyzed data among women ages 16-49 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Greater exposure to mercury was associated with a higher rate of autoantibodies, a precursor to autoimmune disease. Most autoimmune diseases are characterized by autoantibodies, proteins made by a person’s immune system when it fails to distinguish between its own tissues and potentially harmful cells.

Many fish consumption recommendations are aimed at pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, nursing moms and young children. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week. This recommendation was before the data from this study was compiled.

The presence of autoantibodies doesn’t necessarily mean they will lead to an autoimmune disease, however, we know that autoantibodies are significant predictors of future autoimmune disease, and may predate the symptoms and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease by years.

 -Environmental Health Perspectives


Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec’s comments on “Mercury, seafood and autoimmune disease”

Simply put an autoimmune disease is your immune system is so revved up that it starts attacking your own cells, tissues, glands and organs. This happens when some chemical, toxin or antigen enters the body and starts an immune reaction. If this chemical, toxin or antigen continually enters the body they the immune system gets hypersensitized to it and this is where the problem begins.

Autoimmune disease is a last stage adaptation to an over active immune response. When the immune system is over stimulated in the initial stages can or cannot manifest with allergies. If the root source of these allergies are not found and corrected (this is NOT with allergy shots or medications), then the allergies will eventually become chronic immune overstimulation and can transform into autoimmune disease. Some people skip the symptomatic allergy phase and go right to the autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases and where they originate from:

  • Multiple Sclerosis-nervous system
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis-joints
  • Crohn’s Colitis-bowel
  • Diabetes-pancreas
  • Hasimoto’s/Graves-thyroid
  • Addison’s-adrenal
  • Hepatitis-liver
  • Nephritis-kidney
  • Lupus- systemic, whole body
  • Scleroderma-skin
  • Vitiligo-skin
  • Alopecia-skin
  • Meniere’s-ear

The message of this research is that chemicals and toxins at levels that the EPA thought were safe are not. So cut out the fish and anything else that has chemicals, toxins or heavy metals.


Mercury exposure comes from coal burning factories (China is the highest) which allows the mercury to circulate worldwide. Once the mercury is in the air it eventually will end up in the water or the land near water and then certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury that builds up in fish, shellfish, and those that consume the fishes. Methylmercury is a highly toxic form of mercury and a main source of exposure to humans. Other sources of mercury include dental amalgams.

What should you do?

Stop the fish and start getting the mercury out of your system. We use the following protocol at THI:

Detoxification Protocol

  1. Toxin Chelation– 3 caps twice a day on empty stomach
  2. Spirulina/Chlorella– 2 tablespoons twice a day with food
  3. Liver Maintenance– 6 caps twice a day with food or 4 caps three times a day with food
  4. Liver Detox Tea– 3 cups a day

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