Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mercury Exposures and Autoimmune Diseases

As early as 1986 there were reports of a connection between multiple sclerosis and chronic exposure to mercury (Hg) from dental amalgam fillings.[1] Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a kind of autoimmune diseases (AD) —immune cells attack your body's own tissues when they should only attack outside invaders.

In this article, we will examine more scientific links between Hg and AD.

Autoimmune Diseases (AD)

Some autoimmune conditions are systematic, meaning that the attack spreads throughout the body to all tissues, as in lupus. Others are organ specific, for example, the affected area can be in:
There are more than one hundred different autoimmune conditions. They are all serious chronic diseases with an underlying problem in the immune system (i.e., failure to recognize self) and similar characteristics—inflammation. They also have strong sex bias in disease incidence and severity (see diagram).

Recently, environmental factors such as toxic metals have been suggested to play a significant role in AD pathogenesis. The cumulative effect of all these toxins can create a big toxic load on your body without your knowing it. Among all toxic metals, mercury is assumed to be one of the most toxic within nonradioactive elements.

Why Mercury Causes Autoimmune Diseases?

In [2], Dr. Blum surmised that mercury may induce autoimmune diseases by:
  • Altering or damaging the cells in your tissues
    • Making them look foreign to your immune system, which then attacks the cell.
  • Stimulating lymphocytes
    • Lymphocytes grow abnormally, losing their tolerance and ability to tell the difference between self and not self. Then they either directly attack or make antibodies to attack your own tissue.
However, this is a simplified view of a complex subject.  To read more on AD pathogenesis, read [3].

Some Scientific Evidences

Mercury (Hg) has long been recognized as a neurotoxicant; however, recent work in animal models has also implicated Hg as an immunotoxicant. In particular, Hg has been shown to induce autoimmune disease in susceptible animals with effects including overproduction of specific autoantibodies and pathophysiologic signs of lupus-like disease. 

While there is presently no evidence to suggest that Hg induces frank autoimmune disease in humans.  But the scientific evidence is mounting that Hg can at least make AD worse.  Also, some studies have demonstrated a link between occupational Hg exposure and AD.[7,11]

But the evidence is strongest for the association between mercury and autoimmune thyroid disease, which will be discussed in the next section).[2] Here are some studies that linked Hg exposure to AD:
  • A study out of the University of Milan reported the case of a patient with MS who had high levels of mercury, aluminum, and lead, and after he went through chelation, his MS symptoms improved.[4]
  • In many studies in rats, it have shown that mercury exposure can cause autoimmune diseases (i.e., MS and lupus) in rats.[5,6]
  • A study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina found a strong link between lupus and self-reported mercury exposure and working in a dental office.[7]
  • A research has found a connection between higher levels of mercury with a positive ANA, which is the first sign of an autoimmune process that can lead to lupus.[8]
  • A research has found scleroderma patients had a higher concentration of mercury in their urine compared to patients without scleroderma antibodies.[9]

Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases

Because thyroid gland's location, it is especially susceptible to toxins coming from the mouth.  There are studies showing an association between dental amalgam (sliver) fillings (especially for those people who have a mercury allergy, meaning they make antibodies to the mercury), mercury exposure, and autoimmune thyroid disease.[2]
  • Researchers in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University looked at blood levels of Hg and anti-thyroid antibodies in women over the age of twenty who were not using birth control pills, not pregnant, and not lactating and found that those with the higher mercury levels had a much greater risk for having higher thyroglobulin antibodies.[12]
    • You can have these antibodies for two to seven years before your thyroid becomes damaged enough to show signs of thyroid hormone imbalances.
    • Elevated thyroglobulin antibody levels are very common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, pernicious anemia, fibromyalgia,[13]chronic hives, and type 1 diabetes and suggests that these diseases are associated with mercury as well.  Therefore, the association found between mercury and these antibodies could indicate a broader relationship between mercury and other immune-related disorders.
Specifically, there are two types of autoimmune thyroid diseases:
  • Graves' disease
    • In which antibodies are stimulating the thyroid gland to be overactive
    • You can experience heart palpitations, weight loss and insomnia
    • Your eyes can begin to look like they are popping out, a condition called exophthalmos.
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis
    • There are anti-thyroid antibodies blocking the thyroid gland's ability to make hormones, making it underactive.
    • You can experience
      • Extremely tired
      • Gaining weight
      • Losing hair
      • Having no sex drive
      • Having constipation
      • Feeling cold all the time

Diagram Credit

  • Johns Hopkins School of Public Health[3]


  1. Ahmad Movahedian Attar et al. Serum mercury level and multiple sclerosis. Trace Elem Res 2012; 146-150-153.
  2. The Immune System Recovery Plan by Susan Blum, M.D., M.P.H.
  3. Mercury Exposures and Autoimmune Disease (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health)
  4. A. Fulgenzi et al. A case of multiple sclerosis improvement following removal of heavy metal intoxication: lessons learnt from Matteo's caseBiometals 2012 Jun; 25(3):569-576.
  5. Gilbert J. Fournie et al.  Induction of autoimmunity through bystander effects: lessons from immunological disorders induced by heavy metals.  J. Autoimm 2001:16:319-326.
  6. Benjamin Rowley and Marc Monestier.  Review: mechanisms of heavy metal-induced autoimmunity.  Mol Immunol 2005;42:833-838.
  7. Glinda S. Cooper Et al. Occupational risk factors for the development of systemic lupus erythematosus. J Rheumatol 2004;31:1928-1933.
  8. J.F. Nyland et al.  Biomarkers of methylmercury exposure immunotoxicity among fish consumers in Amazonian Brazil. Environ Health Perspect 2011 Dec; 119(12):1733-1738.
  9. F.C. Arnett et al. Urinary mercury levels in patients with autoantibodies to U3-RNP (fibrillin). J Rheumatol 2000 Feb;27(2):405-410.
  10. Caroly M. Gallagher and Jaymie R. Meliker.  mercury and thyroid autoantibodies in U.S. women, NHANES 2007-2008.  Environ Int 2013; 40:39-43.
  11. Mercury and autoimmunity: implications for occupational and environmental health.
  12. Caroly M. Gallagher and Jaymie R. Meliker.  mercury and thyroid autoantibodies in U.S. women, NHANES 2007-2008.  Environ Int 2013; 40:39-43.
  13. Fibromyalgia: Understand the diagnosis process
    • Your doctor can't detect it in your blood or see it on an X-ray. Instead, fibromyalgia appears to be linked to changes in how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals.
    • Possible fibromyalgia triggers
      • traumatic event, such as a car wreck
      • genetic factor

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Referrer Spam: Good Referral vs. Bad Referral

Recently, I have created two new blogs:
At the very first day, I have seen quite a bit of traffic visiting my blogs and got me very excited. But, later I have found my excitement was unjustified because those visit traffics are not real.

In this article, I will show you which referring sites are good and which are bad (i.e., generated by automated spammers).

Blogger Stats vs. Google Analytics

For most Google blogs, they usually install a gadget named "Total Pageviews." This Blogger Stats tracks all page visits. Those counts could be the visits from yourself, other users, search bots or automated spammers (automated spammers also use bots to operate). Bots are the automated computer programs that visit your blog by tracking your content updates. Blogger Stats counts everything which includes bots' visits. So, its counts could be off the mark.

As a blog owner, you can also find the visit statistics from Google Analytics which uses the cookie-based tracking. Some data are stored in the cookie when people visits your blog. It tracks real traffic because it can distinguish a bot from a real user.

Good Referrals

As shown in [2], the following referring sites are good guys. For example, Twitter could be a good business tools for you, which can drive lots of traffic to your sites.

Bad Referrals

However, the following referring sites are bad guys and there are quite a few of them. To deal with them, the best strategy is doing nothing (i.e., don't click links that bring you to their sites).


  1. Why Blogger stats is not correct and how to correct it
  2. Top 30 Healthcare Twitter Hashtags to use while Tweeting
  3. Adsense Watchdog, Zombiestat, Vampirestat, Villainstat and Uglystat Blog Traffic
  4. (Referrer Spam; found recently; updated on 06/28/2016)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Food Allergy—Is Avoidance a Good Strategy for Prevention?

In 1998, the U.K's Department of Health decided that allergens themselves were the problem, and it recommended that infants with allergies in the family avoid known allergenic foods such as peanuts. In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics also issued similar guidelines.  However, A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 turned all of this on its head—Scientists have found that avoiding peanuts to avoid an allergy is a bad strategy for most.[13]

In this article, we will address the following questions:
  • Do allergens themselves cause allergy?
  • How do we become sensitized to allergenic proteins like peanuts?

Allergy Prevention Strategy: Early Oral Exposure to Allergens

Clearly, if you had an allergy to peanuts, you should avoid them (note that emergency treatment is critical for anaphylaxis). However, avoidance failed to address the more fundamental question of how you became allergic to begin with. As a matter of fact, after officials recommended steering clear of allergens, scientists found that food avoidance failed to curb the increase in food allergies. It continued to increase in both the U.K. and U.S.

Professor Gideon Lack[1], an allergy researcher, compared the prevalence of food allergies among Jews in Israel and London, and found them to be more common in the London group—nearly 10x as common for peanuts, and 5x as high for sesames.

In Israel, infants worked out teething pains by gnawing on a peanut snack called Bamba[2]. In the U.K., however, they tended to avoid peanuts altogether. Early oral exposure to allergens—not avoidance— seemed to prevent allergy.

How Do We Become Sensitized to Peanuts?

Lack surveyed British children with peanut allergies and their parents. He could discount one theory right away—sensitization wasn't occurring prenatally. No peanut-specific antibodies showed up in blood extracted from these children's umbilical cords. He did note, however, a strong association with environmental exposure to the allergens—not orally, but through the skin. Surprisingly, he has found that:
  • Children developed food allergies because they encountered food proteins through their skin first.
    • The route of first contact mattered.

Differences between Skin and Gut

Skin is our body's largest organ. It serves as the first line of defense against intruders such as parasites or pathogens. Our immune system is probably inclined to treat foreign proteins (including proteins from peanuts or soys) it first encounters in the epidermis as intruders, and to counter with the immune response.

Proteins coming from oral route, however, is treated differently.[12] They are treated foods and are tolerated. That's how oral immunotherapy[8]—the process of deliberately training the immune system to tolerate peanuts—works. Many pathogens and parasites also approach via the oral route, but the gut immune system has ways of differentiating.

How Could Children Be Exposed to Peanuts through the Skin?

Mothers didn't know it, but some popular infant creams meant to soothe diaper rash, eczema, and dry skin contained peanut oil. Mother who used these ointments had children with a nearly 7x increased risk of peanut allergy.

What's more, certain soy proteins, it turned out, resembled proteins in peanuts. Both belonged to legume family. Some ointments contained soy products as well. Mothers using these creams could be cross-sensitizing their children to peanuts without, necessarily, sensitizing them to soy. Horribly, children with the most inflamed skin were the most likely to inadvertently sensitize them.

Feed Your Babies with Breast Milk

Parents who read this article may want to feed their infants peanuts early, say, before their kids are inadvertently sensitized to peanut proteins through their skins. However, you may want to avoid that because another baby's known condition.

Infants are born with relatively porous intestines, a natural version of what in adults we call "leaky gut syndrome." If babies are fed with foreign proteins such as peanuts, they pass right through the baby's gut and some of them are used as a nutrient while most of them, which are not found in human breast milk, are recognized as foreign substances by the part of the baby's immune system—Peyer's patches[3]. And when foreign proteins are detected, it produces powerful immune response against them.

One research has shown that food allergies have been linked to early introduction of solid foods.[11] The researchers wrote:
"Our findings suggest 17 weeks is a crucial time point, with solid food introduction before this time appearing to promote allergic disease whereas solid food introduction after that time point seems to promote tolerance."
For infants, mother's milk offers the best nourishment . As Dr Proctor[4] stated, there is a purpose for breast milk. Breast milk is an important source of gut bacteria and it also contains nutrients that feed the bugs, called prebiotics. Some breast milk compounds are actually meant to be consumed by the bugs. Also, breast milk contains crucial antibiotics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breast-feed for 12 months and the World Health Organization backs breast-feeding for up to two years. Breast-feeding a baby for 18 months to 2 years is a good way of ensuring the child's good health, especially for a strong immune system and prevention of allergies for life[5, 6].


  1. Professor Gideon Lack (Head of Department of Paediatric Allergy at King's College London)
  2. Bamba (Snack)
  3. Peyer's patch (Wikipedia)
  4. The Ins and Outs of Gut Bacteria
  5. Dietary PUFA for preterm and term infants: review of clinical studies
    • Studies report that visual acuity of breast-fed infants may be better than that of formula-fed infants.
    • Cognitive development of breast-fed infants is generally better.
  6. Breast-fed babies are more socially connected, less anxious as adults, study finds
  7. An Epidemic of Absence by Moises Velasquez-Manoff
    • An excellent book on which this article is mainly based.
  8. Red Flag Raised Over Long-term Efficacy of Oral Immunotherapy
    • "We had a high degree of optimism," senior investigator Robert Wood, MD, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, told reporters attending a news conference. "I'm not saying we've lost that optimism, but it has certainly been tempered by looking at where these kids stand 3 to 5 years out."
  9. To Succeed At Breast-Feeding, Most New Moms Could Use Help
  10. Amish children living in northern Indiana have a very low prevalence of allergic sensitization (The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology)
  11. Food Allergies Linked to Early Introduction of Solid Foods
    • The most common allergies among the children included in the study were egg allergies and cow's milk protein allergies.
  12. Pregnant Women Need Not Avoid Peanuts, Evidence Shows
  13. Avoiding Peanuts to Avoid an Allergy Is a Bad Strategy for Most

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What We Can Learn from Our Dogs?

- When our loved ones come home, always run to and greet them warmly
- Never miss any opportunity to go out and have fun
- Enjoy the fresh air and outdoor
- Take a brief nap if tired
- Stretch before move
- Run and play all day long-Be happy
- Always seek other's attention and be pampered
- Growl to intimidate, but never bite
- On sunny days, relax and lie upside down on the grass, enjoying its gentle massage
- On a hot day, drink plenty of water and lie in the shade
- When happy, dance and shake boogie
- On a long walk, always find something interesting on the way
- Be loyal
- Never be a hypocrite
- If find something buried, keep on digging until it is exposed
- If something sad happens to the pal, remain quiet and sit along to provide companionship

See Also

  1. Are Dogs More Protective For Children’s Health? (Travel and Health)
  2. Portraits of Dogs With Human-Like Expressions
  3. How to feed your dog human foods?
  4. My Dog: the paradox
  5. Pet Poison List

Seafood Watch 2013

These days we need to pay more attention to what fishes to eat and what not.  Not only fishes could be contaminated with toxic compounds such as mercury, lead, PCB, or pesticide.  A recent seafood alert also warns us the potential cesium radioactivity in bluefin tuna that arrives California coast[1]:
The bluefin spawn off Japan, and many migrate across the Pacific Ocean. Tissue samples taken from 15 bluefin caught in August, five months after the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, all contained reactor byproducts cesium-134 and cesium-137 at levels that produced radiation about 3% higher than natural background sources.
Based on a seafood guide published by Monterey Bay Aquarium, fishes are classified into three categories:
  • Best Choices
    • Well managed, caught or farmed in environmentally responsible ways.
  • Good Alternatives
    • Some concerns with how they are caught or farmed.
  • Avoid
    • Overfished, or strong concerns with how they are caught or farmed.
For a full list of recommendations please visit Monterey Bay online or download their application.  If you are pregnant, you should also read Mayo Clinic's guidelines.[5]

  • Abalone
  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Bass: Striped (US hook & line,farmed)
  • Catfish (US)
  • Clams, Mussels, Oysters
  • Cod: Pacific (US)
  • Crab: Dungeness
  • Halibut: Pacific (US)
  • Lobster: Spiny (CA, FL & Mexico)
  • Rockfish: Black (US hook & line)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (AK & Canada)
  • Salmon (AK)
  • Sardines: Pacific (Canada &US)
  • Scallops (farmed)
  • Seabass: White (US hook & line)
  • Shrimp: Pink (OR)
  • Tilapia (Ecuador &US)
  • Trout: Rainbow (US farmed)
  • Tuna:Albacore/White canned (Canada &US troll, pole)
  • Tuna: Skipjack/Light canned (US troll, pole)
  • Tuna: Yellowfin (US troll, pole)
  • Basa/Pangasius/Swai
  • Cod: Pacific (US trawl)
  • Crab: King (US)
  • Flounders, Soles (US Pacific)
  • Halibut: California
  • Lingcod
  • Lobster:American
  • Mahi Mahi(US)
  • Pollock:Alaska (US)
  • Prawn: Spot(US wild)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (CA, OR & WA)
  • Salmon (CA, OR & WA wild)
  • Scallops (wild)
  • Shrimp (Canada &US wild)
  • Squid (US)
  • Swordfish (US)
  • Tilapia (China & Taiwan)
  • Tuna:Albacore/White canned (US longline)
  • Tuna:Skipjack/Light canned (imported troll, pole and US longline)
  • Tuna: Yellowfin (imported troll, pole and US longline)
  • Abalone (China & Japan)
  • Caviar, Sturgeon (imported wild)
  • Cod: Pacific (Japan & Russia)
  • Crab: Red King (Russia)
  • Halibut: California (gillnet)
  • Lobster: Spiny (Brazil)
  • Mahi Mahi(imported)
  • Orange Roughy
  • Rockfish/Pacific Snapper(AK bottom trawl)
  • Salmon:Atlantic (farmed)
  • Sharks
  • Shrimp (imported)
  • Squid (imported)
  • Swordfish (imported)
  • Tuna:Albacore/White canned (except Canada &US troll, pole and US longline)
  • Tuna: Bluefin
  • Tuna: Skipjack/Light canned (excepttroll, pole andUS longline)
  • Tuna: Yellowfin (except troll, pole and US longline)


  1. California Fish Contaminated with Fukushima Radiation
  2. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch 2013
  3. Farm raised vs. wild caught salmon (Dr. Mercola)
  4. Farming the Seas (PBS)
  5. Pregnancy and fish: What's safe to eat?
  6. There Aren’t Plenty of Fish in the Sea