09-29 Toxicants that trigger depression – Part 3: Heavy metals lead and mercury

Posted in Substance Abuse

Toxicants that trigger depression – Part 3: Heavy metals lead and mercury

There are several factors that contribute to depression. While factors like genetic disposition, chronic illness, substance abuse, unhealthy lifestyle, changes in the brain chemistry are commonly associated with the development of depression, studies have identified several environmental causes that trigger the mental condition.

As per studies, toxicants, such as prescription drugs and pesticides, present in the environment lead to depression in people. In addition to these, heavy metals, like lead and mercury, present in food and water or other sources, are also found to be the risk factors of the mental illness.

According to studies, the toxicity of these metals tends to disturb the brain chemistry which further causes depression in people. An excessive exposure to the metals can also reduce the immunity level. Many a times, the increased level of heavy metals in the body can be the reason behind the ineffectiveness of the medications used for depression or any other mental illness. In such cases, a heavy metal detox can remove the toxicants from the body so that medications could properly treat an illness.

Poisonous heavy metals and their sources

It may sound odd to read that human body contains metals, but it is true. Food products, such as fish and the amalgam fillings in the teeth are considered to be the sources of mercury. Compared to food sources, however, dental amalgam fillings are the more common source of mercury toxicity in most people. As per research, nearly 78 percent of the U.S. population has dental fillings, which implies that majority of the country’s population is exposed to mercury that further contributes to the increasing risk of depression in them.

The dental amalgam consists of nearly 50 percent of mercury. The metal can be leaked in the form of vapor and swallowed by patients paving its way into the bloodstream and then to the brain which further alters the chemistry to cause depression.

Another harmful toxicant which can increase the risk of depression is lead. Lead-based paint, used in most of the old American houses, is a common source of the metal. Other sources of lead include lead water pipes, leaded gasoline, lead painted toys, painted dishes, canned food, to name a few.

Besides, people exposed to high levels of lead could also pass it down to their children while they are inside the womb or to the newborns through breastfeeding. Tobacco smoke also contains lead. Thus, the poisonous metal can get into the body through cigarette smoking as well.

Effects of heavy metals on body

Lead has toxic effects on the digestive system, cardiovascular system, kidneys, reproductive system and the brain. Amongst all, the brain is the most affected organ and lead exposure can cause attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity disorders in children. Lead has a tendency to remain deposited in the brain, soft tissue and bones for years which gets released back into the bloodstream over a long period of time.

However, mercury is more hazardous than lead. While mercury is not properly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, mercury vapor easily goes to the lungs and reaches the brain. Besides, it tends to get concentrated in the nerves, liver and especially in the kidneys. Excessive concentration of mercury in these sites decreases the production of neurotransmitters, which further decreases the levels of important hormones, such as thyroid and testosterone. All these effects together or in isolation tend to alter the brain chemistry, thereby increasing the risk of depression.

Road to recovery

With the rise in number of people diagnosed with heavy metal toxicity or poisoning, several effective treatments have been developed to detoxify harmful metals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) to treat high exposure to mercury, as well as lead toxicity in children and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) to treat lead toxicity. While these compounds are used for heavy metal detoxification, the depression caused by these metals needs to be addressed by a mental health specialist.

If you or your loved one is battling depression or any other mental illness, the Depression Treatment Centers of California can provide you with information about the best depression treatment facilities in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 678-0400 or chat online for further information on depression centers in California. Our representative can also help you find the best depression rehab in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Toxicants that trigger depression”:

Part 1: Prescription drugs

Part 2: Pesticides


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