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Digging deeper on ADHD

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Fergus was nine years old when his parents brought him to see me many years ago. He was charming and bright, but wildly hyperactive, and had a diagnosis of ADHD and a possible diagnosis of autism. He knocked a few things off my desk in the consulting room, swung my stethoscope round his head, and generally ran around looking for something to do; bright kids with ADHD cannot tolerate boredom for a second. I tried to interact with him as much as with his parents so he could feel involved and not left out. But the conversation just wasn’t exciting enough for him.

Fergus told me that he liked sports at school and had lots of friends, but he just hated sitting all day in the classroom. He was constantly told off for fidgeting. This is only partly Fergus’s problem; it is equally the problem of a school system that expects energetic young children to sit still all day when they actually need to be running about and climbing trees for most of the time, as Nature intended. If they were free to do this, they would concentrate far better for the hour or two per day of academic studies, which is all that’s really needed at age 9. 

However, Fergus did need some help. Unlike most such children I see, he was already on a healthy diet; his mom and dad knew to keep him off sugar, and he willingly ate fruit and veg and a reasonable amount of protein and good fats. It is a very common observation that eating sugar exacerbates hyperactivity, but in Fergus’s case this was not a root cause. I wanted to see if we could calm Fergus down sufficiently to make school life easier for him, but dietary changes were not going to do it; unusually, they were not needed. 

In taking a very detailed medical history from Fergus’s mom, I started with her own medical history. She had been well all her life, and remained perfectly well during her pregnancy with Fergus, and his birth was natural and of normal duration. So brain injury from oxygen deprivation during labor (commoner than we think) was not the issue here.

Digging deeper, however, I discovered that she had had poor teeth in her own childhood and had been given a number of metal amalgam fillings. These contain mercury, tin and other heavy metals, which do not fit well into human biochemistry and are toxic, especially to the brain. Most dentists believe that the mercury and other toxic metals remain in the filling and do not leach out into the rest of the body, but a vast amount of evidence now shows this to be mere wishful thinking.1

Fergus was the first child in his family, and mercury from his mom’s fillings would have leached out into her own bloodstream and from there through the umbilical cord and placenta into Fergus while he was in utero. This would have effectively “detoxed” the mercury from his mom’s body (she felt “marvelous” throughout the pregnancy) but would have landed Fergus with a problem: mercury poisoning.

Significantly, Fergus’s little sister, age 7, had no equivalent problems at all. This is because most of the mercury had left their mom’s system by the time the little sister was conceived just a year and a quarter after Fergus’s birth. Had there been a much longer gap between her birth and Fergus’s, more mercury would have had time to leach out of their mom’s teeth into her bloodstream, and her second child would have also been at risk. (I am absolutely not advocating for short gaps between babies; nutritionally and in other ways, it is better to leave a longer gap. The solution here is to avoid amalgam fillings, not to space babies closely).

Most of the autistic children I see, and also most of the children with ADHD, are first children. They take the hit; subsequent children usually get off more lightly. 

It turned out that Fergus also had another possible source of mercury in his system. He had had several early childhood vaccinations around 2005, when UK and US authorities were removing mercury (in the form of thimerosal) as a preservative from vaccines (but adding in aluminum, also a neurotoxic metal, as an “immune adjuvant”). 

At the time of the changeover, older batches of diphtheria and tetanus jabs still contained mercury. Of course, Fergus’s mom didn’t know exactly what was in the vaccines he had been given; how many parents ask to read the ingredients list in the manufacturer’s package insert? Still, we didn’t need to speculate; we could test and find out.

We did urine, stool and blood tests for mercury—Fergus insisted he was cool with having a blood test, and the nurses at Biolab, where I tested him, were very skilled and gentle and used local anesthetic cream on his arm before taking blood. Mercury showed up in both the stool test and the urine test, and even in low amounts in the blood test. 

It is unusual for it to show in the blood; the body tries to get heavy metals and other toxins out of the bloodstream as quickly as it can by storing them in other tissues and organs—unfortunately including the brain. So even in people with mercury poisoning, we don’t often find it in the blood.

Fergus’s mom decided to have all her metal amalgam fillings safely removed by a specialist dentist who stuck to the protocols of the British Society for Mercury-Free Dentistry or the IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology). This is preventive medicine, reducing the risk of neurological disease in the future. Dentists who belong to these societies know how to remove and replace the fillings without releasing mercury into the system, which is what would happen with the standard dental drilling method. 

Meanwhile, how do you detox mercury out of a 9-year-old? There are many substances that help remove mercury from the body, and all of them can be used in children. High-dose vitamin C, organically grown cilantro (coriander) and chlorella, zinc, selenium, iodine and phosphatidylcholine (PC). Also sulfur in the form of the onion and garlic family, which is high in sulfur-containing amino acids. 

Fergus took moderate amounts of vitamin C on school days and higher doses on weekends when he was at home because it can cause diarrhea when a person takes enough to reach bowel tolerance. He took the PC liquid mixed in yogurt and the rest of the supplements in liquid form, apart from the chlorella and cilantro, for which he was able to swallow capsules by the time he was 10. His family also learned to cook with fresh coriander, always ensuring that it was organically grown so it had not picked up any heavy metals from the soil—that would defeat the object.

We retested Fergus at intervals over the years—he is 19 now—and his levels of mercury gradually went down. This is a slow process, but now that Fergus is grown up, he can add in other detox methods like organic vegetable juicing, colonic hydrotherapy and saunas. Epsom salt baths help, too, both by assisting detox and by relaxing the hyperactive brain, and these he has been doing for 10 years now. 

He is a calm, creative and well-functioning adult; he will always have the distractable nature of a person with ADHD, but the hyperactivity element is greatly reduced. And he knows he needs to have lots of energetic exercise before he can concentrate on work, so he goes jogging every morning.

  1. J Dent Res, 1985; 64(8): 1072–75; Swedish Dent J, 1987; 11(5): 179–87; Lancet, 1989; 1(8648): 1207
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