Third hair test
This blog post is focused on my chronic health issues, specifically, my efforts to detox heavy metals using the Andy Cutler Chelation (ACC) protocol. You can read about how I found ACC and chose to pursue it in this post. For the past several years I have been writing Chelation Chronicles posts, where I am documenting the ups and downs I’m experiencing as I undertake detox from lead, mercury, and silver poisoning. This is an off-cycle post regarding my third hair test.
Why not a urine test?
Andy Cutler wrote three books regarding his protocol. The second one was called Hair Test Interpretation, and it outlines his findings regarding the statistical analysis of tens of thousands of hair tests. Through his research he discovered some recognizable patterns in the hair test results of mercury poisoned people. If you are interested in learning more, the book is available for purchase here. However, please note that it is not necessary for the protocol – the Facebook group admins will interpret your results for you. Urine tests (especially those ‘provoked’ tests using high doses of a chelator) are not recommended on this protocol. There a couple of reasons for that:
(1) The chelators are not prescribed with respect to their half life. High doses of the chelators release metals into the bloodstream that can further compromise patients’ health.
(2) Metals store throughout the body in different ways. For example, mercury stores in fatty tissues like the brain and the liver, lead stores in the bones. The provoked urine test results are inaccurate because there is no way a single massive dose of a chelator could accurately excrete an amount representative of the body burden across the many types of metals that might be present.
As a point of comparison for the tests I’ll share later, here are my provoked and unprovoked urine tests. These ordered by a Functional Medicine Practitioner (FMP) who was – like many of them are – dangerously ignorant about how to address heavy metal poisoning safely.
First thing to note is that because she did the provoked test first (2015, on the right), we didn’t have a baseline to measure improvement over time. The unprovoked test (2016, on the left) should have been done first, However, if the unprovoked test was the only diagnostic, I might have never discovered as heavy metals as a significant root cause for my chronic health issues. It was only by revisiting my personal health history (multiple episodes of precipitously declining health following dental work) that it became clear to me that addressing my heavy metal toxicity needed to be a priority. My FMP’s lack of understanding also meant additional years of declining health through improper chelation protocols – time during which I could have been healing instead.
Understanding hair tests
Based on Andy’s research, an important consideration is that the top part of the test is not indicative of the degree of poisoning – at least not for mercury; mercury poisoning is determined by the extent of the disrupted mineral transport on the bottom half of the hair test. There are a series of statistical rules that Andy devised to determine whether an individual is toxic. In it’s simplest form, the longer the whiskers (the further the bars stretch from the center of the graph), the greater degree of toxicity; the whiskers tend to contract back towards the middle as the body heals. There are also a couple of other common patterns, such as the lithium bar being all the way to the left.
One important thing to note before I share my results is that Andy did not advocate for repeat hair tests – he felt they would be too difficult to interpret. However, in the years following the publication of Andy’s first two books, some members of the Facebook community have graphed their results for the top half of the test. The trend does seem to follow the pattern that Andy predicted in his first book – trending steadily downward over time. So, all my commentary below is based on collective wisdom from the Facebook ACC community, rather than Andy’s scientific research.
My latest results
As per the ACC protocol recommendations, I ordered my first hair test before I started chelating. It only required a Tablespoon of hair, and I received the results via email within a few weeks. I had my last amalgam removed around the same time.
The differences between the initial results and the urine tests was striking to me. In my case, it mostly confirmed what I already knew (mercury and lead), but I also learned about the silver poisoning, which hadn’t previously been on my radar. With support from the admins who are trained in Andy’s statistical ‘counting rules’, I was also able to confirm thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue. It was the latter that resulted in my introducing ACE (adrenal cortex) into my supplements for the first 18 months or so that I chelated.
For ease, here are the reference ranges and lab results for the metals I’ve been focused on:
As you can see, I’ve made steady progress on all of them – there are really only two areas that are inconsistent with what I expected based on the collective wisdom of the chelation community. I’ve noted them in red in the table above. The first area is a huge spike in silver levels at the end of my first year of chelation, and the other is a plateau on my mercury levels at the end of my second year.
Regarding the Lead levels “The fast recycling bone does a cycle in 18 months, so one would expect the amount of lead coming out to drop off a lot at 18 months or so out. The slow recycling bone takes 10 years …” I asked: What does that mean in terms of symptoms and types of improvement? That I shouldn’t expect much change until that 18 month window has passed? And the answer “Lead makes mercury 14 X worse. So yes that will tend to keep mercury symptoms until enough lead and mercury are removed. In HTI, Andy said lead takes 2-3 years to be dropped enough. Andy said that lead could extend the ‘stall phase’ out (if I remember correctly) out to 18 to 24 months after starting chelation. This makes sense as we dose ALA to symptoms and lead makes mercury feel a lot worse leading to lower doses of ALA. That maybe just the level to keep up with dumped mercury until the lead is lowered and the mercury dump tapers off. That would of course, add time to the whole chelation program.”
The main symptom I have right now that is likely lead-related is feeling sluggish, and (related to that) difficulty losing weight. That said, I will have to pick a point when I am well enough to stop chelating, because I’m not going to continue – even just once a month – for ten years! I suspect when I am able to lose weight again, I’ll be at a point where I’ve made enough progress on the lead to stop. However, all this is complicated by the fact that I’m currently in perimenopause, and the body dumps lead from the bones at that time. This was the main driver for my first FMP to recommend chelation in the first place; she wanted me to eliminate as much lead as possible before my system was flooded with lead as a result of hormone changes.
My Mercury levels dropped significantly in the first year of chelation, which was very rewarding to see. The lack of progress in the second year was a little discouraging, but I am not too alarmed, as I know that it becomes more difficult (and slower) for the body to reach the “deeply sequestered” mercury as chelation progresses. The feedback from the admins on my second hair test [based on the data at bottom] was that “Mostly, they say “Mercury!” a lot louder than on the first test.” That is even more true in the third test, where most of the whisker are way off to the left. However, in spite of those results I feel signficantly better than I did two years ago. You can read about all the progress I’ve made in my Celebrating Round 100 blog post.
To the best of my knowledge, the Silver seems to be a childhood exposure. I assume that because both my parents had high silver in their hair tests, but my spouse of twenty years doesn’t appear to have been similarly exposed. Oddly, my younger sister doesn’t have such high silver in her test, but we did move into a new house when she was less than a year old. The admins said that “The off the chart silver is a bit of a concern. It is nasty with mercury. If you have any silver in treatments cease them.” Unfortunately, there isn’t any significant body of research about silver as there is with Andy’s work on Mercury, but it is known to be a dangerous neurotoxin. In spite of that, it is coming back into favor with some healthcare practitioners (HCP) because of it’s powerful antibacterial properties. Don’t use colloidal silver if it’s recommended by your doctor! Silver has no known chelator, but it does appear to come out with the other metals, as evidenced by my third hair test.
I hope that you’ve found this post informative for your own healing journey, and that you’ll continue to follow along with my chelation chronicles in the months to come. In the meantime, I’d welcome any feedback or questions in the comments.