Is there a connection between yeast and mercury?

By Scott Fogle, ND

Studies have not been done to say absolutely yes, but the clinical experience of many alternative medicine practitioners indicates yeast and mercury toxicity are often connected.


It is very difficult to say which came first, the yeast buildup or the low-level mercury toxicity.

The most prevalent theory is that low level mercury toxicity causes some degree of suppression of the immune system, making it easier for the yeast to proliferate in the human body.

This process is especially true in the gastrointestinal tract and in the vaginas of particularly sensitive women.

One small study did show that mercury decreased the ability of the macrophages (a type of white blood cell of the immune system) to kill yeast. What this means is that these important cells of the immune system were affected by mercury in a way that made the macrophages pass right by yeast without engulfing and killing them. Macrophages kill bacteria and yeast by engulfing them and then destroying them with their unique chemical packages. While this was a small study, it does affirm the idea that mercury can disrupt cellular communication by binding to the many receptor sites located on the all cells, essentially tying up the “phone lines” so healthy messages can’t get through.

Here’s how the stage is set for a yeast-related illness

  • Mercury causes immune system suppression and communication problems;
  • You take a round or two of antibiotics, especially tetracycline, often prescribed for acne, which can actually promote yeast growth);
  • You take birth control pills;

Add to this mix a major stressor in your life, such as a new job, a divorce or the illness of a close family member and perhaps exposure to toxins like outgassing new carpet or exposure to cleaning chemicals at your workplace, this poisonous soup might begin to look and feel like chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia.

It doesn’t always progress this way, but many alternative medical practitioners see this as a typical scenario for many of the patients they work with.

I have seen this story played out over and over again in my patient’s histories. People who have seen numerous other doctors for workups can sometimes find health and energy again by treating the yeast, then removing the mercury and other toxins from their bodies.

The goal is to restore balance to the immune, nervous, and endocrine (glandular) systems of the body. Yeast, mercury, other bacteria, viruses, and toxins all upset the natural balances of the body. We all can handle and function with some degree of imbalance but we all have a point where the imbalance will begin to manifest as symptoms.

The bottom line: Yes, at least clinically, there does seem to be an association between yeast and mercury but it has yet to be clearly defined.

I routinely test my patients for both. Several times now, patients have come to my office for what they thought was a mercury toxicity problem. After testing, I was able to show them that yeast overgrowth seemed to be the biggest factor. It is always important to remember that we are all biochemically different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Just because your friend got better from one type of treatment, don’t assume it is right for you. See a health care professional for a complete workup and evaluation.

Mercury gets into the environment, and eventually into your system, through industrial pollution of water, soil and air.

The reason large fish are so likely to concentrate mercury in their body tissues is that mercury runoff from waterways and from soil eventually finds its way to the sea, as do airborne mercury particles from industrial emissions. Larger older fish concentrate these pollutants in their body tissues, partly by eating smaller fish with mercury contaminants in their tissues. This then accumulates in human tissues when we eat the fish.

Is it better to treat the yeast or the mercury first?

It’s probably a good idea to treat the yeast first to help strengthen your intestinal health first. It’s fairly complex, but bear with me while I explain why:

We all have bacteria in our intestines and that are essential to maintaining good health. Most people who read about yeast-related illness have learned about probiotics. These are the bacteria people can take in supplement form to help support populations of good gut bacteria/flora.

Most people don’t realize that stool is composed of roughly 2/3 bacteria. Many think it is just food remnants, but that is not the case, your stool is mostly bacteria and that should help with the realization of how important these gut bacteria are to good digestion and ultimately, to your health.

Studies showed that mice with healthy populations of bowel bacteria could consume higher amounts of mercury with fewer adverse health effects than those with abnormal bacteria or yeast overgrowth. Other studies show that abnormal bacteria and yeast, such as Candida albicans, actually take the less toxic form of mercury, the inorganic form, and convert it into the more toxic methylmercury, the organic form. The body absorbs the organic form of mercury much more easily. The normal healthy gut bacteria do the opposite, they help convert the bad methylmercury into the less toxic inorganic form of mercury, which means less mercury is absorbed by the body.

Thus it makes more sense to treat the yeast first and restore the normal bowel flora before attempting any type of chelation (removal) of mercury.

If you don’t treat in this order, the candida will more than likely change more mercury into its most toxic form, so you simply reabsorb the mercury you were trying to get rid of.
This is the approach I use with my patients.

Treating mercury toxicity is done with a wide variety of prescription drugs and supplements. The two most commonly used substances are DMSA and DMPS, although other drugs are often used and are the subject of hot debate in the medical community.

It is important to see a medical practitioner with experience in this area. People will respond differently to the detoxification drugs, so it’s important to be carefully monitored.

Can antibiotics make a mercury problem worse?

Yes. In one scientific study, mice given antibiotics before they were exposed to mercury showed much greater levels of mercury in their tissues than mice who did not take antibiotics, but were given the same amount of mercury to ingest.

This goes along with the idea that normal gut bacteria are help guard against the absorption of mercury. Antibiotics kill the good gut flora at the same time they are killing the harmful bacteria.

This information is especially important for anyone who is eating mercury-contaminated food such as certain fish right after or during antibiotic therapy. While antibiotics can be lifesaving and are important drugs in today’s world, they sometimes come with a cost. They can increase mercury absorption as well as alter the bowel bacteria concentrations thus setting the stage for a yeast overgrowth problem in certain people.

What are the most mercury contaminated fish?

Swordfish, shark, large tuna (sushi tuna, albacore), king mackerel, and tilefish.

Canned tuna is a hit or miss situation. Sometimes when it is tested it shows high mercury and sometimes is shows no mercury. The difference is attributed to the size of the fish and the place it was caught. The larger the fish, the longer it has lived and the more mercury will have accumulated in its tissues.

When Consumer Reports tested canned tuna they found that albacore tuna was consistently higher in mercury than other types of tuna. If you eat canned tuna, pick chunk light or Tongol tuna, as this type was found to have lower mercury levels. It is suspected this lower level is because they are smaller forms of tuna and have not lived as long, thus not as much mercury would have accumulated in their tissues.

Scott Fogle, ND is a naturopath who specializes in environmental medicine. His practice focuses on treating mercury and heavy metal related conditions, allergy, cardiopulmonary medicine, IV therapy, candidia and autoimmune problems. His practice is located at the Center for Environmental Medicine in Portland, Oregon. He also does phone consultations for patients in other states. He can be reached at 503-552-1814. His web address is

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