Updated: Feb 17
Here is Episode Two of “The Chelation Wars.” In Episode One I talked about the interview between Chris Shade of Quicksilver Scientific and Becky Davila that appeared on YouTube recently. I wrote that we Andy Cutler Chelation (ACC) people were “not amused,” (as Queen Victoria would famously remark) by what Dr. Shade had to say.
In the interview Shade is asked his opinions about “what are the flaws he sees in ACC.” In the process of going on and on about his opinions and how wonderful his products are, he makes many false statements about ACC. It would have been closer to the truth if he had simply stated that he “is not familiar with ACC” because he obviously isn’t.
In this episode, we confine ourselves to a few aspects of Shade’s misunderstanding of the protocol: calling adherents a cult, calling it unrealistic for a lot of people, saying it mostly uses DMSA, that night doses are unnecessary, that the protocol is untested, and that glutathione is a chelator. We have a lot more to say but we will do that in episode 3. Two of my colleagues, who are more scientifically inclined than myself have helped me with this article.
At about 1.07 minutes into the interview Chris Shade calls Cutler followers a cult because we think that frequent low dose oral chelation is the only safe way to get mercury out of the body. “At that point you are a devotee and not a seeker and you just believe into the cult” is what he has to say.
Many of us regressed using methods that Andy advised against and then recovered on ACC and we are grateful to Andy and for the protocol he developed. That does not in any way qualify us as a “cult”. Andy literally saved many of our lives.
Andy claimed that frequent, low dose, oral chelation was the best and safest way to detox mercury. He recognized that a few did OK with other methods but made the analogy of Russian roulette. The next dose might be the one that gives the person a terrible reaction, from which It may take years to recover, if they recover at all. In The Mercury Detoxification Manual there are ten pages in the chapter, “What Not to Do.” That chapter is there because of the bitter experience of those of us who made these mistakes ourselves and witnessed others doing the same. It is possible for people to get so sick and mentally ill from the mercury redistribution caused by the things we warn against, that they commit suicide. We have seen it happen several times.
At about 18.56 in the interview, Becky Davila makes the statement that ACC is “just not realistic for a lot of people.” It is hard to understand how someone who admits that her child has recovered completely from autism using ACC would say this. I assume that what makes it unrealistic for a lot of people is that they have to get up at night.
The big danger with any system for detoxifying mercury is redistribution. Infrequent and/or too high doses of chelators will exceed the liver and kidney’s ability to clear the mercury. The mercury that is not excreted will get redistributed making the person more toxic. In fact, Infrequent, high dose use of alpha lipoic acid (ALA), which is fat soluble, can cause redistribution and move mercury into sensitive parts of the brain. This will lead to long term worsening of CNS (central nervous system) symptoms.
Redistribution is discussed in The Mercury Detoxification Manual, p.45:
"The Andy Cutler protocol solves this problem (of redistribution) by dosing the chelators on their half-lives. That way, when a chelator loses its grip on a metal ion, there is a fresh dose right behind ready to pick up what has been dropped off. You need to have a constant blood level of chelator to keep redistribution from happening too much. This keeps the mercury moving out rather than around."
Until better, non-toxic, chelators are found, there is no way of getting around the night time doses. Shade ridicules the idea that missing a dose in the middle of the night will cause symptoms-but unfortunately, that is what does happen. The author and editors have experienced this first-hand.
Missing a night time dose is not “always the excuse for why something has gone wrong,” as Shade and Davila claim. There are numerous other problems that individuals must address in order to maximize comfort and safety while chelating. In his books and posts Andy talked about the importance of eliminating sources of exposure to heavy metals, avoiding harmful interventions, and using diet, supplements and medication to address individual issues.
At about 2.01 in the interview, Shade states that Andy’s protocol is mostly the use of the pharmaceutical DMSA. In fact, Andy referred to DMPS and DMSA as “accessory chelators.” The main chelator, and the only one you really need, is ALA because it (or strictly speaking its metabolites) is a fat-soluble, dithiol chelator.
Below is an explanation of what a chelator is from The Mercury Detoxification Manual, p 45:
"The word chelation comes from the Greek word for claw. A true chelator molecule for mercury has two thiol (sulfur) groups, which are spaced an appropriate distance apart so they can fit around the mercury ion. Mercury is particularly attracted to thiol sulfur, which is found in every cell in the body."
DMSA and DMPS are water soluble and as such can only chelate in the extracellular spaces. ALA is fat soluble and can cross the blood/brain barrier and go into the brain. Shade does not accept that ALA is a chelator at all. But we will discuss that mammoth issue in episode 3.
Unlike Shade, Andy did a lot of first-hand evaluation before discovering that pharmaceutical norms are to dose on or before the half-life of a drug. This is how Andy put it (from page ix of The Mercury Detoxification Manual):
"I didn’t derive my protocol from on high. I looked stuff up and tried it, talked about it on a listserver (the amalgam.de list) and others tried as well. After getting large numbers of positive and consistent reports I considered it a protocol and wrote a book about it. I would have considered it shockingly irresponsible to advocate it based solely on theoretical reasoning, without many hundreds of people trying it and talking about it with me."
And here is a narrative of the experimentation he did on himself. In 2005, in the AMC (adult mercury chelation) group on Yahoo, a person asked members to list their experience with chelators, to which Andy replied:
"Let's see. Penicillamine. Took one (250 mg) capsule once. Thought I was going to die, surprised I didn't. Since I survived it did greatly encourage me to think harder before doing things.
DMPS challenge with 300 mg by mouth. Tried it twice. Urine mercury 16 mcg, not very exciting, felt great while the stuff was in my system, crappy several days afterwards.
Saw someone get a DMPS injection, get jaundice, go to psych ward. Decided I would call around before letting a doctor do this to me. Of about 50 people I managed to talk to who did this, most sounded worse off than before they started, some very clearly were and agreed, nobody actually sounded healthy, most were disabled. Decided not to pursue. This was BEFORE I ran into the myriad DMPS adverse reactions as described on www.dmpsbackfire.com.
Tried 1 capsule DMPS in the AM once, felt great. Did it again next day, felt great. Felt bad next AM, took another, felt like I was going to die. Third day, dim bulb went on and I stopped this.
Was taking cysteine at one point as an antioxidant, eventually figured out it was bad for me, stopped it, got MAGICAL improvement. This was long before chelating or figuring out I had a mercury problem.
Tried ALA 4 times a day. Got pretty weird on it. Seriously obsessive, too. Doctor decided he didn't want to see me any more after that. The world looked like I was seeing it through plate glass for a while. Went over paper carefully and decided I needed to do it every 3 hours, did that, MUCH better. (That would be the Russian paper on mercury toxic rats and ALA – Brian). Eliminated OCD and other stuff in about 4 weeks of doing it right. New doctor did not act like I was some kind of weird creature.
Never tried DMSA on an 8-hour schedule, after I messed myself up good enough with other things I started thinking about it and looking relevant information like half-lives up in the library BEFORE I took the stuff. Did do a 2-gram DMSA challenge (and spread the dose out over about 12 hours when the doctor told me he was willing to prescribe it for me but he would not personally take it all at once if he were doing this), actually wasn't too bad. A day's worth of ick.
I certainly talked to lots of people who did DMSA every other day (a common fad at the time) and a few who did it every 8 hours. Saw one do it every other day until she could hardly walk and was crazier than a loon. Others I talked to who had done it every other day had similar experiences, and some became psychotic, got put in psych ward and medicated. Didn't sound like they were very normal by the time I was talking to them, either. I took this as more encouragement to look things up and think about it instead of taking the doctor's word that it must be perfectly safe because it was FDA approved for use in children (which I was told about DMSA more than once).
I messed around with the ALA dosage a lot (since it was cheap) and found I was tolerably messed up at 50-100 mg. At 300 mg I thought I was fine but people could tell I was acting crazy ONLINE without even seeing or hearing me so I decided maybe I had better stick to the lower amounts.
Most of the other sick people I interacted with while I was doing this did not get well, or even much better. A lot got worse. Every single person I know of those who were detoxing while I was who got better used "my" protocol. Subsequently of course I wrote my book and got to talk to a very large number of people about what was going on, and I do think that a limited number of people who aren't very sick do get well using other protocols I would generally characterize as harmful and inappropriate, but it isn't many.
I was not aware of sauna detox at the time. Actually, in retrospect I believe that I was getting some "natural" sauna detox action since I lived in Tucson for several years while getting sick, and then moved to Irvine and took a fairly quick turn for the worse. I didn't put this together until several years later.
I was aware of claims colonics were "wonderful," but I thought it was way too weird to actually try and I did not believe it could be a heavy metal detox technique.
I was aware of PCA (peptide clathrating agent -editor) at the time, got the vendor's literature, and dismissed it as clearly not effective based on that.
I was aware of the claims cysteine, methionine, a high sulfur diet, chlorella, glutathione, etc. "detoxed" people and at that time considered the idea to be frankly delusional for anyone who remembered adequate chemistry to practice medicine responsibly.
I wasn't aware of all the things like apple pectin, modafilan, etc. when I was detoxing."
In addition to Andy and his list mates testing the protocol, there are thousands if not tens of thousands who have successfully used ACC to detox mercury.
(See CutlerSuccessStories.weebly.com for a small sample of the results.) Andy was a brilliant and thoughtful scientist. He cared about making a living, but he did not make money from the sale of chelators or expensive supplements. His primary motivation was to help “all those poor sick people out there,” as he once put it to me. He worked hard to make his information accurate and useful and he questioned other toxic people and experimented extensively on himself in order to perfect his protocol.
In comparison to Andy, Shade sells a patented glutathione product and throughout the interview he makes various claims about how glutathione works. He claims that glutathione’s role in the metabolism is adequate to detox mercury “naturally.” He criticizes Andy for calling glutathione a “bad chelator”. He says that “This idea that mercury is stuck away in your body and will never come out is totally made up.”
Andy only claimed that brain mercury gets stuck. The issue of brain mercury is a key and essential aspect ACC. Natural brain mercury detoxification is not fast enough to be useful. Cadaver studies show that mercury in the brain has a half-life of decades. Shade either does not know this fact or chooses to ignore it.
(Numerous references were cited by Windham, B. Mercury Exposure Levels from Amalgam Dental fillings; Documentation of Mechanisms by which Mercury causes over 40 Chronic Health Conditions; Results of Replacement of Amalgam fillings; and Occupational Effects on Dental Staff.)
At about 19.37 in the interview Shade claims that Andy once said “glutathione works the same way for everybody, if it didn’t you’d all be dead.” The actual quote is Andy’s reply to the question, “Is it possible that someone is making NO glutathione at all?” Andy answered “No, this leads to immediate death.”
Andy was not a fan of using glutathione. Glutathione Is not a chelator! It plays a very limited and defined role in mitochondrial support and free radical mop up and is a single thiol. If glutathione is such a great idea, then people should benefit from glutathione IV’s when in fact we are constantly getting reports of people who injured themselves and regressed horribly with this intervention.
It is the thiol component of glutathione that can attract mercury, but a single thiol cannot hold mercury very strongly at all. Exogenous (liposomal or IV) glutathione moves mercury around the body without getting any of it out. This leads to worsening symptoms.
Here is what Andy said about the use of exogenous glutathione in mercury detoxification:
"Keep in mind that all the papers you read are about glutathione splashed on a cell culture for a few minutes. What's important is how it operates over days to years in the much more complex system of your body.
Glutathione is simply a marker for your body's state of oxidative stress. If GSH is low, oxidative stress is high. The way to deal with this is take accessory antioxidants, not to take glutathione.
Think it through. I realize this is more chemical engineering concepts than biochemistry. You eat or inject glutathione. Where does it go?
Your bloodstream. Your blood plasma.
If you used enough to be significant, this creates a BIG concentration gradient from plasma into the cells. That carries mercury the glutathione spontaneously bonded to INTO the cells, and overwhelms the cells' export mechanism.”
Clinically it is observed people who take glutathione under these circumstances do much worse than those who don't."
At most Andy told people to use glutathione precursors to encourage the body to make its own. He also counseled taking plenty of antioxidants to recycle glutathione.
This is what Andy had to say about some other detox methods which might be considered ‘more natural’ than chelation:
"I was aware of the claims cysteine, methionine, a high sulfur diet, chlorella, glutathione, etc. "detoxed" people and at that time considered the idea to be frankly delusional for anyone who remembered adequate chemistry to practice medicine responsibly."
The reason Andy called these methods “delusional” is because all of these, like glutathione, contain single thiols and single thiols are not strong enough to remove mercury from the body. They will drag it around and drop it in a new location.
From his own self-experimentation Andy drew the conclusion that it was safer to do nothing rather than some other popular detox methods.
"The more interesting question is …… what happens with adults who take their fillings out and then do nothing else? I called around and talked to lots of them too when I was trying to figure out what to do. On average they actually do BETTER than people who followed all the popular protocols at the time (EDTA, DMPS injections, DMSA every other day, chlorella, etc.) - another big eye opener for me that motivated some serious study since it was clear they were not actually well, (and) what the doctors wanted to do was harmful."
In this episode we discussed a few of the issues we had with this interview. We were happy to let Andy answer some of the issues in his own words. We have a whole lot more to say! In Episode 3, we discuss whether lipoic acid is a chelator. If ALA were not a chelator, then Quicksilver products would be fine to use. But it is a chelator, and the repercussions of using it improperly can be dire. We will also discuss the Gregus (by Gregus (Gregus Z, et al. TOXICOLOGY AND APPLIED PHARMACOLOGY 114,88-96 (1992)) paper which Shade claims points to ALA not being a chelator and from which Andy drew an entirely opposite conclusion. Stay tuned for Episode 3!