Note: Podcast Episode 48 originally aired on August 31, 2016. Andy Cutler passed away the following summer, on July 29, 2017.
Hilda Labrada Gore: Dr. Andy Cutler has a PhD in chemistry from Princeton and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of California. Andy is a pioneer of a unique form of chelation and author of the book, Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment. At one time, he struggled with symptoms that no doctor could explain, and when he found the root cause, he made it his mission to turn things around both for his own benefit and for the benefit of countless others. His problem was mercury toxicity. The chelation protocol that Andy went on to develop is safe and successful where many others are not. Andy, I understand you are a chemist, and you discovered that you had mercury poisoning when you were working in a lab. Is that where you got it?
Andy Cutler: No, I didn’t get poisoned in the lab, despite working with a long list of horrible chemicals at various times. I got poisoned from the fillings in my teeth and probably from Mercurochrome [a mercury-based topical antiseptic]. I may, at some point, have had a significant occupational exposure, but that was years before I got extremely sick, and it wasn’t the big contributor.
HG: You got poisoned by the fillings in your teeth? Wait a minute, a lot of people have fillings.
AC: And the “silver” ones really aren’t silver—they are mercury with a little bit of silver holding them together.
HG: It seems to me that a good part of the population could be at risk. Tell us more about how you got to the bottom of the fillings being the culprit for your illness.
AC: I was spending lots of time going to the doctor and not really getting much help or information. I also was spending considerable time looking up medical information in the library and realizing that I was getting really sick, and doctors didn’t understand how sick I was or why I was sick. Finally, somebody convinced me to see the local “witch doctor”—a term I use affectionately. (I hope any physicians listening don’t take that personally.) I was surprised that they basically said, “You have mercury poisoning from your fillings.” Their words brought flooding back to me memories of asking my dentist about the mercury and the fillings and him saying, “Oh, it’s passive, blah blah blah.” Months later, I was taking a physical chemistry class where I learned better than that, but it had never occurred to me in the intervening twenty years to put the two together. The dentist couldn’t possibly be right, the mercury had to be getting out. Since there’s a long history in chemistry of people managing to get themselves mercury-poisoned, it is a very well understood occupational risk. People know it is very dangerous and have some idea of the symptoms. It became pretty clear to me what was going on.
HG: So all the other doctors whom you consulted with, except for this alternative doctor, didn’t suspect mercury poisoning?
AC: Didn’t suspect it? It’s not true that they didn’t suspect it. It is really interesting. One of the doctors who was pretty good, early on in the process asked about what I do for a living and whether I had worked with mercury. And I thought about it and said no, there hadn’t been any mercury in the lab for the last couple of years. And then he went on and talked about a whole bunch of other stuff. Later, I was reading the medical books, and they all say that mercury poisoning is an occupational disease, and no one gets it unless they work with mercury. They suggest you can rule the diagnosis out if you ask the patient whether they work with mercury and they say no. And that’s what he did. If he would have run a test at that point, he could have saved me ten years of grief. But he didn’t. He was a sharp guy and knew exactly what the books said and did it by the book.
HG: I imagine that a large portion of the population is also mercury-toxic and is unaware of it because they don’t work with mercury. They think their symptoms are from something else. Can you describe some of the symptoms of mercury toxicity?
AC: Yes, the symptoms have disease names—chronic fatigue, allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, lupus, diabetes and depression, which is a very common symptom. If you read the medical literature, you find out that the books are much better than what actual doctors do nowadays. The older books are written by doctors who saw a lot of mercury-poisoned patients and realized it. Now, they see a lot of mercury patients, but they miss it all the time because they don’t realize what they are seeing. They read the old books and recite stuff and make it sound kind of silly. But if you read the old books, they talk about how the first symptoms are psychological things that are really hard to catch. You think they are depressed, but really it is mercury. You get social withdrawal and other symptoms that they don’t complain about because it doesn’t bother them, and that is mercury. And then later they become emotionally volatile, agitated or depressed. They get tired, their blood pressure goes up. The list goes on and on. It can look like ALS [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis], it can look like Parkinson’s disease. In the Parkinson’s disease section of the medical texts, they won’t tell you to check for mercury. You might find one that says that mercury poisoning can be confused with Parkinson’s disease, but the books will say to check for rare conditions that could be confused with Parkinson’s disease. So doctors check for all this rare stuff, which, being rare, almost nobody has. They may go through their whole career and not find one of these rare diseases, but they don’t check for mercury, which most of their Parkinson’s patients have. Instead of doing something that would make all of them better, they give them drugs to let them last longer while they slowly suffer and die. They are doing their job, and patients think they are doing their job.
HG: And people think, “Oh, I have ALS, or I have MS. This is my prognosis and there is nothing to do.” And yet, you are suggesting that mercury is the underlying problem and it can be addressed?
AC: Yes, the problem is that everybody has their head turned toward this expectation that they know what’s wrong and know what is going to happen, and that doesn’t motivate them to do the rational thing. So people think, “I have this disease, I am going to die and there is no hope.” But the rational thing would be to step back from medicine, from the white coat and say, “Maybe I have something else. I really ought to check for something else because a lot of the other stuff can be cured.” But instead, once the doctor says that they have MS or their child is autistic, or whatever, they hear it and that’s it, that’s the way it is.
HG: Yes, there is an acceptance. Let’s say I’m a person who wants to investigate what the root cause of my illness is and see whether it is indeed mercury toxicity. How would I go about finding that out?
AC: Well, that’s kind of the rub, because most doctors will assure you that it can’t be. So you either have to start reading medical books—which will say mercury toxicity is rare and you don’t have it, but at least if you are reading an old book, it will describe it accurately—or you have to read alternative medicine sources or go on the Internet. And while the Internet contains some very accurate material in areas where the professional fields don’t know what they are doing, that is a very small fraction of the content. It contains an awful lot of dribble, too. It is very hard even for a sophisticated reader with a technical background to tell which is which. I’ll suggest you go find the “Andy Cutler Chelation Think Tank” on Facebook [the name of the group recently changed to “Andy Cutler Chelation: Safe Mercury and Heavy Metal Detox”] or the Frequent Dose Chelation groups on Yahoo. Buy a hair test interpretation book and a hair test, go through the symptom description in the book and look at the hair test to see what’s going on. You can get hundreds of answers if you just start freewheeling on that approach.
Another really important thing to do—which is the same thing you should do that would motivate you to not believe the regular doctor if he says you have MS—is look at the outcomes. What happened to the people who say they chelated this way? Well, the patients who did it, who chelated my way, either with their doctor or on their own, they say, “I got better.” They have long-term, ongoing stories to demonstrate they are really better. People talk about how their child got better, their kid lost their diagnoses, he is no longer autistic, he’s healthy or he’s in college, whatever. That’s the kind of thing that should convince you to look into this. On the other hand, if you find a doctor who has this wonderful webpage about how he’s going to cure you, but you can’t find anybody on the Internet who’s been through that and was cured, or you can’t find anybody five years ago who is still saying they are cured, don’t go there. This is PR. Lots of supposed medical literature is advertising.
The proof is in the pudding. If you think you have mercury poisoning, you should have the signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning. You should be able to get your laboratory results from your doctor and find stuff in the lab tests that the doctor ignored because he didn’t know what it meant, so he didn’t think it was clinically significant.
HG: How old were you when you were chelating, and what were the results for you?
AC: I began chelating at about age forty-one, and the results were really a profound improvement. I probably didn’t even get all done chelating, but I saw dramatic improvements. My asthma went away, my allergies dramatically reduced, the number of foods I could eat went up from four to about half the foods in the world with no problem. My energy went up from not really being able to do anything but sit in the house to doing business, running around, going dancing and stuff like that. My ability to concentrate went from so bad—where I remember many times sitting there staring at the bottle of pills wondering whether I had taken one five minutes ago like I was supposed to and not being able to remember. I had to do things like count them and figure it out and keep a checklist. Then I’d look at the checklist not checked off and I couldn’t remember whether I was there to check it off because I had just taken the pill, or I hadn’t taken the pill yet. But then I got to the point of being able to concentrate well, write books, do business, play chess, stuff like that.
One of the aspects that is kind of interesting is that ordinarily, normal healthy people should feel their best in their twenties. At about thirty-five, they start to realize they are getting a little older, they can’t quite do the dramatic things they could as a twenty-year-old. A lot of people are really toxic most of their lives because of slow, ongoing exposures. After I chelated, at forty-two, I felt the best I had in my life. I was toxic enough in my twenties and thirties to have not felt that good. I’m sure I didn’t feel as good as somebody should have at twenty or thirty. I believe that for a lot of people who have been chronically intoxicated and have been getting this stuff for years and years, once they chelate, they can feel as good as they ever have in their lives.
HG: I want to hear some of your stories, Andy. Obviously you are a success story. Can you tell us about some of your clients who have used your chelation protocol and seen success?
AC: The most interesting success stories—because they are verifiable and doctors usually get so upset by them—are the repeated stories of women with MS. A lot of diseases go with a particular personality type. For some reason, many people with MS are sure they are going to beat their disease and often seek alternative care. Most people with other diseases don’t. I have seen a repeated story of women whose fillings are removed and replaced with non-mercury fillings and who chelate for years on end. They start out with all kinds of disabilities and with an MRI showing all these lesions in their brain. After a few years [of chelation], they aren’t on disability anymore. They can work, they can do things. The doctor takes an MRI—no lesions on their brain. And you wouldn’t think that would be curable. Sometimes the doctor is interested and wants to hear more about mercury. Sometimes the doctor gets mad at them for faking it. I don’t know how you can fake an MRI, or how you can think they can make these lesions disappear.
HG: It’s laughable, really. How could the lay person be faking something like that? But you know, it must just be their own disbelief, right?
AC: The downfall of modern medicine is that immature people are going into it. That’s one of the reasons they get trained so much and beat up so much to try to do it right, which is counterproductive. But it also puts them into denial. Most of them aren’t emotionally mature enough to admit they are imperfect people and mess up while remaining sane. If you’re a neurologist, you see very messed up people who suffer, and a lot of them die. You can’t do a whole lot to help them if you are doing mainstream neurology. Well, they don’t want to think they are messing up and letting their MS patients die by not telling them to do mercury detox.
HG: Speaking of other doctors, I know there are other chelation protocols out there. I guess we should begin by defining what chelation is. Will you define chelation and then contrast your protocol with others?
AC: Chelation is the process by which you take out some toxic metal ion that is in your body poisoning you. You use some agent that has two or more binding sites in each molecule to grab onto that toxic metal and help it be excreted. Most things aren’t true chelating agents because they don’t have two binding sites. A lot of things are chelating agents in a test tube because there is only water and the metal ion, but they are not chelating agents in people, where you have all kinds of other things in your blood plasma.
Chelation is the process where you take a chelating agent to get the metal to come out. There are some very basic rules that you have to follow, which are in all medical textbooks, and like I said, textbooks are a whole lot better than the medical practices. There are many random chelation protocols that don’t follow those rules and thus make people who use them very sick. Some examples of bad ideas are: DMSA every other day or DMSA every eight hours, DMPS injections, chlorella, cilantro or alpha lipoic acid two or three times a day. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant, but it is also a chelator. It doesn’t matter what the doctor says about antioxidants, the chemical doesn’t listen to the doctor, it chelates because it is a chelator.
“Chelation” is a general word, like “antibiotic” or “analgesic,” it is not a specific thing, but people tend to use it in this very specific sense. It has a lot of controversy in medicine for reasons completely unrelated to heavy metals. When you chelate somebody, there are two important things. One is that they not continue to be exposed to the toxin. The chelator will help the toxin come into the person, which is a common error.
If you chelate someone with mercury fillings, the chelator gets in the saliva, chelators in the fluid, in their tooth pulp, and it sucks an enormous amount of mercury out of their fillings. If you manage to get all that mercury from the filling into the person, they will die. There are many lethal doses in any filling. The filling is relatively passive, so that’s why you can have a filling in your mouth and not fall over dead the next day. But if you take a chelating agent that has a high affinity for really grabbing onto the metal, it will suck the mercury right out of that filling and into you, which can be really dangerous. Fillings have to be replaced, which usually involves lots of unpleasant, expensive dental work, which is why people don’t want to do it, or don’t want to hear it or want to have a lot of certainty in the diagnosis before they go forward.
HG: I see. Because you can’t chelate unless you have your fillings taken out first?
AC: You can’t safely chelate. You can always chelate because you can always take the pills. But it is a bad idea unless the fillings are out. As with any drug, there are some basic rules, like how often do you take it? More or less, every half-life. So for DMSA, that’s every four hours, for DMPS every eight hours, for alpha lipoic acid—which is what I recommend—every three or four hours, because it is a little bit shorter-lived than everything else. As for the dosage, you find out what the person can tolerate. The dosage people tolerate is highly individual, so you start at some dosage and you move it up or down until you find it is okay. And then they just do that, take a break, do that, take a break, for a long time. Eventually, the mercury comes out. If they have other metals, they use another chelator and eventually those metals come out. It is very common for people also to have tons of lead in them.
HG: I understand your protocol well because I have a friend who’s been going through it, but I’m thinking of just how helpful this can be for other people. I’m hoping our listeners are catching on to some of these terms that may be foreign to them. I know many of our podcast listeners are into alternative health, so can you explain why you don’t recommend chelation with chlorella or cilantro, when many people are thinking, “Oh, that’s natural, I would want to do that”?
AC: The problem is that those are really bad ideas and will make people worse. Many people get in trouble with that. A lot of people also get in trouble with alpha lipoic acid because they don’t even know that it is a chelator. They take it as an antioxidant and then it chelates. If you take it right—every three to four hours in small doses—it makes you better. If you take it wrong, it makes you worse. This is because, as with lead, most of it is in your bones, and it isn’t poisoning you. Most of the mercury in your body is in your thigh muscle, your kneecap, your toenail, your pancreas and other places where it doesn’t really matter because those aren’t sensitive tissues, they don’t get poisoned easily. But if you take a chelator improperly, it helps get the mercury stirred around and it ends up concentrated into the sensitive tissues like your brain, your thyroid gland and your adrenal glands. It makes you much sicker even though you saw a lot of mercury come out. So you have to assess the progress not by a test but by whether the people are getting better.
If you want to get better, there are some basic rules you have to follow like dose timing. In that sense, I don’t have a specific protocol. A lot of doctors are specific and say, “Do exactly this.” I say, “Take your DMSA every four hours or more often. Take your DMPS every eight hours or more often. Don’t inject it, take it by mouth or use it transdermally.” These are the rules and anything within those bounds is my protocol, and people adjust it to fit their lifestyle.
It is, intellectually, a simple thing. And it’s not terribly physically challenging, and there is not the drama of having to go to the doctor, paying a lot and using needles. It is not complicated, but it is very tedious, you do it for a long time. A lot of people need drama, they aren’t into the tedium. But as with lots of things, what really gets you moving forward is the tedious, just-keep-doing-it approach.
HG: I interviewed someone on this show who has used this protocol for her own children and then advised others to do the same. She said the results have been phenomenal. As you said, children with autism or asthma have seen such relief. But you have to pay attention to each individual child and tailor it according to how they respond, correct?
AC: Yes, and in a technical sense, if you take the attitude that pain is good, you can tell everyone to do the same thing, and many of them will be really miserable for a couple of years, but nobody for whom it is really miserable is going to keep doing it. They’re not that insane, even if they are as mad as a hatter from the mercury. You adjust it so it is tolerable, and then it is going to take a while, so you figure out what else they need to take to be comfortable in the meantime. If you chelate for a couple of years, you’ll get some relief along the way, but you’ll still have some of your icky symptoms. You will want to take something to relieve the symptoms. That is absolutely the intellectually interesting and challenging part of cases. It is really easy for the alternative doctors to get confused. Chelation is easy, so they don’t pay attention to how important it is to do it right. They pay attention to the much more interesting and much more lucrative sprinkles of magic pixie dust that it takes to make this person feel better now, while they chelate. In a practical sense, that is important and humanitarian—so they can keep a job and so they don’t get divorced—but in an ultimate sense, you have to chelate them properly or the outcome isn’t going to be good.
HG: You do recommend in your protocol that people take supplements to shore them up while they’re going through the process.
AC: Yes, a lot of the mechanism of toxicity of mercury and lead or other heavy metals is that they are oxidation catalysts. Specifically, mercury is used as an oxidation catalyst in organic chemistry to oxidize fatty acids. So you take vitamin C and vitamin E as antioxidants to help protect your body against that. When you chelate, since you are moving the metals around and they are a little more toxic on their way out, your body tries to trap them or “passivate” them. To get them out, you need a little extra protection, and the antioxidants will make you feel a lot better. Mercury, in particular, interferes with your body’s ability to move minerals around to where they need to be. Generally, people with mercury have low zinc and low magnesium. I automatically suggest all of them take these, and it’s almost always going to be helpful. The regular doctors don’t typically pay much attention to magnesium, but if you don’t have it you can be spacey and weak, have low energy, generally feel miserable, get muscle cramps and your blood pressure can go up. Magnesium is a very cheap and benign thing that makes people feel a lot better. If a person has mercury, they need a lot more than the normal person.
HG: You mentioned alpha lipoic acid. It can be benign if a person isn’t mercury-toxic. It is an antioxidant, correct? So if you are completely well with none of these heavy metals, you’ll be fine and it’s beneficial. But those with heavy metals would have a reaction. Isn’t there a test you can do to see whether you react? Might it mean that there is something in your system?
AC: Yes, I don’t do this if you have fillings in place, but what you would do is take alpha lipoic acid every three or four hours for a three-day period. Start in the morning on Day One and end at that time on Day Three. If you take twenty-five or fifty milligrams, you’ll probably feel something if you have some heavy metals in you. If you don’t feel anything at all, try one hundred milligrams the following weekend. If you still don’t feel anything at all, I’d suggest trying two hundred milligrams, but realistically speaking, everybody who is toxic will definitely know by the last day or the day after. The day after is the one when you’re the worst—cranky, tired, depressed and have a lot of side effects. If you don’t have clinically significant amounts of heavy metals in you, you can do that at two hundred or three hundred milligrams every three hours and nothing happens, no effect. Lots of toxic people feel like they got taken out and beaten by a biker if they take even five milligrams that way. They are feeling the effects of the toxin as it moves out.
HG: And that’s when they’d need to start doing the tedious process of chelation. But it sounds like your protocol is a safe and effective way to go. And I like what you said about researching online and being aware of people who are just promoting something but don’t have strong testimonies or stories to back it up.
AC: You want to look for two things. First, do they give you the basic science, and does it really make sense? Or do they kind of just wave their arms? And second, does what is said by the people who have been through it match what the person advocating it says? It is much easier to make up great tales that sound wonderful and scientific than it is to really solve a problem. If the problem’s really solved, there won’t be a big list of cured people raving about it—because they got cured and got on with their lives. It is actually kind of hard to find them, but if you look online, you’ll eventually see that there is a person getting a lot better on it. You’ll find people who said that ten years ago, and you can find them now and they’ll say that life’s great and they are doing all the things they couldn’t do before.
HG: To wrap up, I have a question: what is one thing the listener could do to improve their health?
AC: Take vitamin C with meals and at bedtime. I could give you a million other answers, one of which is to eat the Wise Traditions diet. But the cheap and easy one is to take vitamin C with meals and at bedtime.
Note: For more information on Andy Cutler’s resources and chelation protocol, go to www.noamalgam.com, or go to www.westonaprice.org, where the notes for podcast episode 48 provide further links and information.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2018.