I recently received a message from a floxie friend that raised an interesting question. My friend asked:

Have you ever heard that FQ antibiotics can release stored toxins like mercury into the body? It has been two years since Cipro for me, and one month ago they found out I am highly mercury poisoned. But before I took Cipro, I was okay. The doctors are guessing that I have been mercury poisoned for a long time but somehow it is showing up in my blood now. Since the symptoms of Cipro toxicity and mercury poisoning are about the same, I’m wondering if they’re related.”

Over the years, several people have raised the question of whether or not fluoroquinolone toxicity is related to mercury poisoning, but I hadn’t heard of test-documented increases in mercury levels after taking fluoroquinolones until my friend sent me the message above.

The symptoms of mercury poisoning are similar to those of fluoroquinolone toxicity. The symptoms of mercury poisoning are:

skin rashes and dermatitis; mood swings; memory loss; mental disturbances; muscle weakness; nervousness, irritability, and other emotional changes; insomnia; headache; abnormal sensations; muscle twitching; tremors; decreased cognitive functions; peripheral neuropathy and more.

According to Dr. Thomas Nissen, “ Symptoms of mercury toxicity are many and varied, since mercury can both reach and affect nearly every cell in the body! Systemic (overall) effects can occur for this reason. The particular symptoms you experience first depend on your own genetic weakest links and on other toxic suppressors.”

Similarity of symptoms does not necessarily mean that two disorders are one in the same. For example, Chronic Lyme Disease and AIDS have similar symptoms, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same diseases. But it’s still interesting to explore the possibility of fluoroquinolone toxicity being related to mercury poisoning.

I searched for journal articles about the effects of quinolones on mercury. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much information. Most of the information I have is anecdotal and stems from me attempting to understand fluoroquinolone toxicity (with zero background in biochemistry), so please take this information for what it’s worth.

Fluoroquinolones have been documented to chelate magnesium and iron from cells. I wonder if mercury in the body is bound by these minerals, and then gets released into the body when the fluoroquinolone chelates the necessary mineral from the body (or when the quinolone binds to the mineral, stealing it from whatever it’s currently bound to).

Dr. Nissen points out that mercury can displace other minerals in the body, and that mineral displacement can cause serious health problems:

Replacement reactions, also called fight for site, occur when mercury (usually with a +2 charge) grabs the biological spaces which should be filled by necessary minerals. Symptoms that can be caused by a deficiency of minerals displaced by mercury include:

  • Magnesium: irregular heartbeat, receding gums
  • Iron: anemia
  • Copper: anemia, thyroid dysfunction, impaired digestion
  • Zinc: anorexia nervosa, loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite, low libido, PMS
  • Iodine: thyroid dysfunction”

For floxies, I wonder if the fluoroquinolone begins the cycle of mineral replacement. Fluoroquinolones chelate minerals, then mercury binds to the site that was vacated by the mineral, then mercury toxicity leads to chronic health conditions.

There are many “drug muggers” out there – drugs that deplete vital minerals and nutrients from the body. I wonder if all the drugs that deplete necessary minerals from the body are opening people up to mercury poisoning.

There are a variety of factors that determine how well one’s body can deal with mercury. Genetic factors such as MTHFR mutations (which play a role in determining how well a person deals with toxins) certainly play a role, as do an individual’s antioxidant levels. Many floxies have MTHFR mutations, and fluoroquinolones have also been shown to deplete glutathione and other antioxidants. Some floxies, including Richard and the author of Say Friend and Enter, have dealt with mercury poisoning issues as well as fluoroquinolone toxicity issues. Obviously, people who suffer from fluoroquinolone toxicity are less adept at metabolizing and clearing fluoroquinolones than those who take Cipro, Levaquin and Avelox without ill effects. Perhaps floxies are less able to handle other toxins, including heavy metals, as well.

There are a variety of mercury detoxification protocols that you can find online. Dr. Mercola’s protocol seems like a good place to start – http://www.mercola.com/article/mercury/detox_protocol.htm. He suggests:

  1. Avoid sugar, milk, grains and processed foods
  2. Eat foods that increase glutathione
  3. Take probiotics and eat probiotic rich foods
  4. Supplement magnesium
  5. Supplement chlorella
  6. Supplement MSM
  7. Eat garlic and cilantro
  8. Supplement minerals
  9. Make sure that you have sufficient hydrochloric acid levels to absorb minerals from your food
  10. Supplement vitamins C and E
  11. DMPS therapy


Please note that chelation therapies (DMPS) can be dangerous and they should not be done without the direct supervision of a doctor. They can be hard on the kidneys, so they should also not be done unless absolutely necessary. Be careful, please!

As I noted earlier, this post is about possible connections, not established facts. Fluoroquinolones are not documented to have anything to do with mercury toxicity according to the journals I could find. The symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity and mercury poisoning are similar though, and given that fluoroquinolones have been documented to have profound effects on cellular mineral homeostasis, I think that it’s a hypothesis that’s worth exploring.

Post-script – If anyone reading this gets their mercury levels tested, please let me know what the tests say – I’m quite curious. Thank you!

Post-post-script – I wanted to point out some comments that Jason recently made on the floxie hope home-page about mercury. He has done extensive research on the topic and what he has to say is certainly valuable:

Toxic Metals and other Toxic substances (like Cipro…) are a HUGE issue, and as I guess you have gathered a mouth full of Mercury is bad situation to be in, and a major potential cause of Brain Fog and many many more issues for someone. This can be grossly exaggerated with someone with a MTHFR Gene issue, since they will NOT be able to detox Metals, Fluorides, Chlorine’s, and all the other Toxic Waste/Toxic Metals/Chemicals that we are subjected to on a daily basis properly, thus they will build up in the body and make the person more and more unwell. Since you are in the USA, for $99 the 23andme test is definitely a “no-brainer” in my opinion if you have not done it already, to find out if you do have these issues or not, on top of potentially being toxic in Mercury and other Metals.

Pretty much every living person has a toxic burden, Metals, Halides, and more; many people are able to keep it low enough to be healthy because their Methylation pathway works properly, actively detox, etc but others are not so lucky, and are even more unlucky if they do not realize this is the cause of most/all their issues. There was a whole bunch of discussion on Genes and the 23andme test last page starting from post 2 if you are interested in finding out more about this important part of someone’s health.

I would suggest to find a good ND, but be very careful with “Challenge Tests”. Many of them will want to give you a dose of DMSA or something else like DMPS, EDTA, etc and often the doses are VERY big, and quite dangerous (a big dose will ensure high levels show up on test, ensuring more money for them since you will “need” treatment = dangerous greed tactic). DMSA will mobilize several toxins in the body all at once, and if a person’s toxic load is large enough the body will not be able to handle all the poison being in the system at one time, and terrible damage can result. If you google Andy Cutler you will see he recommends not doing a challenge test at all, many people are following his advice and his Protocol for detoxing the body of Metals, he believes it needs to be done is slow safe fashion, which makes sense to me.

I myself am a little torn on the “testing issue”. I had a hair test done for Metals and Minerals which is what many people recommend you do to find out your toxic load. The things is it does NOT give you the whole picture, it is really telling you what the body is “expelling”, it is NOT telling you what your body is potentially harboring, since many of the Metals are hidden/stored in the body in Fat Cells, like the Brain, and if not mobilized they just sit there and screw you over, and will not come out in the hair, thus your hair test could say you are “low” in Uranium, or Nickel, but in fact you are not low, you are just not efficiently expelling/detoxing it at the time of the test. However, if the test shows you are high in something, there is a good chance you are actually too high and your body is trying to detox the excess of which some of it ends up in the hair. So these levels that show up, are somewhat dependent on if someone has a Methylation issue also, since poor Methylators are poor detoxer’s potentially skewing the results.

Having said all that, it is one of the best tests to do for this, and highly recommended to do regardless to find out what your Mineral profile looks like, though I still think there might be some viability of a “safe challenge test”, which would be as described above only with a smaller safer amount of a Chelator given right before a Urine test. Yet the reliability of the Hair test for Minerals is too somewhat questionable, out of the 100 or so labs around the USA that do these tests, 98 of them WASH the hair before doing the test. The trouble with this is many of the Minerals are water soluble, so washing the hair with a mild detergent and acetate like most do can skew the results of many of the Minerals. Google “Dr. Wilson Hair Test” and you will see more of what I am talking about. You will also find recommended ND’s on his site that use the one good lab in the USA that do not wash the hair.

This is all my opinion, one that is shared but none-the-less where I stand on the whole thing. I apologize for not giving a “Clear” solution, but this is frankly because in my opinion there isn’t one. As a result, for many years I did “nothing”, I now regret this and don’t recommend that course of action either. For yourself, my unprofessional recommendation is to “not” have a challenge test done, especially with Mercury still in your mouth, also do NOT take any chelators, and avoid Cilantro too, as this crosses the Blood Brain Barrier and taking this can bring Metal from the Mouth/Body right into the Brain. Doing the Hair test is a good idea, it will give you at least some idea on what is going on in your body, and if we are to believe Dr. Wilson, a VERY good idea, he has written a very long book on Hair Tests (his Mentor invented the idea) and how to interpret them, one I wish I had, but there is a lot of info on his website and ARL Labs website (the one he recommends) about how to interpret the results, and a good ND will hopefully be educated on these methodologies. Regardless of the results, if you can afford it if I was you I would find a good Huggins Dentist (trained in removing Mercury fillings safely) asap and start getting those removed. I had one that was “cracked”, and have no doubt it has caused me issues. Good luck, if you do have a heavy toxic load please be patient in its removal.


I think the most popular is the Andy Cutler Protocol, which is a very slow/safe but PITA method, and uses synthetic Amino Acid Chelators DMSA, DMPS and also ALA all in small doses on a very strict time schedule due to their half lives. Lots of info on net about this you will see, chelators are bought from company out of Africa IIRC, there is a good Yahoo support group/forum where people answer questions etc (poorly organized unfortunately)

There are some others of note, and some are opposed to Cutler method such as Dr. Lawrence Wilson http://drlwilson.com/articles/chelation.htm (very good website with a TON of info on everything health). EDTA can be used, Dr. Mercola has made some suggestions like using Cilantro and others, funny enough Cutler warns against using EDTA and Cilantro, for potentially valid reasons, confusing the issue further. 🙁

I think the best course of action for someone depends on many things. Do they still have Mercury fillings? Do they have the MTHFR & other mutations in their Genes? (found out with 23andme test) How big is their toxic load?

The first course of action is always to get fillings removed safely, and then getting a Hair metal/mineral test done. To me getting the 23andme test for $99 should be done too, for reasons I noted on FH. Then with that done, and with that information a suitable course of action can be recommended (I sound like a bluddy Naturopath here….) If someone has a huge toxin burden, I think the Cutler method makes sense, but the MTHFR could complicate this. If someone is moderately toxic, Cutler method might still be good, or a combination of ideas might be good enough, again depending on the MTHFR issue. If someone is only mildly toxic, they should for sure address the MTHFR issues first and foremost, which would help the body alleviate the burden on it’s own (of course with a MTHFR issue someone is likely NOT going to have small burden, depending on their age and exposures of course). Also with smaller toxic burden, things like Cilantro, Wheat Grass and regular exercise and Saunas should be enough to bring the burden down, assuming they limit their future exposures.

I hope that helps, unfortunately the waters are a little muddy on this, not unlike Cipro poisoning.

Just a final note that these are only my “untrained” opinions. Toxic load is a serious wide-spread issue, causes very serious health issues, and removal has to be taken very seriously and not “toyed” with, someone needs to put their trust in a professional or do a whole lot of research. There are many complicating factors, such as Candida overgrowth (something DMSA potentially stimulates), MTHFR & other Genes, current past/health problems of the person and things like condition of Liver/Kidney’s, Cancer, FQ toxicity, etc. (Emphasis added by Lisa.)

I also forgot to mention Spirulina & Chlorella, although I did mention Dr. Mercola, and this is 2 things he advocates. They are also something Dr. Sircus recommends (along with a few others, see link), here is a good article on the whole topic here: http://drsircus.com/medicine/essentials-natural-chelation

He actually gives a LOT of accurate advice in this article in my opinion, like his notes on ALA which are important, and note what he says about Magnesium too, which applies 10 fold to a Floxie with Heavy Metals. He notes that some studies found Chlorella on its own, did not seem to chelate anything effectively. However when used with Cilantro, it does, and this makes perfect sense to me because Cilantro is a “mobilizer”, it irritates the Metals stored and Chlorella is a “binder”, it is extremely absorbent and will bind to Metals to help them exit the body and not be “re-absorbed” once they are mobile, which is critical. Done wrong, the Metals from one area can mobilize and then be re-absorbed in other areas causing great oxidative damage like to the Brain.

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