Daphne Zuniga on Mercury Poisoning

Interview by Kay Neusteter

Actress Daphne Zuniga was healthy and vibrant until she was diagnosed with mercury poisoning and underwent a year-long detox to draw the heavy metal out of her system. In "From Anger to Activism," the star of Melrose Place, Spaceballs, and One Tree Hill talked to Natural Solutions about her illness and the fight against environmental polluters. Here, we continue our conversation with the actress turned activist.

What made you think to get tested for mercury toxicity?
I had brain fog and short-term-memory loss. I couldn’t memorize lines, which I’ve been doing my whole life. It was a completely new experience to be on a set, having learned lines the night before and not being able to remember them. So that was a real red flag to me. I’m also a very optimistic, self-aware person, and I just felt off. It wasn’t like I was depressed, it was more like a feeling of dread. Like, someone had died. But it had no cause, so I thought, What is going on? Then my hands and feet started cramping, and I had tingles and tremors up and down my legs. I had read somewhere that about one in five people have toxic levels of mercury—in part from eating fish. I chose to go to the doctor, and sure enough, I my tests showed I had double the safe level of mercury.

How much mercury is too much?
You should have zero mercury in your body. Zero. Anything above that is too much. And it affects everyone differently. Someone who’s just as toxic as I was may have totally different symptoms than I did: She may experience severe headaches or coordination problems when she walks. This is the same stuff that will shut down a school if a freaking thermometer breaks in the science lab. So, we can’t be in denial.

You used to eat a lot of tuna, which is high in mercury. But dental fillings are another source—did you have your fillings removed?
Amalgam fillings are 50 percent mercury, which gets into your system when it vaporizes as a result of drinking something warm, say, or when your fillings get worn from chewing. You actually inhale it. I took all my amalgam fillings out. But you have to take them out safely with a dentist who does it properly, because when they’re extracted, the fumes can be really toxic. Dentists who know what they’re doing suck out the vapors the minute the extraction starts.

Besides chelation therapy, what other detox practices did you do?
Chlorella is a great chelator, as is cilantro. So I took powdered chlorella and cilantro drops in addition to going in and getting the IV every now and then. I stopped eating tuna. And I now get protein from salmon, tilapia, and eggs.

What were other people’s reactions were when you started talking about mercury poisoning?
Some people wouldn’t believe I had it, and I would say, “If I needed a little press, don’t you think I would have come up with a sexier problem than freaking mercury poisoning?” The only reason I started talking about it was that people were super interested. The point is that I am toxic and so are you, and we have to do something about what environmental polluters are getting away with. Period.

Do you use other types of complementary and alternative therapies or medicine?
I really respect practitioners that integrate the Eastern with the Western assessment, because integrative practitioners say, “You’re a whole being. You’re psychological, you’re physical, and so I’m going to get a whole picture of you.” Western medicine, on the other hand, is purely physical, and doctors simply say, “Here’s a pill.” But if they addressed some of your psychological history and some of your emotional stuff, then they wouldn’t be offering that pill. They’d say, “You know what you need? A good walk in the sun. Fifteen minutes a day.” I also do meditation retreats. There have been periods when I could sit for a whole hour by myself just meditating, and it becomes so delicious. Lately, though, I’ve been so busy, I just try to grab 10 minutes here and there of mindfulness or sitting. If they made the men that rule the world just sit for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night, there wouldn’t be so much acting out.

What other kind of stress reduction stuff do you do?
Yelling. Just kidding. There are hikes all around where I live. I walk with my dog and look at the ocean, which is just 10 minutes away. Sometimes, I’ll go to a healer, who changes the energy in my body. So much of my stress is created in my brain. And because my brain is creative, it comes up with stories. If I can seriously focus on my breath, just feel it go all the way in, down my throat to my solar plexus, and all the way out, I can clue back in.