What is Chelation?
Chelation therapy is used in conventional and alternative medicine for the purpose of removing heavy metals and chemicals from the body.
It involves intravenous injections of a chelating agent, EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), a synthetic amino acid. EDTA binds to heavy metals and minerals in the blood so that they can be excreted in the urine. Another common intravenous agent used by physicians for mercury detoxification is called DMPS (2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid).
There is an oral chelating agent called DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid), which is used for lead poisoning and is used by some physicians to remove mercury from the body. The drug combines with metals in the bloodstream and both the metals and the drug are removed from the body via the kidneys. There are common side effects with oral administration of DMSA, and these include diarrhea, loose stools, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite and skin rash.
So, the question now is – why would someone have heavy metals building up in their body in the first place? It might sound as if it occurs only in rare circumstances of accidental poisoning, but heavy metals are more common than you think. If you have or had mercury fillings (or amalgam fillings) in your teeth, have been vaccinated to prevent various diseases, eat farm-raised fish regularly, consume foods that are grown in foreign countries that are not certified organic, or are healing from radiation and chemotherapy treatments, you are likely to have some form of heavy metal toxicity.
EDTA is administered into the body intravenously so it can bind with the heavy metals directly. Once bound to these heavy metals or chemicals in the body, EDTA essentially helps detox the body of heavy metals by permanently removing them, thereby helping with imbalances and illnesses which have developed in the body over time due to the heavy metals.
First developed and used in the 1950s for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning, chelation therapy using EDTA is now performed to remove common heavy metals, including lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminum and cadmium. While still a controversial practice in mainstream medicine and one that requires more research for us to fully understand how it works, studies show that chelation therapy has potential for reducing the risk of heightened inflammation, heart disease, strokes, infections and other health problems.
EDTA can also reduce the amount of calcium in the bloodstream, as calcium is found within the plaque that can line diseased blood vessels. As such, there are medical studies which show chelation can be used to treat atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries, by reopening arteries clogged with plaque. Consequently, chelation can be an effective and less expensive adjunct to coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, and other conventional medical treatments.
The popularity of chelation therapy has grown since and more health care professionals are being trained in this practice.
How does Chelation work?
EDTA and DMPS are man-made synthetic amino acids. EDTA chelation therapy works by binding to heavy metals in the blood once administered intravenously. After EDTA attaches and binds irreversibly to heavy metals, the complex is excreted by the kidneys, where they are eliminated from the body through urine.
Moreover, chelating agents, like EDTA, DMSA and DMPS can help detoxify the body of toxic elements which are complexed with heavy metals, contributing to many types of chronic diseases. Chelating agents can form irreversible bonds between these toxic molecules and metals. This gives the chelating agents the ability to bind to metals that build up in the blood, solid organs and blood vessels.
There are other chelating agents, including peptides such as glutathione and metallothionein, that have been well-researched and proven to transport and excrete toxins from the body, all without the need for expensive surgeries and risky medications.
The biggest benefit of chelation therapy is regulating the levels of various environmental metals which can enter the body. Metals, including lead, mercury, aluminium and arsenic, can cause short- and long-term health consequences since they influence functions of the central nervous, cardiovascular, immune and skeletal systems. The CDC reported that the severity and health outcomes of toxic heavy metal exposure depend on several factors, including the type and form of the element, route of exposure (oral/inhalation/topical/ocular), duration of exposure (acute vs. chronic), and a person’s individual susceptibility. When the body is out of balance due to disparities in the levels of beneficial minerals, each vital organ or tissue can malfunction and be damaged.
Some of the most symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include:
• Mood imbalances, including depression and anxiety
• Autoimmune diseases
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Muscle and joint pain
• Neurological disorders and intellectual decline
• Trouble learning and remembering new information, which patients refer to as “Brain fog” and trouble concentrating
Where would you be exposed to heavy metals?
There are many places or opportunities to be exposed to heavy metals – they are ubiquitous in the environment. Humans risk overexposure from environmental concentrations that occur naturally (eg, arsenic-rich mineral deposits) or human activities (eg, lead or mercury release as a result of industrial pollution).
Acute toxicities of heavy metals come from sudden exposures to substantial quantities of some metals (such as from occupational exposure to aluminum dust or breaking a mercury-containing thermometer) and typically affect multiple organ systems, commonly the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, hair, and nails. Acute exposures to some metals, e.g. mercury, gold, nickel, and others, can also cause hypersensitivity or allergic reactions.
Chronic toxicities are expressed as conditions that develop over extended periods from chronic exposure to relatively low concentrations (eg, sustained environmental exposure). Symptoms of chronic heavy metal toxicity can be similar to other health conditions and may not be immediately recognized as intoxications. Increased cancer risk is a common feature of chronic exposure to certain metals; the exact mechanism of their carcinogenicity is not completely understood, although many are heavy metals can be mutagens or cause DNA damage, can disrupt gene expression, and deregulate cell growth and development. They can also interfere with innate DNA repair systems. In addition, certain metals may affect gene expression and alter gene function.
Here is a short list of other potential sources of common heavy metals:
• Lead-containing plumbing
• Lead-based paints (in buildings built before 1978 and is the predominant source for children)
• Foods grown in lead-rich soil
• Eating fish or shellfish contaminated with methylmercury (includes shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish, bass, walleye, pickerel)
• Breathing contaminated workplace air or skin contact during use in the workplace
• Release of mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings
• Tobacco smoke
• Eating foods containing cadmium (levels are highest in grains, legumes, and leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish)
• Contact with cadmium from household products (electric batteries and solar panels)
It is not possible to completely avoid exposure to toxic metals – they are everywhere. Even people who are not occupationally exposed retain certain metals in their body as a result of exposure from other sources, such as food, beverages, or air. Hence, it is possible to reduce metal toxicity risk through chelation therapy together with lifestyle choices that diminish the probability of harmful heavy metal uptake, such as dietary measures that may promote the safe metabolism or excretion of ingested heavy metals.