Chelation therapy is a medical procedure that involves the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body. Chelation therapy has a long history of use in clinical toxicology and remains in use for some very specific medical treatments, although it is administered under very careful medical supervision due to various inherent risks.
Chelation therapy must be administered with care as it has a number of possible side effects, including death. In response to increasing use of chelation therapy as alternative medicine and in circumstances in which the therapy should not be used in conventional medicine, various health organizations have confirmed that medical evidence does not support the effectiveness of chelation therapy for any purpose other than the treatment of heavy metal poisoning. Over-the-counter chelation products are not approved for sale in the United States.
Chelation therapy is the preferred medical treatment for metal poisoning, including acute mercury, iron (including in cases of thalassemia), arsenic, lead, uranium, plutonium and other forms of toxic metal poisoning. The chelating agent may be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally, depending on the agent and the type of poisoning.
There are a variety of common chelating agents with differing affinities for different metals, physical characteristics, and biological mechanism of action. For the most common forms of heavy metal intoxication – lead, arsenic, or mercury – a number of chelating agents are available. Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) has been recommended for the treatment of lead poisoning in children by poison control centers around the world. Other chelating agents, such as 2,3-dimercaptopropanesulfonic acid (DMPS) and alpha lipoic acid (ALA), are used in conventional and alternative medicine. Some common chelating agents are ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), 2,3-dimercaptopropanesulfonic acid (DMPS), and thiamine tetrahydrofurfuryl disulfide (TTFD). Calcium-disodium EDTA and DMSA are only approved for the removal of lead by the Food and Drug Administration while DMPS and TTFD are not approved by the FDA. These drugs bind to heavy metals in the body and prevent them from binding to other agents. They are then excreted from the body. The chelating process also removes vital nutrients such as vitamins C and E, therefore these must be supplemented.
The German Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt) listed DMSA and DMPS as the two most useful and safe chelating agents available.
Use in alternative medicine:
Chelation therapy is considered an alternative medicine that has the purpose of removing “heavy metals” and toxins from the body.In alternative medicine, some practitioners claim chelation therapy can treat a variety of ailments, including heart disease and autism.
Why would someone experience heavy metal toxicity in the first place? Although it might sound like something only tied to rare circumstances of accidental poisoning, heavy metals are more common than you think. If you have mercury fillings in your teeth (or amalgam fillings), have been vaccinated to prevent various diseases, eat farm-raised fish regularly, consume foods that are grown in foreign countries (like China) that aren’t certified organic, or are healing from radiation and chemotherapy treatments, you’re likely experiencing heavy metal toxicity right now to some degree.
Chelation therapy involves a chemical solution called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), which is administered into the body — usually directly injected into the bloodstream — so it can bind with excess minerals. Once bound to “toxins” in the body, EDTA helps detox the body of heavy metals by removing them before imbalances and illnesses have the chance to develop.
The biggest benefit of chelation therapy is controlling levels of various environmental metals. Metals, including lead, mercury, aluminum and arsenic, can cause short- and long-term health consequences since they impact functions of the central nervous, cardiovascular, immune and skeletal systems. When the body is out of homeostasis due to experiencing imbalances in minerals, malfunction and damage to vital organs can develop.
You may expect to get the following benefits:
*Might Help Improve Heart Health:
Although ongoing research is still underway, some alternative health care providers use chelation therapy to help treat coronary heart diseases, including atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries that can potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke).
It’s believed that EDTA binds with calcium within the arteries, helping reduce plaque build-up and deposits that can cut off blood flow. Once bound to calcium, EDTA can help carry the molecules out of arteries so circulation improves. In a similar way, EDTA might help control high inflammation and cholesterol levels, which also pose a risk for heart disease. In the future, we might see chelation therapy used a less risky and more affordable alternative to heart surgery and complicated mediations that have many side effects.
*Acts Like an Antioxidant:
EDTA might act similarly to antioxidants by reducing inflammation, fighting free radical damage and removing metals that cause the foundation of chronic disease development. It’s been suggested that EDTA binds to not only calcium within arteries, but also other metals stored within bones, muscles and bodily tissues that can lead to increased inflammation or pain.
Certain chelating agents have even been used to successfully lower the presence of plutonium radiation toxicity within the body, which is tied to increased cancer risk. Uranium and radionuclide are two types of chemicals that can cause toxicity, leukemia and osteosarcoma when someone experiences long-term radiation exposure, but chelating agents, including DTPA, are able to help remove these before serious illnesses can form.
*Lowers Pain and Swelling:
Since chelation therapy targets inflammation, the root of most diseases, including arthritis and many autoimmune disorders, many people report less pain from inflamed muscles, joints and bones when using EDTA.
Although this theory hasn’t yet been proven in controlled scientific studies, chelation therapy might work by helping to reduce the effects of oxygen ions (also called oxidative stress) that can damage blood vessels and tissue. When inflammation causes the walls of vessels to become clogged, circulation decreases and pain grows. Chelation therapy can offer an alternative to ongoing medication treatments for chronic pain.
*Can Help Fight Cognitive Disorders:
There’s evidence that chelation therapy can successfully treat cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. While the exact mechanisms in which EDTA helps resolve these problems isn’t yet clear or proven in studies, there seems to be a tie between heavy metal poisoning (or toxicity), including high levels of lead or mercury in the blood, and medical disorders that affect the brain, memory and learning.
Research also shows that increased accumulation in the brain of copper, iron and zinc might be associated with a number of neurodegenerative diseases. Long-term heavy metal exposure can lead to physical, muscular and neurological degenerative changes in the brain that set the stage for not only Alzheimer’s disease, but also dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
*Helps Lower Risk for Learning Disabilities:
Sadly, rates of learning disabilities symptoms like ADHD and autism spectrum disorders have been on the rise in recent years, yet how exactly these conditions should be treated or prevented remains controversial in the medical community. Many practitioners are now looking to alternative treatment methods to control symptoms of cognitive disorders, including some like chelation therapy that target heavy metal poisoning.
While not technically authorized to be used for treating such conditions, “off-label use” of chelation therapy might be beneficial for cognitive health because of its proven ability to lower circulating or stored toxic metals that interfere with brain function. Going forward, we should expect to see new proven strategies using chelating agents that are capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and bringing back homeostasis of minerals levels.
The use of chelation therapy by alternative medicine practitioners for behavioral and other disorders is considered pseudoscientific; there is no proof that it is effective. In addition to being ineffective, chelation therapy prior to heavy metal testing can artificially raise urinary heavy metal concentrations (“provoked” urine testing) and lead to inappropriate and unnecessary treatment. The American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology warn the public that chelating drugs used in chelation therapy may have serious side effects, including liver and kidney damage, blood pressure changes, allergies and in some cases even death of the patient.
When used properly in response to a diagnosis of harm from metal toxicity, side effects of chelation therapy include dehydration, low blood calcium, harm to kidneys, increased enzymes as would be detected in liver function tests, allergic reactions, and lowered levels of dietary elements. When administered inappropriately, there are the additional risks of hypocalcaemia (low calcium levels), neurodevelopmental disorders, and death.
Chelation therapy with EDTA should only be performed by a professional or under supervision due to the potential for side effects to develop in some cases. The most common side effect is a burning sensation at the site where EDTA is injected into a vein, but this usually goes away quickly and is mild. Some people also experience digestive issues like vomiting, feeling dizzy, fever, headaches, nausea, low blood sugar symptoms and blood pressure changes.
It’s very important for EDTA to be infused properly and slowly, since high levels can cause electrolyte imbalances. It’s also possible that while it removes unwanted heavy metals, EDTA can potentially also bind to needed vitamins and minerals and remove them from the body, which poses the risk for deficiencies. To make up for this, many practitioners give patients large doses of vitamins/minerals following chelation therapy so they avoid becoming very deficient.
Although it’s very rare, kidney damage and heart failure can also occur due to blood pressure levels dropping suddenly and abnormally low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia). At this time, children, pregnant women, and anyone who has a history of heart disease or kidney problems should not use chelation therapy without consulting with a doctor first.