Toxins enter our bodies via several channels including through our food, our drinking water, the pollution in the air we breathe in, and even through our skin transdermally.
These toxins are carried into our liver whereby they undergo detoxification reactions so that can be removed from our body. However, if our body system is unable to remove them, they are carried by the bloodstream all over our body and can accumulate for years. Chelation is a medical detoxification treatment to pull heavy metals from our tissues and excrete them safely.
What Is Chelation?
Chelation comes from the Greek word “Chee” which means claw. Chelation therapy is a process whereby a chemical compound is injected intravenously into the bloodstream to draw out the heavy metals from the body. But in the process, other minerals may also be drawn out of the body too. When these substances are injected into the body, they grab hold of the metals and minerals such as lead, mercury, copper, iron, arsenic, aluminium and calcium and excrete them out of the money through the bowels or the kidneys.
Depending on the metal toxic burden in the body, oral or intravenous applied DMPS or DMSA or EDTA may be used for follow-up treatments. The treatment regime can be weekly or monthly treatments given over a period of time. A repeat provocation test is usually recommended after 10 chelation treatments or in a 3 month period if the treatments are done weekly. The follow-up provocation test is used to evaluate the patient response and success of treatment.
In certain patients who are symptomatic but with unbelievably low levels of heavy metals after the challenge, it may be worthwhile to stimulate bile drainage with Solidago, Vitamin C, Selenium and Zinc for about a month and repeat the test which typically reports a higher value. This is likely that the patient is a bile excretor and eliminates mercury predominantly via stool. Giving sulphurous, bile-accessible substances such as wild garlic or coriander would loosen the heavy metals from deep places and mobilise it better for elimination.
As chelation uses an external chemical to draw out heavy metals, there are different chelating agents. The main agents are EDTA and DMPS with specific pros and cons.
1. EDTA (ethylenediaminmnetetraacetic acid)
EDTA is a chelator that is very effective in treating heavy metals, especially lead and cadmium toxicity. It is an FDA approved method for the treatment of lead poisoning. Some physicians have used IV EDTA to treat coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis, although this form of treatment is still controversial. Proponents of this method believe that EDTA which usually binds with the calcium in the bones, also acts to bind calcium deposits from plaques in the arteries and this helps to “clean out” the calcium plaques from the arteries and reduce risk of heart disease.
There is a recent study to show the effectiveness of EDTA therapy for preventing cardiovascular events especially in diabetic patients with a history of heart attack. The Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT), found an amazing 40% reduction in total mortality, 40% reduction in recurrent heart attacks and about 50% reduction in overall mortality in patients with diabetes who previously suffered from a heart attack. TACT was a large, randomised, placebo-controlled study published in JAMA that randomised patients to a series of IV chelation using EDTA or placebo. (1) Some patients also report reduced pain from chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis, as it acts as an antioxidant to remove inflammatory processes in the body.
2. DMPS (2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid)
Another intravenous agent used for mercury detoxification is called DMPS (2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid). It belongs to the thiol group which binds metals to sulfhydryl groups. It has been registered in Germany since 1997 and is available as a prescription item in various countries. DMPS is routinely used as an antidote for heavy metal poisoning and for the treatment of chronic metal overexposure. DMPS is considered the most effective for the binding and elimination of arsenic and mercury, but also useful for lead. DMPS provocation tests are used by physicians before initiating treatment to diagnose the severity of the heavy metal burden in the body. DMPS effectively binds antimony, arsenic and mercury.
DMPS is useful to be used in a provocation test to evaluate chronic metal exposures. This allows the physician to identify the type of metal accumulating in the body and helps to select the most appropriate chelating agent for the treatment.
- EDTA with its strong calcium binding ability, is the preferred option for the treatment of calcium deposits in coronary vessels in cardiovascular disease. It is also preferred if lead and cadmium are high.
- DMPS is most suitable for multiple metal exposure, especially when overexposure to antimony, arsenic and mercury are suspected. The intravenous treatment binds metals more effectively than the oral application.
- Oral DMSA is not a strong chelating agent but has good lead binding ability. The advantage is that it does not bind effectively to essential elements like calcium, copper and zinc. Hence, it is suitable for children and the elderly. (2)
Safety Of Chelation
Chelation is considered a safe medical procedure however it may not be applicable for all individuals. Some of the negative side effects of EDTA therapy include kidney damage at high doses, or high blood pressure, headache, and rashes. It is important to monitor the renal function during the IV EDTA chelation treatment.
Chelating agents have a strong affinity for metals, including the nutrient metals. For DMPS, it has a strong copper binding ability, EDTA binds strongly to zinc and calcium. If the patient’s nutritional status is not evaluated, the prolonged use of chelating agents can lead to certain mineral deficiencies. Hence during chelation treatment, physicians should monitor closely the patient’s nutritional status and supplement or replace deficient nutrients as necessary before starting or during the chelation treatment to keep them from losing these minerals in the process of chelation.
Sears ME. Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification–a review. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013;2013:219840. Published 2013 Apr 18. doi:10.1155/2013/219840
This Week in JAMA. JAMA. 2013;309(12):1201. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.145324
- Comparison of Chelating Agents DMPS, DMSA, and EDTA for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic metal exposure. British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research 4(9):1821-1835, 2014