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    Chelation Therapy – Purpose, Procedure, Benefits & Risks

    It can be highly toxic when metals like iron, lead, mercury and arsenic build up in your body. A treatment known as chelation therapy has gained ample popularity as a way to get rid of this toxicity. Chelation therapy makes use of medicines that remove these harmful metals from your body preventing you from falling sick. Few healthcare providers also believe in the use of chelation therapy for the treatment of autism, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease [1] . However, there is no research-based evidence to prove that this therapy works for these conditions. It is also important to know that if not done in the right manner, this therapy can cause serious fatal side effects.

    Read on to know more about chelation therapy, how it is done and the safety aspects involved.

    What Is Chelation Therapy

    Chelation therapy is considered an alternative medicine that is used for the purpose of eliminating heavy metals and toxins from the human body [2] .

    Chelation Therapy

    Let's first understand why would a person experience heavy metal toxicity in the first place. Unlike what many believe that this kind of toxicity is only linked to rare situations of accidental poisoning, heavy metals in the human body are quite a common occurrence. The condition of toxicity to a certain degree in your body can arise in the following cases [3] :

    • Have mercury fillings in your teeth (or amalgam fillings)
    • Eat farm-raised fish regularly
    • Have been vaccinated for the prevention of various diseases
    • Consume foreign-grown foods that are not certified as organic
    • Healing from chemotherapy or radiation treatments

    Chelation therapy involves the use of a solution - ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) [5] . This solution is administered in the body (most of the time directly injected into the bloodstream and very rarely in the from of pills). This way it can easily bind with the excess minerals (toxins). The EDTA helps in detoxing the body by getting rid of the toxins before imbalance or illness gets a chance to develop [5] .

    Although chelation therapy is a controversial practice in mainstream medicine, studies show that this therapy can effectively remove common heavy metals such as arsenic, iron, copper, mercury, lead, calcium and aluminium. Research data proves that chelation therapy has the potential to reduce the risk of heightened inflammation, heart diseases and other severe infections [6] .

    How Chelation Therapy Works

    People who have experienced chelation therapy feel that this therapy works wonderfully in keeping them more energetic and also immune to common illnesses, including environmental toxins. The use of chelation therapy with EDTA has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [7] .

    EDTA is a kind of man-made synthetic amino acid. Some practitioners use an alternative form in place of EDTA called DMPS (2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid). DMPS works similar to EDTA [8] .

    Chelation Therapy

    Chelation therapy involves the administration of EDTA into the person's veins. This results in the binding of salts to molecules in the blood. After EDTA has attached to the heavy metals, it (along with the attached heavy metals) moves to the kidneys and ultimately gets eliminated through urine [9] .

    Chelating agents such as EDTA and DMPS have specific bonds that form between metals and organic molecules. This is where the agents get their ability to 'bind to metals' that build up in the blood, blood vessels and major organs. Chelating agents [10] include peptides like metallothionein and glutathione (these are proven to have the capability of transporting and excreting toxins from the body effectively).

    The primary benefit offered by chelation therapy is its ability to be able to control the levels of various environmental metals in the human body. Metals such as lead, aluminium, mercury and arsenic, when allowed to remain in the human body for long, can lead to short and long term health issues. This is because these toxins directly impact the functionality of the central nervous, immune, skeletal and cardiovascular systems [11] . If the body goes out of homeostasis caused due to an imbalance in minerals, damage to vital organs occur.

    How To Determine If One Has Heavy Metal Toxicity

    Usually before going ahead with chelation therapy, the medical professional will do some blood test on the person to ensure that there is metal poisoning.

    • The following are some of the most common symptoms of metal toxicity [12] :
    • 'Brain fog' and trouble concentrating
    • Chronic fatigue syndrome
    • Trouble learning new things
    • Trouble remembering new information
    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Joint and muscular pain
    • Cognitive decline along with neurological disorders
    • Mood changes (depression and anxiety)

    Benefits Of Chelation Therapy

    1. Improves heart health: Although research is still in progress, many healthcare practitioners use chelation therapy for the treatment of coronary heart diseases such as atherosclerosis. The reason behind using this therapy for heart diseases is because EDTA binds with calcium within the arteries. It also helps in reducing plaque build-up and deposits that actually cut off the blood flow. After the binding, EDTA carries the molecules out of the arteries, thus improving circulation [13] . Similarly, EDTA can also control high inflammation and cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart diseases.

    2. Acts like an antioxidant: EDTA works similarly to antioxidants [14] . It can reduce inflammation, fight free radical damage and remove metals that are the cause behind chronic disease development. Researchers say that EDTA does not just bind to calcium within arteries, but also possesses the capability of binding with metals stored within muscles, bones and bodily tissues. People who have gone through long-term radiation exposure can benefit through chelation therapy as it can remove the accumulated toxic chemicals such as uranium and radionuclide [15] .

    3. Fights cognitive disorders: Research has given evidence that chelation therapy can be successfully used to treat cognitive disorders like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Studies reveal that increased accumulation of iron, zinc and copper in the brain is associated with a number of neurodegenerative diseases [16] . Heavy-metal exposure for a long time can lead to muscular and neurological degenerative changes in the brain that can set the stage for dementia, Parkinson's disease, etc.

    Chelation Therapy

    4. Lowers risks for learning disabilities: The last decade has seen an unimaginable rise in the rates of learning disabilities and related disorders. Many practitioners seek alternative treatment methodologies to control symptoms of cognitive disorders [17] . One such treatment most often opted is chelation therapy. Off-label use of chelation therapy might be helpful in lowering circulating or stored toxic chemicals/metals that interfere with the functionality of the brain.

    5. Lowers pain and swelling: Inflammation is the root of most diseases, especially autoimmune disorders and arthritis. Chelation therapy works in a great way when targeting inflammation. People who undergo this therapy report less pain from inflamed muscles, bones and joints [18] . Although not proven, it is believed by many experts that chelation therapy holds the possibility of being able to reduce the effects of oxygen ions (oxidative stress), which can cause damage to tissue and blood vessels.

    How Chelation Therapy Is Performed

    The execution of chelation therapy takes several hours. Chelation therapy is given at a doctor's clinic under special monitoring. For best results, the patient would need between 5 to 30 treatment sessions. Each session would involve insertion of an intravenous to administer liquid EDTA (usually done into a vein located in the hand or arm) [19] .

    Although the procedure is not painful, few people might experience slight swelling, redness or burning at the injection site. Not much recovery time is needed after the procedure. A person can go ahead with the normal day-to-day activity after the session is over.

    In some cases, patients have been found to report an increased frequency of urination following chelation therapy [20] . This can be considered a good sign as heavy metals leave the body through urine.

    Note: Remember to always receive chelation therapy from a trained and qualified chelation therapy practitioner.

    Chelation Therapy

    Side Effects Of Chelation Therapy

    The common side effects associated with chelation therapy are [21] :

    • Headache
    • Diarrhoea
    • High blood pressure
    • Poor appetite
    • Nausea
    • Loose stools
    • Low blood sugar
    • Vomiting
    • Skin rash
    • Fever

    In some rare cases, chelation therapy can trigger serious side effects such as kidney damage and abnormally low blood levels of calcium. Medical experts also show concern over this therapy removing calcium from healthy bones and other tissues.

    The following should not receive chelation therapy [22] :

    • Pregnant women
    • Children
    • People with heart or kidney failure

    It is essential that EDTA is infused properly as otherwise, it can cause very high levels of electrolyte imbalance [23] . There is also a possibility that apart from removing harmful heavy metals, EDTA can also bind to important minerals and vitamins present in the body and remove them as well, which would then lead to deficiencies. To avoid this, many practitioners give patients large doses of vitamins and minerals after chelation therapy.

    View Article References
    1. [1] Lamas G. A. (2015). Cardiology Patient Page. Chelation therapy: a new look at an old treatment for heart disease, particularly in diabetics.Circulation,131(21), e505–e506.
    2. [2] Sears M. E. (2013). Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification--a review.TheScientificWorldJournal,2013, 219840.
    3. [3] Jaishankar, M., Tseten, T., Anbalagan, N., Mathew, B. B., & Beeregowda, K. N. (2014). Toxicity, mechanism and health effects of some heavy metals.Interdisciplinary toxicology,7(2), 60–72.
    4. [4] Ferrero M. E. (2016). Rationale for the Successful Management of EDTA Chelation Therapy in Human Burden by Toxic Metals.BioMed research international,2016, 8274504.
    5. [5] Sears M. E. (2013). Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification--a review.TheScientificWorldJournal,2013, 219840.
    6. [6] Lamas, G. A., & Ergui, I. (2016). Chelation therapy to treat atherosclerosis, particularly in diabetes: is it time to reconsider?.Expert review of cardiovascular therapy,14(8), 927–938.
    7. [7] Lee, B. K., Schwartz, B. S., Stewart, W., & Ahn, K. D. (1995). Provocative chelation with DMSA and EDTA: evidence for differential access to lead storage sites.Occupational and environmental medicine,52(1), 13–19.
    8. [8] Rafati-Rahimzadeh, M., Rafati-Rahimzadeh, M., Kazemi, S., & Moghadamnia, A. A. (2014). Current approaches of the management of mercury poisoning: need of the hour.Daru : journal of Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences,22(1), 46.
    9. [9] Braide, V. B. (1984). Calcium EDTA toxicity: renal excretion of endogenous trace metals and the effect of repletion on collagen degradation in the rat.General pharmacology,15(1), 37-41.
    10. [10] Hall, J. L. (2002). Cellular mechanisms for heavy metal detoxification and tolerance.Journal of experimental botany,53(366), 1-11.
    11. [11] Yang, N. J., & Chiu, I. M. (2017). Bacterial Signaling to the Nervous System through Toxins and Metabolites.Journal of molecular biology,429(5), 587–605.
    12. [12] Rehman, K., Fatima, F., Waheed, I., & Akash, M. S. H. (2018). Prevalence of exposure of heavy metals and their impact on health consequences.Journal of cellular biochemistry,119(1), 157-184.
    13. [13] Sultan, S., Murarka, S., Jahangir, A., Mookadam, F., Tajik, A. J., & Jahangir, A. (2017). Chelation therapy in cardiovascular disease: an update.Expert review of clinical pharmacology,10(8), 843-854.
    14. [14] González-Cuevas, J., Navarro-Partida, J., Marquez-Aguirre, A. L., Bueno-Topete, M. R., Beas-Zarate, C., & Armendáriz-Borunda, J. (2011). Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid induces antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities in experimental liver fibrosis.Redox Report,16(2), 62-70.
    15. [15] Fukuda, S. (2005). Chelating agents used for plutonium and uranium removal in radiation emergency medicine.Current medicinal chemistry,12(23), 2765-2770.
    16. [16] Barnham, K. J., Masters, C. L., & Bush, A. I. (2004). Neurodegenerative diseases and oxidative stress.Nature reviews Drug discovery,3(3), 205.
    17. [17] Stangle, D. E., Smith, D. R., Beaudin, S. A., Strawderman, M. S., Levitsky, D. A., & Strupp, B. J. (2006). Succimer chelation improves learning, attention, and arousal regulation in lead-exposed rats but produces lasting cognitive impairment in the absence of lead exposure.Environmental health perspectives,115(2), 201-209.
    18. [18] Ferrero M. E. (2016). Rationale for the Successful Management of EDTA Chelation Therapy in Human Burden by Toxic Metals.BioMed research international,2016, 8274504.
    19. [19] Corsello, S., Fulgenzi, A., Vietti, D., & Ferrero, M. E. (2009). The usefulness of chelation therapy for the remission of symptoms caused by previous treatment with mercury-containing pharmaceuticals: a case report.Cases journal,2, 199.
    20. [20] Waters, R. S., Bryden, N. A., Patterson, K. Y., Veillon, C., & Anderson, R. A. (2001). EDTA chelation effects on urinary losses of cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, magnesium, and zinc.Biological trace element research,83(3), 207-221.
    21. [21] Peterson, G. R. (1983). Adverse effects of chelation therapy.JAMA,250(21), 2926-2926.
    22. [22] Sears M. E. (2013). Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification--a review.TheScientificWorldJournal,2013, 219840.
    23. [23] Ferrero M. E. (2016). Rationale for the Successful Management of EDTA Chelation Therapy in Human Burden by Toxic Metals.BioMed research international,2016, 8274504.

    Read more about: alternative medicine
    Story first published: Friday, April 12, 2019, 12:13 [IST]
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