If you’re a long-term fan of alternative health you’ve probably heard of chelation (pronounced KEY-lation). It first came to my attention some 30 years ago as a nonsurgical way to clear the junk out of arteries– for example, as a treatment for atherosclerosis.
Today, many alternative doctors rely on a variety of chelation methods to detoxify the body of heavy metals that can drag down the immune system and prevent it from fighting cancer and other illnesses. Let’s take a closer look at this therapy and how it works.
Chelation treatment dates back more than a century. It’s been around since 1893 when Alfred Werner, a Swiss Nobel laureate, first developed the concept of organic molecules binding to metals.
From there, chelation chemistry was born. It revolves around the concept of organic molecules binding with inorganic molecules. In a nutshell, it’s a way to purge our bodies of toxic metals such as lead and mercury (which are inorganic molecules) by sending chelating agents (organic molecules) into the body to round them up.
The birth of EDTA
The most common chelating agent is EDTA, or ethylenediamine tetraacetate (also called tetraacetic acid). It was first developed in the 1930s when German industrialists wanted a way to prevent stains from cropping up when the calcium in their hard water supply reacted with certain dyes. They created the synthetic amino acid now known as EDTA.
From there, researchers refined EDTA and found more ways to use it to remove toxic heavy metals, like lead, from biological and chemical systems. Then, when World War II and its poison gases triggered a search for antidotes, chelation was first used as a therapy on humans.
After the war, chelation formally became part of the medical toolbox.
Solution to lead poisoning
Throughout the 1940s chelation was a routine treatment for arsenic and other metal poisons. By the 1950s, it was the treatment of choice for lead poisoning in children and adults — and remains the top choice today.
But even though chelation therapy isn’t well-known, chelating agents are actually present all throughout your home. Household detergents, for example, have chelating agents that help dirty wash water go down the drain without leaving a soap ring.
Along with treating lead poisoning in the 1950s, chelation therapy with EDTA was also used to treat atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries”. Because EDTA binds with calcium, which is found in arterial plaque, its use was seen as a key way to reverse arterial blockage.
Once a standard artery treatment,
Atherosclerosis patients who were treated intravenously with EDTA saw all kinds of physical improvements. Along with increased blood flow around blocked arteries, they suffered less chest and leg pain, their skin color improved, cold arms and legs returned to normal temperatures, they had better muscular and brain function, and they had more energy.
For a while, the medical community really sat up and took notice of EDTA. As doctors gained experience with chelation, they decided its effect on calcium was not as significant as the fact that chelating agents could bind with metals found throughout the body — metals that poison tissues and promote free radicals which cause cancer.
After all, if chelation therapy could remove unwanted metals from the body, cells could resume their normal functions and many illnesses could be prevented or even cured.
That’s exactly what EDTA does. By purging our bodies of toxic metals, EDTA makes it possible for the mitochondria in our cells to resume normal activity. Lead, for example, is a close chemical relative of zinc (but zinc is a healthy metal we want in our bodies).
Because of their similar makeup, lead can plug itself into the enzyme functions zinc is supposed to fulfill, in turn messing up mitochondrial activity. But with lead out of the picture thanks to a round of EDTA, zinc can move back where it’s supposed to be, stimulating intracellular processes.
Countless case studies have been documented that tell real-life success stories of chelation therapy. Here’s one…
End-stage atherosclerosis averted
Dr. Elmer Cranton recounts the case of “Judy” in his book, Bypassing Bypass Surgery. Judy had terrible gangrene in her right foot as a result of end-stage atherosclerosis. Every physician who saw the damaged limb told her it had to be amputated.
Dr. Cranton started her on chelation therapy instead. Her condition was so bad she needed 18 months of I.V. treatment.
Amazingly, the treatment saved her foot and leg. She’s a “walking” example of how chelation can restore blood circulation in blocked arteries and help the body heal.
Chelation as preventive therapy
Doctors who make use of chelation say it plays a huge role in fixing metabolic function and improving blood flow throughout the body. I would only caution that chelation should be done only under the supervision of an experienced doctor. And it should be based on a diagnosis that you have an excess of heavy metals or another condition that is an appropriate indication for this treatment.
When a chelating agent like EDTA gets released in the body, its molecules spread all over by way of the bloodstream and bind with toxic metals like lead or cadmium to form new compounds. These new compounds are able to dissolve in water, so they can enter your bloodstream. From there, your kidneys and liver are able to filter them out and you finally rid yourself of the poisonous metals when you go to the bathroom.
The whole process is actually based on the principle of metal ligand binding.
When a bond forms, it looks something like a lobster claw (chelae is actually the Greek word for claw). So, in essence, chelation therapy grabs metal toxins from your body and shows them the exit door.
EDTA does a marvelous job of removing these toxic metal ions from the areas where they interfere most with normal metabolic function.
Chelating agents can also bond with good metallic ions like iron, copper, or zinc, that end up in the wrong part of your body. But rather than removing them, those metallic ions simply get redistributed.
You see, when those essential nutritional metals are where they’re supposed to be in your body, they’re so tightly bound to the sites of normal activity that agents like EDTA can’t touch them. But when EDTA chelation finds loose or free-floating metals, it picks them up and relocates them to places in your body where they’ll form stronger bonds.
Other chelating agents
EDTA may be the most common chelating agent, but it’s not the only one. Several natural compounds, in fact, have chelating effects on your body that help you detoxify.
These include food and nutrients like dietary fiber, vitamin C, garlic, malic acid (known as apple acid and found in many fruits and plants), and curcumin (from the Indian spice turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family).
Another chelating agent called DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid) is the only agent besides EDTA that’s considered just as effective when taken orally as it is when given through an I.V.
Like EDTA, DMSA is safe and relatively nontoxic. It binds well to arsenic, aluminum, mercury, and lead. DMSA, though, is the only chelating agent approved by the FDA for treating children who have lead or mercury poisoning in their brains.
This is because DMSA is the only chelating agent known to cross the blood-brain barrier, as published in a study in the 1994 issue of the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Another chelating agent is DMPS (dimercapto-propane sulfonate), which is actually a pharmaceutical creation. Though DMPS is effective at removing toxic metals from the body, it’s about three times more toxic to the body than any naturally occurring DMSA.
Chelation therapy can be given two ways: intravenously or orally.
Intravenous chelation is done in a doctor’s office on an outpatient basis. A tiny gauge needle or flexible Teflon catheter gets inserted into your arm or hand, and then EDTA is delivered by slow drip into your body over a period of three to four hours.
A complete course of intravenous chelation therapy can involve thirty or more visits, depending on your symptoms. The amount of time between these visits depends on how well you’re able to eliminate EDTA through your urine.
The prospect of spending several hours with a needle in the arm receiving a drip is not attractive to most people, including me. And doing it 30 times — yikes! I’ve undergone oral chelation, which was easy and pleasant.
Pills, not needles
Oral chelation is usually administered in pill form, though it can also be taken as a liquid. You can find it sold in compounds with calcium and sometimes magnesium.
People who take oral EDTA report feeling positive effects on day one of their treatment. The benefits range from having more energy to clearer thinking to being lifted out of mild depression. Studies from the Journal of Holistic Medicine and the Journal of Advancement in Medicine support what I’m telling you.
It’s hard to compare the effects of oral chelation to intravenous treatment because intravenous treatment is usually given to people with more severe symptoms.
Both forms of treatment have their pros and cons. According to Dr. Gary Gordon, an M.D., D.O. and leading authority on chelation, the I.V. approach cleans your body of toxins on a much deeper level than oral chelation. It’s like having your teeth professionally cleaned by the dentist versus brushing them on your own at home.
Also, intravenous chelation is one hundred percent absorbed by the body because the chelating agent goes right into the bloodstream. Oral chelation is only five to eighteen percent absorbed.
But, like the dentist, intravenous chelation is going to cost you a lot more than the do-it-yourself route. A full course of treatment can total up to $3,000 or $4,000 — and it’s pretty much guaranteed that your insurance won’t pay. Yet you can get oral chelation pills for as little as $15 a bottle.
An article in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients suggests oral chelation can actually outperform I.V. EDTA-only chelation in certain cases. The author, a Ph.D. named Maile Pouls, sees oral chelation as crucial for anyone with a family history of heart disease or poor eating habits. She likes to combine EDTA with natural chelating agents like garlic.
And Robert J. Rowen, M.D., a former editor of Second Opinion newsletter, cites studies that show oral EDTA chelation brings about dramatic elimination of lead by way of the urine and feces. He agrees with our figure that the body absorbs oral chelating at only five to 18 percent the rate of I.V., but in spite of that shortcoming it helps you get rid of lead two to three times as fast as you can without chelation.
A responsible oral chelation product will come with mineral supplements you need to replace the beneficial metals your body can lose during the chelation process. That’s because chelation therapy can result in a drop in your body’s stores of iron or zinc.
There are over-the-counter chelation supplements. I don’t recommend them because, as I mentioned earlier, this treatment should only be done with the help of a doctor who monitors your blood, and also prescribes appropriate supplements to take during the treatment so your body is not depleted of healthy minerals.
Promoting chelation therapy
as accepted medicine
Because of its natural and very effective application, you’d think chelation therapy would be used more as preventive medicine instead of a way to handle a health crisis. The scientific evidence supporting EDTA chelation therapy as well as treatment with other chelating agents is substantial.
There’s good evidence that chelation can help prevent cancer. After all, it rids your body of the toxic metals that increase free radical damage. But once cancer sets in and you’ve got a malignant tumor, chelation therapy isn’t as useful, from what I understand.
What’s more, the mere fact that chelation therapy can replace bypass surgery would qualify it as standard medical procedure — some might say a medical miracle — or so you might think.
But here’s the thing — each heart bypass means $40,000 or more to our medical system. A lot of people get a check when someone undergoes bypass surgery.
So the medical establishment continues to cut people open, even though dozens of studies over the last 30 years, published in big-name journals like the New England Journal of Medicine, show clear evidence that chelation helps heal atherosclerosis. And according to Dr. Elmer Cranton, there are no negative studies against chelation. He says the medical research that exists shows only positive results.
The only way to survive our polluted earth
When it comes down to it, thank goodness we know what we do about chelation therapy. More than six billion pounds of chemical toxins are released every year in America alone. Arsenic, lead, and mercury permeate our environment. Aluminum is in our cookware. Our foods are laced with cadmium. Some dental fillings contain large amounts of mercury. Our world is so contaminated and polluted, it’s impossible to avoid heavy metals.
Some doctors (the good ones, anyway) point out that every person living today is suffering from some level of heavy metal and pesticide poisoning. Every one of us has about a thousand times more lead in our bones than anyone who lived before the Industrial Age. Heavy metals like lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, and nickel were first widely used in industry beginning in the 1800s.
Chelation therapy is a gentle form of detoxification, considering that terrifically bad molecules are being ripped from your body. Toxic metals like lead and cadmium block your enzyme functions, disrupt basic metabolic processes, and put you at higher risk for free radical damage and cancer. It’s absolutely essential to get rid of them to enjoy maximum health.