Published on January 30th, 2024 | by Natural Awakenings Publishing Corp.0
Chelation: The Elimination of Toxic Metals
Functional medicine is known for a focus on the gut, the adrenal/thyroid axis, vitamin IV’s, and hormonal balance. One of the lesser-known treatments provided in integrative MD offices is chelation therapy. Physiologically, chelation is the introduction of one of a number of chemicals into the body, typically via the oral or intravenous route, with the intent of removing unwanted, undesirable minerals. There are two major reasons to do chelation treatments. One is the reduction of calcified plaque on the blood vessels throughout the body, using intravenous EDTA. The other is elimination of toxic “heavy” metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and antimony, using various agents orally, intravenously, or both. Newer agents have been introduced to delete industrial toxins, such as gallium, present in the contrast medium used with CT scans.
Metal detoxification using chelation was actually developed and introduced first to combat arsenical weapons of destruction used in war in the 1940s. Unexpectedly, those treated to remove arsenic got rid not only of the poison, but of such heart-related symptoms as angina (chest pain), and claudication (leg pain secondary to poor arterial circulation.) It was further noted in a retrospective study that people treated for lead poisoning with the chelating agent EDTA had a long-term 90% lower frequency of all-type cancer. The use of EDTA to treat atherosclerosis took off and persisted for many years and is still available and effective. However, with the advent of open-heart surgery, and then stenting via catheterization, hospital-based physicians became advocates of interventional approaches over “cleaning” the arteries, and the number doing atherosclerosis focused chelation has diminished. It is important to note that this latter treatment addresses the entire vascular system in a “root cause” way, whereas stents address only individual large vessels, and often close overtime.
Chelation focusing on removal of metals continues to be an important therapy to address the most common metallic toxins that we are exposed to, especially in today‘s world. Lead is often found in substantial amounts as an impurity in water, including “natural” well water. Mercury is part of older crumbling fillings and some vaccines; hence, chelation of this element is a common part of treatment for autism and other neurological disorders. Arsenic is part of some animal feeds. Many metals are used in industry and the waste disposal is often less than careful; all of our waters up to the Arctic are at least mildly polluted. Metals in joint replacements are known to occasionally decay and leach into the body, causing severe symptoms.
When we are exposed to toxic metals, they go through our body’s detoxification processes. If these are inadequate, or if the toxic exposure is great, some of the metals remain in the body, and settle and bond securely in the fattiest tissues, primarily the nervous system, gut, and skin. Without chelation, they remain in the tissues, wreaking slow havoc on the body. Hair and blood tests do not adequately show the level of toxicity in the body. To do that, a dose of a chelating agent must be administered to mobilize the metal back into the bloodstream; urine is then collected to evaluate post-chelation metal levels.
If testing is properly done, and metals are discovered to be in excess, a carefully designed and administered program of chelation can correct any current symptoms and provide many years of improved health going forward, hence, a most worthwhile investment of time.
Robin Ellen Leder, M.D., has been seeing patients at her functional/holistic medical office for 30+ years since she learned sitting side-by side with mentor Robert Atkin,s of The Atkins Diet fame. Since then, she has provided hundreds of IVs and chelation treatments to her patients, in addition to working with them to heal their guts, guiding them nutritionally, and prescribing hormonal regimens for both men and women. Comprehensive innovative functional testing is at the core of her practice.