Chelation, like every other healing modality, is not a panacea or a cure all for any disease. Most physicians who use chelation therapy combine it with changes in diet, lifestyle (especially stress reduction, smoking cessation, and reduction of exposure to harmful chemicals in the person=s environment), and in combination with specific nutritional supplements and vitamins/minerals. Because our society often times expects a “quick fix” I would caution anyone reading this that improved health and healing takes time.
The concept of how heavy metals bind to organic molecules dates back to 1893. Chelation therapy was not used until the 1920′s in the manufacturing of paint, rubber and petroleum products. EDTA (ethyl-diamine-tetra-acetic acid) was developed in Germany in the late 1930′s and patented in 1935. Structurally it is a synthetic amino acid. It picks up and binds to heavy metals and allows them to be excreted through the urine. EDTA was used in industry and latter used medically to remove lead from sailors who were lead toxic from painting ships with lead-based paints. By the mid 1950′s EDTA was widely used for removing lead from children and adults, and is approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for this purpose today. It is also widely used as an additive in foods where it binds minerals, depriving bacteria of essential nutrients for growth. While treating lead poisoning it was observed that adults with circulatory ailments, coronary artery disease, and cerebrovascular disease often found improvement in their circulatory conditions. This lead to further investigation and use of EDTA to treat hardening of the arteries. Even though this is not a use approved by the FDA, it is used by thousands of physicians globally for this purpose.
Initially it was thought that EDTA would remove calcium from hardened atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries, allowing the plaque to dissolve. We now know this is not the case, although there is some plaque reduction with prolonged and repeated chelation therapy. Current thinking is that EDTA chelation affects the circulation through the removal of heavy metals from the endothelial cells that line the arteries, allowing the increased production of NO (nitrous oxide), which acts as a muscle relaxant to the endothelium. In this way, circulation is improved by relaxing the blood vessels and decreasing the resistance to blood flow, even though plaque may remain.
In 1999 Valentin Fuster, M.D., published a book entitled The Vulnerable Atherosclerotic Plaque. He pointed out that heart attacks do not occur in areas where there were large deposits of hardened plaque, but rather in areas of soft, fresh “vulnerable” plaques that became infected with a germ such as Herpes virus, Epstein-Barr virus, Cytomegalo virus or other low level germs. Other researchers are currently exploring whether these germs are more prevalent and infectious when NO is not present in sufficient amounts. Heavy metals decrease the amount of NO, which in turn reduces blood flow and increases vulnerability to infection and hypercoagulability with subsequent blood clot development and sudden death. The elimination of heavy metals, therefore, can be a life saving procedure in many cases.
We also know that EDTA chelation (disodium EDTA only) causes a release of parathyroid hormone, which mobilizes calcium production in the bone, causing an increase in bone density after several months of chelation therapy. This is helpful in patients with osteoporosis. Patients with diabetes have improved diabetic control as insulin receptor sites are freed up, decreasing the body’s need for insulin. EDTA helps magnesium to get into the cells by blocking calcium. Magnesium acts as a relaxant for blood vessels, reducing spasm and further enhancing blood flow. EDTA also affects hormones and prostaglandins and it has a direct effect in preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. EDTA chelation also produces beneficial anti-platelet and anti-coagulant affects. EDTA probably has other mechanisms of action that we are unaware of that account for the clinical improvements seen in patients with various diseases of aging.
Detoxification is a 3 part process:
1. Administration of a chelating agent that will bind to the heavy metal(s) and make it easier to remove them from the body. With EDTA, this is done through a series of intravenous (I.V.) treatments with EDTA. The intravenous therapy is usually given at weekly or bi-weekly intervals over 20 to 30 treatments, and then maintenance treatments as indicated are given on an individual basis. After every five treatments, a nutritional IV is given to replace lost essential minerals and nutrients.
2. Special nutritional or hormonal therapies are also used to support the body’s detoxification pathways. These might include antioxidant vitamins and minerals, digestive enzymes, hormonal replacement therapies, or any other nutrients or substances that are natural or non-toxic as required for the individual patient.
3. There is a patient contribution that will include eating a healthy diet, exercising in moderation, and self-education about the damage that toxic metals and other free radicals can do. Environmental or industrial exposure to toxins should be reduced or eliminated, and habits such as smoking cigarettes that cause free radical damage and further atherosclerosis should be eliminated.
There are two types of EDTA. Disodium EDTA is an approved drug by the FDA for the treatment of digitalis toxicity and also hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium). Calcium EDTA is an approved drug by the FDA for the treatment of lead poisoning in both adults and children. In his textbook on Chelation Therapy, Dr. Elmer Cranton states “More than one million patients have received more than twenty million infusions with no serious or lasting adverse effects.” There have been several deaths reported when Disodium EDTA was inadvertently given rapidly instead of Calcium EDTA.
Compare this to by-pass surgery where statistics show a 1 in 25 mortality rate and a heart attack rate during the operation of 1 in 20. And the surgeries do not even address the underlying cause of why the blockage occurred in the first place. Atherosclerosis is not just a localized disease, but affects the entire circulatory system.
Just like with any medication, precautions need to be taken when using EDTA. The dosage will be determined on an individual basis, and take into consideration pre-existing medical conditions such as liver, heart, kidney disease, diabetes, etc. It will also take into consideration the age of the patient and his or her ability to excrete toxins. Certain tests, such as a serum creatinine or a detoxification panel may be required before Heavy Metal Detoxification is begun. Intravenous Disodium ETDA, which is converted into Magnesium EDTA is given over a 1 – 3 hour period, depending on the dose, the patient=s renal status and other factors. If Calcium EDTA is used, a 30 minute infusion is used. Frequency is usually weekly to bi-weekly, and takes into account an individual patient=s tolerance and need for convenience.
Side effects that may be experienced include nausea, muscle cramps, hypotension (low blood pressure), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and allergic reactions (rare). It is important that patients eat a nutritious meal before treatments and during their detoxification process. Most patients who talk about the effects of chelation therapy overwhelmingly report an increase in energy and exercise tolerance.
Oral chelation therapy is widely promoted on the Internet. Elmer M. Cranton, M.D., a pioneer in the proper use of EDTA in 2005 published an article “Oral Chelation With EDTA is Unproven and Potentially Dangerous”. In this article he explains 95% of oral EDTA is not absorbed but stays in the gut. Because it is taken daily, with time it will bind and deplete many essential trace minerals within the intestines, leading to nutritional deficiencies. Because IV chelation therapy is given only weekly, and because trace minerals are replaced with both oral and IV supplements, this is not an issue.
Traditional allopathic medicine is based on the treatment of diseases and illnesses with drugs, surgery and chemotherapy. Articles on traditional medicine are published in journals such as JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) or NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine). These same journals do not accept articles from well trained alternative or integrative physicians on alternative therapies, and when they do publish articles, they are usually negative. Journals that publish supportive studies, although medically excellent, tend to be smaller, less widely read and ignored by the mainstream. Studies supportive of EDTA chelation therapy have consistently been refused inclusion in the MEDLINE computer database by the National Library of Medicine. Most practicing physicians rely on this database but are unaware that less than 20 percent of the world’s total biomedical literature (in all languages) is referenced by the National Library of Medicine in the Index Medicus or its on-line counterpart, the MEDLINE computer database. So most traditional physicians are ignorant at best about chelation and alternative therapies, or at worse, give negative opinions without scientific basis in fact. Traditional doctors want double blind studies to validate the use of therapies such as chelation. And there is nothing wrong with this (even though double blind studies are not the only valid type of study). Ironically, much of traditional medicine is not validated by double blind studies. Examples are surgeries or chemotherapy or psychiatry. The good news is that the National Institutes of Health have funded a 30 million dollar study called the TACT study to evaluate EDTA chelation in a double blind manner which is still ongoing at the time of this publication. To date, over 35,000 IV EDTA treatments have been given in this study, half of which contained EDTA. To my knowledge there has been no significant adverse effect with this number of treatments, a safety record almost unheard of in medicine.
Terry Chappell, M.D. and John Stahl, M.D. conducted a meta-analysis of all currently available scientific literature on chelation therapy and cardiovascular disease. In this study, a summary of the total results achieved by many different researchers following chelation therapy were analyzed. Drs. Chappell and Stahl identified 19 articles in the medical literature that met their criteria for determining chelation’s effectiveness in cardiovascular disease. All told, 22,765 patients were involved. 87 percent of these patients experienced favorable outcomes measured by objective testing. This analysis was published in the Journal of Advancement in Medicine in 1993 and 1994.
Integrative and alternative physicians are publishing more and more in alternative medical journals and in their own newsletters. They are having conferences where ideas and data are shared. In addition, the Internet has revolutionized the exchange of information and ideas and this information is getting out to the public where they can make informed decisions about their healthcare. If you are considering chelation therapy check the credentials of your physician to see if he or she has received training from ACAM (American College for the Advancement of Medicine) or ICIM (International College of Integrative Medicine) and is board certified or eligible by the ABCMT (American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology).
For more information on EDTA chelation either contact ACAM, ICIM, or ABCMT, or investigate the following references:
2. www.chelationtherapyonline.com/articles/p184.htm (This is extensive information about the scientific basis for chelation therapy by Dr. Elmer Cranton, who is a pioneer physician in this area and has published books on the subject).
7. Bypassing Bypass Surgery – a book by Elmer Cranton, M.D.
8. Chappell LT, Stahl JP. The correlation between EDTA chelation therapy and improvement in cardiovascular function: A meta-analysis. Journal of Advance in Medicine 1993;6(3):139-160
9. Guldager B, Jelnes R, Jorgensen SJ, et al. EDTA treatment of intermittent claudication – a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Internal Medicine 1992;231:261-267
10. McDonagh EW, Rudolph DO, Cheraskin E. Effect of chelation therapy plus multivitamin/mineral supplementation upon vascular dynamics: Ankle/brachial Doppler blood pressure ratio. Journal of Advancement in Medicine. 1989;2(1&2):159-166.