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 . 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.
Chelation therapy is considered an alternative medicine that is used for the purpose of eliminating heavy metals and toxins from the human body .
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 :
Chelation therapy involves the use of a solution - ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) . 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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 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 . If the body goes out of homeostasis caused due to an imbalance in minerals, damage to vital organs occur.
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.
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 . 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 . 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 .
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 . 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.
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 . 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 . 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.
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) .
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 . 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.
The common side effects associated with chelation therapy are :
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 :
It is essential that EDTA is infused properly as otherwise, it can cause very high levels of electrolyte imbalance . 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.
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