Detox Heavy Metals with IV Chelation

This is part 1 of a 5-part series on longevity/regenerative medicine. This was written by me and previously published in Healthy Beginnings Magazine.

With all the pollutants we are exposed to today, it is essential that we have ways to detoxify the amazing vessels we call our bodies. From heavy metals to volatile organic compounds, to the pesticides and fertilizers in the foods we eat and the water we drink, our bodies take a beating. Our biological processes and cellular functions are disrupted and distressed by the multitude of chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

The toxic effects can be subtle and cumulative or dramatic and acute. Either way, the toxins must be removed from the body, and this is mostly done by the liver. When the liver becomes overwhelmed and sluggish, the pollutants can build up and have lasting adverse effects on one’s health. This toxic overload is an often-overlooked cause of migraines, obesity, musculoskeletal pains, brain fog, stress, infertility, allergies, and even anxiety and depression.

The human body is designed to run cleanly by removing exogenous poisons before they build up to toxic levels. The rate of elimination must meet or exceed input or toxins accumulate. When the toxic burden overwhelms the body’s ability to cleanse itself, we must rely on outside aids to helps rid ourselves of the harmful poisons. Luckily, there is a multitude of ways to detoxify your body including chelation, infra-red sauna therapy, coffee enemas, or taking supplements such as Schisandra berry, Nrf2 activators, or milk thistle. Choosing the right form of detoxification will depend on what exactly is ailing you.

According to the Jan 2018 article in The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry by Rehman, K et al., “Drinking water contaminated with heavy metals namely; arsenic, cadmium, nickel, mercury, chromium, zinc, and lead is becoming a major health concern for public and health care professionals... and the resulting health issues may include cardiovascular disorders, neuronal damage, renal injuries, and risk of cancer and diabetes.” Given the fact that heavy metal toxicity is on the rise, this article will focus solely on IV chelation.

Most reader have never even heard the word chelation, let alone know how it works. In his book The Scientific Basis of EDTA Chelation Therapy, Bruce Halstead, M.D. writes “The word chelate is derived from the Greek word "chele" which refers to the claw of a crab or a lobster, implying the firm, pincer-like binding action of certain chemical substances to a metal ion. Chelation is specifically defined as the incorporation of a metal ion into a heterocyclic ring structure.” Quite scientific and difficult to understand for most, but the explanation is more straightforward than it sounds.

The previously mentioned metal ions are positively or negatively charged and bond with the opposite charges in your body. Once this happens, it is nearly impossible to free them for elimination, and they wreak havoc in your cells. The above-mentioned heavy metals cause cellular or metabolic dysfunctions by disrupting essential enzymatic pathways and mitochondrial dysfunction. The body has a limited capacity (mostly using glutathione and metallothionein as chelators) to remove heavy metals and relies heavily on outside sources including foods and supplements such as garlic, broccoli, N-acetyl cysteine, and alpha lipoic acid to assist in the elimination of the heavy metals. Both oral and IV chelating agents are effective at removing heavy metals.

To remove toxic heavy metals, doctors have been using chelators, which, as Margaret Sears from Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute writes, “Chelators have the effect of mobilizing metals from tissues and maintaining the chelate moiety during circulation to the kidneys for excretion in the urine.” EDTA, first synthesized in Germany in the late 1930s, is currently the most common IV chelating agent used in the US and has been used for over 70 years. In the US, as Dr. Halstead wrote, “One of the earliest clinical uses of EDTA was in the treatment of lead poisoning in 1952.

Today, IV chelation with EDTA should only be undertaken when a toxic heavy metal burden is found after undergoing an “EDTA challenge." This is done by administering EDTA and then doing a timed urine collection and having the sample analyzed at a reputable lab. Should there be excess amounts of any heavy metals, your doctor will recommend a specific number of treatments and then will recheck your metal levels. Kidney function must be checked before, and during IV chelation treatments as kidney function may be altered or decreased by the chelating agents.