Chelation therapy has become an increasingly popular alternative treatment in recent years. Proponents claim it can remove heavy metals and toxins from the body, leading to improved health and vitality. But does it work? In this blog post, we’ll explore the history, process, benefits, and risks of this.
What is Chelation Therapy?
It involves administering chelating agents, which bind to heavy metals in the bloodstream. The resulting metal-chelate complexes are then excreted in urine and stool.
Brief History of Chelation Therapy
Chelation therapy was first used in the 1950s to treat lead poisoning. It was later found to potentially treat atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. The most common chelating agent used is EDTA (ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid).
How Does it Work?
EDTA binds to minerals in the bloodstream, both healthy ones like calcium and magnesium, and unhealthy ones like lead, cadmium, and mercury. This allows the toxins to be flushed from the body through urination.
Advocates claim chelation can provide a variety of health benefits:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Reduced atherosclerosis
- Lowered risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increased energy and vitality
- Slowed aging process
- Enhanced immune system
- Improved mental acuity
However, there is still debate about how effective it is for these conditions.
Chelation Therapy Process
It involves intravenous infusion of EDTA. A full treatment plan usually requires 20-30 sessions of about 3 hours each, conducted once or twice per week.
Before starting, patients undergo lab testing and a medical exam to ensure they are healthy enough. During sessions, patients relax while the EDTA solution slowly enters the bloodstream.
Is Chelation Therapy Safe?
When properly administered by a trained practitioner, chelation therapy is generally considered safe, with mild side effects like headache, nausea, or local irritation.
However, there are some risks to be aware of:
- Low calcium levels: The removal of calcium can cause mild calcium deficiency. Patients take supplements to counteract this.
- Kidney damage: EDTA is cleared through the kidneys, so those with renal impairment need lower dosing.
- Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to EDTA. Mild rashes and itching can occur.
- Dangerously low blood sugar: Patients with hypoglycemia need to be monitored closely.
- Nerve damage: Improperly administered EDTA can damage nerves.
- Heart rhythm abnormalities: Chelation can cause irregular heartbeats in some cases.
- Bone marrow suppression: The blood cell production in bone marrow may temporarily decrease.
For these reasons, close medical supervision is required.
Is There Enough Evidence to Support It?
Despite years of use, chelation therapy remains controversial. Some doctors tout its benefits for heart health and beyond. However, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association state there is not enough quality evidence to support its use for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
The benefits for other conditions like autism and Alzheimer’s are also not well substantiated. More rigorous research is still needed. An ongoing NIH-funded trial may provide clearer answers on its role in cardiovascular health.
A Polarizing Therapy, But More Research Is Needed
Despite its growing popularity, chelation therapy remains highly controversial. Proponents make wide-ranging health claims that are not yet fully supported by clinical evidence. Much more research is needed to establish its safety and efficacy for cardiovascular disease and other conditions. For now, thorough medical exams are required to avoid potentially serious risks like kidney damage or hypoglycemia. While its advocates believe it has the potential to treat major chronic diseases, mainstream medicine is not yet convinced. Further large-scale studies will help determine if this unusual treatment lives up to its radical promises.
Still, have questions about this unusual treatment? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Q: Is chelation therapy FDA-approved?
A: No, it is not approved for treating cardiovascular conditions. However, the FDA has approved certain chelation drugs for removing heavy metal poisoning.
Q: Is chelation therapy covered by insurance?
A: Most insurance plans do not cover chelation therapy, given the lack of definitive evidence about its efficacy.
Q: Are there lifestyle changes needed during treatment?
A: Patients should drink extra water to help flush out the chelating agent and stay hydrated. Eating a balanced, mineral-rich diet with calcium supplementation is also recommended.
Q: Are there any drug interactions with chelation therapy?
A: Yes. Patients need to provide their medical history to screen for interactions with cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetic and thyroid medications.
Q: How can I find a qualified chelation therapy practitioner?
A: Look for therapists certified by the International College of Integrative Medicine or the American College for Advancement in Medicine. Confirm they are licensed medical doctors.
Q: What is the difference between IV and oral chelation therapy?
A: IV chelation provides higher, more concentrated doses of EDTA directly into the bloodstream. Oral chelation involves taking EDTA supplements by mouth but is considered less effective.