Heavy Metal Detoxification or Chelation Therapy
Heavy metal detoxification, or chelation therapy, is used for individuals who have developed symptoms from heavy metals interfering with their metabolic processes. Heavy metal exposure is commonly ignored in most medical practices. You have probably never been asked about your heavy metal exposure by a medical provider unless you are already familiar with a functional medicine practice. In fact, most medical doctors disagree that heavy metals cause symptoms unless they are at “toxic levels,” citing that heavy metals at low levels do not cause symptoms. If you still believe that heavy metals are being over-dramatized, then let me explain to you the evolution of “Lead is Bad.”
100 BC – Dioscorides (Greek) gives clinical description of lead poisoning. “Lead makes the mind give way.”
500 BC – 300AD: Roman Empire makes extensive use of lead for plumbing (aqueducts), cooking utensils, wine glasses, etc. The Roman Empire falls.
1892: Childhood lead poisoning linked to lead-based paints by pediatricians in Brisbane, Australia.
Early 1900’s: USA allows leaded gasoline to hit markets as “No Knock” gasoline. Lead is added to paint. Lead becomes ubiquitous in daily life.
1914: Lead-based paints banned in Australia.
1922: League of Nations ban white-lead interior paint. USA declines to adopt.
1970: Dr. Landrigan proves that low levels of lead still cause loss of intelligence even without clinical symptoms of lead toxicity such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle weakness.
1970: Lead poisoning threshold reduced to 40 micrograms of lead per deciliter.
1979: Dr. Needleman publishes research linking lead in baby teeth to decreased intelligence.
1986: Primary phase out of leaded gasoline completed in USA.
2003: Dr. Canfield publishes paper showing that 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead is considered lead poisoning. Any amount of lead in the blood stream lowered intelligence. “No amount of lead is safe.”
Now: CDC states that no amount of lead is considered safe.
After seeing this timeline, you can now see that it took over 100 years (from 1892 to 2003) for any amount of lead to be considered toxic. If you want to be critical, you could say that it took over 2,000 years to determine its dangers as Dioscorides identified its toxicity in 100BC.
Are you going to wait for all of the heavy metals to be proven toxic before you consider it as a potential cause of disease?
Now that we have proven that heavy metals are dangerous. Let us explore more details about heavy metals. This article will set out to explain the basics behind heavy metals:
- What are they?
- How do I get them?
- What symptoms do they cause?
- How do I get rid of these metals?
We are what we:
…. And cannot ELIMINATE.
What is a heavy metal?
Heavy metals are the dense metals noted to cause toxicity and clinical disease. Heavy metals include cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic, platinum, tin, tungsten, uranium, aluminum, barium, beryllium, cesium, manganese, chromium, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, selenium, silver, antimony, and thallium.
Why are heavy metals dangerous?
Heavy metals interfere with biochemical reactions. Many reactions require cofactors in order to be carried out quickly and efficiently. For example, you have probably heard that Zinc is an immune boosting supplement. Some of these heavy metals trick the body into substituting zinc for the toxic heavy metal. Then, the biochemical reaction cannot occur, so toxic metabolites build-up as biochemical reactions cannot proceed efficiently. Look at the minute differences between a zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) atom. Even you can barely tell the difference, right? Needless to say, heavy metals confuse the body and interrupt our biochemistry.
Not all heavy metals carry the same level of toxicity or risk. Some heavy metals lack an ability to concentrate in the body, and they are easily eliminated. However, all of these can be toxic if it accumulates in a high enough concentration. Every individual has a different level of susceptibility to heavy metals that cause symptoms.
How do I get heavy metals in my body?
It is easy to get heavy metals into your body. You can eat, drink, breathe, or touch them. Even at a low level of exposure, if you are not clearing the heavy metal, it can build up over time. If you are being exposed more than you are clearing, then you are at risk for symptoms.
You may not clear heavy metals appropriately because of poor diet, genetic mutations, improper elimination (urine / stool), poor hydration, or micronutrient deficiencies.
Heavy metals are more common in your environment than you realize. I will list the most toxic heavy metals with common environmental sources. For a more in-depth list, you can search the internet.
Mercury: Metal Dental Fillings (40% mercury), Fish, Coal-Burning Plants (see map), Thermometers
Arsenic: Shellfish, Fish, Creosote, Cigarettes, Metal Smelters, Wood
Lead: Lead Paint, Leaded Gasoline, Proximity to Coal-Burning Plants, Batteries
Cadmium: Paint, Animal Meat, Cigarettes, Cement production, Fertilizers, Batteries, Fuel Exhaust, Iron / Steel Production
Aluminum: Cans (tuna, soda), Antacids, Antiperspirants
What symptoms do heavy metals cause?
You may be suffering from symptoms and not realize it. Heavy metals can cause a myriad of conditions that may confuse your healthcare practitioner. Common symptoms include migraines, fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, brain fog, poor focus, insomnia, neuropathy, food sensitivities, and allergies. Remember that heavy metals interfere with biochemical reactions, so your symptoms may be vague and non-specific.
How do I know if I have heavy metals in my body?
You can definitively find out if you have heavy metals in your body by being tested for them. The best way to be tested for heavy metals is to undergo provoked heavy metal testing. This involves two urine samples. The first urine sample is random (first-morning void preferred). This test is mainly to ensure that you do not have any recent or ongoing heavy metal exposure. Once this test shows that you are not currently exposed, a provoking agent is given to you (EDTA, DMSA, DMPS) in order to mobilize the heavy metals that may be stored in your body. If you do not do a provoked test, heavy metals can hide in your tissue: fat, brain, and bone. See the test below. Notice that the initial test did not show risk of lead accumulation. With a provoking agent, many of the heavy metals elevated, but the lead levels skyrocketed!
What if I feel fine, and my heavy metal levels are high?
Then, you should not undergo heavy metal detoxification via chelation therapy. It is always appropriate to assess your detoxification pathways, and improve your detoxification pathways using natural agents / supplements. It is generally considered safe to eliminate heavy metals using supplements and dietary changes.
What is chelation therapy?
Chelation therapy involves using chemical compounds that bind tightly to heavy metals and are easily eliminated by the body in stool, urine, or sweat. The chemical compound shown here is EDTA. The red arrows demonstrate how the compound binds metals (M) and remains water-soluble, allowing your body to eliminate it.
How is Chelation Therapy performed?
Chelation therapy can be administered with oral medications or intravenous infusions. Oral therapy is considered to be safer because it is slower and milder. Many providers continue to claim that oral chelation therapy does not work, but recent studies have shown that the chelating agents (DMPS, DMSA, and EDTA) are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Intravenous infusions are considered to be more aggressive and expensive. These infusions are generally done in a medical office for a series of treatments until the heavy metals are considered eliminated.
Depending on the amount of heavy metals accumulated, it can take months to successfully eliminate the heavy metals.
Note: Chelation therapy does not have to be continued until the heavy metal level is at 0. With optimal detoxification pathways, your body can remove the remainder of the heavy metals by itself.
What are the risks associated with chelation therapy?
There are several risks associated with chelation therapy, including: Abdominal pain, fever, drop in blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, low blood count, and micronutrient deficiencies (low calcium, zinc, magnesium). The chelating agents are intended to bind to the dangerous heavy metals, but they can also bind to other non-toxic metals, including Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium. It is very important to avoid food and supplements when taking oral chelating agents as the chelating agents will bind up the micronutrients in your food and supplements before it has the opportunity to bind the dangerous heavy metals.
What alternative therapies do you recommend for heavy metal detoxification?
We also recommend vitamin infusions, sweating, drinking water, and moving your bowels daily.
Vitamin infusions work by achieving very high blood levels of vitamins that are near impossible to achieve with foods and dietary supplements. These high concentrations allow the body to rapidly detoxify any offending agents. With these infusions, your body will first clear the bloodstream of toxins, then it will have extra anti-oxidants to begin mobilizing and eradicating hidden toxins.
We also recommend sweating for at least 30 minutes three times per week. Saunas are an excellent way to accomplish this. Infrared saunas are excellent for detoxification. You might be surprised to find out that sweating is one of several ways your body gets rid of toxins. Certain toxins are more readily released into the sweat than either urine or stool. Cadmium is the best example as it prefers to exit the body via sweat. Some people who have elevated levels of cadmium will see dark spots on their towels after sauna therapy. This is usually the heavy metal cadmium being released into sweat.
Making sure to remain hydrated allows your body to adequately release water-soluble toxins into your urine. If you are dehydrated, your cells begin to shrivel and are not able to easily release toxins. Moreover, the kidneys begin retaining the majority of fluid that runs through them. When fluid is reabsorbed, toxins can follow the fluid back into the bloodstream.
Having a bowel movement daily allows for adequate release of toxins. Similar to the kidney issue mentioned above, your bowels reabsorb fluid the longer that stool remains in the bowels. Toxins that are water-soluble will flow right back into your bloodstream with the fluid.