The word chelation is derived from the Greek word, chele, which means claw (like that of a scorpion or crab). The concept of chelation is base of the observation that when a certain amino acid complex called EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic acid) comes in contact with certain positively charged metals and other substances such as lead, copper, calcium, magnesium, cadmium, mercury or manganese it binds or grabs them (hence the chele or claw), and removes them. Chelation therapy if the process of removing from the body the undesirable ionic material by the infusion. Chelation may be performed with various oral and intravenous solutions, although we find the intravenous administration of EDTA is typically the safest and best route to use.
EDTA is a synthetic amino acid first used in the 1940’s for treatment of heavy metal poisoning. It is widely recognized as effective for that use as well as certain others, including the emergency treatment of hypercalcemia and the control of ventricular arrhythmias associated with digitalis toxicity. Studies by the National Academy of Science/National Research Council in the late 1960’s indicated that EDTA was considered possibly effective in the treatment of occlusive vascular disorders caused by arteriosclerosis. EDTA grabs metallic cations such as lead or calcium from the body and forms a stable compound that may be excreted through the urine. The stability of this bond is vital to success in chelation therapy. If the bond is weak, other chemicals can break this bond to form their own compounds.
One way to think about chelation if to compare it to the way we unclog our drains. We add a chemical to our drain. It dissolves the blockage. The resulting compound is removed from the drain using the existing plumbing system. Chelation processes works in a similar manner in our body.
The process of chelation is very common in nature. Our human digestive process is a good example of how chelation takes place. Digestion and assimilation of foods involves the chelation of protein substances (amino acids) with minerals for transportation to their destinations, or in which blood cells latch on to, and thus acquire, iron. Hemoglobin is a chelate of iron. When you eat meat or green vegetables which contain iron, after the digestive process has released the iron from the food in which it is bound, it has to be combined (chelated) with amino acids so that it can be carried through the intestinal mucous membranes into the blood stream.
If you drink tea with your meal, the tannin in the tea will chelate with the iron (forming insoluble iron tannate) before it gets absorbed. In this case, the body does not get any iron from your food. On the other hand, if we take some foods which are rich in vitamin C (or take vitamin C supplements) with our iron rich food meal, the ascorbic acid (vitamin C) will chelate with the iron and enhance its absorption. The iron, once in the blood stream, is released from the proteins with which it was chelated for transportation.
How is Chelation Therapy Administered?
Once it has been established that there is a problem which could benefit from EDTA infusion, a series of treatments are scheduled, typically once to three times a week. Chelation therapy may occur in a group setting with other patients receiving similar treatment.
The infusion involves a needle being inserted into a vein (usually in the hand or forearm). The needle is attached to the infusion bottle containing the EDTA and various other nutrients. The infusion bottle is hung from an adjustable stand and allowed to infusion over 2 and ½ to 3 hours. The precise amount of time for the administration will be determined by your provider (increased time may be required for impaired renal function patients). A typical chelation infusion will contain 3 grams of EDTA and additional vitamins, minerals and supplements felt to be appropriate for your medical condition. The amount of EDTA may vary if you have some degree of renal impairment.
In most cases, EDTA solution is dripped into the bloodstream at a rate of one drop per second. One to three infusions may be given each week. The complete treatment consists of anything from 20 (for relatively mild problems) to 30 infusion. In rare cases a longer number of infusions may be recommended. Typically periodic maintenance infusions will need to be continued to ensure ongoing benefits.
Periodic blood and urine testing will be done to make sure that the kidneys and other organs are operating sufficiently well to cope with the EDTA detoxification. The EDTA is 95 percent eliminated from the body by the kidneys and 5 percent via bile excretion.
Benefits of Chelation Therapy
Reduces Free Radical Activity in the Blood
We can think of our cells in the body as miniature factories. Inside the cell, the digestive process is going on. That means converting the raw materials into energy and protein compounds. Like in a factory, there are mechanisms to transport material within the cell as well as mechanisms to transport material to and from the cell. In our body, these mechanisms are performed by complex enzyme activity.
The cell membrane, or cell wall, that surrounds each cell controls what goes in and out of the cell. The active cell membrane is made up of lipids (cholesterol), protein and water.
Free radicals are the highly unstable chemicals that attack, infiltrate and injure vital cell structures. Most stable chemical compounds in the body possess a pair of electron. Sometime, one member of the electron pair gets stripped away. The resulting compound (that is short of one electron) is called a free radical.
The key to having a healthy body is to repair the damages caused by free radicals before it is too late and to protect the body’s tissue cells from the free radicals before they can cause mutations. Antioxidants are substances that have free-radical chain reaction breaking properties. Antioxidants deactivate potentially dangerous free radicals before they can damage a cell’s machinery. Most of these antioxidants come from plants and are called phytochemicals. More that 60,000 of such plant chemicals are identified. Among the most effective and dedicated antioxidants are vitamin A, C and E. Out of these, vitamin C in the most powerful.
Each cell produces its own antioxidants. The ability to produce them decreases as we age. This is why our diet should supply antioxidants, phytochemicals (fruits and vegetables are a good source for these) and additional vitamins and minerals.
Free radicals can cause lipid peroxidation (fat becomes rancid). This causes chaos within the cell and the cell will not function properly. Raw materials needed for normal metabolism can not get into the cell and waste products (by products of metabolism) can not get out of the cell. This is the beginning on cell degeneration.
This is what happens when atherosclerosis begins in an artery well. The majority of lipid peroxidation activity involves the presence of metal ions such as iron, copper or calcium. EDTA effectively locks onto these ions, preventing their destructive action. Chelation therapy may reduce the production of free radicals by up to a million-fold!
Research over the past 30 years has confirmed the benefits of EDTA. This protective influence of EDTA would be enhanced by an appreciable presence of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium and amino acid complexes such as glutathione. These not only mop up free radicals but also assist in reinforcing the stability of the cell membrane.
Free radicals play an important role in the genesis of cancer. By removing the metallic anions from the blood stream, EDTA helps the cells to remain healthy and help the damaged cells to heal. Research has shown a decrease in the incidence of death by cancer after EDTA treatment. We don’t know the exact mechanism of action. In some forms of cancer, the use of EDTA was found to strip the tumor cells of their protective coat, allowing other mechanisms (such as protein digesting enzymes) to destroy the tumor.
Researchers have noticed that patients who have undergone chelation treatment are less depressed. They are more alert and had better concentration and memory. Chelation physicians attribute this improvement in mental health to an improvement in the overall cellular nutrition as a result of better circulation resultant from the chelation treatments. Another possibility is that by removing the harmful toxins from the blood stream, the brain and central nervous system are protected from harmful effects of these toxins. This improved the overall functioning of the brain and translates into better memory and mental conditions.