By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine
Chelation is useful for many things.
One of my colleagues was recently diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD). But instead of opting for stents to open up the clogged leg artery, Jack chose chelation.
If you’ve never heard of chelation, you aren’t alone. It isn’t something normally recommended by traditional medical doctors. But chelation can have a dramatic effect on your arteries. It can also help to clear your body of toxins that contribute to a variety of diseases.
What’s Your Body Burden?
A few years ago, two groundbreaking studies released staggering results on the presence of toxic substances in our bodies. One, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, looked at individual chemicals in a multitude of people; the other, led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, along with the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal, examined individual people for a multitude of chemicals. The CDC study looked for 116 different contaminants in the blood and urine of 2,500 people, and found every single one. The Mount Sinai study identified 167 metals, industrial compounds, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of all nine volunteers.
But here’s the really scary part: Like most of us, the people tested didn’t work with chemicals on the job and they didn’t live near an industrial facility. Yet they all tested positive for a variety of contaminants that scientists refer to as a person’s body burden. How dangerous are these chemicals? Of the 167 chemicals found, 76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development.
While conventional medicine doesn’t really have any answers to the growing burden of toxins in the human body, alternative medicine has long offered a way to remove some harmful chemicals from our bodies: Chelation.
The word chelation comes from chele, the Greek word meaning claw. Chelation uses a synthetic amino acid called EDTA, which wraps itself around heavy metal molecules like a claw and carries them out of the body. Traditionally, patients are given a solution of EDTA intravenously, along with high levels of certain vitamins and minerals. But a gentler version has been developed too, one that allows people to take supplements that perform the same function, though more slowly.
First used in the 1950s to treat lead poisoning in sailors who painted ships with lead-based paint, EDTA has been approved by the FDA only for lead overdose. But early researchers noticed that patients treated for lead poisoning who also had atherosclerosis showed improved circulation after chelation. Since then, the primary use of EDTA chelation, which accounted for 800,000 patient visits in the United States in 1997, has been for heart disease and circulatory problems. And when it comes to peripheral artery disease, many patients have avoided amputation with chelation therapy.
Repeated chelation treatments gradually reduce atherosclerotic plaque and other mineral deposits throughout the cardiovascular system by literally dissolving them away. This alternative to angioplasty and bypass surgery has frequently been compared to a natural “Roto-Rooter,” because it removes plaque and returns the arterial system to a smooth, healthy, pre-atherosclerotic state.
EDTA chelation attacks atherosclerosis in other ways too. It dissolves excess calcium from the arterial walls, making them more responsive and better able to dilate. This action alone can improve blood flow and general circulation. It also has blood-thinning effects and discourages the formation of blood clots. And it’s a powerful antioxidant that limits free radical damage.
The first randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial of EDTA chelation therapy for the treatment of atherosclerosis was conducted by the University Hospital in Heidelberg, West Germany. That study compared EDTA chelation therapy to the platelet inhibitor bencyclan, a drug widely prescribed in Europe to treat atherosclerosis.
A total of 48 patients were treated – 24 in the bencyclan group and 24 in the EDTA group. Only patients with peripheral vascular disease who could not walk 200 meters without pain (caused by impaired blood supply) were included in the study. Pain-free walking distance was measured before, during, and after therapy on a treadmill. Those in the EDTA group were given treatments five days a week for four weeks, while the rest of the subjects took only bencyclan. By the end of the study, the EDTA group showed a 250 percent increase in pain-free walking distance compared to only a 60 percent increase in the bencyclan group.
Safe and Gentle
Intravenous EDTA chelation has a direct and powerful effect on the body almost instantaneously. But it can be expensive and time consuming. Fortunately, oral chelation may be an option.
Oral EDTA therapy is appropriate for people whose condition doesn’t demand prompt attention. It’s especially good for preventing or delaying the onset of the many complications of atherosclerotic plaque buildup, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, mental decline, and erectile dysfunction. In addition to keeping arteries clear, chelation also removes lead, iron, mercury, cadmium, and other dangerous metals from the bloodstream, which boosts overall health. Best of all, both intravenous and oral chelation may be safe alternatives to invasive surgery.
One Last Thing ...
If you’re interested in trying chelation, it’s best to do so under the supervision of an integrative physician experienced in EDTA therapy. It’s also smart to adopt a heart-healthy diet – one you can live with for the rest of your life.
Don’t take supplements that contain minerals (including multivitamins) while you’re on chelation therapy. And keep your intake of dairy products to a minimum. To help the EDTA move through your body, it’s also wise to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
Research Brief ...
Good news on the breast-cancer prevention front has been relatively scarce lately. But at least one study suggests that some key vitamins may have real power to prevent the disease. Looking at 10 years of data, researchers at Harvard University compared 712 women who developed breast cancer with 712 who remained cancer-free. Among premenopausal women, those who had diets high in vitamin B-12 reduced their breast cancer risk by an impressive 63 percent.
Postmenopausal women didn’t see much of a benefit from B-12, but those who got a lot of B-6 reduced their risk by 34 percent. Folate was another effective cancer-fighter in the study, specifically for women who also drank about 15 grams, or one glass, of an alcoholic beverage a day. For this group, the folate seemed to blunt the moderately elevated cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption.
The women in the study got their vitamins from a combination of supplements and foods, and you may need to do the same to match the amounts they took in: 3 mg. of B-6, 8 mcg. of B-12 and 423 mcg. of folate per day. To get your Bs from food, try fortified breakfast cereals, oranges, and orange juice. For folate, look for leafy greens like spinach, dry beans, and peas, and fortified breads, pasta and cereal.
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Zhang SM, et al. “Plasma folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, homocysteine, and risk of breast cancer.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2003;95:373-380.