Chelation (pronounced “Key-LAY-shun”) comes from the Greek noun “chele” which means pincer-like claw, as found on a crab or a lobster. Chelation therapy is a medical treatment that detoxifies the body.
Specifically, chelation therapy removes from the body heavy metals (such as lead, mercury and cadmium) and physiologically unfavourable ions (such as iron and calcium) with the goal of improving metabolic function and blood circulation. Secondarily, essential elements may simply be redistributed to more useful sites in the body.
Because chelation combines organic and inorganic substances for physiological purposes, there are many examples of chelators found in nature. Red blood cells have a very important oxygen carrying protein called haemoglobin which is a chelate of iron. Chlorophyll is a chelate of magnesium. The process of chelation is required for many vital biochemical functions.
The main chelator molecule used in medical chelation therapy is ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). Administered by intravenous infusion, this amino acid is powerfully attracted to heavy metals that act as free radicals in the body. These free radicals can disrupt metabolic functions. So, this chemical bond makes the toxic metals more likely to be removed from the body via normal elimination pathways, like through the kidneys.
Why would one be so concerned about the accumulation of toxic heavy metals in the body in the first place? The simple answer has to do with free radical damage. Free radicals are molecules with an odd number of electrons in the outer ring of one of its atoms. Heavy metals and physiologically hazardous minerals can therefore steal electrons from healthy cells. Realistically, free radicals to some degree are unavoidable since many are produced from normal healthy metabolism, but, an exorbitant amount of free radicals can overwhelm our antioxidant capacity to withstand such cellular damage. If there are too many free radicals, the damage can be great; hence, degenerative aging results.
Many mechanisms of action have been postulated for how chelation therapy benefits circulation. The one that seems most pertinent to me, has to do with how cellular damage is inhibited by overall reduction of free radical load and how that effect interferes with the development of atherosclerotic plaque. Keep free radicals down and keep the blood vessels clearer.
Considering that cardiovascular disease affects the vast majority of the population and develops over many years before it is diagnosed, it makes sense to engage in health interventions that at least slow down the aging process and reduce the risk of major vascular events.
According to Dr. Elmer Cranton, intravenous EDTA “can reduce the production of pathological free radicals by up to a million fold.” In the case of atherosclerosis, chelation may curb the arterial degeneration enough to let the body heal from previous arterial injury. Changes in prostaglandin production, chemical messengers for inflammation, can reduce spasm and clot potential, affecting the bottom line on cardiovascular events.
In short, think of chelation therapy as a detoxification method that reduces free radical damage by primarily removing heavy metals from the body. In preventative medicine, it is hard to measure the heart attacks or strokes that didn’t happen, but chelation therapy is a brilliant way to improve cardiovascular condition.
For more on Chelation therapy, see Bypassing Bypass Surgery (a must read) by Dr. Elmer Cranton.
— Dr. Tara Macart owns Opti-Balance
Naturopathic Medicine in Qualicum Beach with her husband Jonathan.