Overview of Chelation Therapy
Chelation therapy is a treatment that gives EDTA to patients that, primarily, have clogged arteries. EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) is an amino acid that is typically used for heavy metal poisoning, such as lead or mercury. This component has the ability to fasten to these metals and create a new compound that can be safely excreted in urine.
For this reason, it is speculated that EDTA also has the ability to latch onto built up calcium deposits in arteries. Chelation therapy is thought to prevent, or even reverse atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the artery walls. It is theorized that the EDTAs are able to move the calcium (plaque) and not only cure the patients, but leave them in a better state than before the initial problem.
Speculation still surrounds the validity of chelation therapy. It is yet to be scientifically proven that the therapy is the true cause of patient's recovery. This is because in order to undergo this treatment, it is required to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating healthier, exercise and thus losing weight. The combination of these changes alone could greatly improve a patient's health. Further, the psychological effects of believing something can help, often referred to as a placebo effect, can surprisingly make huge differences in a patient's health.
Anecdotally, many advocates of chelation therapy are strong supporters. Still, there is controversy because EDTA also poses health risks to the patient. Cases have shown to induce kidney failure, low blood pressure, respiratory arrest, and bone marrow depression, among other reactions.
This therapy can be done two ways. It can either be taken orally or intravenously. Taking it intravenously requires about 30 treatments, or 3 times a week for 10 weeks. This option of treatment also includes vitamins in the IV as well as the EDTA. If chosen to be taken orally, the treatment will vary by pill or liquid drop.
While patients in need of a cure clamor for approval, the conservative traditional medical establishment is slowly doing research and observing reports. Another issue surrounding chelation therapy has to do not just with the potential, but unproven, benefits to the treatment, but also to the cost of the treatment. Depending on the method chosen to undergo chelation therapy, it can cost upwards of $3,000 for the entire treatment. This is not small change for a treatment that is yet to be proven or accepted by the major medical foundations.
History of Chelation Therapy
The beginnings of chelation therapy started when EDTA was used in Germany in 1935 to prevent stains on fabric by removing the calcium from water. It also began to be utilized to remove calcium from pipes. Finally in 1948, it was introduced as a treatment to lead poisoning and other metal toxicities.
It started to take notice that patients using the treatment for metal toxicity that had previous heart disease showed improvement for clogged arteries (atherosclerosis). The patients also showed improvement with memory loss, arthritis, inability to focus, and chest pains. Tests and study groups began experimenting to understand the full effects of chelation therapy.
However, the studies done thus far are seen as inconclusive by most major medical groups. The FDA has approved chelation therapy for the treatment of lead poisoning, ventricular fibrillation and hypocalcaemia (a condition of low blood calcium which can lead to vomiting and seizures). The FDA has yet to approve the use of chelation therapy for atheriosclerosis.
Currently, chelation therapy is mainly being utilized as an alternative medicine for patients with varying symptoms or syndromes. Because the benefits and claims are not proven, the patients are forced to make their decision based on previous testimonials. Until further research can be done, chelation therapy will maintain its stigma of an unproven method by medical associations, and for some patients, the miracle cure that saved their life.
Benefits of Chelation Therapy
Chelation therapy is said to have many benefits, although much of these are disputed to be the result of the other life changes people make in combination with this therapy (i.e. exercising regularly or quitting smoking). However, here are some of the benefits that many claim to feel as a result of chelation therapy:
- Increased blood circulation
- Less fatigue
- Better concentration
- Reversal of gangrene
- Slowing of the aging process
- Brightening or improvement of skin color
- Blood pressure stabilization
- Better memory function
- Better cholesterol levels
This is where many physicians and scientists question where the benefits truly came from. Many of these benefits could simply be a result of the lifestyle changes rather than the EDTA coursing through the patient's blood. If chelation therapy requires severe changes such as a radical chance in diet and exercise, and quitting smoking cold turkey, why couldn't all of these benefits just simply be a result of that? Unfortunately, the tests and experiments just haven't been completed to prove it one way or another.
Healthy Claims of Chelation Therapy
Chelation therapy, as mentioned before, has three FDA approved health claims: cure for lead poisoning, ventricular fibrillation and hypocalcaemia. However, chelation therapy is used by many others as relief for various other problems. Here are a few of the following:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Organic poisoning
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Other cardiovascular diseases
- Autism and ADD and ADHD
The primary focus and interest for chelation therapy lies within its benefits for types of cardiovascular diseases, and in particular for arteriosclerosis. This therapy has now garnered the term "alternative medicine" because it is not a medically recognized treatment. Further, it encourages and most times even requires a healthier lifestyle to accompany the treatment.
Most programs require regular exercise, a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, and smoking is cut from the patient's habits. Until the proper scientific experiments have been completed, there will be no way of knowing if these syndromes can truly be cured by chelation therapy.
Use of chelation therapy in children with autism, ADD and ADHD is even more recent and more controversial. Again, proponents and opponents are vehement in their opinions, while solid research is needed.
Recommended Daily Allowance of Chelation Therapy
As previously mentioned chelation therapy can be administered through an IV or taken orally. Most IV treatments will require between 20-30 treatments. The IV treatments of EDTA contain between 2 to 3 grams as well as additional supplements and vitamins.
To take the EDTA orally, there is the option of pills/capsules or liquid drops. The drops have a higher absorption rate (so many speculate will be faster acting). The capsules are more convenient but may require additional pills since they have a lower absorption rate. Just as with the IV treatment, these pills are suggested to be supplemented with vitamins and mineral capsules.
Overall, the chelation therapy will require 90 grams of EDTA to be taken in any of these three forms. Because the amount will differ between the types of treatment, the daily allowance will vary. For IV treatments, it is recommended to do this therapy three times a week for ten weeks. For the pills and liquid drops, it will vary between each product as they all differ in amounts of EDTA per serving.
There are some side effects from taking this treatment. Some patients report to have headaches, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, fever, and pain in the joints. Vitamin supplements are recommended whether administering the therapy through an IV or taken orally, which are said to alleviate many of the side effects.
While chelation therapy is considered a very safe treatment, there are a few safety concerns that have come up over the years. In its early uses, it was administered in too large of doses, which resulted in some of the deaths that were seen early on from kidney toxicity. However, it can still cause hypoglycemia, low levels of calcium, vein inflammation, and congestive heart failure. This therapy should be taken only under the care of a physician and the instructions for dosage of EDTA should be strictly adhered.
Summary of Chelation Therapy
Chelation therapy has already proven itself in the treatment of lead and other metal poisoning, ventricular fibrillation, and hypocalcaemia. The other claims of chelation therapy are wide and varied, and remain to be proven. However, given the therapy's low risk and encouragement of other lifestyle changes, it continues to provide solutions for those seeking options.
As with many alternative treatments such as polysaccharides, there is a certain amount of controversy that surrounds this treatment. It still does not have full endorsements from the FDA, from the American Medical Association, or from other prominent medical groups.
However, its patients continue to believe. The testimonials are real to the patients. Whether these are tangible effects or placebo effects remain to be seen. Regardless, many patients do seem to get better, whether the cure is in their head or in the EDTAs.
The cost of chelation therapy is still a controversial point, but when compared to how much bypass surgery can cost (as well as how high the risks can be for that surgery), it may turn out that the chelation therapy is the favorable choice. As always, careful deliberation should be given to the decision to undergo chelation therapy and a physician should always be consulted.