What is Chelation Therapy and Who Needs it?

Blog Health What is Chelation Therapy and Who Needs it?

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1.10.2023 0 comments

Heavy metal poisoning is a very real threat that people around the world have to deal with on a daily basis!

Some people are exposed to heavy metals through their job, others through the groundwater sources, some even through their food.

Long-term exposure to heavy metals can lead to a serious range of health problems—everything from neurotoxicity to endocrine disruption to organ dysfunction.

To treat heavy metal exposure, chelation is a viable solution to consider. Below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about how chelation therapy works to purge heavy metals from your body and who can benefit from this specifically-targeted therapy.

What is Chelation Therapy?

Chelation is a treatment that involves chelating drugs, or “chelators”, being administered into the body.

These drugs include:

  • Penicillamine

  • Dimercaprol

  • Deferoxamine

  • Succimer

  • Edetate Calcium Disodium

These fancy names mean nothing to you (unless you’re a doctor), and really, all you need to know is that the chelators neutralize heavy metal toxins by binding to the molecules of metal in your bloodstream. They then travel through your bloodstream to your kidneys, where they are filtered out of your blood and excreted from your body via your urine.

What Does Chelation Therapy Do?

Typically, doctors only prescribe chelation therapy as a response to heavy metal exposure or toxicity. For example, when exposed to high levels of lead in old lead-based paints, or high levels of mercury in contaminated fish.

Because the chelating drugs bind with the metal molecules and facilitate their elimination, they help to prevent the damage caused by long-term exposure to heavy metals and the toxic effect they can have on your body.

However, chelation therapy is also utilized for a number of other treatments that, while not FDA-approved specifically, are still “legal” and available to people who want to treat:

ASD – Research from the early 2010s [1] suggested that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder tended to have a higher level of toxic metals than non-ASD children. Chelation has been utilized as a “treatment” for ASD for over a decade now.

However, there is no evidence to prove that chelation therapy actually works to reduce ASD symptoms.

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease – People suffering from Parkinson’s disease typically have a build-up of iron in the brain, while Alzheimer’s sufferers will often have large tau and beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. Chelation therapy is intended to purge or dissolve these molecules, with the intention of reducing symptoms. However, once again, there is virtually no clinical evidence to prove that chelation therapy has any noticeable benefit in treating these neurodegenerative conditions.

Cardiovascular disease – Studies have been conducted to determine whether or not chelation therapy could help to improve cardiovascular function among those who have previously suffered from heart attacks, as well as those with healthy hearts. One study [2] found that people over 50 who suffer from diabetes may notice a slight improvement in their cardiovascular function as a result of chelation therapy, while a second study [3] found that chelation “modestly reduced the risk of a composite of adverse cardiovascular outcomes” among those with healthy hearts.

However, according to the American College of Cardiology, these results are “surprising” [4] and may be as much related to the healthy lifestyle necessary while undergoing chelation therapy as from the therapy itself.

The Risks of Chelation Therapy

It should come as no surprise that a therapy with the capability to remove toxic heavy metals from the body could have some side effects and risks. In fact, the therapy can even be fatal, and must be undergone under strict supervision by a medical professional.

Some common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Headaches

  • Fever/chills

However, the more serious side effects include:

  • Anemia

  • Kidney and/or liver damage

  • Respiratory failure

  • Seizures

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Severe allergic reactions

  • Drop in blood pressure

  • and more!

It’s also a costly procedure that involves multiple treatments several times a week over the course of several months. Thus, it’s not a treatment to take lightly.

Who Needs Chelation Therapy?

As you’ve seen above, there is little evidence to back up the claims that chelation therapy can help to improve ASD, cardiovascular health, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease. In the end, the ones who should undergo chelation therapy are the ones who need it in order to cleanse heavy metals from their bodies.

And we’re not just talking about a small dose of heavy metals resulting from eating a bad batch of fish. We’re talking about long-term, consistent exposure to heavy metals—mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium--that is causing visible toxicity in the body.

Now that you understand the truth about chelation therapy—including its benefits and risks—it’s important that you consider carefully whether it’s actually a route you want to go down. Chelation therapy is not a “light” treatment to undergo, and there are very real risks. It should be reserved for those who are in need of purging toxic amounts of heavy metals from their bodies.


[1] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12011-012-9551-1

[2] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.113.000663

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066975/

[4] https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/clinical-trials/2014/07/30/10/56/tact


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