Chelation traces its origins from the Greek word, chele. Its English corollary is ‘claw’ — something you’d refer to a scorpion’s line of attack, or defence. The concept per se is based on the study 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, iron, copper, calcium, magnesium, zinc, plutonium and manganese, it clasps them and eliminates them. Hence, the word, chele. or chelation — a process of eradicating unwanted ionic material from the body by the infusion of EDTA, an organic compound, which has suitable chelating properties.
You could think of the chelation [pronounced, key-lay-shun] process as something we often do to clear our drainage system. When a drain is clogged, we add a chemical. The substance dissolves the blockage. Soon after, the resulting compound is also removed from the drain through the plumbing system. Chelation works, more or less, in the same manner in our body.
Our digestive process is an excellent example of the chelation process. Just think of the biological blueprint of digestion and assimilation of food. This is similar to the chelation process of amino acids, or proteins, and minerals — to which blood cells fasten to obtain iron. Iron is fundamental for the transportation of nutrients within the body.
To use a simile. Green vegetables contain iron. When we consume them, our digestive process releases the iron to which it is bound. Iron needs to be chelated, or combined, with amino acids and carried through the intestinal mucous membranes into the bloodstream.
Another good example is tea, especially green tea [distilled in water, without milk and sugar]. When we drink the brew that cheers, with a meal, as is the custom in China, the tannin content in tea will chelate with iron to form iron tannate — a non-soluble compound — before it gets engaged to be flushed out of the body.
The whole process is, of course, dependent on our nutritional intake, especially foods rich in vitamin C — or, supplements — and, iron. Vitamin C chelates with iron; it boosts and quickens the absorption of iron. Once iron enters the bloodstream, it is freed from the proteins to which it was chelated during the course of its journey.
To mirror another example. As you may well know, haemoglobin is a ‘chelate’ of iron. Haemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. When haemoglobin is exposed to certain chemicals, its normal respiratory function is blocked.
Yet another useful example is the enzyme catalase, a natural chelating agent, which is used by our body to untangle the free radical activity of hydrogen peroxide, an unstable compound.
Oral chelation is the ingestion of compounds that bind to pathogens and clear them from the body. It simply means trying to use foods or substances taken by mouth to chelate undesirable substances out of the body. There are two basic approaches: 1. oral EDTA and other supplements; and, 2. foods and nutritional supplements that achieve this effect.
Oral chelation came into use, because most people found intravenous [IV] chelation clumsy, painful, and time-consuming. Oral chelation therapy was thought to be a good option, or a dependable form of chelation therapy, thanks primarily to the pioneering work of Guy E Abraham, one of the world’s leading authorities on chelation.
Oral chelation therapy offers a new, less expensive, and more suitable technique in place of IV chelation. However, before one begins oral chelation treatment, it is advisable to have an accurate portrait of the disease picture and/or the degree of minerals and toxic elements present. Says Garry F Gordon, a leading exponent of chelation therapy, “Oral chelation is a well-documented, firmly-established medical practice.” He brings home the penicillamine parallel. He observes that, penicillamine, a drug which is used to treat heavy metal poisoning, rheumatoid arthritis, and Wilson’s disease, a rare metabolic disorder, works in a manner analogous to EDTA. He explains, “Some of the benefits derived from penicillamine in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are undoubtedly related to the control and removal of excess free radicals… [And,] EDTA itself, when taken orally, provides most of its chelating activities in the body even though only about five per cent of it is actually absorbed. [Although] the chelating effects are less dramatic and slower than when received intravenously, the oral approach has several major advantages, including convenience, potential long-term continuous health maintenance, and low cost.”
Patients undergoing oral chelation treatment are often supplemented with a high potency antioxidant and mineral formula to provide for adequate protection against chromium deficiency. The suggested prescription is 400 mcg of chromium polynicotinate, for most patients; or, up to 800 mcg for patients with diabetes. The reason is simple: chromium is easily bound to EDTA and eliminated from the body.
Some studies performed with EDTA in young adult male subjects suggest that oral EDTA is poorly absorbed in the intestinal tract, which is, however, beneficial. Also, one must emphasise that detoxification of heavy metals by EDTA occurs in the gastro-intestinal tract by blocked re-absorption of these metals after the secretion of the bile in the liver. This is then excreted into the intestinal tract. The intestinal road of detoxification of toxic metals by EDTA is as important as their renal elimination. It may also be said that the binding affinity of EDTA for heavy metals is high enough to prevent their intestinal re-absorption, following chelation.
A group of patients with increased levels of blood and urine lead levels were treated with calcium EDTA both orally and intravenously in the first study on oral EDTA conducted on human subjects in 1953. The urinary excretion of lead was found to be 10-40 times above baseline following IV EDTA in the study. This was later found to be 5-10 times higher when oral EDTA was given. However, the blood lead levels and red blood cell abnormalities improved in patients receiving both IV and oral EDTA. Oral chelation, experts deduced, compared favourably with IV — although IV EDTA is at least 20 times more bioavailable than the oral route.
When a second study of oral calcium EDTA disodium was published, the following year, using a daily dose of 2 gm for a week, in symptomatic patients with lead intoxication, the symptoms improved remarkably following oral EDTA. The blood profile returned to normal; also, no disturbance in serum electrolytes was observed. A third study, conducted two years later, reported that a daily oral dose of 4 gm of calcium EDTA disodium in 14 patients with industrial lead poisoning showed marked increase in urine lead excretion — from 5-35 times baseline levels. There was also a substantial increase in faecal lead excretion, which was essentially above the estimated oral intake of lead. Most patients reported considerable improvement in their subjective symptoms, a feeling of general well-being replacing fatigue, weakness and loss of appetite, within 2-3 days of therapy. Several other studies, down the line, have only substantiated the efficiency of oral EDTA.
The best form of oral EDTA is di-potassium salt of magnesium chelate. The two important intracellular minerals are dissociated in the intestinal tract and, therefore, available for absorption. Also, since the affinity of EDTA for magnesium is low, it results in the exchange of magnesium for toxic metals in the intestinal tract. Most clinicians recommend this option. Besides, preliminary data also suggest that with the exception of chromium, red cell levels of trace elements do not decrease following a 3-month therapy of oral EDTA-magnesium di-potassium at a daily dosage of 1.8 gm. Nevertheless, it has been reported that some subjects show a minor fall in red cell chromium levels. This could be corrected with chromium supplementation easily. Side-effects, if any, are minimal — except for the constant urge to pass urine in certain subjects.
In a prospective study, a number of patients were recruited from clinics specialising in treating atherosclerosis in the arteries of the lower extremities. The patients were randomly allocated infusions with chelating agents, or inactive salt water solution. The infusions were indistinguishable by container, labelling, or colour. Each patient received a total of 20 sittings given for three hours, twice per week, for ten weeks. At the end of the study period, there was a significant improvement in the distance the patients could walk — in the chelation group.
Chelation therapy can be utilised in conjunction with most other therapies for cardiovascular [heart] disease. It is companionable with blood thinners and blood vessel dilators, including anti-hypertensive medicines for blood pressure — such as calcium- and beta-blockers. The advantage: your need for medications is often reduced, or even eliminated, following chelation therapy. Some therapists also use DMSO [dimethyl sulphoxide] with chelation therapy for arthritic patients — to relieve pain and repair tissue damage.
EDTA is the only chelator that has been used for over five decades to reverse the effects of arterial plaque [atherosclerosis], thus preventing further strokes and/or heart attacks. There is also another school of thought. Some physicians prefer to use EDTA mixed with calcium instead of magnesium. They reckon that calcium EDTA is rapid in its effects. Hence, it is also time-saving. Proponents are of the opinion that when high levels of heavy metal toxicity are removed, it will reduce arterial damage to a great extent. EDTA dissolves calcium and other metals; it actually clings itself to the elements. As it dissolves calcium, for instance, it also softens the case-hardened cholesterol, among other toxic elements. In the process, you get a flowing substance dissolved in blood, which is subsequently eliminated from the body.
The good, old Zen, or middle, path could, perhaps, work better and without disagreement — call it the right blend of both therapies. Oral EDTA passes through the stomach unaffected; it is absorbed directly through the epithelium cells in the duodenum. Also, EDTA is not broken down or destroyed by the gastric processes, because the digestion of proteins takes place through enzymatic reactions in the duodenum. This explains why orally consumed EDTA does not affect the stomach [Note: Stomach acidity has nothing to do with the digestion of proteins].
Just about anyone can safely take EDTA. Since EDTA is a liquid and a synergistic combination of amino acids, or building blocks of protein, and required for proper healthy cell development, it is easily recognised by the body and compatible. Besides, EDTA has been shown to be safe for all ages, and age groups. It is, however, contra-indicated for use during pregnancy. It is also not recommended for use in children without medical supervision. It may, however, be noted that EDTA is a blood thinner. For patients who are on anti-coagulants or blood thinners, it should be emphasised that a combination of EDTA and other medications could lower blood pressure — sometimes disconcertingly. Clinicians suggest a gap of 3-4 hours as being ideal between oral EDTA therapy and the intake of prescription and other medications.