Chelation therapy is primarily used as a treatment for poisoning with heavy metals like mercury, lead and iron overload due to multiple blood transfusions or blood disorders. The term chelation is coined after a Greek word, ‘chele’ which means ‘claw’ as the chemical used, claws or catches hold of the metals in chelation therapy.
In Chelation Therapy, usually, a chemical substance called EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is injected into the body. EDTA is believed to be able to bind with or chelate heavy metals like mercury, iron, lead, zinc, cadmium, etc. present in the body and eliminate them from the body. While Chelation Therapy treatment modality is proven for use in metal poisoning, its effectiveness in other areas needs further research.
Mechanism of Action of Chelation Therapy
The injections of EDTA are generally given intravenously as a single injection or slowly infused over duration of 2 to 4 hours. The injected EDTA enters the bloodstream and binds with heavy metals and minerals in the blood to form another chemical compound, which is eliminated from the body through the kidneys via passage of urine.
A course of a specific number of injections is advised or particular treatment duration is specified depending on the purpose of chelation therapy in that individual. For example, a set of 20 injections or duration of 10 to 12 weeks to take the treatment infusions may be advised. This is practiced as an outpatient treatment and the patient remains seated during the period of infusions.
Chelation Therapy As a Treatment For Heart Disease
Many physicians and alternative medicine practitioners promote the use of chelation therapy to treat coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque on the inner lining of arteries) and even stroke.
How Does Chelation Therapy Help In Treating Heart Disease?
According to those who practice chelation therapy, it is believed that EDTA binds with calcium deposits, which is a part of the accumulated plaque in atherosclerosis. The calcium rich plaque obstructs the blood flow to the heart and to other parts of the body, thus increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. When EDTA injections are given, the chemical binds with the calcium in the plaque deposits and helps to eliminate it from the body through the kidneys. This helps in cleaning of arteries and reduction of plaque, thus reducing the risk of heart diseases.
Another belief suggests that EDTA can even help by eliminating metals and minerals like calcium freely flowing in the blood, thus preventing them from combing with LDL cholesterol. Chelation therapy can possibly act an antioxidant and reduce the risk of damage to the arteries and heart disorders. It is believed that such antioxidant properties may help to reduce inflammation in the body and protect blood vessels. This can reduce inflammation, pain and discomfort in patients suffering from inflammatory diseases like arthritis, muscle and bone pain, scleroderma, and lupus.
Benefits of Chelation Therapy In Treating Heart Diseases
As it is believed that chelation therapy improves blood circulation, prevents deposits in arteries, it is thought to be useful in preventing bypass surgery, which is necessary when the arteries get completely clogged and obstruct the blood flow. Chelation therapy is popularly promoted as treatment for reversal of heart disease and promises to be helpful for those who already have blocked arteries.
Improved blood circulation in the body may help to prevent gangrene, cramps due to affected blood flow and intermittent claudication. It may also be useful in treating other ailments as well. Some practitioners claim that chelation therapy can eliminate environmental toxins, thus preventing build up of free radicals that cause cell damage. Based on this theory, it can be helpful in treating many disorders, including cancer.
There are many theories put forth, as regards the principle, mechanism and benefits of chelation therapy in treating coronary artery disease or other diseases. However, this needs more research and proper approval from the concerned authorities to make it a more widely acceptable treatment modality.
Health Risks & Side Effects of Chelation Therapy In Treating Heart Diseases
There are concerns over safe use of chelation therapy in heart diseases. Some side effects experienced during the treatment include, burning sensation at the injection site, nausea, headache, vomiting, lowering of blood pressure, and low calcium levels in blood.
Chelation therapy involves removal of heavy metals and some minerals from the body. Some theories suggest that some essential minerals necessary for body tissues may also be eliminated during this process. Hence a necessary course of essential vitamins and minerals supplementation may be given during and after the treatment.
As EDTA combines with metals to form a compound that is excreted through the kidneys, it is important that the kidneys are functioning well to avoid overloading. Necessary investigations are generally performed before beginning with chelation therapy and those with kidney disorders are treated accordingly. Kidney damage can be one of the rare complications of this treatment.
As chelation therapy benefits and risks need to be weighed properly, especially in case of heart diseases, it is necessary to seek medical opinion before beginning with treatment.