Heavy metals are a constant problem living in an industrialized society. Conventional thinking only recognizes overload and toxicity syndromes, as opposed to increased body burdens. For example, lead paint and leaded gasoline have only relatively recently been removed from the market.
Lead, along with all the other heavy metals, is a major burden on the body even in small amounts. In a healthy body, the body burden of heavy metals should be extremely low as these metals are non-nutritional and are in fact toxic. These metals are a source of stress to the body because of the difficulties with detoxification. They poison enzyme systems throughout the body, leading to inefficient cellular energy production.
In fact, as a single intervention, Dr Walter Blumer MD in Switzerland has shown a 90% reduction in cancer mortality when treating heavy metal patients, compared to 172 control patients in the same area. Heavy metals can cause damage to DNA both directly and indirectly. The net effect of DNA damage is sometimes uncontrolled growth, cancer.
The metals that I am most concerned about in my practice relate to the problems that my patients experience. For example, someone who is:
-experiencing a slow deterioration in mental function and memory
-describing a "brain fog"
-describe fatigue that improves with rest but is not sustained
-has a history of mercury exposure (taking fish oil supplements not tested for mercury, eating fish frequently)
-has amalgam dental fillings
may have me concerned about mercury toxicity. Another patient's bloodwork may have evidence of an increased iron burden on the body. Iron itself reacts with oxygen to produce the hydroxyl free-radical, which is particularly damaging as it attacks the fatty cell membrane in a chain-reaction. Either way, a challenge chelation and then testing of the urine is the best way to see the burden of toxic metals in the tissues.
Lead is another concern, and this does not only apply to those who deal with lead on a daily basic (construction, firearms, etc). We know that on average, studies have shown that we have at least 1,000 times more lead in our brains, with even higher levels in our pituitary gland (that is the master gland that controls our hormones) than we had before the industrial age and that other toxic heavy metals are being found in equally elevated levels in critical tissues and organs throughout our body, such as our kidneys, liver, and brain. Note: Congestive failure heart patients have recently been reported to have 22,000 times more mercury and 14,000 times more antimony in their hearts.
Chelation therapy is a popular alternative therapy for heart disease in the US. More information on this can be found at www.acam.org. However, currently newer protocols are proving to be safe and even more effective at removing heavy metals. The ultimate goal is to detoxify heavy metals to decrease free radical damage. The traditional method of administering chelation therapy was used because of additional effects on calcium metabolism which seemed to improve the outcome of cardiac patients. For example, McDonagh and Cheraskin found that chelation therapy improved blood flow in arteries the extremity and to the brain. A study that looked at the effects of chelation on 2,870 showed a marked improvement in 77% of heart disease patients.
If my primary concern about a patient is heart disease, the traditional method of administering chelation may be used, even though I still strongly insist that the effect on calcium metabolism is minor and the main effect is on heavy metal detoxification.
Chelation for these purposes involves:
-testing of kidney function
-a challenge of EDTA given by injection
-collection of urine for analysis of what metals are pulled from the body
-and then individualization of therapy based on test results
-treatment is usually once to twice a week, depending on patient response to detoxification
A course of chelation generally involves 30 treatments for heart disease, and anywhere from 10-20 for heavy metal detoxification.