Chelation as a Treatment for Chronic Intestinal Dysbiosis

Dr. Leah Hassall, ND

The physical effects of exposure to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic have become a more significant concern as our food, water, air and consumer products become increasingly contaminated. Exposure to heavy metals has been linked to various health disorders including cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity and dysregulation of the immune and reproductive systems. The root cause of these disorders is not only damage to our DNA, but also a disruption to the body’s microbiome. In fact, intestinal microbiomes that are chronically exposed to heavy metals are significantly less diverse than those that are not.

Fortunately, our friendly intestinal microbes have this amazing capacity to metabolize environmental chemicals and contaminants, significantly reducing their toxicity in our bodies and protecting us from their ill effects. The intestinal microbiome has been described as a complex “hidden organ”. It is made-up of all of the microorganisms that live in our intestines. Naked to the human eye, they play an immensely important role in our digestion, making vitamins and as a key part of the immune system that excludes and detoxifies harmful things that enter the intestines. When the microbiome becomes disrupted, we see an increased risk of autoimmune diseases (i.e. multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and colitis), inflammatory diseases and metabolic disorders (fatty liver, diabetes). A disrupted microbiome could mean a lack of beneficial bacteria, an overgrowth of bacteria (harmful and beneficial) and/or reduced diversity.

Chelation as a Method for Treating Tough Dysbiosis

Part of the difficulty in treating intestinal dysbiosis is that colonies of bacteria produce biofilms. Biofilms are gelatinous films that are formed by bacteria on every “wet” surface of our bodies: in the mouth, on the teeth, in the ear/nose, vagina, bladder, gastrointestinal tract and even in blood vessels. The purpose of these biofilms is to protect colonies of bacteria from being destroyed by antimicrobial substances; including antibiotics. As we learn more about biofilms, we are now beginning to understand that they likely play a significant role in antibiotic resistance in bacteria-associated chronic diseases including: IBS/SIBO, chronic yeast infections, inflammatory bowel disease and microscopic colitis.

Chelation is one therapy that may be helpful in disrupting antibiotic-resistant biofilms. Chelation is a medical therapy that uses either IV or oral chemicals (known as chelating agents) to bind and help remove heavy metals from the body. One chelating agent in particular, DMPS, is used medically to treat mercury toxicity. It has also been used in disrupting tough biofilms. When combining this along with other biofilm disruptors such as alpha lipoic acid (ALA), bismuth thiols and black cumin, it is an effective treatment in chronic, stubborn cases. Once the body’s harmful biofilms have been disrupted, bacterial and fungal numbers can be altered. This release of bacteria from biofilms can actually even trigger immune reactions temporarily. Clinically, I have found these products a game-changer when it comes to seeing positive changes in stubborn cases of chronic dysbiosis.


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