Treat the root cause: a case for heavy metal chelation

Dr. Miranda Wiley, ND

There are six principles that guide naturopathic medical care: First, do no harm; The healing power of nature; Treat the root cause; Treat the whole person; Doctor as teacher; and Prevention.

When considering the challenges between where the patient is currently at and the health goals that they wish to achieve, it is the job for the naturopathic physician to consider two major influencers of health. Firstly, what might be missing/deficient and require replacement for the patient to improve (be that a specific nutrient such as zinc or vitamin A, or a lifestyle element such as time, activity, or sleep). Secondly, what is the “obstacle to cure”, the unwanted element that is blocking the path to healing (such as excess sugar, gluten or other food intolerance, a miserable job).

While many people are now familiar with the idea of antioxidants and their role in supporting health by treating oxidative damage to cells, and many make a conscious effort to increase their intake of antioxidants through food and supplements, few consider the root cause of what is causing the oxidative damage in the first place. When it comes to free radical activity in the body heavy metals are common culprits. Yes, antioxidants are important and beneficial, but unless the offending agent is removed from the system it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve lasting results with our health.

We may consider causes of oxidative stress when we think of air pollution that generally contains mercury, lead, and/or cadmium1. It’s a valid consideration since in the estimate for mercury emissions in Canada in 2000 was over 8,000kg!2 Other sources of heavy metals in our daily lives include cigarette smoke (cadmium), dental amalgams, tuna fish, and fluorescent light bulbs (mercury), and antiperspirants, antacid medications, and baking powder (aluminum)3.

Different heavy metals have affinities for different tissues in the body, but whether your primary concern is heart health, nerve/brain health, kidney health, immune health, or a concern addressing another body system, removing toxic metals from your body is a good start!

So how to achieve that? Chelation of course!

Chelation is the process of binding metals that may be in excessive amounts and interfering with organ function so that they can be excreted and normal, healthy physiology in the body can be restored. “Chele” is Latin for “Claw”, and chelating agents pinch metals from tissues and pull them into the blood so that they can be excreted via the urine.

Chelating agents include EDTA, DMPS, DMSA, as well as various vitamins and nutraceuticals, and each has a different affinity for various metals. The choice of chelating agent can be discussed and decided based on your personal history of exposure to pollutants, as well as your current symptoms and health concerns.

A full health work-up is necessary before considering chelation therapy in order to honour the principles of “First, do no harm” and “Treat the whole person”. Your naturopathic doctor who has taken additional training and certification in chelation therapy will be able to answer your questions through the principle of “Doctor as teacher”, while using “The healing power of nature” to support you on your journey down the path to “Prevention” of diseases and disorders associated with heavy metal toxicity.