Chelation Therapy For Heavy Metals: How Does it Work?

Chelation Therapy For Heavy Metals

Have you heard of chelation therapy for heavy metal exposure but are unclear what it’s all about? Heavy metal chelation is a treatment that works like an aluminum detox, purifying your body.

If you’re interested in chelation therapy for lead, mercury, and other heavy metals in your blood, this article is a comprehensive guide to this fascinating type of therapy. You can learn what heavy metal chelation is, the average chelation therapy cost, and much more.

Keep reading for an informative overview of chelation therapy and how it can help you to be your healthiest!

What is Chelation Therapy?

Chelation therapy is a process that removes toxic heavy metals from your blood and body. Many harmful heavy metals can wind up in your bloodstream from consuming certain foods or medications or from pollution and industrial environments. Some of the heavy metals that can enter the bloodstream are:

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Aluminum
  • Cadmium

How Chelation Therapy Works

So, how does chelation therapy remove high levels of metal from your bloodstream? A chelator or chelating agent is injected into your blood. Chelators will bind to the metals, circulating through your bloodstream and collecting all the metals.

It turns the heavy metals into a compound that will move out of the bloodstream, into the kidneys for filtration, and exit through the urinary tract. A few types of chelators include:

  • Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid
  • dimercaptosuccinic acid
  • Dimercaprol
  • Succimer
  • Edetate calcium disodium
  • Deferoxamine
  • Penicillamine

These different chelators all bind to the metal molecules in your blood to create a compound your body can more easily process. Metals remain in your bloodstream because they are not chemically conducive to kidney filtration.

The human body contains mechanisms meant to eliminate these heavy metals, but they are often not strong enough to handle the high levels due to modern pollution, medications, and food. Both sulfur and non-sulfur proteins should bind metals and pull metals from your cells, but they can’t work quickly enough to manage extensive lead exposure.

Chelation therapy typically requires multiple injections over several months. Depending on the severity of the heavy metal poisoning, you may receive injections several times a week for the better part of a year.

The injection process typically takes 30 minutes, and the chelator will remove the heavy metals via the urinary tract within 24 hours. But the chemical chelators can only remove so much heavy metal at once, which is why multiple injections over time are necessary.

What Causes Heavy Metal Poisoning?

Heavy metal poisoning is a serious public health problem. Certain metals and minerals are essential to your health, like magnesium. But other metals, like lead, iron, and nickel, can harm you. You can get heavy metal poisoning from:

  • Drinking polluted water
  • Breathing polluted air
  • Lead exposure from paint
  • Industrial exposure
  • Eating foods with high levels of metal (fish, leafy greens, brown rice, coffee)
  • Consuming medications with high levels of metal (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Improperly coated food containers
  • Metal dental fillings

Associated Conditions

Some conditions and diseases also cause heavy metals to build up in the body. If you have any of the following conditions, chelation therapy can help manage the high levels of heavy metals in your blood:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Thalassemia and similar blood disorders
  • Wilson’s disease
  • Hemochromatosis

If you suffer from one of these conditions, consult a doctor and ask if a heavy metal detox would be beneficial.

Symptoms of Heavy Metal Poisoning

Unfortunately, many people have heavy metal poisoning and don’t even realize it. Pollution is a significant public health risk that people often forget about because it’s practically unavoidable. If you’re not sure if you need a heavy metal detox, consider if you have one or more of the following symptoms of lead toxicity and other heavy metal poisonings:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Numb hands and feet
  • Chills/ low body temperature
  • Scratchy throat
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Joint aches

    Many health conditions have similar symptoms, but many people live years with lead toxicity or aluminum poisoning without knowing.

    Benefits of Chelation Therapy

    Chelation therapy has some benefits that make it an enticing option for people with certain conditions. Many of these benefits are not supported by research yet but have potential.

    Removes Heavy Metals

    The first benefit of detoxification via chelation therapy is that it removes heavy metals from your blood. This benefit is proven, and chelation treatment will reduce metal toxicity in your body. Lowering your blood lead level and removing other heavy metals can help you feel more energized and focused while reducing bodily discomfort or pain.

    Other benefits associated with chelation therapy and metal detoxification are less substantiated but still worth noting. For example, chelation therapy for lead is guaranteed to reduce or remedy lead poisoning. But other benefits are only potential, not guaranteed.


    Some research suggests that autistic children and adults have higher blood lead levels. The evidence here is not conclusive, but some people believe chelation therapy and metal detoxification can reduce symptoms of autism in a child. It seems this therapy is a preferred treatment for an autistic child rather than an autistic adult.

    Cardiovascular Disease

    Studies show that a chelation drug regimen can reduce cardiovascular events in people over 50 suffering from diabetes. Many studies have been conducted to assess the relationship between heavy metals and cardiovascular events like heart attacks. While more research must be undertaken to draw solid conclusions, heavy metal detoxification can, at the least, lower the risk of future heart problems.

    Parkinson’s Disease

    There is evidence that people with Parkinson’s disease may have higher iron levels in their brains. These high levels of iron may contribute to the disease's mobility and motor skill symptoms. Treatment with chelators may help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s, but more research is needed.

    Alzheimer’s Disease

    It’s been suggested that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by an excess of proteins around brain cells. An abundance of proteins, like beta-amyloid and tau, have been found in Alzheimer’s patient’s brains. There is not much evidence to support heavy metal chelation therapy for Alzheimer’s, but there is potential.


    Some experts theorize that lead exposure and lead poisoning could be carcinogenic. It’s possible that removing excessive heavy metals from the bloodstream can work to prevent cancer cells from forming and growing. If true, chelation therapy could be a massive benefit to public health. But more research must be conducted to reach a reliable conclusion.

    Risks of Chelation Therapy

    Unfortunately, you should be aware that chelation therapy has some adverse side effects. Some side effects are mild, while others can be life-threatening.

    Mild Side Effects

    Some mild and common side effects come with chelation therapy and lead poisoning detoxification. Not everyone who undergoes chelation treatment for lead toxicity and other heavy metal poisoning experiences these symptoms, but potential side effects include:

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Headaches
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    Only some chelation therapy patients report these symptoms, but some experience no adverse side effects following the injection.

    Serious Side Effects

    Unfortunately, some people experience severe side effects. For this reason, you should only undergo blood lead level injection treatments after consulting with your physician. It’s also not recommended to undergo this therapy if you do not have heavy metal poisoning or an unusually high blood lead level. The potential side effects include:

    • Seizures
    • Low blood pressure
    • Respiratory failure
    • Irregular heartbeats
    • Allergic reactions
    • Hypersensitivity
    • Anemia
    • Kidney damage
    • Liver damage
    • Loss of vitamins
    • Loss of nutrients
    • Brain damage
    • Hypocalcemia

    It’s unclear why these symptoms occur in some patients and not in others. It’s possible that a healthy diet and regular exercise can lower the risk of these side effects, but it’s not proven.

    Chelation Therapy Cost

    Chelation therapy is not cheap. As mentioned, multiple injections are required to remedy heavy metal poisoning. A single injection can cost between $75 and $125.

    So every time you go in for an injection, you will pay around $100. The cost will add up quickly if you go several times a week or receive chelation therapy for years to manage heavy metals. It’s easy to spend thousands on chelation therapy without fully detoxing your body.

    People with chronic conditions may need to continuously seek chelation therapy to keep their blood clear of excessive heavy metals. This treatment is one of the most expensive ways to treat metal toxicity.
    Luckily, there are more affordable options that can effectively rid your body of harmful heavy metals.

    Heavy Metal Detox Alternatives

    If chelation therapy seems too intense or expensive, consider the detox alternatives below.

    Detox Supplements and Support

    A safer and often equally effective treatment for heavy metal toxicity is detox supplements. You can take detox supplements in tincture form, capsules, or pills. These supplements work similarly to chelation therapy, purging the body of harmful metals and chemicals.

    Like chelation therapy, detox supplements can have a few unpleasant side effects, particularly gastrointestinal distress. But you can combine the supplements with detox support to prevent or reduce such side effects.

    Supplements and support are a much safer way to remove toxins and metal from your body and come with fewer risks and adverse side effects, making them the best alternative to chelation injections.


    If you don’t want to receive injections or consume supplements, you can try managing your heavy metal levels by adjusting your diet.

    As mentioned, some foods are high in heavy metals, so you should avoid those, But some foods can help detox your body, removing heavy metals naturally. If you want to try a natural heavy metal detox diet, try to increase your consumption of:

    • Cilantro
    • Garlic
    • Blueberries
    • Lemon water
    • Spirulina
    • Chlorella
    • Barley grass juice powder
    • Atlantic dulse
    • Curry
    • Green tea
    • Tomatoes
    • Probiotics

    Try to avoid non-organic foods or heavily-processed products. Organic foods are free of pesticides, which contain heavy metals. Also, some vaccinations given to farm animals, like chickens and cows, contain heavy metals. The more organic and less refined the food, the less likely it will have high levels of heavy metals.It can also help to increase your water intake, as this helps your body filter compounds. It’s essential to avoid foods high in heavy metals, such as:

    • Rice (predominantly brown rice)
    • Alcohol (especially hard liquor)
    • Fish (especially tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, and swordfish)
    • Leafy green vegetables (especially lettuce, spinach, cabbage, etc.)
    • Unfiltered water


    Hemodialysis is one way to remove heavy metals from the body, but it is reserved for patients with kidney problems or kidney failure. If the kidney cannot filter anything, chelation therapy will be useless.

    The compound the chelators create will still get stuck in the bloodstream since the kidneys cannot do their job. This treatment is only recommended for patients with kidney failure.

    Bottom Line

    In the end, chelation therapy is not suitable for most people. It can help with heavy metal poisoning, but its other benefits are unsubstantiated.

    If you want to rid your body of toxins and heavy metals, there are safer, easier, and more affordable options. For most people, detox supplements are an effective treatment for their high metal levels, helping them be healthier and feel better.


    Below are a few frequently asked questions concerning chelation therapy.

    Is chelation therapy FDA-approved?

    Chelation therapy is only FDA-approved for the treatment of metal toxicity. It is not FDA-approved for other uses, including cardiovascular disease, autism, and cancer. The FDA has also not approved any over-the-counter chelation agents.

    When was chelation therapy invented?

    Chelation therapy first came about early in the 20th century. It was invented to treat heavy metal poisoning.

    Who invented chelation therapy?

    A scientist named Alfred Werner discovered and patented the process at the very end of the 19th century and put it into practice at the beginning of the 20th century.

    Can a child get chelation therapy?

    Yes. While uncommon, a child with heavy metal poisoning can undergo chelation therapy. But oral supplements are the safer treatment for young children.

    Will insurance cover the cost of chelation therapy?

    Most insurance plans will cover chelation therapy only for treating heavy metal poisoning. If someone wants chelation therapy to try and manage cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, cancer, or autism, insurance will not cover this because it is not a proven treatment.

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