Root cause is a cornerstone of Functional and Integrative medicine. We are seeing increasing complications that are chronic in nature. A key element that forms a common denominator in cases of Cancer, Atherosclerosis, and Chronic Conditions is the presence of high levels of heavy metals. Despite the existance of credible evidence pointing to the effects of heavy metal toxicity, there is widespread ignorance in medical communities regarding its detrimental effects on health.
Over time, our water systems, food supplies and general nutrition have been affected by many elements. The increase in industrialization over the past few centuries has led to levels of toxicity that have surmounted safe levels in the environment, leading to an increase in various conditions including cancer. A heavy metal can be described as an element whose atomic size and density is five times that of water. The most common heavy metals are listed below:
There are a whole range of other heavy metals an individual could be exposed to not covered in this article. It is not possible to completely avoid exposure to toxic metals although it is possible to reduce the risk through making lifestyle choices such as dietary measures to reduce exposure to heavy metals.
Without testing for heavy metals in the body it is presumptuous that the cause of the following conditions is due to heavy metal toxicity alone. Therefore, it is always recommended to test first. Heavy metals have a documented potential for serious health consequences including:
Chelation is a treatment commonly used to extract heavy metals from the body. It is the process of binding metallic elements in the blood, and then extracting them through the kidneys. It is most often used in cases of acute intoxication. The efficacy of chelation therapy in chronic metal intoxication is less clear, as chelation therapies are more effective when administered close to the time of exposure (Jang 2011).
Many toxic metals mimic the qualities of essential minerals in the body, and therefore compete for the same absorption mechanisms within the intestines. It is important to ensure that essential trace minerals are taken adequately as this will reduce uptake of toxic metals. For example, nutritional zinc or iron deficiency can increase cadmium absorption (Thévenod 2013), and lead absorption from the gut appears to be blocked by calcium, iron, and zinc (ATSDR 2007b; Patrick 2006). In animal models, selenium blocks the effects of lead when administered before exposure and reduces mercury toxicity (Patrick 2006).
Unlike other toxins such as pathogens and viruses, our bodies are not designed to metabolise and excrete heavy metals naturally. Several dietary constituents have been investigated for their ability to mitigate metal toxicity. Certain chelating agents work by reducing metal absorption from the gut. They work by binding toxic metals in the blood and tissues to help draw them out of the body through the kidneys, or reducing free-radical damage (a significant contributor to the pathology caused by heavy metals).
Exposure to metal toxins can also be reduced by understanding the sources of metal exposure (see the section on risk factors) and adopting strategies to reduce contact with them:
Currently the largest study – TACT2 trial, a multi-million dollar government-sponsored study to evaluate the effectiveness of chelation therapy is underway. Prior to this the first trial, TACT was a large, randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) that randomized patients to a series of IV chelation using EDTA or placebo. It showed the following:
If you or a family member tests positive for heavy metal toxicity, you must work with an Integrative medicine physician trained in heavy metal chelation. It is not safe to conduct a heavy metal detox without supervision.
Testing for toxic metal exposure is not straightforward since blood tests typically identify only those with severe and acute toxicity but fail to identify those with toxic metals stored in the tissues due to chronic exposure. Applying the appropriate chelating agent to properly treat toxic metal accumulation is also not a straightforward endeavor.
Chelation therapy is not taught in conventional medical school but rather through various professional medical organizations. It can be a life-saving alternative treatment.