When metals like lead, mercury, iron, and arsenic build up in your body, they can be toxic. Chelation therapy is a treatment that uses medicine to remove these metals so they don't make you sick.
Some alternative care providers also use it to treat heart disease, autism, and Alzheimer's disease. But there's very little evidence it works for those conditions. In fact, chelation therapy can cause serious side effects -- including death -- especially if it's used in the wrong way.
How Does It Work?
Chelation therapy uses special drugs that bind to metals in your blood. You get the chelating medicine through an intravenous (IV) tube in your arm. It’s also available in pill form. Once the drug has attached to the metal, your body removes them both through your pee.
Metals that can be removed with chelation therapy include lead, mercury, and arsenic. Before you get this treatment, your doctor will do a blood test to make sure you have metal poisoning.
Some natural health care providers and supplement companies claim they use chelation therapy to reduce symptoms of autism, Alzheimer's disease, or heart disease. Yet this treatment is only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat metal poisoning.
Here's what the research shows regarding chelation treatment for these three conditions:
- Autism. The use of chelation therapy to treat this condition is based on the idea that autism is caused by mercury in childhood vaccines. Studies have proven this idea to be false. But some health care providers also believe that removing metals from the body can improve autism symptoms.
- Alzheimer's Disease. In patients who have this, abnormal proteins called tau and beta amyloid build up in the brain and damage it. To date, no treatment can stop or reverse this disease.
- Clean arteries to protect you against heart failure.