You often hear that chelation could be done effectively using home remedies. Is that true?
The standard chelation detoxification
I like to mention in the beginning that the proven way to reduce heavy metals in the blood (typically mercury and lead) is by intravenous chelating agents such as EDTA. However, the lowering of calcium levels as a severe side effect limits the application of it. There are also blood-thinning side effects to consider. EDTA is a chemically synthesized compound, not a natural substance. Conversely, vitamin C and Glutathione are both antioxidant substances that the body knows; they are non-toxic and can be used more easily intravenously to remove heavy metals like lead and mercury with fewer side effects than EDTA. Although I think that EDTA has a place in the hands of those who are knowledgeable about the side effects, the vitamin C/Glutathione combination is probably a more physiological detoxification method as glutathione is synthesized by the liver to detoxify our bodies. Intravenous chelation is expensive, requires access to a vein and may not be a suitable way for many people to detoxify. There are natural ways to detox for those who cannot afford chelation or cannot chelate for other health reasons. The major detoxification organs are: the liver, the kidneys, the gut, the lungs and the skin.
What about oral methods to detoxify?
Several methods of cleansing are fasting, the major cleanse or the raw food cleanse. I would not advise to do strict fasting without fluid intake as it takes fluid intake to be able to dissolve any released toxins into urine, feces, invisible fluid from exhaled air and nasal discharge. Next there is the “master cleanse” with lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper as indicated in the link above. Some people like trendy procedures that are written up in a magazine or in a self-help book. I do not like it, as it reminds me too much of a cookbook approach.
I feel differently about a raw food cleanse as I will explain. First, I like to point out that raw food is not easily digested as your gut absorbs only about 30 to 40% of the nutrients. The cell walls of the vegetables you use are the barrier towards absorption. This is much different, if you put the raw fruit and vegetables into a blender with a high power motor. (There are several brands like the BlendTec or the Vitamix.) The powerful blending process breaks up the cell walls and releases the content of the plant cells including their enzymes and nutrients, so that 80% of the nutrients are absorbed in your gut.
If you use organic ingredients (they do not contain toxins, artificial fertilizer residues etc.) you cannot go wrong! Use spinach, kale, banana, mango, greens, lemon juice, and for fat add some nuts like walnuts, Macadamia nuts, almonds (provided you are not allergic to them). With the help of a powerful blender all this will turn into a liquid drink that actually tastes OK. For protein supplementation I would also add some protein supplement like vegan protein from the health food store, whey protein or egg white protein (good to rotate these protein supplements). This mix is a complete nutritional program as it contains complex carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, fat from nuts, protein from the protein supplement and fiber (from the whole vegetables and fruit). You will not get hunger pangs as with a fast or the master cleanse. Use the signs of your body as guidance. If you feel energized after 5 days, stop then and return to your normal food intake (zone type diet, a Mediterranean diet or South Beach diet as explained below). Some people have the will power to do 7 to 10 days of the liquid diet described. Good for them, at least they do not starve themselves as the calories and total nutrient content are there while they detoxify. What are the agents that lead to the detoxification process? It is the enzymes released from the fruit and vegetables, the lack of toxins as you only consume organic ingredients , the extra vitamin C from the food and the glutathione contributed from your liver that are working together.
Are there supplements that can help you to detoxify?
Chlorella powder, which you can buy in health food stores, is one of the few supplements that can detoxify your body from heavy metals. As Dr. Mercola describes that in Japan chlorella powder is one of the most popular supplements to detoxify. It is difficult to get a complete, non-biased picture about chlorella. I did an extensive research in MD Consult about the scientific evidence for detoxification by chlorella in humans. Unfortunately the search results came back only for experiments with mice and rats, but there were no human detox results. Perhaps the Wikipedia description about the history of algae and chlorella as a possible food supplement sheds some light on the difficulties getting real hard data on chlorella detoxification. In rats that were deliberately poisoned with cadmium (a heavy toxic metal) no convincing detoxification with chlorella could be detected when cadmium poisoning was stopped. However, the article goes on to say that chlorella did prevent absorption of cadmium from the intestines to a certain extent (in rats).
Liver detoxification and colonic detoxification
Dr. Max Gerson invented coffee enemas many years ago when he treated end stage cancer patients with natural methods. He found that when he detoxified them with raw juices, many cancer patients died from the toxic breakdown products of dying tumor cells. So he was in dire need of a procedure that would remove the toxic tumor substances efficiently. This is when coffee enemas were used. As the link above describes, coffee given through the colon as an enema (we would perhaps call it “coffee colonics” today) stimulates the liver and the bile flow thus detoxifying the blood effectively of toxic materials. In addition the secretory capability of the large surface of the colon wall also helps the detoxification process. Juicing in combination with coffee enemas improved Dr. Gerson’s end stage cancer cure rates dramatically. Subsequently, Dr. Kelley developed his nutritional-metabolic therapy for end stage cancer patients where he added large amounts of pancreatic enzymes in addition to coffee enemas. Dr. Denis Burkitt is credited for recognizing the importance of fiber in the diet. He noticed that there was a striking difference between the colon cancer rates in England versus the rates in Africa. He analyzed food habits and came to the conclusion that back home there was not enough fiber consumed. A large study done by the Harvard Medical School showed that it was not so much the fiber that helped to prevent colon cancer. Further large scale studies were done and it was shown that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains was what was responsible for a reduction in colon cancer rates. This type of diet will also help detoxify your system from carcinogenic substances in general and from other toxins as the soluble fiber inside the gut will attach to it and go down the toilet instead of being reabsorbed in the colon into your system causing cancer.
The skin is the largest body organ with a lot of skin surface where skin pores can help detoxify under the right circumstances. This can be achieved with infrared saunas, with exercise that leads to production of sweat and by soaking in Epsom salt baths. Traditionally this has been done for centuries in the European spas, originally described by Sebastian Kneipp. The medical establishment in Europe (France, England, Germany, Austria), unlike American physicians, embraced the concept of natural therapies under the term “balneology”, at least for a number of decades. But overuse by patients (abusing the system), badmouthing the relatively weak effect of detoxifying by Big Pharma and lack of funds from the health insurance companies put a damper on his movement. Part of this approach was the use of skin detoxification with healing baths (using Epsom salt and other salts) and physical exercise to the point of sweating. In addition “Waechselbaeder” according to Sebastian Kneipp (alternating hot and cold baths) were also used to stimulate the circulation and the immune system. The major component of Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which can be absorbed through the skin to a certain degree. So, some of the healing effect of Epsom salt baths may have come from an indirect balancing of low blood magnesium and the normalization of many metabolic processes that require magnesium as co-factors. Here is another, more vernacular description of Epsom salt use. Some of the assumptions such as improvement of diabetes, improvement of digestive absorption or relief from migraine headaches may be a combination of exaggeration and placebo effect rather than reality.
The kidneys along with the liver are the major, natural detoxification organs of the body. However, they need enough fluids to dissolve water-soluble toxins and eliminate them from the body through the urine. Clean water should be consumed intermittently during the day (reverse osmosis water in glass bottles or BPA free bottled water). Because alcohol is a cell poison damaging the vital organs like the brain, heart, liver and kidneys it is best to minimize any alcohol intake to the absolute minimum (best to avoid alcohol altogether). The main filtration devices in the kidneys are the glomeruli, little packages of convoluted capillaries, which filter the blood several times per day. High salt intake, too much sugar and too much starch interfere with normal function of the glomeruli. Insulin resistance as is the case with metabolic syndrome and diabetes (often associated with obesity) will damage the filtration devices of the kidneys and cause toxin accumulation. To prevent damage of the kidney capillaries you need a healthy, basic diet like the Zone diet, South Beach diet or the Mediterranean diet as mentioned in this link.
This will keep fat deposits out of your arteries and the capillaries of the glomeruli of your kidneys, so the filtration process continues to work until a ripe old age. Your doctor can order tests (creatinine clearance) to assess whether the filtration capacity of your kidneys is normal.
Many toxins are fat-soluble and are stored in the fatty tissues. When you lose weight, you will need to drink more fluids to get rid of the water-soluble toxins through the kidneys and use coffee enemas to rid yourself of fat-soluble toxins (through bile and bowel movements).
There are a lot of websites that want to sell you herbs that should cleanse your system. They have a marginal effect, but I would stress that you want to adopt one of the diets mentioned above first to start with a healthy baseline. Such herbs as Buchu (Agathosma Betulina), Burdock, Echinacea and Yellow Dock Root (Rumex Crispus) are supposed to help the kidneys to detoxify. I am not certain whether there is medical proof for this.
Detoxification starts with adopting healthy food and lifestyle habits first. A low carb, low fat type diet as indicated (zone diet, a Mediterranean diet or South Beach diet) will be the footing from which the other detoxification methods will work. Some of the toxins will leave you when you work out and sweat. More will leave you when you enjoy an Epsom salt bath. This will give you some extra magnesium, which in turn will help to detoxify your system through several biochemical reactions where magnesium is a co-factor. Colonics or enemas will help remove toxins through your colon and they are more effective when coffee enemas are used (stimulation of your liver through the splanchnic nerves).
Infrared saunas can help to mobilize toxins and detoxify them through your skin. Take ample amounts of fluids as this will help remove some toxins through the kidneys and the urinary system. If major heavy metal poisoning were detected, the traditional intravenous chelation treatments described at the beginning of this blog would be more recommendable. A naturopathic physician or A4M physician (anti-aging physician) could advice you what is best in your case. Overall the thought is that by removing toxins the mitochondria in our cells, particularly in the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys can work more effectively giving you more energy and preventing the major diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), diabetes, arthritis and loss of cognitive function (Alzheimer’s disease and dementia).
More information about:
1. Chelation therapy: http://www.askdrray.com/tact-study-proves-effectiveness-of-chelation/
2. Vitamins, minerals and detoxification: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/nutrition/vitamins-minerals-supplements/
Last edited Nov. 7, 2014
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