Chelation therapy is the introduction of compounds into the body to remove heavy metals. Side effects result from specific deficiencies triggered by heavy metal chelation therapy. Though rare, chelation side effects can manifest as anything from mild irritations to severe conditions. Instances of chelation side effects should be immediately reported to the therapist so adjustments or accommodations can be made in the patient's therapy regimen.
The depletion of vitamins and minerals from the body during chelation therapy is not uncommon. Generally, patients are instructed to take supplements and pay close attention to their diet for the duration of this treatment. A deficiency of the vitamin B6 commonly results in mild chelation side effects, such as localized skin irritation and nausea, which are easily corrected with supplement use. Insufficient zinc and potassium, resulting in extreme fatigue, can be supplemented by adjusting the individual's diet to include more fruits and vegetables. In some instances, additives can be combined with the chelation agent, commonly ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), infusion to function as a supplement.
Adverse effects to blood glucose levels and blood pressure have been known to manifest during chelation therapy. The introduction of EDTA can cause blood glucose to decline, resulting in headache, so patients are instructed to eat prior to treatment. Individuals may experience a drop in blood pressure, resulting in a feeling of faintness upon standing after sitting or lying down for a period of time.
Joint pain has also been known to occur in individuals whose chelation therapy regimen requires multiple infusions per week. To remedy the discomfort, the frequency of treatments or dosage may be reduced. When both approaches are implemented, the joint pain generally subsides.
Attributed to a magnesium deficiency, cramps are a rare side effect to chelation therapy. Supplemental magnesium is usually prescribed and combined with EDTA to form magnesium sulfate or magnesium chloride. Following the introduction of the supplemental infusion, the cramping generally subsides and, additionally, the magnesium aids with preventing instances of localized skin irritation.
The repeated introduction of EDTA into the bloodstream can result in the inhibition of bone marrow, directly impacting the production of blood cells. When blood cell production is suppressed, the quantity of hemoglobin and red blood cells are dramatically reduced, resulting in anemia. For anemic individuals, the potential reduction in bone marrow can pose a potentially dangerous situation. Individuals with pre-existing anemia should consult with their physician to examine all treatment options before starting chelation therapy.
Since EDTA binds with calcium, its depletion can present significant issues during chelation therapy. Calcium is essential for proper nerve and muscle function, and a reduction can result in dangerously low calcium levels, known as hypocalcemia. Provoking an electrolyte disturbance, calcium deficiency can adversely affect electrical activity in the brain, causing seizures, and the heart, manifesting as an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.
One of the most serious, and potentially lethal, of the potential chelation side effects is kidney failure. The minerals to which EDTA binds are filtered through the kidneys, causing them to work overtime, resulting in a condition known as acute tubular necrosis (ATN). If left untreated, ATN can lead to permanent kidney damage and, ultimately, kidney failure, requiring transplantation or permanent dialysis.