What is chelation?
Chelation is a way to remove toxins from the blood. Toxins are chemicals with negative effects. Chelation usually aims to remove heavy metal toxins like lead or mercury.
The chelation process can have several steps, and one of the key steps is using other chemicals to ‘flush’ toxins from the system.
Other terms related to this therapy include DMSA, lipoic acid, clay baths and natural chelating agents.
Who is chelation for?
Chelation therapy is used for people who have experienced heavy metal poisoning.
Although anyone can have chelation therapy, it isn’t recommended for children with liver and kidney problems.
Also, chelation is not recommended as an autism therapy.
What is chelation used for?
Chelation is used to remove toxic chemicals from the blood of people who have experienced heavy metal poisoning.
Where does chelation come from?
Chelation therapy has been around for many years as a treatment for heavy metal poisoning. It has been used as a therapy for autistic people since the 1980s.
What is the idea behind chelation for autistic people?
Blood contains several chemicals in small amounts, but certain chemicals – like mercury – can be poisonous if the levels are too high.
Some people think autism is caused by an excess of mercury in the blood, which the body can’t get rid of naturally. Supporters of this theory believe that removing excess toxins like mercury will remove the cause of autism.
Supporters of chelation also suggest that the excess mercury comes from immunisation. This is because, in the past, thimerosal (a chemical related to mercury) was used to make some vaccines. It’s important to note that thimerosal-based vaccines are no longer used in Australia. Even when they were, the amount of thimerosal was always below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limits.
There’s no scientific evidence that mercury is involved in the development of autism.
What does chelation involve?
There are several stages in chelation therapy.
The first stage involves an initial test to identify the level and type of heavy metal toxin in the blood. This test also helps to identify an appropriate detoxification chemical.
The next stage is preparing the person’s body for the therapy. This includes:
- reducing any current exposure the person has to the heavy metal toxin
- looking at or improving the person’s nutritional status
- ensuring that other chemicals found in the body are at normal levels
- having blood, kidney and liver tests.
Some of these steps can be complex, time consuming and distressing. For example, a person might need to have dental fillings replaced with another filling material, make dietary changes or take vitamin and mineral supplements.
The final stage involves giving an appropriate chemical to ‘flush’ the toxin from the person’s body. Depending on which chemicals are used, they can be taken orally, injected or administered as a rectal suppository or patch worn on the skin.
Chelation therapy can go on for many months and up to a year in some cases.
Does chelation help autistic children?
Research has found no evidence to suggest that chelation is an effective therapy for autistic people.
There’s also evidence that chelation can cause harm depending on how it’s carried out. The US Food and Drug Authority has issued a caution about the use of over-the-counter chelation therapy. And in 2008, a large-scale research project on the use of chelation to treat autistic children was stopped because of the dangers associated with it.
Supporters of this therapy recommend that the person receiving the therapy is tested regularly for any negative outcomes.
Who practises chelation?
Some of the drugs used for this therapy can be bought over the counter in pharmacies or health food shops, but the therapy should always be administered by a medical doctor.
Where can you find a chelation practitioner?
If you’re thinking about chelation, see your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. They can talk about its risks and benefits with you.
You could talk about chelation with your NDIA planner, early childhood partner or local area coordinator, if you have one.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
Unless you’re actually administering the chelating chemicals to your child, there’s no specific involvement for parents in chelation therapy.
The cost of chelation varies depending on the type of chelation therapy used.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.