Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
Do you have fatigue, weakness, numbness/ tingling or difficulty concentrating? Have you experienced headaches, joint pain, persistent anemia, or muscle pain? Perhaps you have tremors, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, irritability, or high blood pressure. If so, the cause could be heavy metal toxicity. Yes, mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, and aluminum toxicity can cause these symptoms, but are often missed since common tests for them are inadequate. This monthís Ask Dr. P answers some of your questions on heavy metal toxicity & chelation. Enjoy!
Q: Dr. P., My husband has high blood pressure and has been put on drugs that interfere with his sexual performance. A girlfriend said chelation could help him get off the drugs. Is it true? Thanks, Rebecca
A: Rebecca, sexual dysfunction with blood pressure medications is not uncommon, and chelation, from the root chelate (meaning claw-like) has been recommended for it & many other conditions. I have found chelation effective for patients with hypertension who have documented heavy metal toxicity. Its mechanism is simple. Heavy metals like cadmium, lead, & mercury compete with nutritional magnesium-- needed to promote relaxation in our arteries. Without proper artery relaxation, the pressure within remains elevated- even when we are at rest. In these cases: getting the lead out allows magnesium to be utilized in the arterial smooth muscle, promoting proper vessel tone thereby decreasing blood pressure.
Q: Dr. P., What are the most common sources of heavy metal toxicity? Thanks, Vicki
A: Dear Vicki, occupations such as dental office, plumbing, auto painting, and printing, plastic manufacturing, welding, construction, photography, or law enforcement can expose a person directly to metals or inhaled metal vapors. Living/ working in a pre 1960s home/ building, imported folk remedies, eating seafood, burning candles with lead wicks, glassmaking, painting, hunting, fishing, or working with lead shot & pottery are all sources of potential exposure. Last, having your mercury fillings removed without being on special chelating medicines before, during, and after the process dramatically increases your risks of mercury toxicity.
Q: Dr. P., Iíve had anemia that has not improved with iron supplements, what can I do? Thanks, Tabitha
A: Tabitha, if we assume that your doctor has looked for and treated sources of hidden bleeding, which cause anemia, you might consider looking for lead or cadmium toxicity. Lead & cadmium each compete with iron inside red blood cells (which carry oxygen) in your blood. If your levels of lead or cadmium are high enough, iron is displaced from inside the red blood cells, and you remain anemic despite having normal levels of iron on your blood test. Once the metals are removed, the iron you are taking, and that which is already in your blood, can be used by your red blood cells, and the anemia resolves. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about getting tested for heavy metals.
Q: Dr. P., Iíve had chronic pain, and headaches, and think itís related to my mercury fillings? What must I do? Rob
A: Rob, mercury fillings are a source of exposure when you eat or drink, when some of the mercury, released as vapor, is inhaled and then absorbed into your bloodstream. What is not immediately removed by your kidneys is rapidly stored in your bone marrow, fat, brain, and nerves-- why blood & nervous system disease is often observed with mercury toxicity. For you, the question is not if Iíve been exposed, but: how much have I been exposed? To answer, you must undergo testing. Blood tests & standard urine tests are worthless, unless you are evaluating exposure in the past 24 hours. Hair tests can only measure blood levels / exposure in the past 30 days, and although still used, are of questionable reliability. A urine provocation test is definitive. For it, you take a chelating medicine that travels through your system, and binds metals, pulling them into your bloodstream. Your kidneys, then remove the metals bound to the chelating medicine, and produce urine, which when you collect, indicates your total burden of metals in the brain & other body tissues. If your metal burden is found to be high, chelation is then appropriate.
Q: Dr. P., Iíve heard chelation is great for dissolving plaques in my heart. Is it true? My sister died from a heart attack, and Iíd like to avoid one. Thanks, Beth
A: Beth, I think chelation helps with circulation, in the heart and other areas, not because it dissolves plaques, but because it pulls metals out of the arteries (vessels), which lead to ďhardeningĒ or decreased compliance. For blood flow to be compromised to an area of the body, the artery must be blocked by over 60%. The reason why is simple: arteries normally expand & contract to meet the blood needs of the tissue they supply, so considerable blockage is needed for you to notice. When a person has heavy metal toxicity however, the vessels are not able to expand or contract as well (because toxic metals interfere with minerals needed for this process. The result is diminished blood flow to an area, which causes symptoms. Chelation can counter this, by pulling out metals, thereby improving vessel compliance, which improves blood flow.
Q: Dr. P., Iíve heard chelation is great for overall health, and my doctor suggests I have a course of 20 IVs yearly. How often do you think I should I have it done? Thanks, Jerry
A: Jerry, Chelation is definitely a medical therapy, and not a tonic treatment. In cases where a urine provocation test documents heavy metal toxicity, or you have clear signs & symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, chelation is indicated. However, side effects of treatment must also be considered. As example, chelating agents can cause mineral deficiencies, and although unlikely allergic reactions, and kidney failure (in patients with kidney disease). Always find an expert on chelation before undergoing such therapy. He or she can evaluate, test, and educate you on whether or not, and if so what type (oral or intravenous chelation) would be right for you. Have a great month!
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