One of the more common approaches to autoimmunity in the alternative health world is heavy metal chelation, a process that pulls metals and other chemicals out of the body.
But did you know that under the wrong circumstances — which are actually fairly common — this can make patients significantly and permanently worse?
Heavy metal chelations, or detoxes, typically begin with a blood, urine, or hair test. The most common test is a urine test after ingesting a chelator, a substance that binds with a heavy metal or chemical, freeing it from body tissue to circulate in the bloodstream for testing or removal.
However, we ALL have high levels of heavy metals in our body. This goes for healthy people and chronically sick people. It’s a fact of modern life.
We are constantly exposed to chemicals in our air, body products, food, and surroundings. Mercury, lead, benzene, solvents, and other compounds are found in our everyday environment — carpets, mattresses, plastic utensils, plastic water bottles and coffee cup lids, fire retardants found in furniture and children’s pajamas, traffic and industrial fumes, and more.
While we all carry this toxic load, environmental chemicals may trigger autoimmunity, chemical sensitivities, and other health issues in some people yet not others.
The issue is not how many chemicals or heavy metals your lab test shows, but whether your immune system is reacting to these environmental compounds.
The risks of chelation
Chelation can be beneficial under the right circumstances. But when a practitioner automatically decides to chelate a patient due to high levels of heavy metals on a lab test, they risk inflaming the brain and causing autoimmune flare-ups.
Neurological autoimmunity. Research shows that chelators such as EDTA, DMPS, and DMSA can redistribute heavy metals into neurological tissue, which can trigger symptoms in the person with neurological autoimmunity.
Molecular mimicry. Chemicals and heavy metals can trigger inflammatory immune reactions in the same ways gluten or other foods can, via cross-reactivity.
This is why it’s important to first test for a healthy blood-brain barrier, the protective layer around the brain designed to keep out unwanted substance and allow in the beneficial.
It’s also wise to verify the intestinal barrier is intact.
This is done by measuring blood-brain barrier and tight junction antibodies.
With a leaky gut or leaky blood-brain barrier, chelated chemicals and heavy metals can trigger inflammatory reactions in the brain and throughout the body, sometimes causing severe symptoms.
This explains why chelation makes some undiagnosed autoimmune patients so much worse. It is typically passed off as a detox reaction, but in reality it has triggered an aggressive autoimmune attack.
This is just one of the concepts I cover during my Autoimmunity Clinical Strategies and Treatment Applications practitioner course.
During the course, I teach the latest research on autoimmunity and the immune system so that when a patient has “mystery symptoms,” the practitioner has a sequence of steps to go through in identifying the underlying mechanisms.
While the KI courses are designed for practitioners, I’ve opened them to the public because so many patients have expressed an interest in learning on a deeper level.
Here is some of what I cover during this course:
- A breakdown of immune responses into basic concepts pertinent to autoimmunity.
- The multiple mechanisms of autoimmune disease known thus far, as there are many — such as agglutination, molecular mimicry, cytotoxic T-cell activity, and regulatory T cell dysfunction — and more.
- Other impactful factors such as environmental chemicals, social relationships, and stress management.
- The pros and cons of different treatment approaches, such as which diet works best when (AIP, GAPS, FODMAPs, etc.).
Knowing these autoimmunity basics supported by the latest published science will allow patients to better understand the underlying mechanisms and keep the motivation to follow dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle protocols. This is the recipe for success.
Learn more about the Autoimmunity Clinical Strategies and Treatment Applications course HERE.