Chelation (the process of binding and removing toxins from the body) happens all the time as part of our body’s natural defense system against toxins. Peptides, glutathione, and metallothionein naturally chelate essential and toxic elements, binding them, and transporting them for excretion. This is all about the methylation pathway from methionine to homocysteine to glutathione, which is so often involved and compromised in those with autism, other neurological or developmental issues, and those developing chronic diseases like heart disease (thus all of us). I am convinced it is the accumulation of toxins and nutrient deficiencies that make us ill and results in most of the medical challenges we face today in children and adults.
Toxins like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are everywhere. They have no beneficial role in our bodies and build up over time in our soft tissues and bones, resulting in an ongoing exposure for years after the physical exposure has been stopped. These toxins create oxidative stress, alter endocrine function by suppressing the pituitary, and direct toxin actions on glands as well as disruption of receptors, and they interfere with the functions of the essential elements like magnesium and zinc. Toxins are most dangerous in the womb and early years where exposures can result in life-long developmental issues, intellectual impairment, and behavioral/psychiatric challenges. Lead levels as low as 2 micrograms/dL are now known to decrease IQ. One must certainly be careful to avoid metal toxins in the womb (hence don’t eat fish or take metal containing vaccines like the Tdap while pregnant). Also be careful with vaccines that contain metals for the very young in particular. In adults, the cardiovascular, renal, and neurological declines are strongly associated with toxic elements. We know that mercury and other toxin levels are very high in most fish and increase as you move higher up the food chain. There has been a recent discovery of high arsenic content in rice ( http://www.integrativepediatricsonline.com/blog/2013/01/09/arsenic-a-very-bad-toxin/) and higher arsenic in non-organic chickens ( http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1206245/ ).
From the methylation cycle (that requires adequate Vitamin B12 and folate) to glutathione, (our body’s most important natural chelator of heavy metals) we are all chelating and removing heavy metal toxins. When I test individuals with autism or ADHD for nutrient status, it is common to find low levels of glutathione. This indirectly indicates they are high in toxins which is not a surprise when you understand the biochemistry going on. While it may be possible to take glutathione orally if it is prepared in lysosomes to protect it from oxidation, the best way to raise glutathione levels, and thus your natural detox, is to take the precursors NAC (N-acetly-cysteine) which works best in the presence of vitamins C and E, or alpha lipoic acid (ALA) which helps the body regenerate the other anti-oxidants and chelators. The build-up of toxins can be typically connected to those that also have a dysbiosis in their intestinal track. The use of ALA and NAC is very difficult in these people as both feed the bad bacteria. It is vital that you clean the gut first. See blog on GAPS diet, as the most comprehensive way to clean the gut.
Selenium is known to protect against mercury toxicity and should be given around the time of mercury filling extractions. We know selenium can assist in chelation of mercury. Certain metal ions like calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and sometimes copper are important in assisting chelation of heavy metals. Copper should only be taken in RDA amounts and some people have too much copper. Having adequate iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc reduces the amount of toxins that are transported into the body. Having poor nutrition, being depleted of these key minerals, puts you at greater risk of toxicity. It is interesting to me that almost every single patient I test (I’ve tested thousands) is low in iron status. Could this be a reflection of just how toxic we all are these days? With our mass produced diet, and GMO foods (known to be especially nutrient depleted) we may have inadvertently created a very nutrient depleted population in some of these simple key minerals and put them at high risk for toxins.
Calcium supplementation in pregnancy reduces the lead accumulation in your unborn child. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2627861/ ), and iron fortification reduces blood lead levels in infants and young children.
Pharmaceutical chelators sometimes used are DMPS, DMSA, EDTA plus BAL, and penicillamine. Sadly, this potentially important means of lowering our body burdens of serious toxins is not well studied and is complicated with many potentially serious side effects. The link at the bottom provides a superb review article on chelation and a link in that article leads to a great review of these major chelators. My own experience with a DMSA oral challenge to see what metals were being excreted from my most severely affected son, clearly resulted in a re-mobilization of sequestered toxins, as he went pale and blank for almost a month after this one dose. I have since chosen not to use these phamaceutical chelators, preferring to do all we can to stimulate your own natural chelation systems and provide nutritional support to maximize that chelation and minimize any ongoing accumulation of toxins.
Your child’s nutritional status greatly affects the uptake of toxic metals as they are transported by the same proteins for the essential nutrients magnesium, zinc, and iron. Let’s fill those proteins with a steady and appropriate stream of these health promoting elements.