Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

The problem with chelation therapy

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Something that often happens when people realise they are food chemical sensitive and/or especially if they are on the autism spectrum, is they automatically think the problem must be connected to mercury poisoning, or another heavy metal poisoning. But rule #1 any scientist should abide by, is that correlation does not denote causality.

People don’t like to think that autism is genetic: there is a moral panic in our society regarding the health of and how we raise our children, and a second moral panic in our society regarding industrial chemicals and toxins and the harm they can do to our health. The persistent assertion in our shared popular culture is that both of these things are getting worse in our society. These two moral panics neatly bisect on the subject of autism, and the natural conclusion of anyone introduced to the subject is that, somehow, heavy metal poisoning must be causing both autism and food chemical sensitivities, because neither of these health problems could be ‘natural’, could they?

The next reaction is to go through all of the alternative health theories of autism: that autism is caused by ‘gut dysbiosis’, by ‘parasites’, by ‘the wrong type of carbohydrate’, by ‘gluten and casein’, by ‘heavy metal poisoning’, by ‘vaccinations’, or by ‘vitamin deficiencies’. A number of these problems do correlate with autism – but that doesn’t necessarily make them the cause, rather they are a feature of the same underlying condition.

People with autism thought to be low on glutathione, sulphate, and methyl donors. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. This means that they don’t detox a variety of chemicals and heavy metals from their body as well as other people. When autistic people are found to have high levels of heavy metals in their bodies (and not all are and non-autistics can have high levels of metals too), it is usually because they are not detoxing them as well as other people, not necessarily because they have been exposed to an abnormal level of a poison – be that thimerosal, MMR, amalgam fillings or any other chemicals or metals in the environment.

Heavy metal toxicity has a range of medically recognisable symptoms. If you have heavy metal toxicity and you are experiencing these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are also causing your autism, or your food chemical sensitivities, or your fibromyalgia. It is more likely that you are experiencing all of these things due to the same underlying pathway in the body being compromised. Unfortunately these symptoms heavily overlap the symptoms food chemical sensitivity, so it is possible to become very confused and convinced that you have a problem with heavy metals when in fact you do not, or that heavy metals have caused your salicylate issue, when in fact they have not, they just coexist.

Sometimes when people suspect that they are heavy metal poisoned, they will panic and have their amalgam fillings removed. This is a very dangerous thing to do. Unless you have your amalgam fillings removed by a specialist who uses a dental dam and piped oxygen, you are liable to actually give yourself acute mercury poisoning by having the fillings removed! Amalgams release much more mercury when they are disturbed than they do when they are sat in your mouth. If, three months later, you then have a metal toxicity hair test done, you are liable to confirm your worst fears!

Next, if someone finds they have an unusually high level of heavy metals in their body, the first thing they usually do is arrange chelation therapy. Sometimes people are so convinced that heavy metals are the cause of their problems that they will do this even if their heavy metal levels are in the normal range or only very slightly raised. Any very slightly raised level is seen as confirmation of a problem that in reality may or may not actually exist.

The problem with this is that the chelation chemicals in themselves are reactive and cause unpleasant side effects:

DMSO therapy: DMSO (dimethylsulfoxide), a sulphur based compound, and the liquid version of MSM. Any individual who reacts to sulphur will usually react to DMSO. It’s known side effects include nasal congestion, shortness of breath or troubled breathing (asthma), skin rash, erythema, itchiness, scaly skin, skin thickening, hives, swelling of the face, blistering, skin pain, nausea, diarrhea, headache, garlic-like taste in mouth, garlic-like breath, garlic-like body odor, transient hemolysis, dizziness, sedation, kidney injury, light sensitivity, color vision disturbance, corneal opacities in animals and birth defects in animals.

DMSA therapy: DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid), is also sulphur based, containing two carboxylic acid groups and two thiols. Any individual who reacts to sulphur will usually react to DMSA. It’s side effects include diarrhea, loose stools, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, skin rashes, chills, fever, immune system impairment in developing foetuses, and unpleasant odour of urine, sweat and faeces.

DMPS therapy: DMPS (dimercaptopropane sulfonate) is also sulphur based. Any individual who reacts to sulphur will usually react to DMPS. It’s side effects include ‘allergic’ reactions, agitation, burning sensation of mouth, throat and eyes, chest constriction or feeling of tightness in the chest, cardiovascular reactions – dizziness, weakness, lowering of blood pressure, heart palpitations or tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, and tingling of the extremities.

Reactions usually vary in character based on dosage. At a low dosage, you might experience histamine degranulation causing rashes, or asthma, and at a high dose
you might experience vomiting and diarrhoea. All of the sulphur-based substances need to be detoxified in themselves through the sulfite oxidase (SUOX) enzyme. People who have an upregulated cystathionine beta synthase (CBS) enzyme are already putting an extra load on this pathway. These are two of the enzymes that has been flagged up by Yasko and others as having an association with autism, and of course an intolerance and reactivity towards sulphur and sulphites.

EDTA therapy: EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) is a chemical compound containing two amine groups and four carboxylate groups. It ‘looks’ suspiciously reactive. EDTA in itself needs detoxifying from the body. It is known to cause ‘allergic’ reactions, and reported side effects of EDTA include low blood sugar, skin irritation, diminished calcium levels, cramps and tics, headache, nausea and upset stomach, dangerously low blood pressure, kidney failure, organ damage, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and even death.

EDTA is the only chelation therapy that Dr Amy Yasko approves of, because all sulphur based chelators are known to be so problematic to the chemically sensitive. However Yasko does not seem totally clear on the importance of avoiding food chemicals. The side effects of EDTA seem just as ‘reactive’ as sulphur-based chelators, and EDTA superficially resembles gallates and amines in structure.

Sometimes so-called alternative therapists will diagnose mercury poisoning purely based on a DMPS or other challenge test, consisting of injecting a quantity of the chemical into the blood stream and watching for reactions. If the patient reacts to the drug, they are diagnosed as having been mercury poisoned.

The problem with this as you can see is that chelation drugs have some very powerful side effects. They are in and of themselves reactive and tend to affect those with food chemical problems. However, the lay person and any badly educated therapist or quack will attribute these reactions to “mercury being freed up and circulating around the body.” The ‘mercury’ whether it exists or not is blamed for the reaction caused by the chelation drugs, and the hypothesis of heavy metal poisoning is reinforced.

What I find disturbing about this situation is that people can become trapped in a spider’s web of the mind: they blame heavy metals for autism or food chemical sensitivities, they undergo chelation therapy and react to the chelators, and then blame the reactions on the removal of mercury, when in fact they are side effects and are inevitable in those who have food chemical sensitivities. Every time they undergo chelation therapy, they keep reacting, which reinforces in their mind the need to continue with the chelation therapy to ‘cure’ their problems with food chemicals. This can continue ad infinitum for year upon year, long after the heavy metals are actually gone – if they were even there in the first place.

This is why it is extremely important to test and retest your urine, blood and hair levels of heavy metals regularly, and to think about using alternative methods of detoxification.

There are less painful ways to detoxify your body of heavy metals. Most people can detoxify normal amounts of heavy metals naturally – the food chemical sensitive and those with liver/kidney problems are more of an exception. When someone who is food chemical sensitive goes on the failsafe diet, it helps to restore their normal detox systems. They often find that a wide range of chemicals and metals start to come out of their body naturally when they stop eating them on a continual basis. This process may take several weeks or months. Genetically appropriate methylation/sulphation supplements will also help to restore detox systems, as will alpha lipoic acid and selenium, sweating more, getting enough sunlight, and using a far infrared sauna.


Written by alienrobotgirl

28 August, 2007 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Quacktitioners

Tagged with ,

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