Chelation derives from the Latin word “chelate” meaning “claw” or “to grab”.  In the case of toxic heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, etc, the formation of chemical bonds between the chelating agent and the metal is called chelation.  This is done in order to pull heavy metals from the body whence they can be safely eliminated.

Once in the body heavy metals bind to proteins in the tissues and cells, disrupting cellular functions.   This can impact the nervous system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc, leading to disease, damage to nucleic acids and genetic mutations.  Ultimately heavy metals may disrupt hormone and reproductive systems and even cause cancer.

IV Chelation

Chelating heavy metals with IV chelating agents is most aggressive means to remove heavy metals.  Typically a series of treatments are necessary to remove a substantial burden of heavy metals.  The most common chelating agents are EDTA and DMPS.  The chelation protocol is roughly:

  1. First IV chelation followed by 6 hour urine collection to test for presence of heavy metals
  2. 5-10 IV chelations, not more than once/week, followed by a repeat test for heavy metals
  3. Repeat until heavy metals are sufficiently removed and/or symptoms improve

Ideally patients will take a month or so to cleanse and detox prior to a series of IV chelation.  Eating a whole foods plant based diet should be the base for healthy detox.  Even though chelating agents tend to bind metals and be quickly excreted, a prior cleanse and detox prepares the body’s detoxification systems for more ideal elimination.  Oral chelating agents and supplemental minerals should also given during an IV chelation series.

Safety of IV Chelation

When done properly IV chelation is very safe.  For example, we were a study site in the national Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT), sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  In the TACT study, 1708 patients got either 40 IV chelation treatments or placebo and had extensive safety monitoring.  Only 16 percent of people receiving chelation and 15 percent of people receiving the placebo stopped their infusions because of an adverse event.  Four unexpected severe adverse events occurred that were possibly or definitely attributed to study therapy, 2 in the chelation group (1 death) and 2 in the placebo group (1 death).  Keep in mind this involved nearly 60,000 IVs and many patients already ill with advanced heart and other diseases.

A concern of some is that IV chelation is too aggressive and will cause the patient to feel worse.  Dr Rollins been “certified in chelation therapy” by the American College for Advancement in Medicine since 2007 and has administered 1000’s of IV chelation treatments in the years since.  Quite simply we do not observe patients having trouble tolerating IV chelation.

Oral Chelation

There are numerous safe and effective chelating agents that may be taken as oral supplements.  We have patients take a low dose of oral chelating agents while undergoing IV chelation in order to assist with elimination.  High dose oral chelation is effective but takes much longer than IV chelation to remove heavy metals.  A simple estimate is that one IV chelation treatment may equal a month of aggressive oral chelation.

Oral chelating agents include EDTA, DMPS, DMSA, and natural chelating agents, such as activated clays, alginates, certain bioflavonoids, chlorella, cilantro, coenzyme Q10, garlic, L-cysteine, L-glutathione, lipoic acid, methionine, selenium, and zinc gluconate. Each chelating agent has a predilection for different chemicals and mineral or metal ions.

Advice on oral chelation varies.  There are numerous books and articles, by authors such as Garry Gordon, M.D., D.O., co-founder of the American College of Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and a pioneer in chelation therapy, Elmer Cranton, M.D., author of Bypassing Bypass, and Andy Cutler, PhD, author of The Mercury Detoxification Manual: A Guide to Mercury Chelation.

Oral chelating agents used in our clinic include:

Generally oral chelating agents are taken on an empty stomach, spread out 2-3x/day, at lower doses for maintenance and higher doses for more aggressive chelation.  They should be accompanied by a high quality mineral supplement, nutrients that support liver detoxification, and antioxidants.  I recommend one of the following, or similar formulations:


Chelation- Harnessing and Enhancing Heavy Metal Detoxification—A Review

Lead Toxicity, A Review of the Literature. Part I- Exposure, Evaluation, and Treatment

Lead Toxicity Part II- The Role of Free Radical Damage and the Use of Antioxidants in the Pathology and Treatment of Lead Toxicity

Mercury Toxicity and Antioxidants: Part I.  Role of Glutathione and alpha-Lipoic Acid in the Treatment of Mercury Toxicity, by Lyn Patrick, ND

Toxic Metals and Antioxidants:  Part II. The Role of Antioxidants in Arsenic and Cadmium Toxicity, by Lyn Patrick, ND


Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.  He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions.  He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado ( and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (   Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.

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