Team GR: Why is chelation so taboo? We dive into the truth about chelations; the pros, the cons, and whether or not it could be an effective tool for individuals with autism. To help us break it down, we’ve asked Dr. Jared Skowron to sit-down and answer all of our burning questions about autism and chelation.
In Conversation with Dr. Jared Skowron, Founder of Spectrum Awakening
Team GR: What is “chelation?” Why is it such a taboo term?
Jared Skowron: One quick google search of the terms chelation and autism, come up with some scary web pages. This includes the Mayo Clinic’s webpage where the first sentence reads, “Chelation therapy is not an effective autism treatment, and it may be dangerous.” Bold and inaccurate statements might scare away families from doing something that could help their child.
The term ‘chelation’ should be better defined because it is often misunderstood, and people may have assumptions of their children sitting in a hospital with IV bags injected into their arms.
Chelation is a simple chemical term defined as the bonding of ions to metals. Many people assume that chelation with autism must be the use of potentially harmful chemicals to remove mercury and lead for a child’s brain, but chelation is more common than you think. Chelation occurs in our red blood cells when porphyrin binds to iron, chelation occurs in our intestines when antibiotics bind to calcium and magnesium, chelation occurs when citric acid is used to soften water or when chelating contrast agents are used for MRI scans, or when gold is used as a chelator to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Chelation is a chemical process that is occurring everywhere around you, but when we use it as a medical treatment, we must ensure it is used safely.
GR: How does chelation support individuals with autism? What markers indicate improvement?
JS: Toxicity is all around us, and some people are more predisposed to toxic damage of the brain due to certain genetics. Our body is removing toxins all the time. In my clinic, I think of toxicity as a see-saw. Are we adding toxins faster than we can remove them? If so, we need to speed up toxin removal.
Time Magazine had an article in 2014 highlighting the growing evidence of pollution linked to autism. A 2017 study from Environmental Pollution stated
“A number of environmental agents have been suggested as contributing factors to ASD pathogenesis, which includes heavy metals (Hg and Pb), persistent organic pollutants (DDT, PBDEs and PCBs) and emerging chemicals of concern (phthalates and BPA). These three main categories of toxicants could be the cause of ASD in children.” (Environ Pollut. 2017 Aug;227:234-242.)
If toxicity is a large factor in the cause of autism (not the only factor), then we have a medical duty to remove these toxins. While the term “toxins” is vague, let’s define them in terms of this study: heavy metals, organic pollutants, and chemicals that can be contributing to substances contributing to autism. I’m going to use the word “detoxification” and “chelation” interchangeably, because we must remove all toxins, regardless of if they are heavy metals or non-heavy metal toxins.
GR: Are there any lab tests that should be be done? Pre and post?
JS: Would you take a cholesterol medication without checking your blood for elevated cholesterol? Of course not. The same applies to toxicity. Let’s test levels of toxins in our children to see if we need to detoxify!
Different lab tests exist to analyze toxicity. They all have their pros and cons, and there is not one that is superior. My biggest concern is that toxins may be in the brain or other body tissues, and not in the blood stream where we can identify them. Most heavy metal tests look for acute toxicity. For instance, I saw a 2 year old boy with high levels of lead in his blood because there was lead paint in his bedroom. But, a study from 2007 showed that fat biopsies of women’s breasts that had high levels of aluminum (presumably from anti-perspirants), had higher risks of cancer. I doubt those women had high levels of aluminum found in their blood or urine heavy metal tests.
We can’t take biopsies from our children’s brains, (although it would be the most accurate), so we need to identify toxins in other ways.
Hair analysis – easy to collect, but potentially contaminated from toxic water sources while bathing, or from other bathing products, such as shampoos, hair gels, etc. It also analyzes toxins that have been circulating in the blood stream during the short period of time that the hair was growing.
Stool testing – easy to collect (yet stinky) and analyzes acute toxic exposure, or whatever the person may be detoxing that day.
Urine/Blood testing – easy to collect, but only tests what is circulating in the blood stream and kidneys, not what is in our tissues. A challenged urine can be used, when someone takes detox supplements before collecting the urine. The benefits of this is that you have better odds of finding toxins, but you still run the risk of having a false negative. Critics of this claim the test results would be negative without the detox supplements. My response to them is that the detox supplements did not create the toxicity, they helped identify the toxicity, and isn’t our goal in any testing to identify a problem?
Indirect testing – Other tests exist such as porphyrin testing and oxidative stress testing. These don’t analyze the actual toxin, but rather signs of toxic damage to the body. These are beneficial because there may be too many toxins to analyze on an individual basis, and what matters more is the complete body effect from all toxins, along with our body’s ability to remove these toxins and repair itself.
A 2017 meta-analysis of 44 studies stated that mercury levels in blood, RBC, and brain were higher in autism children compared to neurotypical, and hair mercury levels were lower in children with autism, and urine mercury levels were the same in all children. (J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2017 Dec;44:289-297.)
Whatever test or combination of tests you choose to use, you should test them periodically to check your progress.
GR: How does chelation support individuals with autism? What are considered types of chelators?
The most extreme way, and going back to our assumptions on ‘chelation’, is to use IV or oral treatments of DMSA, EDTA, DMPS. These are effective, but carry high risks of side effects. Done correctly, and at the right dose, it is effective. A 2013 study stated that in primates and rodent studies, DMSA chelation therapy can alleviate certain types of lead-induced behavioral/cognitive dysfunction. (J Med Toxicol. 2013 Dec;9(4):326-38.)
There are other ways to remove toxins, which mostly include supporting the body’s own ability to detox using nutritional supplements. Let’s review how our liver works. There are 2 steps of liver detoxification.
Phase 1 includes the use of Cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP450), which you can analyze your genetic Phase 1 detox abilities through Pharmacogenetic testing. Nutritional supplements such as B vitamins, antioxidants, and glutathione support this process.
Phase 2 includes different conjugation pathways that include methylation, sulfation, acetylation, glucoronidation, and conjugation with glutathione or amino acids. Nutritional supplements such as B vitamins, choline, cysteine, glutatione, antioxidants, and other amino acids support this process. Other liver nourishing herbs like milk thistle, or nutrient containing herbs like chlorella, also support this process.
Many cases of regressive autism are induced by acetaminophen toxicity, because this Phase 2 detox is genetically impaired with poor methylation and sulfation pathways. (J Int Med Res. 2017 Apr;45(2):407-438.)
Other types of treatments are also commonly used, such as ionic foot baths, saunas, epsom salt baths, clay baths, etc. The more research studies of before and after toxic analysis using these therapies will help us identify which are the most effective.
GR: When is the right time to consider chelation?
JS: Today. Not tomorrow. Today. Let me rephrase the question. When is the right time to help my child? The answer is always today. Toxicity is a serious issue that shouldn’t be ignored. With more and more research being published indicating higher levels of toxicity in children with autism, and with the obvious neurological, developmental, and behavioral problems caused by these toxins, we need to identify them and remove them. If genetic mutations alter the detoxification pathways and enzymes of a child, then we need to identify and treat.
Whatever word you want to choose: Chelation. Detoxification. Poisons. Remove them from your child. Safely, of course, and with the guidance of your child’s doctor.
About Dr. Jared Skowron
Dr. Jared Skowron created one of the largest biomedical autism clinics in New England, helping children for 15 years recover from the spectrum. He is on the Advisory Board of Autism Hope Alliance, and lectures at Generation Rescue Autism Education Summit, TACA, Autism One, and other international conferences. Interested in toxic testing and genetic testing? Contact his office at www.NaturopathicAnswer.com. Dr. Skowron’s GF/DF biomedical supplements are easy to take! Learn more at www.SpectrumAwakening.com