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Chelation Overview


Several AS researchers theorize that many AS children have a genetic predisposition to metal injury, and the metals found in vaccines or other environmental exposures trigger a biological response which is manifesting as autism. There is also some evidence that several other diseases are also a result of metal toxicity, including allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, memory issues, and depression. For a more complete list, click here.

Removing the metals from your child’s body is called "chelation" [key-LAY-shun]. This process is not without risks, but it has the potential of producing the benefit of your child significantly improving in functioning, even potentially to the point of no longer qualifying as autistic. But because it does have risks, you need to research it and determine for yourself if it is something you would like to consider for your child.

Chelation is a slow process, to make it as "safe" as possible, minimizing the chance of potential risks. Many children do show improvement rather quickly, but it can take as long as two years to realize the full effect of any improvement which will be related to chelation. And, if your child is NOT metal toxic, chelation will have basically no effect.


You can have your child's metal toxicity level tested, to determine which metals are at toxic levels, and the exact levels of each one. Different laboratories which can provide testing include Doctor's Data, Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, and Great Plains Laboratory.

If you choose a hair test through Doctor's Data laboratory, you would be able to apply the "counting rules" to the results to determine the extent of the metal toxicity for your child.

Most protocols start with testing your child to determine which metals, if any, are in his/her body. There are several different methods to do this testing. A blood test can determine which metals are free floating in your child’s blood, but because mercury binds itself to the body organs and does not remain free floating, this method will only detect mercury from RECENT exposure , altho it will detect lead and several other metals even from past exposure.

A hair test can determine which metals were present in your child's body at the time the follicle made the hair, so it indicates which metals are stored in the hair. This method is preferred by some practitioners, because even if it does not show any mercury, the essential elements which it does show, can help you determine what metals are there.

A urine test following a "challenge" is used by some practitioners. This is where you give your child the chelator, either once or for three days, and then test the urine to see what is excreted. This test is doing an actual chelation round with your child, so it does present some risks. Additionally, because mercury is generally the last metal to leave, many times the urine challenge test won't show mercury, even if it is present.

Sources of different metals

If your child tested high in lead, you will probably be visited by an inspector from your state or county, to determine where the lead exposure occurred. This is most probably from soil contamination or old paint chips or paint dust around your house, altho can also be old water supply pipes, old toys and keys made from metal, and ceramic dishes especially from other countries. You will be given information on how to remedy that situation.

If your child tested high in mercury, it is most probably a function of vaccinations, so it is recommended that you stop allowing your child to be vaccinated, at least until you chelate out all the existing mercury, and then only allow vaccines which do NOT contain thimerosal, which is a preservative which contains mercury. Other possible mercury sources are broken thermometers and fluorescent lights, seafood, and older medications.

If your child tested high for antimony, it is most probably from crib mattresses, playpens, and the flame resistant chemical used for children's pajamas. Antimony and arsenic are also used for insect repellant in outdoor wooden playground equipment.

If your child has high levels of other metals, it is possible that your child is high in mercury also, even though the test results may not show high mercury. No matter which metals your child tested high, you want to eliminate and/or at least significantly reduce potential future exposures.

For a detailed list of metal sources, click here.


The first thing to consider is your child’s other "gut" issues. Because removing metals is hard on your child’s body, it is best to resolve other issues first, so his/her body does not have to be living through too many issues all at the same time. "Gut issues" includes food intolerances, yeast and/or bacteria overgrowth, vitamin deficiency, and other similar.

Because of the potential risks involved, most people choose to chelate their child under medical supervision. This is good because the doctor can order tests to see how your child’s body is reacting to the process. However, medical supervision is not required, you can purchase the chelators over-the-counter, and learn what signs to watch for and how to remedy them. And if something occurs which requires a doctor, you can ask your pediatrician or family doctor for assistance. However, it is best to be sure your pediatrician will be cooperative, because many of them still believe autism is entirely genetic, and may not be willing to help you with "alternative" treatments.

It is generally recommended to place your child on the gfcf diet, altho you can also choose to consider digestive enzymes, and give supplements to your child, to help your child's body prepare for the process of heavy metals moving thru his/her body and be excreted. Read the different protocols below, and determine which supplements you believe are important for your child. Introduce each one singly, so you can determine if the supplement is tolerated by your child. My child did not tolerate any supplements before I began chelating, but it is best to give your child certain recommended supplements if s/he tolerates them.

You will also need to replace any amalgam "silver" dental fillings [which contain mercury] your child may have. This is because the chelator will remove the metals from the fillings, causing potentially that the fillings may eventually fall out, and also because the metals coming out of the fillings may bind to your child’s organs after a round of chelation. It is a good idea anyway, to remove amalgam dental fillings from your child's mouth, because it does represent a source of on-going mercury exposure for your child.


There are several different "standard" protocols, and even more "alternative" protocols for chelation. The primary protocols recommended for chelation of AS children are the DAN protocol and the protocol recommended by Andy Cutler, PhD. However, these protocols do have some basic premises, which I will describe here.

Currently, most chelation is done either orally [giving capsules, or opening capsules and mixing the contents], or transdermal [TD, rubbing a cream containing the chelating agent onto the skin]. There is also intravenous [IV, where the chelating agent is injected into the body], altho I would personally not recommend that form of chelation unless other methods have been tried without good results.

It is generally recommended to begin with the chelator DMSA, which is generally only available by prescription but can be purchased without prescription from certain sources. DMSA removes lead and other metals from the body tissues and organs only, it does not remove metals from the brain. It will remove metals from the body, thereby "cleaning out" the metals from the body, before you add another chelator to remove metals from the brain. This is recommended because you want to reduce the possibility that metals from the body will move INTO the brain. If you remove most or all of the metals from the body first, there are no metals left to move into the brain once you add the chelator that will affect the brain.

DMSA excretes metals thru the urine, which means it can affect the kidneys. So while chelating with DMSA, it is recommended to perform urine and blood tests to determine that the kidneys and liver are continuing to function correctly in clearing toxins from the blood.

After testing reveals that most or all of the metals have been removed from the body, the next step is to add a chelator which will remove metals from the brain. It is generally recommended to use the chelator ALA. This is available over-the-counter, without prescription, from your local health food store. It is also included in many "alternative" chelation protocols. ALA does not remove lead, but will remove mercury and other metals, and does remove from the brain.

ALA excretes thru the gut, so it can affect the gut, meaning your child will have a tendency to develop a yeast issue because metals are moving thru the gut and upsetting the balance of the gut environment. Also, because of this, if your child has a currently existing yeast overgrowth issue, you would want to eliminate it before chelating, especially with ALA. It is also recommended to continue with urine, blood, and also stool tests at this stage, to monitor kidney and liver function.

There are several differences between the protocols, but the main difference between the standard protocols is the quantity and timing of the giving of the chelator. As indicated above, the standard protocols begin with DMSA, then add ALA at some later point. Each protocol recommends giving the chelator every day for a certain number of days, generally three days, and then not giving the chelator for at least an equal number of days, preferably longer, to allow the body to rest and to supplement with minerals and other things, to replace those minerals and other things which may also have been removed by the chelator. The DAN protocol recommends giving a higher quantity of the chelator every 8 hours [this does NOT mean three times per day], and Andy Cutler's protocol recommends giving a lower dose of the chelator every 3-4 hours, even thru the night. Each protocol has reasons for the quantity and schedule recommended. I have learned that some children do better on one or the other protocol, so if your child does not appear to be doing well with the protocol you are using, you can discuss with your child's doctor, moving to the other protocol.

If you are considering, or your child's doctor is recommending, a protocol which is different than the two protocols indicated above, please verify for yourself that it appears to be similar to one of these protocols. For example, several protocols give the chelator 2-3 times each day, over several days, then give several days off. Be careful with protocols which instruct you to give the chelator every OTHER day, or conversely you would give it every single day with no days off. These protocols can be VERY hard on the child's body, either with frequent starting/stopping of rounds, or conversely always having metals moving through the body with no break to rest the kidneys and liver and other organs.

No matter which protocol you choose, it is recommended to start with the low dose per that protocol, to see how your child will react both to the chelator and to the protocol. If your child does okay with that protocol, you can slowly increase the dose. Depending on the protocol you select, you will probably be giving the chelator either every 3-4 hours, or every 8 hours, even at night. This will continue for approximately three days. Most parents chelate their child on the weekends, either every weekend or every other weekend, to avoid having to give chelator while the child is attending school, plus having the best chance that the regression which generally occurs while metals are moving through the child's body, will not cause too much disruption of the learning process. The child may tend to regress while "on round" and have trouble attending to lessons while metals are being removed during the round.

What is actually happening

The chelating agent is moving through the body, "grabbing" the metals from the organs and tissues and binding to those metals. Then the chelator, with metals attached, moves through the bloodstream and is eventually processed by the liver/kidneys, and is excreted either through the urine or the stool. As you give the chelator every 4 or 8 hours, more metals are "grabbed" and move through the process.

Once the round stops, the body finishes excreting the chelator with metals, but not all of the metals which become "free-floating" will be excreted. These metals will either remain free floating in the bloodstream, or re-bind back into the body. Therefore, test results after a round may indicate a higher level of metals than were there originally. However, the total metal quantity in the body will be lower than it was before the round.

For lead, after a round the blood lead levels will be low because the blood lead was excreted, but then the lead remaining in the body organs will begin to move out into the blood to create a new equilibrium, causing the blood levels to rise again, altho the level in the organs is now lower. But it will initially look like a new exposure of lead, because the blood levels were low after the round but rose again. The new level, however, will be lower than the previous level. The blood level will continue to drop as you continue with rounds of chelator, more lead will move out of the organs and be excreted.

[Thank you to Dad for this analogy]: When you chelate there will be regressive periods, there will be rebounds, and there will be resettling of metals. Here is an analogy. Think of siphoning the water in a fish tank. You stick the hose in, and then stir up the gravel to get the poop off the bottom and into the water. Then you siphon as much out as you can, but you can't get it all, because the fish would die if you removed all the water. So some of the poop resettles back into the gravel until the next time. Chelation is similar to this. You remove metals from the organs, they move through the bloodstream, and what is not excreted will bind back into the organs until the next round.

Things to watch out for

It is generally expected that while the child is taking the chelator, the "on" days, the child will experience some regression as the metals move through his/her body, altho some parents do report that their children actually do better on the "on" days than on the "off" days. Then the first "off" day, the remaining free-floating metals will re-bind into the body, so that day can also be problematic for the child, and for some children the first "off" day is actually the worst day. If the child is not improved after the first "off" day, after the first 2-3 rounds, you would reassess the protocol to determine if perhaps you should choose a different protocol. If your protocol includes ALA, also consider that your child may have developed a yeast issue.

Potential dangers

Because metals are moving into and out of body organs, there is danger that these organs may become over-stressed, which is why testing is recommended, especially for kidney and liver function. If the protocol is longer than every 3-4 hours between doses of chelator, there is evidence of metals coming out, then returning into, then coming out, then returning into, and so on, which can affect the body organs also. For children prone to seizures, it is possible that ALA removing metals from the brain can provoke seizures. If your child experiences an increase of yeast symptoms, consider a yeast treatment, even as a maintenance item during rounds.

No matter which protocol you choose, be sure you do your own research and understand what is happening with your child, so you can watch for any signs that the protocol is not working and/or making things worse.

For more information

Generation Rescue

Autism: A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning

Frequently asked questions about chelation

Dr. Amy Holmes' home page

Success stories of AS children who have been chelated

Sources of current exposure, how and where your child may be encountering metals in everyday life

Yahoo Groups: Autism-Mercury discussion group [open to all]

Yahoo Groups: Kids Chelation Detox Group discussion group [open to all]

Yahoo Groups: Chelating Kids [open to those chelating through a DAN doctor]

My site section for more chelation information

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