One of the major substances being influenced during chelation therapy is calcium, as this process causes it to be removed from metastatic deposits while at the same time encouraging recalcification of bone (see description of atherosclerosis in Chapter 4). If calcium happens to be inappropriately present in certain body tissues (in a layer of plaque in the lining of an artery, or in excessive amounts on the surface of a joint in arthritis), it is of benefit, in health terms, to remove this, and chelation therapy safely allows exactly this to be done.
The number of electrons in a calcium atom is 20. This has an inner 'shell', of 2 electrons, two complete shells of 8 electrons each, and an outer shell of 2 'spare', electrons, which are therefore free to attach to a suitable molecule or atom which may be in need of 2 electrons often called a 'complexing agent'). The symbol for the calcium cation, because of its two free electrons, is Ca++.
In chelation therapy the 'suitable molecule', or 'complexing agent', with which this can link is a compound called EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic acid). Together EDTA and a metallic cation form a stable complex which can then be excreted from the system. The stability of this bond is vital to success in chelation therapy, for if there is a weak linkage other reactions breaking the bond could take place should the compound come into contact with suitable chemicals.
A chelating reaction which produces equilibrium, a strong and stable ring structure between the metal ion (calcium is a weakish link, iron, lead and copper are far stronger) and the chelating agent (such as EDTA), is effective in achieving the safe removal of the ion from the body.
When you use a water softener you are chelating calcium (and other minerals) out of the water. When you use a detergent in washing clothes or dishes, this chelates with minerals in the 'dirt' allowing the now soluble compounds to be washed away by water.
The brief survey of the early history of EDTA (see Chapter 3) will help to explain its tortuous route towards medical respectability as a means of removing unwanted mineral/metal substances. Before we look at the fascinating background to chelation therapy, one more facet of the imbalance which can result from unpaired electrons is worth examination.
Radiation is often described as ionizing radiation. This is because, by definition, it is able to dislodge individual electrons out of atoms and molecules, leaving unpaired electrons behind. This is one way in which free radicals are created. Some such molecules, with unpaired electrons, are extremely dangerous and can have very damaging effects on body tissues. Bleach (hydrogen peroxide), for example, does its damage to tissue (just think what it does to hair) through free radical action, as a deluge of these reactive entities chaotically bounce around, creating local havoc by grabbing on to any accessible electrons with which they come in contact (in this case from the hair itself).
Radiation is an example of how free radicals may be produced in the body when such an outside force acts on its cells. Perhaps more surprisingly there is almost continuous production of free radicals by some of the defending cells of the body. These are used as a means of destroying invading micro-organisms or cancer cells.
Since this is a natural process which is going on all the time in the body, there must exist control mechanisms to prevent undesirable effects from free radicals on healthy body cells, and this is the case when we are in good health.