In 1988, the Centers for Disease Control formally defined fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Diagnostic criteria for both conditions can include mild fever, painful lymph nodes, muscle weakness and unrelenting muscle pain, sleep disturbances, recurrent sore throat, impaired mental function, headaches, irritable bowel, depression, chronic fatigue and night sweats.
Today, the root cause of these syndromes can be identified as an infectious agent, biochemical pathway disturbances, genetic predisposition, and toxic environmental exposures—or a combination of several of these factors. Since each patient presents differently, each case has to be looked at with clear clinical eyes.
The leading infectious agent is Epstein- Barr virus (EBV). EBV is a member of the herpes family viruses (Herpes 1, 2, 6, cytomegalovirus and measles) and like other herpes viruses can establish a life-long dormancy after the initial infection. During times of high stress, EBV can move out of a latent period and ignite a chronic active infective phase. An intact immune system holds the virus "in check,” but the virus gets reactivated in susceptible individuals who have immune system abnormalities. Fatigue is the body's response to infection because the immune system works well when the body is resting.
Biochemical Pathway Disturbances
Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia patients have biochemical pathway disturbances that prevent glutathione (a major anti-oxidant present in many cells that protects against free radicals or oxidative stress) from forming and functioning in our bodies. When glutathione levels drop, oxidative stress goes high and we lose basic cellular protection against viruses, bacteria, fungus and environmental toxins.
There are many genes that can be tested to find genetic differences or "genetic polymorphisms.” These differences greatly impact our health and identify why one person can be exposed to a toxin or virus and be unaffected and another person becomes extremely ill. Testing can be used to see which liver pathways are functional. Patients can be tested to verify if they can metabolize a particular drug or herb which helps prevent medication error deaths. The only downside is that these tests are costly and not covered by insurance.
Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia patients are very sensitive to anesthesia and nitric oxide. This is because they are positive or MTHFR homozygous (carry defects on the gene from both parents) for a specific allele. One simple blood test that checks for differences on the MTHFR gene is more accessible and covered by insurance.
Toxic Environmental Exposures
Toxic exposure to solvents, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel and aluminum can cause impaired liver detoxification and lead to an accumulation of the original toxin and a biochemical breakdown of more toxic metabolites or chemicals. This ‘toxic soup’ first affects the immune system, then the hormonal system and, finally, the neurological system. The patient may suffer with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia for years before they are diagnosed with Parkinson's, MS, dementia or cancer.
A great majority of fibromyalgia patients have elevated lead in tissue storage. These patients require chelation therapy to remove the lead. Chelation therapy can be administered orally or through intravenous therapies. Treatment protocols include several micro-nutrients. Copper, magnesium, selenium, zinc, B5, B6, B12 Vitamin C, Vitamin D, folate, glutathione, hydrogen peroxide and potassium chloride are some of the treatment components. It is important to do baseline labs to find out which deficiencies exist and then tailor the therapy.
A Natural Approach
Integrating homeopathic remedies also helps stimulate healthy immune function and helps patients remove food allergies, environmental toxins and stress triggers during their recovery to better health.
These complex conditions are not going away and many people, especially adolescents and individuals over the age of forty, will be affected at different times of their lives with chronic illness. The good news is that we can use progressive medicine to identify the root cause of disease and there are successful individualized treatment options.
sadora Guggenheim, doctor of naturopathic medicine and certified nutrition specialist, is the owner of Second Nature Naturopathic Care, LLC. For naturopathic medicine visit Total Life Care Center, 152 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT. For massage therapy visit 8 Rockland Place, Nyack. For all appointments, call 358- 8385 or visit SecondNatureCare.com.