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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

New Treatments for Chronic Fatigue

Oxygen is so basic for our every day life, that it is taken for granted. The medical community is beginning to rediscover how important oxygen is to our bodily functions. In a recent article, research has indicated a link between oxygen and Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunctional Syndrome (CFIDS).

What does this have to do with skin care? A person in poor health or suffering from stress, is reflected in the skin. Proper skin care requires more than just getting a facial. It requires a healthy body, proper diet and exercise. The odds are that at least one of your clients is suffering from CFIDS. The following is an article by Dr. Richard N. Firshein, which appeared in the MIDTOWN REPORT, December 28, 1992.

"A few weeks ago I attended an international conference on CFIDS - the epidemic that has swept the country. I discovered fascinating new information, much of it still in the pioneering and even theoretical stages, that reflects what I have found in my own extensive treatment of fatigue patients. Researchers are indeed learning way to combat this mysterious viral illness, and are beginning to understand some of its biochemical markers, the disease's 'footprints,' which help us to chase it down.

Chronic fatigue is a severe, debilitating disorder which can affect anyone. It seems to be a viral illness, but nobody has proven that a single virus is responsible. CFIDS is now such a public health problem that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta receive 3,000 calls a month asking for information and referrals. Patients describe their fatigue as oppressive - a prolonged, pervasive weariness that seems to penetrate every cell. Patients with CFIDS usually suffer from an entire constellation of symptoms, including severe fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, recurrent flu-like illness, low-grade fever, severe muscle aches and neurological problems.

Though I find that at least 80 percent of fatigue patients in my practice improve with a variety of innovative treatments, the disease can be puzzling and frustrating for the doctor and devastating for the patient. In a conference meeting with top chronic fatigue experts, including pioneering physician Paul Cheney, one of the first doctors to describe the disease, I discovered that many of us have independently arrived at similar conclusions.

The Breath of Life

Scientists have long known that oxygen is literally the breath of like, but only recently have studies begun to reveal how profoundly oxygen metabolism influences health and illness. Oxygen, indeed, may be a key to helping overcome chronic fatigue. How can we drench the body with healthy oxygen? Exercise is one simple way, but regular exercise is an enormous undertaking for CFIDS patients and often leaves them feeling much worse. I recommend a special program that allows the chronically exhausted patients to participate in short bursts of exercise that oxygenate the cells without requiring sustained effort. Over time the body builds up more of the precious mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of every cell. Mitochondria utilize oxygen to produce energy.

Research presented at the conference revealed some interesting new links between oxygen and chronic fatigue. One pioneering Japanese study found that a key amino acid, L-carnitine, which is very important in oxygen metabolism, is deficient in most chronic fatigue patients. New research by Dr. Cheney provided yet another link to oxygen. He has found that giving his patients daily megadoses of intravenous Vitamin B-12(one of the primary 'energy' vitamins involved in oxygen metabolism) can significantly improve fatigue. Other vitamins and minerals, used both orally and intravenously, have proved helpful in my own practice, including vitamin C and magnesium. Magnesium is extraordinarily helpful in alleviating muscle aches and calming the nerves.

Other pioneering research is uncovering new nuggets of information about immune-enhancing drugs and nutrients. One profoundly helpful anti-viral drug, called Ampligen, will soon be the subject of pilot studies around the country, and we may have one here in New York. Half the patients on Ampligen are significantly improved, and can reduce other medications, and there seem to be no unpleasant side effects to the drug. The only caveat: the patient may need to take the drug indefinitely to prevent relapse.

Yet another new prescription substance derived from liver extracts, called Kutapressin has significantly helped approximately 70 percent of chronic fatigue patients when given over a period of months. I myself have found that innovative nutritional therapies emphasizing oxygen metabolism and immune enhancement have helped many of my patients disabled by this disease. Recently I treated a 35-year-old construction worker so exhausted he couldn't work. He suffered headaches, fatigue, lack of appetite and sleep disturbances. Treatment for food allergies, as well as intravenous therapy with Vitamin B-12 and magnesium improved him so quickly that he was back to work in a month. Make Sure It's CFIDS

A final thought: often patients come to me convinced they are suffering from CFIDS, when in fact the source of their fatigue is something entirely different. Even though they have many symptoms of the disease, there are other significant causes of unremitting fatigue, from allergies to Lyme Disease, parasites and nutritional deficiencies. Often several of these disorders co-exists in a single patient.

A mother of two came to me last week and thought she had CFIDS. She constantly felt fatigued and washed out. A routine blood test revealed she was hyperthyroid - severely deficient in thyroid hormone. Treatment with thyroid hormone has made her feel better than she has in years.

In conclusion, CFIDS is becoming more and more treatable. A combination of new anti-viral drugs, nutrients that enhance oxygen absorption and boost the immune system, and even intravenous therapy with key vitamins such as B-12, helps many of my patients. Great strides are being made in this field, as the biochemistry of chronic fatigue is unraveled, even the most fatigues patient will have real cause for hope."

Dr. Richard N. Firshein is a physician in private practice on the Upper East Side of New York City, and is Board certified in family medicine. 



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