Disclaimer: The material presented is educational and is not meant for treatment or diagnosis. Please consult your healthcare provider before starting any treatment.
Author: Patrick Bayer C.N.C. - all rights reserved
A couple of people on a forum (Phoenix Rising) asked me to summarize both the research and treatment I have accumulated over a course of a long time of research. I estimate that to be around 25k hours in both reading research papers, and my countless hours of observation and treatment. My M.E. had beginnings some 40 years ago and accelerated about 20 years ago. I went through multiple phases of being completely bed ridden to working 15 hours per week. Currently, I am working full time and lead a more functional life. I continue on my core treatments and continue to progress.
M.E. is a hyper-complex problem with many potential starting points (etiology). Many theories exist but I think they can be categorized in easy to understand concepts. With this complexity, there is many different etiologies so we cannot assume that what caused a problem for one then the remainder must have this same problem. That is broken logic in my opinion.
M.E. would best be described as being a problem producing energy, this is also known as the Krebs Cycle. Energy production starts at the cellular level which means that it is the cells themselves that produce energy. The hierarchy of the body starts with the cells (lowest level) then migrates to tissues, organs, organ systems and finally the whole organism. There can be a number of factors that disrupt cellular energy in which I will touch on below.
Western medicine looks for a single cause, single solution problem whereas Eastern medicine looks at the body as a whole. I will take anxiety for an example. In Western Medicine they would simply say you have anxiety and give a pill for this. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine or Eastern medicine) they might diagnose you with liver stagnation. In the minds of TCM, they would consider liver stagnation to be the causative factor of the anxiety which would be just one of the symptoms of liver stagnation.
So Eastern medicine views the whole system, where one situation can effect the entire body. The idea is that imbalances in the body tilt the whole system, so they try to harmonize the body. TCM largely depends on un-kinking energy blockages (acupuncture or acupressure) and to use botanicals to support the pathways that are blocked. They simply correct the imbalance which makes the system function normally again.
Most of the research is directly towards either the immune system or metabolic pathways that are blocked. One of the key things I have learned about research papers is that the writers of these conceptualize a theory then use supportive evidence to build their case. This could be good or bad. Good in the idea that they are correct in your situation, bad in the respect that this may not be the case for you. In my opinion, the papers can be shallow in that, yes they have identified the problem and no in that solutions are not provided. No problem can be solved unless it is identified and a plan to unravel the problem.
The problem is that this disease is far too complex to summarize in a single theory. An example of this would be that the etiology of M.E. is due to Epstein Barr virus. This was an early idea and it built strength for sometime until they realized it was not entirely true for all patients.
The clinician needs to make several conclusions first. For many the onset of M.E. started with flu-like symptoms while others developed it without this specific onset. This is a very basic foundational diagnostic in which the first would indicate a strong pathogenic invasion while the second situation may indicate 'softer' issues such as nutrient deficit, a mild viral condition or perhaps a pharmaceutical interaction.
This differentiation would help direct the appropriate treatments. Any strong pathogenic invasion is very problematic and must be addressed. These strong immune reactions change the terrain of the body quite drastically.
The inflammation model is used to describe a myriad of degenerative diseases including M.E. Inflammation is the end result of immune and endocrine activation. Inflammation destroys via oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the enemy and failure to control it results in cascading downwards. Inflammation can have many starting places, from trauma, infections, poor nutrient quality, emotional stress and so on.
Inflammation puts stress on the body and wastes nutrient stores. If you do not replace the core nutrients then the body cannot repair the damage. Antioxidants repair damage. Antioxidants are naturally produced by the body (glutathione, Superoxide dismutase and catalase) which all depend on raw materials (nutrients) to be produced. Exogenous antioxidants such as Vitamin C and plant based antioxidants help the body to cope with the stress (inflammation).
Oxidative stress attacks the cell membranes. Several research papers have shown the deleterious effects of oxidative stress on the cell membranes. The vitality of the cell membrane is key for proper functioning of the cell and damage reduces the energy output (Krebs Cycle). The cell membrane is largely comprised of healthy fats and is protected by antioxidants.
Where does oxidative stress come from? The three likely sources are from immune activation, environmental toxins and psychological stressors. The immune system is likely elevated in M.E. patients due to pathogenic invasion(s). Oxygen and nitrogen compounds are formed by the immune system and these chemicals are highly damaging.
The cells are very dependent on nutrients to do their thing. Every enzyme, protein assimilation, cell/tissue/organ function is dependent on nutrients. Nutrition is largely comprised of minerals, vitamin co-factors, healthy fats and adequate protein (amino acid). Deficiency or excess states will inhibit the proper function of the cells. And remember the cells are the foundations for tissues, organs and so on. The Krebs Cycle (energy) is dependent on nutrients to being robust.
Magnesium is just one of the vital nutrients and deficiency states of this will cause a myriad of problems, such as a dysfunctional immune response, cardiovascular issues, low production of glutathione and enzymes and the list goes on. Dr. Mildred Seelig was a comprehensive researcher of magnesium and wrote many papers that can be found at mgwater.com. One paper she authored was on the role of magnesium and M.E. http://www.mgwater.com/clmd.shtml.
Infectious Organism model.
This is the predominant model that I have worked on. Viral, protozoa, rogue bacteria, parasites yeast/fungal, unknown or stealth pathogens (l form bacteria, mycoplasma etc). There is not a single pathogen, single cause theory. This means that say one particular virus could be causing the problem. This was an outdated model years ago thinking that Epstein Barr virus was the only culprit. There are a multitude of viral agents that have been identified as a causative factor of M.E.
I had CMV which is in the herpes family, this was a troubling virus for me. Other herpes family viruses such as HHV6, HHV7 etc have been correlated to M.E. and other auto immune diseases. The problem is with testing in that the doctor may have a suspicion of what organism in which they guess. There are many types and subtypes of viral agents that they may not test for and undiscovered ones as well.
There is an hierarchy in pathogens. This means that some pathogens can lay dormant in the system in which they are symbiotic (do not cause problems) while others can be aggressive which causes a myriad of problems.
The gastrointestinal tract is one area to look for infection and Dr. Leo Galland states this is the first place he looks for infection, particularly parasites. But parasites are not the only problem in the gut, rogue bacteria can harbor the gut as well.
The microbiome is the community of all the organisms living in the gut which provide more support to the body than ever thought. Most of the immune system (70%) is present in the gut. Dr. Galland thinks there is a reason for that in that the GI tract is the most vulnerable to infectious organisms. Fungal and yeast strains can be present there as well along with viral agents.
The NEI SuperSystem is one of my favorite studies. The initials stand for Neurological, Endocrine and Immune. These 3 systems are intertwined meaning that they can help one another and conversely negatively affect the others. For instance, constant stress (neurological) will influence the endocrine (adrenal activity) which weakens the immune system. There is a hierarchy in the body and the immune system has the highest priority.
In most cases of M.E., the immune system has the highest gravitational force (assuming that the primary problem is pathogenic). With this strong force then the other systems become subordinate and dysregulated.
Cell signalling is exactly what it says which means there is a complex network of signals in the body. These signals control the body much like a traffic light directs traffic. If there was no traffic signals then chaos would ensue. However the signalling in the body is much more complex than a traffic light since it involves a myriad of processes such as neurotransmitters, hormones, immune signals (cytokines) and much more. Research has shown that each of these classes of signals has the potential of effecting other signalling systems. For instance stress triggers endocrine and the immune system.
The key to taming M.E. is to find the errant signalling system and then the rest should follow, however this is easier said than done. M.E. is like a big traffic jam due to a stalled semi truck that is blocking the intersection, move the truck out of the way and the jam will be fixed. Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a glimpse into this complex world by attempting to balancing the body. Proper nutrition plays a key role in these signalling pathways for without it, the body becomes dysregulated. Without targeted nutrition then the chaos will continue or to worsen.
There have been repeated studies concerning the role of the psychological and the biological systems. Any form of stress triggers the neuro-endocrine system. It is almost impossible to avoid stress in this day and age, it comes at us in many different forms and directions. Trauma, abuse, financial and relationships can be some major stresses along with all the other things that gnaw at us. These events trigger the neurological pathways which in turn stimulate endocrine responses. Cortisol is one of the players in these events which can have deleterious effects after prolonged periods of release. There are known studies which show that cortisol has a negative impact on immune health. Activation of dormant viruses may occur as well as new infections.
One of the bigger omissions in neurological health has to do with the role of the immune system. It is generally accepted that the mind affects the body but the opposite is true: the body can influence the mind. For instance immune activation releases powerful chemicals that change neurological behavior.
The immune system is comprised of a complex system of different components. Stress, improper diet and nutrient deficiencies can weaken the immune response. A weakened immune response puts us at risk for acquiring new infections or having dormant viruses suddenly reappear.
The endocrine system plays key roles in regulation of cycles in the body. It is involved in reproduction, sleep wake cycles, energy production, inflammation and so on. However the endocrine system is involved in immune reactions and the neurological system. Many studies have shown that the HPA axis is deeply involved in M.E. The HPA axis stands for Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal. There are more aspects of this but I will shorten this and focus on the adrenals. The adrenals are the body's pharmacy, they produce some 50 different hormones. These hormones act on the cells to change their chemistry. One well known hormone is cortisol. Cortisol has many physiological actions, one of them being a natural anti inflammatory.
Continual activation of the adrenals leads to adrenal fatigue. With this draining of the adrenals then the body cannot produce adequate hormone output which then weakens the resistance of the body. A weakened endocrine response also changes neurological and immune function. These three systems (endocrine/immune/neurological) are closely tied to one another and each can influence the others.
Toxins are poisons. Poisons are poisons because they damage cell function. Toxins come in many shapes and sizes. For instance we are all familar with arsenic, it is a strong poison and can cause serious problems in very small doses but what about the other 800 or so chemicals that are produced? True, many of them do not have the same effect (potency) as arsenic but what if we are exposed to them day after day for say 20 years. Without proper functioning of the detoxification systems then they can accumulate and damage normal cell functioning.
Some will argue that the body is adept at handling these chemicals but what if the body is damaged? The body has an elaborate set of processes that can handle toxins, take glutathione for one example. Glutathione is a dual acting chemical in which it both supports immune function and assists in detoxification. Production of this chemical can diminish with nutrient deficiency and immune activation.
Other studies have shown correlations between auto immunity and vaccinations (ASIA) which is controversial in some circles, however some leading researchers in auto immunity have proven correlation. Epigenetics (genetics) is a new field of study. With epigenetic studies, there has been some proof that supplemental with nutritions/botanicals can improve genetic defects.
I have taken the most commons attributes of the etiology of M.E. and in closing would like to state that if the etiology of one of the above categories may well trip the breakers of the others. For instance, an issue of trauma could set off neurological responses which in turn trigger the endocrine system and with that the immune system becomes disrupted. With this disruption then a viral situation may set foot. Then the immune response will begin an inflammation model which could deplete glutathione stores which then further weaken immune responses and the ability to detoxify.
The body is an amazing creation and given the right materials, it has the ability to return to a state of balance.
A list of my studies can be found here
M.E. is a complex problem and I found out the hard way that the medical system is not equipped to offer valid help. I can help you make better treatment decisions, I am available for phone consultations at reasonable fees.