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Gammaretrovirus Thought to be Important Cause of Chronic Fatigue

gammaretrovirus, fatigue, chronic fatigueEarlier this month, a study published in the journal Science answered a question that medical scientists had been asking since 2006, when they learned of a novel virus found in prostate tumors called xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus, or XMRV: Was it a human infection?

The new study provided overwhelming evidence that XMRV is a human gammaretrovirus — the third human retrovirus (after H.I.V. and human lymphotropic viruses, which cause leukemia and lymphoma). Infection is permanent and, yes, it can spread from person to person (though it is not yet known how the virus is transmitted).

That would have been news enough, but there was more. XMRV had been discovered in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a malady whose very existence has been a subject of debate for 25 years. For sufferers of this disease, the news has offered enormous hope. Being seriously ill for years, even decades, is nightmarish enough, but patients are also the targets of ridicule and hostility that stem from the perception that it is all in their heads. In the study, 67 percent of the 101 patients with the disease were found to have XMRV in their cells.

Many people don’t realize how severe this illness can be. It is marked by memory and cognition problems, and physical collapse after any mental or physical exertion. The various co-infections that occur only make matters worse. Many patients are bedridden. And recovery is rare. A significant number of patients have been ill for more than two decades.

It is estimated that more than a million Americans are seriously ill with the disease. (Not everyone infected with XMRV will necessarily get chronic fatigue syndrome — in the same way that not all of the 1.1 million Americans infected with HIV will get AIDS.)

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or as it is more recently called, Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), has only been recognized by the CDC since 1988. Fortunately, most doctors have now abandoned their view that CFS is just something “in your head,” and no longer view it as a psychological disorder.

The CFIDS Association estimates that some 800,000 Americans suffer from this debilitating condition, with a mere 16 percent having been diagnosed.

The characteristics of CFS include:

  • Extreme fatigue and weakness

  • Muscle and joint aches and pains

  • Chronic headaches

  • Sore throat, swollen glands, and periodic fevers and chills

  • Numbness and tingling of the extremities

  • Cognitive dysfunction

  • Insomnia

The Search Goes on for the “Cause” of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Despite many researchers making claims they’ve found the cause of CFIDS, there is no agreement about what it is. Much of the research that has emerged over the past ten to twenty years points toward an infectious agent, particularly various viruses. But as to which one, it’s anybody’s guess—and it could be that multiple microorganisms are responsible.

But is a virus causing chronic fatigue syndrome, or is chronic fatigue syndrome itself making people more susceptible to infections?

Over the years, several infectious organisms have been blamed:

  • In the early 1980s, Dr. William Crook, author of the classic book The Yeast Connection, theorized that CFIDS was a result of yeast overgrowth (Candida) in the body. Interestingly, many may not realize that Dr. Crook was actually my initial inspiration to enter natural medicine.

  • Mycoplasma bacteria have been found in a significant percentage of CFIDS patients, as well as those with fibromyalgia, AIDS, cancer, MS, CJD and other neurosystemic diseases, causing some researchers (including Garth Nicolson) to believe this is the culprit. Mycoplasma has also been an important part of my early protocol of the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Another group of researchers found that more than 80 percent of CFIDS patients tested positive for enteroviral particles from a common stomach virus that had spread from their gut to their central nervous system, heart and muscles--another explanation for CFIDS.

  • Other viruses have been blamed including Epstein Barr, cytomegalovirus, herpes, and parvovirus, which have all been found to produce symptoms very similar to those experienced by CFIDS sufferers.

  • Ross River virus and Coxiella burnetti virus are currently being studied as possible causative agents.

Infectious agents aren’t the only theory out there about the cause of this perplexing disease.

Some scientists believe CFIDS results from an abnormality of blood perfusion of the brain. And some camps profess that CFIDS arises from a toxic environmental exposure of some kind. Still others believe CFIDS is a dysfunctional emotional reaction to stress and/or trauma.

All of the above theories have been sent to the presses as “significant breakthroughs” in the cause of this frustrating syndrome--yet so far, no one theory has survived the test of time and been proven to be THE cause.

Now that we’re into the third decade of investigation, advanced tools from human genome research and high-tech imaging studies have caused CFIDS investigators to circle back and look at the relationship of all these potential factors, from immune dysfunction and infectious disease to emotions, as well as risk factors and precipitating triggers.

But the cause and cure remain elusive.

Now there is new evidence that a human gammaretrovirus “XMRV” is present in a significant number of CFIDS sufferers—and these researchers have concluded this little-known virus may be causative.

And the Winner Is

It seems to me that the common denominator in all of this, which isn’t normally mentioned, is actually the key: the failure of the immune system to function properly.

With a healthy immune system, you are less likely to be a host for microscopic invaders, regardless of which ones are lurking about. I have always believed the answer lies in strengthening the body, rather than hoping for some new pill or other pharmaceutical invention to rescue you.

A number of studies have supported the view that CFIDS is related to unresolved emotional responses, especially those in early childhood. Traumatic events, stress and negative emotions not only contribute to the development of CFIDS but they can affect your overall physical health. Your emotional health may make the difference between recovering and spending many years being miserable.

Please realize that this is not the same as saying your disease is “all in your head.” It is simply acknowledging the connection between mind and body, and recognizing the need to address healing on both levels.

The best way to recover your health is with wise lifestyle changes and energy work. Taking this approach will automatically improve all measures of your immune system and allow you to resolve any infection that might be contributing to your illness.

Easing Chronic Fatigue Symptoms the Natural Way

My natural treatment program for CFIDS is a five-pronged approach:

1. Bio Energetic Normalization

Emotionally traumatic events can leave “energy blockages” for many years, which then interfere with your overall health, including immune function. Bioenergetic normalization of previous emotional traumas is the single most effective treatment I know of for CFIDS at this time.

There are many different techniques that can be used here, but the Meridian Tapping Technique (MTT) is my favorite. MTT is a procedure that borrows from the much-heralded discoveries of Albert Einstein (everything, including your body, is composed of energy) and from the ancient wisdom of Chinese acupuncture.

In essence, MTT is an emotional version of acupuncture without the need for needles. Instead, certain release points on the body are stimulated by tapping them with your fingertips. Furthermore, the basics of MTT can be learned by anyone and can be self-applied (usually in minutes).

2. Dietary Changes

Beware of anyone recommending a specific “chronic fatigue diet.” One person’s food may be another person’s poison. Instead, look into nutritional typing.

We all process different types of food differently. Just as everyone is different in outward appearance, every person has a unique biochemistry and genetic profile with respect to nutritional needs.

When you adopt a diet based on your “nutritional type,” it is very likely you will resolve most of your health problems over time, including CFIDS, because your body will be have the resources it needs to heal itself. Avoiding sugar, processed food and chemicals is an important part of this dietary change since those things can damage to your immune system and prevent you from recovering.

3. Exercise

People suffering from either the fatigue of CFIDS or the pain if Fibromyalgia (a closely related cousin to CFIDS) tend to shy away from exercise, and understandably so. However, research shows that a combination of aerobic activity and strength training can improve pain and fatigue symptoms. Gentle exercise such as yoga can be an excellent part of your exercise program--and yoga benefits the mind as well as the body.

Many people with CFIDS battle weight issues, and regular exercise can help with this by boosting your metabolism and normalizing your blood sugar.

4. Avoid Toxic Substances

Avoiding processed foods and artificial sweeteners is a good start. But beware of chemicals in your environment, also…air, water, and products that contact your skin.

Many cleaning products and personal care products—like soaps, shampoos, and creams—are laden with toxic chemicals that further compromise your ability to heal. Also avoid fluoride in your drinking water AND bathing water by installing good quality filters for both.

5. Sleep

Good, restorative sleep is critical when you have a chronic illness. It isn’t just the amount of sleep but also sleep quality that is important for healing. Your body cannot restore itself unless you are getting into deep, restorative sleep each night.

As tempting as it is to wait for science to find a miracle cure, the time to turn around your health is NOW.

There is no magic bullet, so there is no point in waiting around for one before taking action. You can make a huge difference in how you feel by using the natural approach, and it will be effective no matter what the causative factors are.

+ Sources and References