Researchers and the media are buzzing with the recent finding that a retrovirus called XMRV is found in 95% of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) sufferers, compared with only 3.7% in controls. For CFS sufferers, this further legitimizes the condition, whereas skeptics state that there’s no proof that the virus causes the symptoms, and that more studies must be done.
Dr. Jacob Teitalbaum, world renown expert on chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, published a response to this media blitz (click here for his response). Essentially, he acknowledges that a virus can cause or trigger CFS, but that there are many other infections (viruses, bacteria and fungal) that can cause or trigger this condition as well. In addition to infectious causes, there are 6 other areas that he addresses as part of his SHINE protocol: S is for sleep, H is for hormonal, I is for infections, N is for nutrition, E is for exercise. With this protocol, Dr. Teitelbaum found that 91% of CFS sufferers felt much better with his protocol. You can take his free symptom analysis quiz on his website at Vitality101.com.
I tend to favor Dr. Teitelbaum’s explanation for CFS. From my perspective as a sleep-breathing expert, sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome can be potent triggers, but the vicious cycle that ensues affects every system in your body (hormonal, metabolic, neurologic, digestive, cardiovascular, etc.). Anything that causes temporary or permanent narrowing of your upper airways can trigger this process. Additionally, anything else that increases your stress levels (whether internal/physiologic or external (physical, emotional or psychological) can also alter your energy balance mechanisms. Dr. T. uses the analogy of blowing a fuse in your body, with an energy crisis that results.
Everyone is looking for that one bug or gene that causes certain medical conditions. For example, the cold sore virus (herpes simplex) has been blamed for Alzheimer’s Disease. The same XMRV was found at higher levels in prostate cancers. The Epstein-Barr virus has also been implicated in CFS. So far, there’s no proof that these viruses actually causes the symptoms in CFS.
One thing to take away from this post is that in general, the virus (or infection) that caused the initial illness is not what’s casing your current chronic long-term symptoms. Yes, other secondary infections can occur, with various other systemic problems, but the key point here is that you have to look at the entire person and treat all the problems simultaneously, rather than targeting just one problem.
A simple example is with the Epstein-Barr virus and mononucleosis. This virus preferentially affects your lymphoid system. The tonsils are part of your lymphoid system. The larger your tonsils, the more likely your symptoms will be severe and last a lot longer. Since by definition your tonsils will be larger when your jaws are smaller, the smaller your airways will be, and the more likely you’ll suffer from repeated breathing obstructions, causing throat inflammation and even more swelling.
With all the media buzz about these new "discoveries," how do you deal with these findings? Do you take it with a grain of salt? Or do you get excited and can’t wait to get tested or try it out? Please enter your opinions in the box below.