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Magnesium and B vitamins benefit Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients

(chronic fatigue syndrome) v56, Better Nutrition for Today's Living, Nov 1994, p18(1).

Magnesium may be the most critical single supplement affecting patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), since known intracellular magnesium deficiencies exist in patients with this disorder, according to Paul R. Cheney, M.D., PhD., and Charles W. Lapp, M.D., in the Winter 1994 issue of Health Watch, a publication of the CFS Research Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The authors, whose article originally appeared in the Fall 1993 issue of the CFIDS Chronicle/Cheney Clinic, Charlotte, N.C., added that such deficiencies would disrupt adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. (ATP can best be described as the energy that moves muscle contraction, heart beat, etc.)

Since ATP drives the membrane pumps which transport magnesium into the cell, a vicious cycle could arise in which low ATP levels give rise to even lower intracellular magnesium, causing still further ATP reduction, the authors continued.

This might happen, they added, with CFS patients who "crash," even though they essentially have normal blood levels of magnesium. Since solid forms of magnesium may be excreted by the kidneys of CFS patients without correcting the intracellular magnesium deficiency, the researchers opt for magnesium injections.

As additional supplements for CFS patients, the researchers recommend vitamin B12, high doses of the antioxidants (vitamins C and E and beta carotene) and COQ10.

"People with chronic fatigue syndrome usually feel better when they supplement their diets with magnesium," reported James B. Pierce, Ph.D., in his book, Heart Healthy Magnesium. "People with Graves disease...tend to have magnesium deficiencies, too. If you live or work in a stressful environment, or are over 59 years old, you are also a candidate for magnesium deficiency."

In her book, Complementary Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments, Carolyn Dean, M.D., offers these suggestions for CFS patients: eat plenty of vegetables, engage in routine, gentle exercise, get plenty of rest and take various natural supplements such as the B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C and a multiple vitamin, along with evening primrose oil, cod liver oil or fish oils.

"I would also add echinacea, and herbal-antibiotic that can be taken on a regular basis to avoid reinfection (with the Epstein-Barr virus), as well as B12 shots to increase the energy level. B12 has the ability to strengthen the nervous system."

Apparently up to 90 percent of the population has antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus (the previous name for CFS), Dean said, meaning that they have had an infection. For most people this would probably seem like a cold or flu. But others can have serious consequences, such as mononucleosis. The reactivation of the virus, she added, can be severe and can leave the person feeling fatigued, run down and "never well".

Typical CFS symptoms include chronic headaches, swollen glands, periodic fevers and chills, muscle aches and pains, muscle weakness, sore throat and numbness and tingling of extremities. Pain is another key factor.

Dean added that CFS patients apparently have a reactivation of the virus because their body was not strong enough to fight it off or they came in contact with a chemical or pollutant that undermined their resistance and allowed them to succumb to the illness.

In his book, Natural Health, Natural Medicine, Andrew Weil, M.D., offers these suggestions to CFS patients:

1. Push yourself to exercise regularly but not to become exhausted.
2. Follow a low-protein, low-fat, high-complex-carbohydrate diet.
3. Take an antioxidant vitamin supplement, plus a B-Complex supplement.
4. Eat two cloves of raw garlic a day.
5. Take astragalus root for its antivaral and immune-enhancing properties.
6. Avoid support groups if they give you ideas for new symptoms or convey the impression that the disease will be with you for the rest of your life.
7. Experiment with homeopathic remedies.
8. Ask your doctor to prescribe oxygen for home use and experiment with inhaling it for 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day with his approval.
9. Do not despair. CFS is not a lifelong malady.