By Paula Carnes
There aren't many events that would get me to drive to the Las Vegas strip on Halloween. But this year I felt that “what happens in Vegas must not stay in Vegas.” The Age Management Medicine Group was holding its conference starting on Halloween. I was obsessed, had to attend, hoping to find new tricks for treating chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The Age Management Medicine Group's goal is to keep folks healthy and active for life. Their treatment approach is very different from just throwing risky pills at symptoms. Take a look at their mission statement.
"Age Management Medicine is a proactive, preventative approach focused on preservation of optimum human function and quality of life making every effort to modulate the process of aging prior to the onset of degenerative aging. The basic tenets of Age Management Medicine are patient evaluation through extensive medical history, lifestyle assessment, physical examination and laboratory evaluation to establish personalized proactive treatment plans consisting of proper diet, exercise, stress management and appropriate medical interventions."
These doctors take time to listen to their patients. They do not see each patient for only five minutes and then talk to their computer for ten. They listen to each patient and ask significant questions. Of course, the drawback for the patient is that these doctors generally cannot afford to run their practice on Medicare, or even standard health insurance. For the most part, patients have to pay cash. I think sometimes this may be worth it, but I would suggest shopping around for a doctor in this group who works with your health issues.
For instance, I had an amazing conversation with a doctor from Ohio. She informed me that she sees many Lyme patients. Then she asked me how I got a Lyme diagnosis. When I mentioned I had labs done at Igenex, she got a huge smile on her face. “That's good!” she said.
Does the Age Management Medicine Group claim to know what causes CFS? Do they have the miracle cure? No, but I did find some possibilities we patients might want to try. The two approaches which stood out to me were keeping telomeres long, and keeping growth hormone levels high.
Telomeres - size matters
Telomeres were the topic of several lectures. The longer the telomeres, the longer the lifespan. Size does matter. But then we learned that there are problems that shorten them, and you can make them grow longer. What man, or woman, doesn't want longer telomeres? And, it's not so much what you were born with, as how you feed them.
I know you are asking yourself, “What is this lady talking about?” Telomeres are like the caps on the ends of shoestrings. They are the caps on the ends of cells.
Every time a cell divides, the telomere gets shorter. Once the telomere is really small, the cell cannot reproduce, and it dies. So you want to keep those caps on the “shoestring” in good shape. Partly, keeping them long and strong is genetic, but there are things you can do to keep them healthy. If you want to read the science, in addition to my simplistic summary, here is a good article.
I was all ears to hear how to keep those telomeres long, but the sick part of my brain also wondered if infection and disease prematurely shortened them. You can find almost anything online, so here is what I found.
Fibromyalgia patients have shorter telomeres. Chronic infection does seem to shorten telomeres in mice. Telomeres are shorter in type 1 diabetes, but not in type 2 diabetes. We suspect type 1 diabetes is triggered by certain viruses. Also, folks with longer telomeres genetically seem more resistant to infection. So it seems like a good idea to try and lengthen those telomeres if we can. Is there any way to do that?
One whole day of this Halloween conference addressed the question of how to increase telomere size and how it helped. Dr. Elaine Chin, MD addressed a big question - do we want to bother testing for telomere size? We know that short telomeres are not a good thing, but there are approaches we can take to keep them long, so maybe testing isn't worth it. If the patient does want to be tested, Dr. Chin recommends a blood test. As a CFS patient I am ready to jump on the treatment. I assume my telomeres are shrinking as I write this.
Treatment involves reducing inflammation, balancing hormones, and balancing blood sugar. Patients need to stop drinking alcohol and smoking, and remedy obesity and poor sleep. Reducing stress as much as possible is good. Dr. Chin recommended three things: exercise, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin D supplementation.
Dr. Christine Houghton shared more details about a nutritional way to maintain healthy telomeres. Here are some of the products she recommended:
She recommended that these be taken only to replace deficiencies. Her favorite product was not really a product, but a food. She said, “Most of us are sulfur deficient.” The best way to increase sulfur is sulforaphane which is found in broccoli sprouts. You can grow them in your kitchen window or buy them online. Dr. Houghton said that broccoli sprouts clear toxins better than curcumin, which is not well absorbed.
Two strategies: reducing iron and increasing growth hormone
Dr. Robert Carroll, MD discussed ways to reduce inflammation. One big issue he addressed was the need to chelate or remove iron from the blood and body. He stated that minocycline gets into the brain and chelates iron. He recommended 100mg three times a day. He also mentioned Wellbutrin, Lithium, Lexapro, and Simvastatin. Supplements he recommended were acetyl-l-carnitine and melatonin. He no longer uses hyperbaric oxygen, because it generates free radicals, and patients seem to improve only temporarily. More on reducing blood iron levels later. This was a great Halloween topic.
Growth hormone was the second issue discussed which would be applicable to treating CFS. Growth hormone keeps organs such as the brain at normal size, prevents leaky gut, and strengthens muscle and bones. Higher levels of IGF-1 clear amyloid beta in the brain. So let's look at treatments presented to raise growth hormone levels.
Exercise raises IGF-1 levels, but show me a CFS patient who can exercise. But the silent issue in the room is lack of natural, restorative sleep. Without restorative sleep the growth hormone level will never be normal.
Most of us do not qualify for prescription coverage of injected synthetic growth hormone. This means we need to find something that will raise growth hormone levels, and that something needs to be other than exercise for those of us with CFS. Ideally, we want to have the IGF-1 levels of a thirty year old.
Secretagogues are substances that cause another substance to be secreted. Are there substances we can take which will increase production of growth hormone?
Mark L. Gordon, MD studies neuroendocrinology. He gave an amazing presentation on pathways that increase growth hormone. I cannot begin to summarize his amazing presentations. Here is his list of possible supplements which might increase growth hormone:
melatonin timed release (suppresses cortisol) (Dr. Carroll recommended 3-5 mg at bedtime for 2 months)
arginine (250 mg at evening)
DHEA (25 mg taken at evening)
GABA (5 g)
Dr. Gordon can work with doctor to order tests to determine which treatments may work best for you. Here is a link to his website and treatment center.
In conclusion Dr. Gregory Sloop, MD discussed the value of blood donation, a wonderful Halloween topic. Blood donation has amazing effects for the donor. It reduces blood viscosity, oxidative stress from high iron levels, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure.
I realize we do not want to donate blood, since CFS may be caused by an unknown infection, but we may be able to find a doctor willing to draw a pint of blood, and discard it, in order to lower elevated iron levels. This all sounds like a good idea, but CFS patients may have low blood volume. Removing a pint of blood could be risky in an already blood-depleted patient.
Those of us with neurally mediated hypotension may improve when eating extra salt. (Salt does not cause hypertension in the majority of people.) Hydration with 6-8 glasses of water a day will help to reduce blood viscosity. Plavix also reduces blood viscosity.
Hopefully, if we can address growth hormone levels, we may also be able to get more restorative sleep. Pleasant dreams to all who read this. One last word of caution – stay off the strip on Halloween, if you want a good night's sleep.
Paula Masso Carnes is a CFS/Lyme patient who has been a teacher and biotech investment researcher. She has reported on several government conferences and medical conferences regarding chronic fatigue syndrome. Her current work and joy is writing. Visit her website at Paula Carnes.com.