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Dr. Jon D. Kaiser Discusses Supporting Mitochondrial Function in ME/CFS

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Jon D. Kaiser, MD, has been treating patients with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), HIV/AIDS, cancer and other immune system disorders for more than 25 years. He is a Clinical Associate at the San Francisco Medical School and previous Medical Director of K-PAX Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Kaiser has written two books on improving immune system health, Immune Power and Healing HIV, and has given many lectures on optimizing immune function. He was also the principle investigator of a study published in the Journal of AIDS in 2006 showing that broad-spectrum micronutrient therapy can strengthen the immune systems of people with immune deficiency disorders.

His proof-of-concept study investigating a mitochondrial support strategy for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome was published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine in 2015.

Dr. Kaiser’s approach to care utilizes an integration of natural and standard medical treatments.

An Interview with Jon D. Kaiser, MD

ProHealth (PH): How did you get involved with ME/CFS?

Dr. Kaiser: After several grueling years of medical training and working in emergency rooms, my health started to fail. Within a one-year period, I developed full-blown CFS. The disease caused me to quit working in emergency medicine and open up a private practice where I could set my own hours, with enough time to rest in-between patients. That change allowed me to begin working toward finding a way out of this devastating disease.

With a combination of rest, pacing, micronutrient therapy, physical therapy, plus an aggressive stress-reduction program, I began to climb out of “the dark pit” that is ME/CFS. It took five years to get to a place where I was no longer tired and in pain the majority of the time. However, for many years I experienced relatively severe relapses that often lasted from days to weeks.

Currently, after many years of doing everything I could to support my health, I feel that my ME/CFS condition is in remission. However, I know that there is always a chance that it might recur if I don’t stay focused on caring for my health.

During this time I also began caring for people with ME/CFS. Over the past twenty years I have cared for several hundred patients with this illness. I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen many patients improve and even completely recover from this disease.

PH: What do you feel is the central mechanism driving ME/CFS symptoms?

Dr. Kaiser: Many CFS researchers are working hard to answer this question. There have been clearly demonstrated abnormalities in the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. There is also a subgroup of patients who exhibit significant GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms. The focus of my recent work has been on identifying and describing mitochondrial abnormalities in patients with ME/CFS.

One of the main criteria for a “mitochondrial disease” is that patients exhibit symptoms spanning multiple bodily systems (domains). This is clearly the case with ME/CFS as it affects the nervous, endocrine, immune, muscular, and GI systems. In addition, imaging studies have identified a deficiency of glutathione in the brains of patients with this disease. Glutathione is a key antioxidant required for healthy mitochondrial functioning.

The treatment I have been developing supplies a precursor to glutathione (N-acetyl-cysteine), as well as many other important mitochondrial nutrients, to support healthy brain function and energy metabolism. I believe this avenue of investigation can ultimately help provide improvement in fatigue symptoms, as well as alertness and concentration difficulties, in patients with ME/CFS.

PH: How did you become interested in treating mitochondrial dysfunction and ultimately develop the K-PAX formula?

Dr. Kaiser: At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, several of the early antiviral drugs were shown to directly cause toxicity to the mitochondria ultimately leading to fatigue, immune dysfunction, dementia, and many other serious side effects. My primary goal in developing the K-PAX micronutrient formula was to identify an antidote to this horrible toxicity to the mitochondria of my AIDS patients.

With initial funding from the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, I was able to demonstrate extremely positive effects of this mitochondrial support nutrient formula on the nervous and immune systems of AIDS patients who were experiencing mitochondrial toxicity. The results of this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial were published in the Journal of AIDS in 2006.

When Bristol-Myers Squibb elected not to continue supporting the development of an inexpensive, natural product that could protect patients from their drug’s side effects, K-PAX Pharmaceuticals was founded in order to continue its development.

Once research on mitochondrial dysfunction in ME/CFS patients began to be published, I decided to shift my focus from working with AIDS patients to helping people with ME/CFS.

PH: What is the K-PAX formula? And how does it work?

Dr. Kaiser: The K-PAX formula contains a key combination of micronutrients that, based on research and clinical experience, helps to improve the health and energy production of the body’s mitochondria. This key combination includes nutrients that are not often found in your average multivitamin but are critically important to optimal mitochondrial functioning.

For example, acetyl-L-carnitine, which is present in food, helps to naturally stimulate the mitochondria to generate energy from fat molecules. Since fat molecules possess twice the energy generating capacity per gram as sugar molecules, supplementing with this nutrient can stimulate the mitochondrial to generate more energy. However, a key point is that when the mitochondria are stimulated in this fashion, they can also create more oxidative stress compounds (such as hydrogen peroxide). Therefore, in order to keep the reaction healthy and balanced, one needs to counter this increased oxidative stress with potent antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid and N-acetyl-cysteine.

The dosages of most of the key ingredients in this formula are administered at pharmacologic dosages. This means that they are not being supplemented to treat vitamin deficiencies but instead are being delivered at levels designed to produce a positive physiologic effect in their own right.

Since there is a growing body of evidence that people with ME/CFS have some degree of mitochondrial dysfunction, providing them with a potent and clinically-tested mitochondrial support supplement makes a good deal of sense. Furthermore, our recently published proof-of-concept study showed that, when this particular supplement is simultaneously taken with a low dosage stimulant drug, a significant decrease in CFS symptoms can occur

PH: Have you tested the K-PAX formula on ME/CFS patients? If so, what was the result?

Dr. Kaiser: This mitochondrial support supplement (plus a low dose stimulant) has been tested in three different groups of ME/CFS patients. The initial testing was performed in my clinic. Upon seeing patients who had been at a plateau with their ME/CFS symptoms for many years experience rapid improvement in a matter of a few months, I felt there was ample reason to move it into clinical trials.

The second group of patients was those studied in the recently published proof-of-concept study. This was a prospective study, meaning that patients who had never taken this treatment before were provided it as a single intervention.

After 12-weeks on treatment, 87% of the study patients experienced at least a 25% reduction in both overall CFS symptoms and concentration difficulties. The treatment was also very well tolerated.

The third group of patients to receive this treatment were those in a recently completed double-blind, placebo controlled trial known as the Synergy Trial. The patients who got the treatment experienced an almost 20% reduction in their overall CFS symptoms. The treatment was also well tolerated in this study.

One of the most interesting findings in this trial was that the group of patients with the most severe symptoms at the beginning of the trial had the most impressive response. While there was also a strong positive response in the placebo group, we feel that the results of this trial provide very important information about things like safety, dosage, and study design that justify moving forward with performing an even larger study of this treatment.

PH: When will the K-PAX formula be made available to the public?

Dr. Kaiser: The K-PAX mitochondrial support formula that was used in the recently published journal article is currently available as “K-PAX Immune Formula.” It contains all of the micronutrients necessary for optimal mitochondrial functioning, including acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl-cysteine, B-vitamins, and many others. It now also contains coenzyme Q-10 and methyl-folate. It is manufactured using pharmaceutical-grade raw materials and adheres to strict quality control practices.

It is envisioned that a single pill containing the proper ratio of stimulant drug with mitochondrial support nutrients will be submitted to the FDA for approval. This can only occur when a sufficient number of clinical trials are performed substantiating it as safe and effective for the treatment of ME/CFS. This is our ultimate goal.

ProHealth wishes to extend a thank you to Dr. Kaiser for his time and dedication to the ME/CFS community.

This article was first published on ProHealth.com on October 1, 2015 and was updated on February 25, 2021.

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By ProHealth-Editor

Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.To learn more about Karen, see “Meet Karen Lee Richards.”

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14 thoughts on “Dr. Jon D. Kaiser Discusses Supporting Mitochondrial Function in ME/CFS”

  1. donothaveone says:

    Dr. Kaiser—Your article is the most inspiring and possibly the most correct in covering all aspects of CFS/ME.
    I was diagnosed with CFS/ME in 1986 (yes–29 years ago.} I was 46 years old, happily married, in excellent health, very energetic, always with a positive outlook, achieved high ranks in all my job choices, including West Coast Sales Mgr.for several Cruise Lines over an 11 year period; and, later, Membership Director of the Century City Chamber of Commerce. It was there that I suddenly became very ill and overwhelmed with chronic fatigue. I often had to pull off the road on my way to my office—to SLEEP!
    I had a private office, and would sleep on a sofa inside whenever needed–which was every day. Of course, I consulted with doctors–many doctors. The Century City Hospital was walking distance from my office and I knew many people in the medical fields. I was finally diagnosed with CFS by a doctor whose name I do not recall. CFS was nearly “unknown” at that time, but my doctor had a close relative with all the symptoms and the doctor had spent many hours studying the condition.
    Another local doctor suggested I had Epstein-Barr Syndrome.
    Which, like CFS, had few or no known cures. My Doc prescribed an anti-depressant, which I dismissed at first because I’d never suffered from depression. That changed within a month, and I have needed to be on a.d.’s daily for all these years. Along with Xanax for anxiety. I have never found a doctor in So.California who treats CFS. I do keep searching. So many doctors, including my own, simply do not know what CFS is, and do not have the time, nor perhaps interest, to pursue an answer.
    I hope, hope, hope Dr. Kaiser that you will be able to help me out of this awful illness. Judy Mayer

  2. blueskies13 says:

    Hi, I was very interested in your comments. I’ve had CFS for about 30 years, & it came back again with a big “hit” early this year.
    I’m interested in trying your K-Pax Immune formula, but I am on Warfarin, & was wondering whether there is anything in the formula that would interfere with my Warfarin levels.
    Thank You. Blueskies13.

    1. sdakota42 says:

      Thank you for your work, doctor, and your article. I had CFS for 14 years and the mainstream medical establishment was of no help. I recall my muscles giving out when climbing stairs. I did my own research and based on my symptoms, thought something was going on with my mitochondria! So your research is very validating to me. I got better with the help of medical qigong, along with co-enzyme Q-10 and a diet of healthy organic food.

    2. lrs13421 says:

      I had cerebral vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus recently. I inject 70 cc weekly metrotextate to control my immune system. Interfere with my treatment if I use KPAX IMMUNE?

    3. JKaiserMD says:

      Many people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are taking K-PAX Immune formula with excellent results. Over ten years of clinical testing, we have not received any information to suggest that this formula of key mitochondrial support nutrients has any negative interactions with the medications you describe. However, we always suggest to people with autoimmune diseases to start with two tablets per day and then increase the dosage gradually so as to not over-stimulate their immune system.

    4. JKaiserMD says:

      Warfarin is commonly used keep the blood thin and is also known by the name of Coumadin. It works by interfering with your liver’s production of clotting factors, thereby making it harder for blood to form a clot. Anything that affects the health of your liver (either positively or negatively) can affect the level of warfarin in the blood and may require an adjustment to your dosage to keep it in the proper range. This includes changes to your diet and the use of any new vitamin supplements. Since K-PAX Immune formula is capable of improving liver health and function, it may be necessary for you to make an adjustment to your warfarin dosage after starting to take this supplement. This is why your doctor should be recommending a monthly blood test. The need to adjust your warfarin dosage due to this effect is par for the course and should not be viewed as a negative event. The above information is not meant to be medical advice. Please check with your doctor before taking any new treatments. Dr. Jon Kaiser

    5. lrs13421 says:

      Thanks for your prompt attention and response. I’m taking K-Pax from 90 days ago and I have more energy. MY rheumatologist asked me to do the consultation and appreciate your response. God bless you for the work you do for those who have chronic medical conditions.

  3. maintenance says:

    My husband will be 78 soon, he has suffered with Chronic Fatigue for 5 years, our doctor also prescribed anti-depressant – he took them for a while and decided they were not doing anything.Over the years he would have very bad episodes and then others not so bad, he was still able to do things. He has had to have back surgery twice – he is still in tremendous pain, this has really made the chronic fatigue kick in – there are days when he sleeps more than he is awake, basically cannot do anything. I have just placed an order for Hydroxocobalamin Extreme. I am going to give him your article to read, I also plan on trying some of the other products you have. I pray that this works, bless you, for helping others, I hope your remission continues – we live in Perrysburg, Ohio, we have never been able to find a doctor or anyone for that matter that has had or does have chronic fatigue. Thank you again.

  4. chdeevey says:

    Hi Dr. Kaiser, I found your article so interesting. I have suffered from ME/CFS since 2000. I used many vehicles to help myself including NAET, Acupuncture, massage therapy, as well as many supplements recommended by naturopaths. I am currently taking antidepressants (Prozac 20mg) and Trazadone for sleep/anxiety (100mg/night). I have been to pretty much every doctor here in Ontario, Canada, including Neurologists, Internal Medicine, General Surgeons, etc. I am really interested in your KPAK. I have been finding a lot of articles published on the ProHealth Website relating to Mitochondrial function. I have no idea what type of doctor treats Mitochondrial Function, if any. It just makes sense. I have been up and down with this illness for 15 years now, and have reached a level state, but it is not the best state. I am learning to live with it, understand it, and do what I can when I can, with no commitments to anyone. I thank you for your time dedicated to this illness, and look forward to anything new you find. Cathy Deevey

  5. michaelkoch says:

    I have had a CFS condition for 20 years that has be negated for the last 15 of those years. Dr. Kaiser’s article caught my attention because of the similarity of his theory to that of Dr. Paul St. Amand’s 1999 book “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia” which discusses use of guaifenesin to reverse the root cause of CFS. Dr. Kaiser’s focus on mitochondrial support to assist CFS suffers correlates with what I understand is Dr. St. Amand’s theory that in CFS sufferers, a phosphate retention in the body interferes with the creation of energy and guaifenesin reduces the effect of that condition. That protocol has worked to essentially eliminate the CFS condition for me for 15 years and I can understand that taking supplements to support the mitochondrial function could additionally be helpful. A web sites that gives additional and updated on guaifenesin is this: http://www.fibromyalgiatreatment.com

  6. isabelsunshine says:

    Your thoughts are very interesting – I have ONE question,that NO DOCTOR could answer for 7 years now:I am diagnosed with CFS, due to lots of other illnesses, infections,auto-immune diseases- one of them being primary biliary cirrhosis PBC. My immune system works overtime, my antinuclear and antimitochondrial antibodies are in gigantic heights, even with Cortisone they are much too high.

    Any known treatments against CFS concentrate on strengthening the immune system, which in my case is senseless, even makes everything worse.I had mitochondrial treatment without effect as well. Is there any solution to this problem?
    I would be very grateful for an answer,thank you very much !!

  7. Photo1776Bill says:

    I have suffered from ME/CFS for over 15 years. About 5 years ago I read a ProHealth article by Dr. Sarah Myhill (U.K.) where she described the disorder as one of mitochondrial failure and outlined her success in treating patients using a nutrition protocol designed to kick-start the mitochondria. Besides a healthy (preferably organic) diet (mostly plant-based, healthy fats and some meat/fish protein) and a good multivitamin/mineral supplement, the supplements (she explains specifically how each works on her website) for mitochondria are: acetyl-l carnitine, CoQ-10 (or ubiquinol), magnesium (any chelate but oxide, which is poorly absorbed), d-ribose (a simple sugar) and niacinamide. Over time, after researching, I added NAC (to help produce glutathione — the “master” anti-oxidant that tests on CFS patients have shown to be depleted) as well as anti-oxidants alpha-lipoic acid, ascorbic acid (vit. C), vitamins D3, E and lots of varied raw vegetables (a big salad) to take out the garbage (free radicals). I installed a countertop fluoride/chlorine/etc. filter for drinking and cooking water, removed household chemicals as well as problematic personal care products (baking soda works as well as chlorox and baking soda/coconut oil works very well as a deodorant). I suspect that, due to diminished mitochondrial function and inability to sweat, CFS patients are prone to building up toxins; I also take chlorella to help remove them. I have a few mercury fillings which I hope to remove soon via safe removal which also should help lower my toxic burden.

    This was prior to the K-PAX formula (which seems similar) and without the mild stimulant. I took this every day for several years, and after seeing significant improvement, backed off to several times/week (mainly for cost considerations). I have gone from bedridden/sleep-deprived to having much more energy. I still have to pace myself somewhat, but I am now able to take long walks and my energy level is much better. Patience is required — a disorder as serious as this takes time to recover from, and the reality may be that I’ll never be 100% (the sooner treatment is started the better), but the improvement has been dramatic. Hope this helps!

  8. Deirdre S Penny says:

    Dear Dr Kaiser, My daughter developed ME/CFS in 1992, aged eleven. We live in S Wales UK., where there is virtually no treatment, so we run a support group for people with ME…ME Suport in Glamorgan(MESIG). However, the illness came about after Glandular fever. Meliss had to leave her public school, where she had gained a scholarship, and had home tutors when she could tolerate them. Her life became moderately tolerable in late teens, early twenties, but then she went downhill, and for the last ten years she has been mostly bedridden with exhaustion, pain and a terrible brainfog.. She is on a gluten free diet, and takes Amatryptiline for sleep and pain. She has bad headaches almost constantly, and her bedroom is darkened as she is light, and also sound sensitive. As you can imagine, I read the article about your treatment with great interest, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your work in this respect. I only wish that we could consult with you, as I am deeply concerned about my daughter. Is the K-Pax Formula available now? Where can we get support? We would be so interested in having the formula.

    1. ProHealth-Admin says:

      Hi Deirdre. K-Pax supplements can be found in our store. Just click the “Shop” link at the top of the page.

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