Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Suddenly, I have skin sensitivity

I have no idea if this is related to ME, but for the last 3 days, I have suddenly developed skin sensitivity in three areas on my body: the right side of my stomach, the right side of my lower back (directly opposite the patch on the stomach), and an area on the back of my right thigh.  There are no visible scratches, rashes, or bumps.  In terms of the pain sensation, it feels like those areas have been scratched by sandpaper, and now they are sensitive even to the contact of clothing over them.  I applied a topical over-the-counter steroid this morning, but it hasn't seemed to help.

I can't recall ever reading that sensitive skin was a major symptom of ME, but then again, I've probably read and forgotten an encyclopedia's worth of information on ME in the last 5 years.  A very brief Google search revealed that these types of non-visible skin irritations occur for all sorts of reasons: an irritant, such as new soap, new laundry detergent, contact with chemicals, airborne pollutants, or simply stress.

None of these factors seem to fit.  I did switch to a new brand of soap about three weeks ago, so it's possible the soap had a delayed effect.  More likely, I think I probably overdid the activity this weekend and my body is reacting with increased cortisol and, thus, stress.  I hope this doesn't become a regular part of my entomology.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Have You Seen This Table of Recent ME Research Findings?

I don't know what saintly person created this table of recent ME research findings, but I wish I could thank him or her.  I'm always looking for ways to simplify and makes sense of the vast amount of information that comes at us in the ME community.  Recently, I have felt less motivated to keep up with all of the research findings because it all starts to seem like disconnected noise after a while; none of it leading to any real-world solutions for us.  Charts like this are helpful to see the "big picture."

Monday, June 27, 2016

Article: biomarker for ME might be found in the gut biome

This article from Cornell Chronicle summarizes recent findings published in the journal, Microbiome, reporting that researchers could predict whether a person has ME based on the diversity of their microbiome, using stool samples.
"The researchers sequenced regions of microbial DNA from the stool samples to identify different types of bacteria. Overall, the diversity of types of bacteria was greatly reduced and there were fewer bacterial species known to be anti-inflammatory in ME/CFS patients compared with healthy people, an observation also seen in people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 
At the same time, the researchers discovered specific markers of inflammation in the blood, likely due to a leaky gut from intestinal problems that allow bacteria to enter the blood, Giloteaux said. Bacteria in the blood will trigger an immune response, which could worsen symptoms."
These might not be the most revolutionary findings, especially regarding the lack of diversity in gut bacteria (first quoted paragraph above), but I had never heard that it was, specifically, bacteria, that leaks into the bloodstream in leaky gut syndrome (second quoted paragraph).  The leaked substance has usually been described more generally as "particles" or "toxins" leaking into the bloodstream, not necessarily bacteria.  Could this be a significant finding?

Still, the articles doesn't address some obvious questions.  What is the connection between the lack of diversity in the gut biome and the leaky gut condition which allows some of those non-diverse bacteria to enter the bloodstream?  And what are the "specific markers of inflammation in the blood" the article references? Unfortunately, we would have to access the original publication in Microbiome to find out.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

5 Year Anniversary

Yesterday was my five year anniversary of having ME/CFS.  As almost every patient says on their anniversary: that happened fast!  At the same time, sometimes it almost feels like it is hard to remember a time when I didn't have to manage this illness.

I'm basically at the same place I was last year at the 4 year mark:  I have improved somewhat, stabilized really, since first getting ME/CFS, but any hope of recovering based on current treatment options is mostly gone.  If it was going to happen, it would have happened already.  So the treatments I'm trying these days are more geared toward managing the illness and hopefully preventing it from getting worse -- a main focus here is preventing the gradual buildup of toxins and oxidation in a body whose detoxification mechanism is broken.  My doctor believes this kind of build-up can hit a critical mass and cause irreversible crashes.

I continue to be hopeful that medical advances will lead to significantly better treatments and possibly even a cure in my lifetime.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm Done with Equilibrant

After four years, I'm done with Equilibrant.  (Equilibrant is an over-the-counter immune modulating supplement recommended by one of my doctors, Dr. C.)  Apparently, I don't need it anymore.  I began taking Equilibrant in April, 2012.  Almost immediately, it became clear that the Equilibrant was helping modulate crashes.  The peaks and valleys were less severe and less frequent (especially the valleys.)  So I stayed on Equilibrant at the full recommended dosage of 6 tablets per day for 4 years.

Recently, in my ongoing efforts to find answers to my shortness of breath (SOB) problems, I decided to take an extended holiday from Equilibrant.  In my desperation to find something, anything that helped, I thought there was a possibility, however slight, that Equilibrant was now leading to an autoimmune response that was responsible for the SOB.  So I just quit.  I didn't even reduce the dosage slowly.  One day I just stopped.

It's been about a month or more since I quit Equilibrant and, so far, I still feel fine.  There's been no improvement in my SOB, but that's a topic for another post.  It's possible that I could see the return of the extreme "roller coaster" crash cycle sometime in the future.  For now it seems Equilibrant was the right supplement for me at the right time, but that time has passed.  I seem to have stabilized since I first began taking Equilibrant, so perhaps I simply don't need it anymore.  I'm always happy to give up a supplement, especially one as expensive as Equilibrant, if I don't need it anymore.

At the same time, I've also gone off of a supplement called Immuno-Stim, which was also a collection of immune modulating compounds, which had some over lap in ingredients with Equilibrant.  So far, so good...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sun and natural vitamin D definitely helps

Lately, I've been making a conscious effort to get more sun (safely, of course, with sunscreen.)  Most people in the ME/CFS community are familiar with the various studies about the links between Vitamin D and sun exposure - studies showing that certain neuro-immune conditions are far more prevalent in higher latitudes, where sun exposure is less.  I won't repeat that literature here.

I've noticed that when I spend at least an hour during a given day with a signifiant amount of skin exposed to natural sunlight, I feel better in the evening and the next day.  I sleep better too.  Much better.  Before I fall asleep, the feeling is of an increase in physical strength. I suddenly feel stronger and more virile.

Since very early after my diagnosis of ME/CFS, I have taken supplements of Vitamin D3.  I've had multiple doctors express to me how critical it is for ME/CFS patients to have Vitamin D3 levels in the normal to upper-normal range.  Under doctor's orders, I have supplemented with anywhere from 5,000 IUs to, at times, as much as 10,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day.  This has ensured that my vitamin D3 levels on blood tests have maintained in the range of what my doctors say is "optimal."  It's difficult to say if these optimal levels contributed to the steady improvement I experienced from 2011 through 2015.

But I do know that supplemental Vitamin D definitely does not feel the same as the benefits I get from natural sunlight.  I don't know if sunlight benefits me in some way besides Vitamin D (I can't imagine what that could be) or if the natural production of Vitamin D somehow trumps the supplemented version.

When we supplement Vitamin D orally, it must absorb from the stomach through the liver.  By contrast, when we make Vitamin D through sun exposure, some of the vitamin forms on the surface of the skin and then absorbs through the skin.  According to one of my doctors, it can take 24-48 hours for this Vitamin D to absorb, thus his recommendation that I not shower until at least 24 hours after a good sun exposure. (This is very difficult for me to do given the combination of sweat and sunscreen on my skin, but I have been trying to do it.)

The bottom line is, it is unmistakable that I feel better when I've gotten exposure to natural sunlight.  Like everything I've found that helps, it's not a cure-all, but it's one small thing I can do to better manage this illness.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Latest Doctor's Appointment - Trying New Treatments

I had another appointment with my integrative medicine doctor yesterday, Dr. M.  Since my last post in March, the shortness of breath (SOB) and post nasal drip (PND), which I thought had finally gone away, came back.  But in the meantime, some very interesting clues arose suggesting a possible cause of this frustrating set of symptoms.

In early March, I became sick with a very bad cold, the main symptom of which was a hacking cough.  I coughed so hard I strained the ligaments in my ribs, making further coughing painful. During the 10 day span that I had the cough, I didn't have any SOB or PND.  (That's when I wrote my last blog post.)  A couple of days after the cough resolved, the SOB and PND returned.  Then, because of my weak immune system, the cough returned for another week, and the SOB/PND went away.  Then this cycle repeated a third time!  It was almost the perfect cause/effect experiment.

That brings us to present day.  I stopped coughing again about 3 days ago, and the SOB/PND returned again yesterday (the day of my appointment with Dr. M.)

But there's more...

I noticed that, very often, when I do something that should be good for my immune system, the SOB/PND becomes triggered.  For instance, nearly every time I take a zinc lozenge (but not always), the SOB/PND becomes worse immediately.  The connection with zinc is unmistakable.
Also, about once every two weeks, I am suddenly and for no discernible reason, able to catch an extra good night of sleep.  I will sleep maybe 9 or 10 hours and wake up knowing, feeling, that it was an extra deep sleep.  It's a hard feeling to describe, but it's unmistakable when it happens.  The strange thing is, these nights of "power sleep" are always followed by a bad day of SOB/PND.  This seems very counter-intuitive because sleep is supposed to be good for the immune system.

All of this leads me to believe that the SOB/PND is some sort of over activation of the immune system — an allergic or autoimmune-type response.  It's as if my immune system almost has to be stressed a bit in order to avoid SOB/PND, or in the case of my recent cold, to be "distracted" by something else.

When I explained this theory to Dr. M, she neither supported it nor rejected it.  She was simply pensive, and acknowledged the possibility that there could be something accurate in my theory (or perhaps she didn't want to hurt my feelings.)

As I've written before, Dr. M believes, foremost, that I have chronic Lyme disease and chronic babesia.  I've discussed my skepticism of this diagnosis with her and she understands.  At the same time, I can't completely rule out her diagnosis.

One of the hallmarks of babesia infection is cyclical SOB, like I have.  Dr. M has previously raised the possibility of me taking an anti-babesia medication called Mepron, but I have always demurred.  This time, after researching Mepron and understanding more about its side affects (mild) and risks (minor), I agreed to try it for 1-2 months to see if it will help decrease the SOB/PND.  So that is the current plan.  I will fill the prescription this weekend.

We are also in the process of decreasing my daily T3 thyroid dose.  My previous doctor had increased the dose so high (75mcg) that my body nearly ceased all natural production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and T4 (thyroid hormone precursor).  Dr. M wants to decrease T3 to the point where TSH and T4 begin production again.  We've already decreased T3 from 75 to 40 mcg. and I still feel fine.

Dr. M also wants me to increase my infrared sauna usage from 1-2x to 3-4x/week for detoxification.  (ME/CFS patients are thought to have broken or defective detoxification pathways.)  Although I once used my sauna almost daily for an 8 month period, right now I simply don't feel like I have the patience to increase my usage back to 3-4x per week.  I will try nonetheless.  She also stressed the importance of continuing to take Phosphatidyl Choline, which I will.