Like Sick Building Syndrome, there are probably many causes for these sometimes debilitating problems. Often, I believe these syndromes have a strong nutritional element, be it food sensitivities or nutritional deficits. I also believe that chronic vitamin C deficiency may be a signifigent factor for many sufferers of these "syndromes". I would like to share a readers letter that points to this link:
Diagnosis date: 24 July 1992
First date using C: 1st April 2000
How much C do you take: 50,000 mg per day (really!)
Explanation:I have been experiencing chronic fatigue for the last eight years or so (as well as many food allergies and sensitivities). Only a restrictive diet, and an amino acid called L-Glutamine had had any positive effect.
I am now taking 2500 mg of vitamin C each half hour! I can do this without any symptoms - over this level and I get diarrhea.
Although so far my fatigue has not shifted, I noticed immediately that my food sensitivities had improved significantly. I get symptoms of an irritable bowel when I eat problem foods. These symptoms have all but disappeared. I have found a doctor that uses IV vitamin C, and am hoping for the best. I am planning on staying on vitamin C supplementation permanently (and am also looking to improve my intake of foods that are good sources of it).
I found that I experienced much bloating and wind when I first started with large oral doses of vitamin C. These problems have markedly declined during the six weeks since I began it.
I very much appreciate the existence of these pages and all the work that must go into supporting them. There is no money to be made from promoting vitamin C, and this is assuredly why it is so obviously neglected and attacked by the mainstream medical community. Pages such as this one represent a fight for social justice and well being, and against antisocial greed and profiteering.
I offer my deepest thanks for your excellent and valuable work.
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2000
I mailed you a while ago about my use of vitamin C for CFS. This is an update.
I have seen a G.P. at a clinic that specializes in alternative treatments. I was pleasantly surprised by the lengthy questionnaire that I was sent by mail to complete before my appointment. It asked many pertinent questions about diet, family medical history, and many detailed questions about my symptoms. The G.P. herself was much like most of the G.P.s that I have seen - she asked questions but we were not working as a team - she was going to tell me what to do to get better. Anyway, she said that I was already taking more vitamin C orally than they gave intravenously, so I might as well save myself the (apparently considerable) expense of the IVs. She sent for some blood tests (but did not tell me what they were for in any explicit way).
She 'prescribed' an amino acid supplement called 'aminocarb' which I discovered, when I went to buy it, was 30% sugar. She was testing me for candida (I think) so this seemed an oversight to me - I looked around for something similar without the sugar. Note that this aminocarb is one of those powders that are marketed at weightlifters, not so much a health supplement. I bought something that seemed better. When I got home I checked carefully and found it had "SPLENDA" in it. I don't know if you have run across this stuff before - I did some research and found that they make it by artificially inserting 3 chlorine atoms into a sucrose molecule - the result being a chemical not found in nature and thus not digestible ("It won't rot your teeth!!"). Alarm bells are ringing now as I know about the scandal of Aspartame (aka Nutra-Sweet). Although the Splenda.com website assures me that Splenda has undergone 20yrs of safety testing and has been approved by the FDA, browsing the net reveals a number of pages discussing its problems - one mentions that in fact of all the 110 studies apparently undertaken to ensure safety, not a single one was independent, and some of them found things like a shrinkage of the thymus glands in rats.
Anyway, all of this is an aside. I went and bought a variety of other supplements (B-Complex, Chromium, Calcium-Magnesium) which are apparently good for CFS, and after taking them I started feeling like I had just been plugged into the mains power - I felt hyperactive. What I find interesting is how nutrients work together. After a few weeks on the vitamin C I started noticing that the corners of my mouth were often sore and cracking - oftentimes a symptom of B deficiency. This is just a hypothesis but I think it makes sense.
Suppose that maintaining a body is like building a house - you need a series of raw materials, which are to be combined in certain proportions. If one of these runs out, nothing can be done with the others (if you run out of timber, what are you going to do with nails or paint?). So, suppose that vitamin C has been the major limiting factor for a long time and my usage of everything else has slowed right down into line with my small intake of vitamin C (hereafter C). Now, when C ceases to be a limiting factor, usage of all of these other raw materials increases rapidly, and now some new material has become the limiting factor. I was deficient in B vitamins before, but not AS deficient, because my consumption rate was limited by my C intake. What this theory suggests to me is that ideally we would all, (apart from maintaining as healthy a diet as possible), also invest some money in supplements as a lifetime policy - as a way of life. This would ensure that there would be no limiting factors. This seems like a sensible policy to me because:
a)In this crazy world of apparent overabundance (I'm talking about the first-world here!), its actually difficult to get good quality food,
b)I have noticed that when I drink lots of fresh vegetable juice, I don't feel very hungry - suggesting that a great deal of eating occurs, not because people need fat or sugar, but because they are attempting to extract the very small amounts of limiting factor nutrients from their Big Macs - If they were no longer in need of these nutrients they would not be so hungry, and so would save money,
c)Supplements are cheap and safe (if taken thoughtfully) compared to the problems and loss of income associated with ill health.
Getting close to the end of this lengthy opinion-spouting session.
Vitamin C seems to be a limiting factor for almost everyone, and more so than other nutrients (hence the large amount of interest in it, and success with it). While obtaining a satisfactory intake of B vitamins is very easy (a couple of tablets a day will do) it is actually a major effort to max out on C - It is both physically and technically difficult to do.
Although I believe in the importance of all of the various vitamins and minerals for good health (and clearly you feel this way yourself, given the links your page supports and your editorials), I believe that a page focussing solely on C is very sensible. This is because people want a magic bullet. If you tell them "you are going to need to improve your nutritional intake in a general way" then they will throw up their hands and say "too hard, too expensive". But if they just try C alone, they will see significant benefits (assuming they take it in sufficient quantities) and this will encourage them that improvements to diet can be beneficial. And C is clearly the nutrient to be promoted first (for the reasons discussed above).
I think it would be fair to say that if we allow a magic bullet to exist, then C would be it.
I, of course, take other supplements besides the C. I discuss other vitamin a little, but I do believe vitamin C is the foundation. I do struggle with discussing just C and state so on the site that it is somewhat of a disservice to discuss one nutrient due to the complexities of nutrition, I think the sites focus on C is overall positive. You might be interested in my new page on Basic Nutrition .
I make the analogy on the site that nutrition is like a construction project (sound similar?) and that the nutrients are the materials. I extend this analogy to say that, to a degree, it is obvious that we can deal with an excess of materials better than a shortage. Another analogy I use is in rebuttal to the analogy that food is like gas for a car. While this is OK as far as it goes, I say that nutrition is more analogous to everything taken on a cruise ship - except the passengers. I think this better explains the complexity and variety of nutritional requirements.