Thursday, October 8, 2009

Discussion: Potential Treatments for Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Pain, and Gulf War Illness

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

( - October 8, 2009) - There is much current debate about possible treatments for chronic fatigue and chronic pain.  Several supplements, new treatments, and novel uses of existing medications may be in line for helping with some of the worst symptoms of Gulf War illness.   Many of them remain controversial, but if successful, scientific studies may soon show one or more to be effective for Gulf War veterans suffering from chronic multi-symptom illness.

Several of the drugs and supplements are currently being studied in treatment trials funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) as "high-risk" (meaning it might not work and thus would be lost money), "high-gain" (meaning having a great impact on the health and lives of ill Gulf War veterans) studies.  Others have been shown through prior studies or anecdotal evidence as possibly having positive effects for veterans with Gulf War illness symptoms.

Vitamin D.  With winter approaching and natural production of Vitamin D clouded and bundled over, among these is Vitamin D, probably the least controversial of these potential treatments.  An article on provides an excellent overview of the potential benefits of supplementary Vitamin D for those suffering from chronic pain and auto-immune conditions, including fibromyalgia, a presumptive condition for Gulf War veterans.  It is also thought to be beneficial for people suffering from cognitive decline, a common complaint among ill Gulf War veterans.

According to the article:

"...Some scientists now believe that autoimmune diseases start when a bacterial infection disrupts our vitamin D receptors, which in turn causes vitamin D deficiency. The end result is an immune system thrown into flux. The weakened immune system then becomes more susceptible to more infections, and a vicious circle begins."

Coenzyme Q10.  Also non-controversial is Ubiquinone, or CoQ10 as it is more commonly known, which is currently under investigation by a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program funded study at the University of California at San Diego.  CoQ10 is essentially food for the microorganisms at the cellular level, and is thought by some to be depleted in people with certain conditions, including ill Gulf War veterans and people with HIV/AIDS, heart disease, and auto-immune disorders.  Doses as high as 1,000 mg or more may be beneficial for ill Gulf War veterans at the cellular level, according to the hypothesis being tested.

Lower-cost CoQ10 (Ubiquinone), or a more powerful formulation known as Ubiquinol may be used.  Read more about CoQ10 from the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

Carnosine.  Carnosine, a dipeptide found highly concentrated in muscle and brain tissues and, like CoQ10, available as an over-the-counter supplement, is currently being studied in a CDRMP-funded  treatment trial with Gulf War veterans at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  Carnosine has been found to have signficant anti-oxidant properties and believed by some scientists to be key in halting or slowing the progression of Gulf War illness and alleviating some of its symptoms.   

LDN.  Low-dose Naltrexone, also known as LDN, is currently being investigated for its help in alleviating the symptoms of autoimmune and central nervous system disorders, as well as multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition thought (but not yet proven) to be more prevalent among Gulf War veterans.  The drug, originally used to treat alcohol and other addictions, has been discovered to have a positive impact in many other areas.  A CDMRP-funded study of LDN is ongoing at Stanford University in the California Bay area, though it is not yet recruiting volunteers.  

Read more about LDN from the Low Dose Naltrexone Homepage. 

Mifepristone.  A synthetic steroid compound called mifepristone is current under scientific investigation for a number of conditions, including Gulf War illness in a placebo-controlled treatment trial at the Bronx VA Medical Center in New York City.   The study is also funded by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).

The drug was controversial in previous years because of its unusual side effect of causing the body to spontaneously miscarry during the early months of pregnancy, and therefore, pregnant Gulf War veterans are not allowed to participate in the study. 

Stimulants.  Varying in their level of controversy and availability without or with a prescription, caffeine, ADHD drugs, and Provigil are among the drugs compared for their potential impact on chronic fatigue in an excellent article posted this week by health writer Maija Haavisto, who notes:

"People with CFS/ME [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Multiple Encepholytis]are often not "sleepy tired", but agitated or restless despite the crushing fatigue. Some CFS/ME doctors believe this is because the nervous system is overstimulated and thus sedative drugs would be more appropriate."

Chronic fatigue and muscle weakness are among the most common symptoms reported by ill Gulf War veterans, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is another presumptive condition for those with service in the Gulf War theater of operations since August 1990.  Read the full discussion on stimulants and chronic fatigue here.  

THC.  Perhaps most controversial possible treatment of all (and some would even question the use of the word "treatment") is the use of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, for chronic pain (including fibromyalgia), paresthesias (burning, tingling, and itching neurological symptoms), and bowel issues common to Gulf War illness.  The use of medical marijuana is being debated in many states, and has already been legalized in 13, including Illinois, Minnesota, California, and Michigan, though there are many who believe that the problems of medical marijuana may outweigh its benefits.  See a good discussion about the debate currently ongoing in Iowa (yes, Iowa, of all places) here.  

Where to Find Them 

Several of these possible treatments are available by prescription only, though some Gulf War veterans report that even VA physicians may be willing to prescribe them for ill Gulf War veterans even on a trial basis.

Vitamin D, Ubiquinol, Carnosine, CoQ10, and other over-the-counter supplements available without a prescription can be purchased for below-retail cost from Swanson's Vitamins and some other high quality online vitamin sellers, often at prices several times lower than in retail stores. 

And, clinical trials, like the one on CoQ10 still recruiting Gulf War veteran volunteers, are also a good source of both potential treatments and helping with the broader goal of finding what works and what doesn't for ill Gulf War veterans with Gulf War Syndrome.  More clinical trials for Gulf War veterans, and for fibromyalgia (FM/FMS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be found by typing in the disease name as keywords at
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been using coq10 supplements which I bought from and so far, all I can say are good things about this supplement. I've been using this for years now. :)