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Oxidative Theory Of Chronic Fatigue





By Majid Ali, M.D.


My interest in the basic cause of chronic fatigue, is in reality, a continuation of my search for the initial energetic-molecular events that turn a state of health into a state of absence of health, then into a state of disease. During this period, I diligently searched the medical and biology journals for any information that would disprove my evolving concept that the spontaneity of oxidation in nature is the true cause of the aging process—and is the root cause of chronic fatigue. I published my theory that chronic fatigue is caused by accelerated oxidative molecular injury in the Journal of Advancement in Medicine (6:83-96; 1993). In that article—reproduced in the companion volume, The Canary and Chronic Fatigue—I marshalled extensive experimental and clinical evidence for my theory, including a large number of scientific citations.

Electrons are those tiniest packets of energy that are in perpetual motion within atoms and molecules—restless and bursting with a desire to break loose. Whenever I see young people rebelling, I wonder how can it be any different? It is the nature of living things to want to break loose — in this, electrons are no different from teenagers. In this fundamental equation of life, an amoeba is no different from a dinosaur, nor a lowly shrub from the loftiest of giant sequoia trees. At atomic and molecular levels, life reduces itself to this simple pattern. Living things age, die and decay because they cannot forever control the loss of electrons and energy contained within them. What would be expected if the rate of the energy loss were accelerated? Fatigue! This, indeed, is what happens when a world-class sprinter literally collapses at the finish line, then recovers, usually within minutes, because of his conditioning. What would be expected if this rate of energy loss were accelerated chronically? Chronic fatigue! What would be expected if the normal oxidative pathways were relentlessly overdriven by allergic triggers, chemical sensitivities, designer killer molecules in our antibiotics and pesticides, oxidants in pollutants, metabolic roller coasters of sugar and neurotransmitters and the powerful oxidant molecules of stress? Unrelenting fatigue—chronic fatigue!

I relate here one other image that I described in The Canary and Chronic Fatigue, which is still as sharp in my mind as the day I first saw it.

Sally M., a woman in her early forties, consulted me for disabling fatigue. She'd led an active, energetic life except for some allergy symptoms. However, following an attack of a "virus infection that did not clear up for weeks," she developed persistent fatigue. When she consulted me, she suffered from intractable abdominal bloating, muscle aches, joint stiffness, headaches, severe PMS symptoms, mood swings, and memory and mentation problems. On the second visit, when I reviewed her laboratory results and prepared to start my nutritional and allergy treatment protocols, she complained of "wormy" feelings in her breast, "electric shocks" in her left flank before eating and a "sinking feeling" in the pit of her stomach after meals. Sometimes she felt "blue" and sometimes "angry and hostile." Conscious of the fact that such symptoms are often dismissed by physicians with a fondness for the old "all-in-the-head" label, she hesitantly asked me if I thought she was losing her mind. Two of the three physicians she consulted before seeing me found nothing wrong with her and advised her to see a psychiatrist. Indeed, medical texts have no disease labels that fit these symptoms.

I saw Sally's anguish one day during one of my ghoraa runs (my morning limbic run). In a flashing image, I saw Sally curled up on the ground, consumed by a fire of "molecular rage." Her body heaved as she struggled to sit up, then it collapsed. I saw her body quiver with bursts of adrenaline, cholinergic fly balls, and neurotransmitters, turning and twisting upon themselves. I saw molecular fireworks. I saw oxyradicals in a feeding frenzy, poking gaping holes in her cell membranes. I saw a hemorrhage of magnesium and potassium molecules through the leaky cell walls. I saw calcium molecules flooding the cell innards and suffocating their life span enzymes. I saw violent whirlpools of energy waves. There were cortical electrical sparks all over her body, as if all her tissues were being shorted. Bursts of adrenaline. Pools of lactic acid. Spiking potentials of membrane phospholipids. A death dance of oxyradicals. Sally's body chemistry was in a pyrotechnic state. Her cell membranes were shot full of holes. Sally made another attempt to rise, convulsed and collapsed.

So that is it. That is what severe fatigue is. It is lacerated cell membranes. It is violated cell innards. It is the hemorrhage of magnesium and potassium. It is mitochondrial enzymes within the cells drowning in a calcium flood. It is the agony and death of cells. But first and foremost, it is a state of high oxidative turmoil—a Fourth of July chemistry. I consider evidence of oxidative damage to the structure and function of cell membranes as the strongest direct support for my theory. In one of my studies, I observed that up to 80% of red blood cells in patients with chronic fatigue showed deformed structure of the cell membrane (Am J Clin Pathol 94:515;1990). Remarkably, most of these cell membrane deformities were corrected after patients were given 15 grams of vitamin C intravenously.

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