Thymus Protein Treats Chronic Fatigue
People with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome or CFIDS) may improve their immune function by taking a specific protein derived from the thymus gland, according to a study in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (2001;11:241–7).
CFIDS is a complex illness that includes a broad spectrum of symptoms, including memory or concentration problems, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, muscle or joint pain, and headaches or sleep disturbances. The most pronounced symptom is chronic, persistent fatigue. In many cases, the fatigue is debilitating to the point that people become unable to work. The underlying cause is unknown and there is no conventional treatment for CFIDS, other than symptomatic support. The new study on thymus protein offers new hope for those suffering from this often-incapacitating condition.
In the study, 23 people with CFIDS received 12 mcg of thymic protein A per day by mouth for three months. This treatment resulted in a significant improvement in several markers of immune function. Perhaps more importantly, the intensity and frequency of CFIDS symptoms decreased in many of the participants. Positive changes included a reduction in fatigue, better quality of sleep, less anxiety and depression, and fewer panic attacks.
The thymus is an important organ involved in regulating the immune system. In people with CFIDS, several cells of the immune system decrease in number and the ability of these cells to respond quickly to a foreign substance (such as a bacterium) is inhibited. Thymic protein A stimulates the immune system in such a way that these specific immune cells increase in number and become more biologically active making them more efficient and better functioning. It is unknown how these changes in immune function ultimately affect one's symptoms.
The cause of CFIDS has remained a mystery, although some evidence suggests it may be linked with certain viral infections (Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, and human herpes virus 6 have all been mentioned as possible agents). Other studies suggest that the condition may be related to the organisms that cause walking pneumonia or Lyme disease. However, more research is necessary to determine whether the underlying cause is an infectious agent or an abnormality of metabolism. It is possible that the cause is different in different people. Thymic protein A is commercially available in the United States and may be found in some health food stores.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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