The New Fibromyalgia Remedy: Stop Your Pain Now with an Anti-Viral Drug Regimen
Dr. Daniel C. Dantini, M.D. is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Medicine, and trained as a facial plastic surgeon. He became interested in fibromyalgia when he first discovered he had the disorder in 1986. He began researching the disease and concluded that “stealth” viruses are a cause. He also conducted several years of research in the field of food allergies and determined that fibromyalgia is caused, in part, by food allergies.
Title: The New Fibromyalgia Remedy: Stop Your Pain Now with an Anti-Viral Drug Regimen
Author: Daniel Dantini, M.D.
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Fibromyalgia — My Story
As a physician, I treat hundreds of different conditions. One of the diseases I treat is one that also caused me a great deal of suffering. That disease is fibromyalgia. Since 1986, when I first suffered the chronic fatigue and muscle pain associated with this disease, I’ve become intimately familiar with the struggles of the estimated 3 to 6 million Americans who face fibromyalgia pain daily. What I’ve learned from my own experience and that of my patients has led me to believe that a group of common viruses are at the root of fibromyalgia. In the following chapters, I’ll explain how I came to my conclusions and how you can find long-term relief for your long-standing fibromyalgia pain.
A Debilitating Disease
If you’ve picked up this book, chances are that you, or someone you know, are living with a chronic disease that has mystified physicians and frustrated their patients for decades. You probably already know that fibromyalgia causes more than just debilitating weariness and muscular discomfort. It changes lives.
I know this because prior to the onset of my symptoms more than twenty years ago, I had a busy and satisfying life. I was working hard as an ear, nose, and throat specialist with parallel focuses on allergies and facial cosmetic surgery.
My symptoms probably started gradually, just like yours. I began to feel very tired but I made all kinds of excuses for it. I was in my forties, so it must just be age. I was trying to run three offices and teach part-time at the University of Pittsburgh, so I simply had too many things on my professional plate. My wife, Chris, and I had just built a new home, so we were trying to squeeze in too many projects on weekends to finish it. We have four children, which also kept us very busy.
Regardless of my excuses, I was utterly depressed and incapable of moving forward. I would go to sleep right after work, wake up for dinner, only to go right back to bed for the night. Eventually I put a couch in my office to sleep a few hours between surgeries and appointments. I had very little time for anything but sleeping, eating, and going to work. It was a complete reversal of my previous life — and nothing like the life I had imagined!
To make matters worse, within months of my first symptoms, I had other health issues — frequent headaches, night sweats, and an irritable bowel. What’s more, my muscles and joints started to feel heavy, weak, and sore.
But fatigue was taking the biggest toll. In one scary moment I realized that my constant exhaustion had reached dangerous — even potentially fatal — levels. I passed out on the interstate driving home. When I awakened, I had veered into the center median at 60 mph, heading for a cement culvert. I managed to stop just in time, but the shock of a near accident became my defining moment.
I had no idea how long I had fallen asleep at the wheel, probably just a few moments, but I could have died and taken some innocent person with me. I realized that I had to do something about my condition. But what was my condition? Answering that question would not only draw on my experience as a clinician-researcher but also take me on a challenging personal journey as a sufferer. If you’ve been on that same road, you’re well aware of the confusion and frustration that are as much a part of fibromyalgia as its many and varied symptoms.
Diagnosis Can Be Elusive
Who gets fibromyalgia? Although it’s more prevalent in women (by a 20:1 ratio), I’m living proof that it definitely can occur in men. Also, while young and old alike may be diagnosed, the symptoms usually surface first in the twenties and thirties. It affects people from all races and from all walks of life.
These individuals not only experience widespread pain, lethargy, and other severe life-limiting symptoms, they also face a lack of definitive answers and a barrage of skepticism from people who can’t finger the cause so they conclude it is a mental condition. And yes, that includes physicians. One can hardly blame them, however. In the absence of vast scientific data on the causes of fibromyalgia, and medical directives on the best ways to treat it, doctors are finding a wide range of ailments that fit the profile and an equally expansive number of therapies to treat the symptoms. Many factors keep them from addressing this health issue in the most effective long-term way.
- First, because there are no common clinical laboratory findings specific to identifying this disease, most doctors aren’t trained to sift through the symptoms to diagnose or effectively deal with it. Their conclusions are based largely on guesswork and trying to eliminate certain ailments.
- Second, research to date hasn’t unearthed the kind of information “gold mine” necessary to give practitioners any specific directions for treating this disease. My own double-blind study is in the process of completion and when published by its cosponsor, a leading pharmaceutical company, I believe it will prove the viral connection.
- Third, fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose because it’s an extremely complex illness. Patients with this disease’s symptoms usually require more time and attention than doctors have or want to invest. So the natural tendency for physicians is to categorize the symptoms to fit a disease that they can easily treat.
By the time I meet most patients, they’ve seen a handful of doctors, from general practitioners to specialists, with a fistful of diagnoses and treatment plans. In my own case, once I had a diagnosis I tried all of the popular “cures” but I didn’t get well. None of the conventional approaches took care of my symptoms in any lasting way.
What changed things? My life improved dramatically when I narrowed the cause of these infections to four common viruses: Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, herpesvirus 6, and parvovirus. In childhood, these viruses cause such things as fever blisters, chicken pox, mononucleosis, and roseola, an ailment marked by three days of fever and a rose-color rash. In adulthood, however, these viruses can bring on severe aches, pain, and other inflammatory symptoms.
I’ve written this book to share my story and the lessons I’ve learned from treating thousands of others in addition to myself. What you’ll find in these chapters is not the same approach you’ve read about elsewhere. Yes, we review what we know about fibromyalgia and how you can take care of your symptoms with existing regimens. But I also explain why these viruses and the immune system are such major players in this illness and how we can use that information to create a treatment that works for you.
But first a quick look at how I got here.
Food Allergies as an Important Player
I didn’t always think that viruses, especially the four, just mentioned, were my problem. Initially, I believed my symptoms were the result of food allergies. It was a topic I had been drawn to early in my career as a researcher because both my wife and I had severe allergic reactions despite repeated negative tests. Our experience led me to conclude that even the best allergists in the country were missing something when treating a great number of patients who, like the two of us, had symptoms, despite a negative diagnosis using skin tests. There had to be something physicians were overlooking.
My research pointed me to delayed food allergies (or sensitivities), a relatively unknown form of food hypersensitivities that result in exaggerated symptoms long after exposure. These deferred adverse reactions can resemble the classic immediate responses such as rashes and stomach cramps that most people experience shortly after they eat something they don’t tolerate well.
But more often than not a delayed food allergy results in a puzzling combination of specific or even unspecific symptoms that can involve any or many organ systems. It can be concealed in diagnoses such as migraine headaches, asthma, eczema, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression, and, not to my surprise, fibromyalgia. The grand theory behind delayed food allergies is that these hypersensitivities are expressions of the immune system over responding to food and airborne substances.
I’ve spent more than thirty years researching delayed food allergies because I, too, believe they’re involved in a host of medical conditions. After treating many patients, I began to realize that identifying an underlying food allergy and removing it could alleviate many chronic degenerative diseases. For instance, some individuals I tested for food allergies reported their arthritis improving once they eliminated the offending food item. Yes, their arthritis!
That prompted me to look further at the relationship between food allergies and disease, focusing particularly on arthritis because I had previously done research in that area. From his office at the University of Miami, my former mentor referred several of his most difficult-to-treat arthritic patients to me for testing. With him managing their dietary changes after test results, some 70 percent of these individuals got better. Although we couldn’t reverse their joint deformities, we were able to halt the progression of their symptoms, take them off pain medications, and generally improve their symptoms.
I was excited because at the time I was facing replacement surgery for my own arthritic knee. My orthopedic surgeon and I were both reluctant to do the procedure because I was only thirty-five. A replacement at that age meant I would need several more operations during my lifetime. Instead of having the replacement, I tested my blood and found that I was allergic to forty foods. I decided to draw up and stick to a strict diet.
Four weeks into my regimen, I could tell the difference. I could perform surgery at the hospital and still see patients at the office. My knee was still swollen but it didn’t hurt, and within a year it felt normal. My orthopedic surgeon was stunned when follow-up X-rays showed a completely normal knee. After seeing what happened to me, my wife went on an exclusionary diet based on her own test results. Her sinuses and allergies, which had given her severe problems with blockages, headaches, and infections over the years, greatly improved.
Changing my diet did indeed alleviate some of my symptoms. I was confident that delayed food allergies triggered the ancillary allergic reactions I was experiencing coincidentally to my fatigue. But I also realized that these allergies weren’t the cause of my fibromyalgia, but rather a result. I needed to find the remaining pieces of the puzzle regarding my condition to see precisely how they fit together.
My Search Takes a New Direction
I looked for anything and everything that might help me further explain the origins of my muscle pain and fatigue. I searched the literature for experiences similar to mine, eventually finding several isolated clusters of the same chronic mononucleosis-like symptoms I was experiencing. I no longer felt alone. Other people not only shared my symptoms, but the scientists studying their experiences suggested an intriguing link to Epstein–Barr, cytomegalovirus, herpesvirus 6, and parvovirus. I finally had a feasible explanation to explore.
These four viruses are capable of lying dormant in the body for years before pouncing again with a different, more-intense, set of symptoms.
Even though about 90 percent of folks carry the antibodies to these viruses in their bodies from childhood into adulthood, not everyone is at risk for fibromyalgia. I’ve come to believe that only 20 percent of us are prone to such an infection. Why is this so? Because a defect in our immune system prevents it from performing optimally in activating the cellular weapons — specifically “T” or natural killer cells — necessary for responding to this disease. In the absence of these cells, the viruses overstimulate the immune system, causing it to produce proteins called cytokines that trigger fibromyalgia’s flu-like symptoms.
Because I had access to the new screening tests for Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus through the University of Pittsburgh, I was able to be tested for these viruses. My results were off the chart. Now I knew that I had the viruses, but what could I do with the information?
I managed to piggyback on research being done at the time on a popular new antiviral drug called Zovirax (acyclovir). It had just had been introduced in the United States for fever blisters (part of the herpesvirus family). A stronger drug, Valtrex (valcyclovir), for treating shingles, mononucleosis, and other viral infections, was under study in Europe.
I started taking acyclovir in large doses, with a chaser of the acid-suppressant Zantac to increase absorption. The medicines I use today are much more effective, so the healing time is shorter. But even back then, within six months, I felt as good as I had felt in ages. I still wasn’t sure as to why all of these changes for the better were occurring. Was it the drug? Was it the combination of the drug and changing my food choices? Or was I just getting well on my own?
That’s when I turned to my patients. Every time someone came in with a sore throat, sinus infection, or other symptom similar to mine, I probed. I wanted to see just how many of these individuals were plagued by fatigue, sleep problems, night sweats, muscle aches, and other issues that had gone undiagnosed. Many of them not only had my symptoms but also had been told by other practitioners that they were just clinically depressed.
The first chronically fatigued patient I saw after treating myself was a junior partner in a large accounting firm, going through a divorce because her husband couldn’t understand her health issues. She was not depressed; she just physically couldn’t take care of him, their children, or their house. Because she couldn’t function, she had taken a sabbatical from her job and was applying for disability.
Her initial complaint was a sore throat, but I learned quickly about the other things that were going wrong with her life and health. I diagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which often goes hand in hand with fibromyalgia, and treated her with antivirals. By the time her disability status was approved, she no longer needed it and was eager to return to work.
I mention this particular patient because her story is such an indictment as to our lack of insight into the CFS disease process. I frequently see patients who think their spouses are either lazy or crazy. They don’t understand that their spouses might be suffering from a real illness that not only hasn’t been diagnosed correctly but also is being treated by a provider who believes the illness is a figment of the patient’s imagination. In the case of the accountant, here was someone who had everything to lose by not going to work every day, and nothing to gain by staying in bed. She wanted a normal family and professional life. Her depression was the result of her fatigue — not the cause.
After treating her, I started seeing other people from all walks of life who not only had symptoms for chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia but also tested positive for one or more of the four viruses I mentioned previously. I soon recognized a high correlation between the physical markers and these specific microbes.
If my practice was any indication, then the concept that both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome were viral illnesses seemed more than valid. I knew I was on the right track, even if others in the medical community didn’t agree. I wasn’t the only person with these dual health issues. Hardworking people from every walk of life who just wanted to get up and go to work in the morning were also suffering.
In treating my patients, I confirmed my ideas about the viruses and the immune system’s role in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Even though fibromyalgia isn’t considered an autoimmune disease — whereby the body attacks its own cells in a “friendly fire” mistake — I believe the same chronic viral infections that cause it are also involved with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the various conditions that are either confused with or accompanied by fibromyalgia. Sufferers are prone to those health issues, in part, because their immune systems are so depleted from fighting the underlying virus.