mystery illness

Mystery Illness: You Are Not Alone

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Hormones Matter is a health oriented website edited by Chandler Marrs, PhD. She has long recognized the need for people to report their “mystery illnesses”, simply because they are slipping through the cracks in modern medicine. My association with Dr. Marrs is a very fruitful one because we both have the same viewpoint. This viewpoint embraces the concept that the present disease model is antiquated and badly needs to be revised. In a recent post, I have defined what we mean by a “medical model”. We both have found that a common health problem, largely unrecognized for its true cause, is a polysymptomatic illness that is almost invariably labeled psychosomatic. I will try to explain.

Food, Energy, and Illness

Much of our food is broken down to glucose, the primary fuel of the brain. This has given rise to a common concept that taking virtually any form of sugar is a way to develop “quick energy”. Before the processing of sugar in the body was understood, athletes would sometimes load up on it. We now know that this defeats the purpose. Very much like a car where an excess of gasoline “chokes” the engine, an excess of sugar has a very similar effect, particularly in the brain. An additional effect of sugar is the extremely sweet taste that sends a signal from the tongue to centers in the brain that gives the person an extreme sense of pleasure. It has been shown in animal studies that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and a book was published in 1973 entitled “Sweet and Dangerous”. The author, Dr. John Yudkin, was a professor of nutritional studies in a major London hospital. He was able to show that sugar was the cause of many modern diseases. It is indeed hard for people to understand that such an appreciated delight is dangerous to our health. If we turn to nature, you will find that sugar is never found in its free state. It is always found in fruit and vegetables where fiber is a vital component in its processing. The sweet taste from eating a banana or an orange is the way that Mother Nature designed it and it is a healthy way of experiencing a sweet taste.

Glucose is burned (oxidized) in cellular “engines” (mitochondria) and it is a very complex process. The net result is energy that is stored in a chemical substance known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The nearest analogy would be a battery because the energy that drives all our mental and physical functions is electrical in nature.

By far and away the commonest personal story posted on Hormones Matter is a polysymptomatic illness that is the result of inefficient energy transduction and its major effect is in the brain. To put it as simply as possible, food is not being converted into energy in sufficient amount to meet the stresses of merely being alive. The most susceptible part of the brain that is affected is the part that controls our ability to adapt to living in an environment that is essentially hostile. Using a specialized nervous system and a bunch of glands that produce hormones, this part of the brain signals every organ in the body to participate. Now obviously, if no energy were produced we would die and that is indeed a major cause of death. However this common polysymptomatic illness affecting so many people is based on an inefficient energy production, not a complete lack. It can vary in its degree of severity depending on nutritional and genetic factors. The dominant effect is “psychological”, symptoms such as undue fatigue, depression, anxiety and anger. It can run the gamut of our emotional reactions. In fact, because of its emotional implications, I have suggested that the common state of violence in America is a reflection of our uncontrolled hedonism. Can a person nursing a perceived grievance become violent if the emotional controls are too easily activated?

Energy lack is quickly recognized as dangerous by the brain. It causes a sense of panic to be felt by the affected person. That is why “panic attacks” have been recognized incorrectly as a “psychological disease that requires a medicine to tranquilize the patient” whereas they really represent a fight-or-flight reflex, naturally designed to get the affected person “out of perceived danger, i.e. energy deficiency”. The affected person seeks medical help, but this effect in the brain is seen by most physicians as “psychological”, as though the patient is inventing the symptoms. The diagnosis is, “it’s all in your head”. The irony is that although the symptoms are indeed the result of a function “in the head”, they are evidence of a sick brain lacking in adequate energy and therefore have an understandable origin and meaning. Also, the symptoms are easily erased by administration of non-caloric nutrient supplements when they are initially experienced. If allowed to continue unchecked, sometimes for years, they may lead to the irreversible damage characterized as a neurodegenerative disease.

Because the dominant effect is in the part of the brain that controls the specialized nervous system, it begins to send out exaggerated “panic” signals to the organs of the body. The result is a variable assortment of physical effects— heart palpitations, breathing problems, diarrhea, often alternating with constipation, whole body pain, migraine headaches, nasal congestion, nausea with or without vomiting, chest or abdominal pain, pins and needles etc. In other words, any organ in the body may be activated or non-activated because the pattern of our adaptive mind/body machinery is adversely affected. The very important point is this: each and every action of the brain/body union requires energy, even sleep!

Perhaps the most common symptom is severe fatigue and this has given rise to a common diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). It is worth noting that it is often associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and it seems to be medically accepted that two diseases, both of “unknown cause” can occur in a patient at the same time. That seems to be a product of illogical thinking based on the present medical model.

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Image by Leandro De Carvalho from Pixabay .

This article was published originally on December 2, 2019. 

Derrick Lonsdale M.D., is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN), Fellow of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (FACAM). Though now retired, Dr. Lonsdale was a practitioner in pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic for 20 years and was Head of the Section of Biochemical Genetics at the Clinic. In 1982, Lonsdale joined the Preventive Medicine Group to specialize in nutrient-based therapy. Dr. Lonsdale has written over 100 published papers and the conclusions support the idea that healing comes from the body itself rather than from external medical interventions.


  1. Dr. Lonsdale,
    Have you ever encountered something like ‘rebound beriberi’, or is this a plausible concern when suddenly stopping thiamine supplementation?
    Thank you so much for your amazing work!

    • If you have genetic underpinnings or some other environmental variable like a medication/exposure/dietary variable that limits thiamine availability/usage it is entirely possible that you will need thiamine indefinitely.

  2. All very confusing. All I can say is 1.Thiamine and magnesium are cofactors for pyruvate dehydrogenase, enabling glucose to enter the citric acid cycle 2. Both are cofactors to alpha ketgoglutarate enabling the citric acid cycle to function 3. Both are cofactors to branched chain amino acids that participate in protein metabolism. 4.Thiamine pyrophosphate (cocarboxylase) Is required for processing fats. 5.Glycogen storage diseases are inborn errors of metabolism and present themselves in the newborn infant. I am not aware of it occurring in an adult

  3. Kathleen, I feel concerned because it is not at all normal to experience hypoglycemia just from not eating carbohydrate. My symptoms are a bit different, but my doctors are testing me for glycogen storage disease. Some glycogen storage diseases require regular carbohydrate intake to avoid hypoglycemia (as the name indicates, there’s an issue with glycogen storage, which should normally prevent hypoglycemia from happening). The genetic testing has become more affordable and readily available, so doctors have no real excuse to leave recurrent hypoglycemia undiagnosed these days.

  4. Hi Dr. Lonsdale,

    Carbohydrates deplete thiamine but I am stuck in a situation where I don’t seem to metabolize fats of protein very well. When I decrease my carbs, trying to spare B1, I have hypoglycemic events (measured on different meters and symptomatic). I automatically begin to feel better when I eat carbohydrates. I am stuck in this feedback cycle.

    I have been using source naturals coenzymated TPP (sublingual) and immediately feel it kick in. If I don’t take it out once I do, I start to feel overstimulated and agitated (caffeine does the same to me). I have tried the cardiovascular research thiamine (split into 1/4) and that made me feel agitated as well. As I am unable to control the dose so tightly I switched to the source naturals one.

    Do you have any thoughts on the above?

    Thank you for all you do!

  5. Dr. Lonsdale,

    I met a doctor when I was out of town and he gave me two IV’s and split 1,000 mg of B1 in two Meyers. The second one he spread out 600 mg with dextrose and iron for anemia and I felt good better on that IV than the first one without the dextrose. Labs showed significant reduction in lactate afterwards. When I was on 100 mg B1 IV’s spread out it took longer for lactate to clear. He recommended 5 to 8 mg of B1 Meyers spread out in 3 weeks but I had to leave.

    My local IV doctor does not have experience in UK dosing and will not use dextrose. The 500 mg B1 Meyers he gave me is more effective than doing 100 mg B1 Meyers spread out, it lifted my brain fog but he doesn’t know if 5 mg spread out in a few weeks is safe.

    I don’t have side effects from IVs or supplements. My B1 paradox side effects only lasted a few days when I introduced HCI. I recently tried carboxylase and it seems to be benefit over the other forms. My requirements are extreme, but I’ve been taking up to 2.5 grams of oral thiamine in different forms and additional benefits stop at about 700 mg. recent labs and even an electrodermal test shows my need for thiamine.

    Could you comment on high dose thiamine IV’s?

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