Belgian researcher Dr. Kenny de Meirleir and his team say high levels of hydrogen sulfide are a major cause of ME/CFS and lead to a series of reactions in your body that leave cells devoid of oxygen and energy. (Read more about these discoveries.) But what is hydrogen sulfide?
Abbreviated as H2S, hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring toxic gas. You know that rotten egg smell associated with sulfur? That's hydrogen sulfide. It's released by decaying substances and as a result of certain industrial processes.
In your body, high H2S can damage multiple systems, including the central nervous system, the heart, and the liver. Much of the available information on H2S poisoning relates to inhalation in industrial settings, which can also damage the lungs.
According to the U.S. government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, chronic exposure can cause:
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Ataxia (poor coordination, staggering gait)
- Eye-membrane inflammation
- Chronic cough
- Neurological symptoms
- Psychological disorders
Nearly all of those symptoms are associated with ME/CFS.
Treating Hydrogen Sulfide Poisoning
Studies have shown that nitrite therapy, which is also a treatment for cyanide poisoning, can aid recovery from H2S poisoning due to inhalation. There's anecdotal evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help in more severe cases. However, it's not clear whether those are safe and effective treatments for ME/CFS.
Interesting Facts About Hydrogen Sulfide
- In mice, H2S can induce hibernation.
- H2S is partially responsible for the stench of rotten eggs, flatulence and sewage.
- In the brain, at normal levels, H2S increases the response of NMDA receptors, which deal with glutamate.
- H2S effects are similar to those of nitric oxide, which other researchers have linked to ME/CFS, fibromyalgia and Gulf War syndrome.
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