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Ask the Pharmacist: Do you have chronic fatigue and breathlessness?

Suzy Cohen
Columnist
Fatigue is sometimes self-limited and temporary. That is unless you’ve ever had a virus. In that case, the fatigue is more persistent, and in some cases disabling.

We’ve all felt tired at one point or another, but today’s article is about a different kind of exhaustion. Fatigue is sometimes self-limited and temporary. That is unless you’ve ever had a virus. In that case, the fatigue is more persistent, and in some cases disabling. 

If you’ve ever had a bad cold, the flu, COVID, a tick bite, chickenpox, EBV which causes mononucleosis, flea bites, Bartonella (from a cat scratch), West Nile or any other virus, you could have what’s called post viral fatigue syndrome or PVFS. Sometimes people with panic attacks or sleep apnea will have issues with the breathing, as will those who have taken chemotherapy. 

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PVFS is a very real and intractable fatigue is associated with it. Some of you reading this have the fatigue that I’m talking about, and don’t even know it. It could be related to hyperventilation, or more aptly termed “over breathing.”

Fatigue is sometimes self-limited and temporary. That is unless you’ve ever had a virus. In that case, the fatigue is more persistent, and in some cases disabling.

You may have experienced this when you got up to do something, for example, get the mail from the mailbox and you came back breathless and tired. You don’t feel well, yet you’re mentally astute and physically capable and strong. Yet you feel so weak! 

This over breathing will induce low levels of carbon dioxide in your blood, termed hypocapnia, which causes the symptoms below. An example you might relate to is that you go to Pilates, and 15 minutes in, you feel short of breath (or breathless), and perhaps slightly dizzy. You might feel a strong, racing heartbeat. Or maybe you try to jog 3 miles like you used to, but you have to stop within a mile due and walk back home breathing very heavily. 

Sound familiar? It comes with excessive production of cytokines, peroxynitrites and hydrogen peroxide! This is like a little bomb going off in your body. 

Potential symptoms of over breathing or hyperventilation

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Confusion or brain fog
  • Feeling like you cannot catch your breath
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes
  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive yawning

Some ideas for treatment, but please ask your personal physician if these are right for you. Make sure you have done a complete cardiovascular evaluation to rule out heart trouble. Because I couldn’t possibly know what is right for each of you, discuss these ideas with your doctor: 

  1. Breathe slowly into your mask if you’re wearing one, or cupped hands during these episodes to help raise CO2 levels.
  2. Do some diaphragmatic breathing.
  3. Consider Catalase supplements once daily, to break down hydrogen peroxide and turn it into oxygen and water intracellularly.
  4. Consider NAC, (N-acetylcysteine) 600mg twice daily to support glutathione levels.*
  5. Consider taking a sublingual ATP supplement which offsets the damage done by the lack of oxygen to your brain.

If you’re interested in more solutions and in learning more about this topic, I have a longer, comprehensive version of this article that I will email to you if you sign up for my free newsletter at suzycohen.com.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.