energy deficiency illness

An Incredible Story of Illness: Longstanding Energy Deficiency in a Child

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Hormones Matter received an email from a mother of a 10-year-old girl. The medical history that she wrote is so complex that it is hardly surprising that it has confounded all of the physicians that have been consulted. I decided that it was so typical of many “mysterious” illnesses in America, that I would write it as a post. The story depicts the kind of chaos that can result in the body when the underlying cause is from energy deficiency in the brain. Modern physicians are blinded by the overall concept that vitamin deficiency disease has been conquered and remains only of historical interest. Also, the trouble lies in the fact that the present medical model (the general acceptance of how diseases present) is in error. Each disease is thought to be compartmentalized, has a specific kind of course, a specific cause and an individual kind of treatment. A revision of this model, entitled “The Three Circles of Health” is envisioned as three interlocking circles named Genetics, Stress and Energy, derived from Boolean algebra. I will try to explain how the three circles apply to the story of this 10-year-old child after I have described it in this post.

Medical History

The email began by saying “after a lifetime of various health issues and mystery symptoms, she became extremely ill in March of this year following a flu-like illness, developing a myriad of symptoms including: syncope, tachycardia, seizure -like episodes, and severe peripheral vision loss. She was eventually diagnosed with POTS”. During the febrile illness she had been given sugar containing drinks that would compound the thiamine deficiency.

  • Syncope. This is the scientific word used for brief fainting spells. The patient may be unconscious for only a few seconds and returns to a state of normality after recovery. It is common in patients with dysautonomia, because it is the symptomatic exposure of either genetic risk, poor nutrition, or a combination of both.
  • Tachycardia. This is the fancy word for a rapidly beating heart. It is caused by an overdrive in the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, a classic sign of dysautonomia.
  • Seizure like episodes. This is due to the fact that the brain is starved of oxygen or oxidation (cellular consumption of oxygen). Unfortunately, this is not the current thinking in the treatment of seizures, where a search for the “right medication” is the approach. This is particularly true in children.
  • Severe peripheral vision loss. This is also due to oxidation starvation of either the nervous mechanism in the eye or its channels of communication with the brain.
  • The March illness. The problem here is that her immune mechanism was also starved of oxidation and became much less efficient. Instead of having a cold or a mild viral illness, the virus became a source of much greater stress to an energy deprived system. The fault lies in the lack of defense rather than the virulence of the attacking organism. This may also explain the recent news of an epidemic of a “polio-like” illness due to a virus that usually results in mild disease. Brain energy deficiency in Americans is common because of the ingestion of sugar that results in thiamine deficiency and pseudo (false) hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Oxidation fails without thiamine.
  • POTS. This stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. This means that the patient develops a rapid heartbeat while standing quietly and is often associated with syncope. It has been reported in the medical literature as a phenomenon due to thiamine deficiency. Oxidative inefficiency, the central issue, can of course be due to causes other than thiamine deficiency. However, the common ingestion of sugar makes thiamine deficiency the most likely culprit.
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The email goes on to say that her doctor thinks that she has this syndrome because she is evidently unusually hypermobile. This is a genetically determined condition involving abnormality of connective tissue in the body and allowing hypermobility. It has long been associated with dysautonomia and it is entirely possible that oxidative inefficiency has a role, particularly as it has been associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, now known to be an energy deficient disease.
  • Lack of appetite, food allergy: extreme sugar craving: eosinophilic enteritis. All of these symptoms were experienced by a 14 year old boy. His medical history for the first eight years of life had been classified as psychosomatic, when eosinophilic esophagitis had been discovered. Conventional treatment for esophagitis had failed and at the age of 14 years he was found to be severely thiamine deficient. Many symptoms were resolved with a prolonged use of a thiamine derivative. Complete resolution may have occurred if he had discontinued ingestion of sugar.
  • Inexplicable elevated B12 levels. Curiously enough, elevated levels of vitamin B12 and folate have been found in a case report to be related to thiamine deficiency.
  • Tenderness in calf muscles. This is a classic sign in beriberi, long known to be caused by thiamine deficiency. Only gentle manual squeezing is necessary to elicit tenderness.
  • Extensive history of alcoholism on both sides of the family. There is a genetic relationship in sugar addiction and a familial history of alcohol dependence. Both alcohol and sugar precipitate thiamine deficiency that is very destructive to that part of the brain that controls the autonomic nervous system.
  • Joint pain, all-over pain, chronic GI pain. All typical of brain hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or pseudo-hypoxia (lack of oxidation). It is important to note that the body does not feel pain. It is the result of a “notification” signal to the brain from the involved body part. Pain can also originate in the sensory perceiving brain mechanisms and deceive us by telling us that “that pain is coming from your (e.g.) left elbow”. Not surprisingly, examination of the elbow finds no evidence of a cause. Because of this misunderstanding a patient might easily give rise to an observer’s, (perhaps a physician) conclusion that the pain is neurotically imagined.

The Three Circles of Health

The idea is taken from an oversimplification of Boolean algebra. Three rings are seen as overlapping each other, with all meeting in the middle. The area of each circle and the area of overlap each represent the individual contribution to the overall clinical expression of disease.


We all know of course that each of us has a “blueprint” inherited from our parents that dictates who we are and in most cases whether we are male or female. We also know that there can be distortions in the DNA code used to create our genes. These can be responsible for inherited disease.


I have placed a detailed post about stress on Hormones Matter. It must always be considered as an agent that attacks our status quo, whether this be a mental or a physical phenomenon. Energy is required for all the methods by which the body defends itself and adapts. This means that stress can be exhilarating or damaging according to the state of defense and the degree of aggressiveness expressed in the stress. Failure to adapt comes from the lack of energy and is what we refer to as illness.


This is a stumbling block for many people, even for some physicians who imagine that the brain can work perfectly normally, in spite of energy deficiency. Thus the complaints of the patient are often written off as psychosomatic, without considering the underlying cause. Every mental and physical action requires its quota of energy and thiamine deficiency is a very common source of energy failure. Because the mechanism is mainly in brain, the symptoms are an exhibit of its lack of normal function. We must always understand that the energy can only be produced from food that must contain both fuel (glucose) and the complex chemical substances that enable its use. Herein, lies a common error that consuming sugar will increase energy. The processing of glucose in the body is an extremely complex proposition and it cannot be bypassed by overloading it with sugar. The excess sugar overwhelms cellular oxidative capacity in much the same way as an excess of gasoline causes a choked engine.

The energy circle is now known to be able to influence genetics. This is a new science called epigenetics. It is the study of how nutrition and lifestyle influence the functions of our genes. Instead of saying “we are what we eat”, we must extend it to say “we behave according to what we eat”. If this is the underlying truth, we have to recognize that the incredible violence exhibited in America may be a reflection of dietary chaos in many cases.

Evolution Requires Energy

I came across an addition of National Geographic dated February 2016. An article entitled “Seeing the Light” by Ed Yong describes the evolutionary development of the eye in the animal kingdom. The article states that some small freshwater fish swam into several deep caves. Because the eyes were of little use, their descendants evolved into populations of blind fish.

“Squandering energy on a useless sensory system is a recipe for extinction.”

I have added this section to point out that energy is the mainspring of life. We have to understand this fact and incorporate its use and abuse into our thinking about health and disease.

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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. Elevated serum B12 & Folate might indicate it’s not getting into the cells. If Thiamine is deficient it may just be the catalyst to enable conversion of the B12 & Folate from inactive to active.

    From your finding that IV B12 lowers high B6 I’ve also theorised that neuropathy supposedly caused by B6 ‘toxicity’ might actually be due to occult Cellular B12 deficiency. Perhaps the body senses ‘plenty’ of B12 & retains the B6 in anticipation of the B12 being ‘activated’ to Methylcobalamin & further to Adenosylcobalamin so the two can work together, but the retained B6 may lower the B12 even further.

    The problem is of course, that most doctors put far too much faith in serum tests & ignore symptoms. If the B12 is not getting into the cells, then how much is in the blood is meaningless…..

    • Severe thiamne deficiency. Thiamine stimulates production of ATP.. Folate and B12 consume ATP. Start 50 mg/day Lpothiamine from Cardiovascular Research and wait for paradox. When improvement begins, escalate Lipo and try to find the “ideal dose”. Then add magnesium and a multivitamin.

  2. Unfortunately, I did not get a notice of this question and am trying to answer it 2 years later. He was diagnosed with a disease known as a proteopathy. This is one of the diseases where a critical protein has remained unfolded. Proteins are made of chains of amino acids and to become functional the chain has to be folded in a highly specific way and that process requires energy. The energy comes from the “engines” of the cell known as mitochondria. The only way to stimulate the sick mitochondria is by doing exactly what his wife did, megadoses of thiamine. Well, since he had been struggling for years with energy deficiency he had refeeding syndrome that is explained on one or more of the posts on this website.

  3. Dr. Lonsdale: I am at the end of my rope and need advice and prayer. Two years ago my husband (52 years old) noticed a tremor in his right hand. We went to an osteopath who diagnosed him with hypothyroidism and put him on Natur-throid, which he still takes at 32.5mg bid to this day. The tremors worsened and he began to become imbalanced, started losing weight, and his chronic constipation (x 12 years) wasn’t improving. He was then diagnosed with a terminal type of Parkinsons: Multiple System Atrophy. Not wanting to go down the same horrible path as we’ve seen others do, we began searching for a cause and cure, embarking on an alternative treatment path that has cost us our life savings and has not helped a single symptom: bioresonance, accupuncture, osteo-manipulation, blah, blah, blah. Then this past September he began to experience gastrointestinal symptoms that sent us to the emergency room twice, only to be misdiagnosed with gallstones, and then kidney stones, even with negative ultrasound results! Apparently his GI issues are due to the MSA slowing his metabolism, though none of the physicians we’ve paid (eight, so far) seem to know that but instead simply prescribe more drugs for “unassociated” conditions!! My gut tells me that all of his conditions are related to the fact that he has two single-copy MTHFR mutations: 1298A/C and 677C/T (discovered during the initial visit for tremors), but I am unable to devise a treatment plan on my own. I have all lab results from the past two years in my possession, but cannot find a physician who understands genetics, much less agrees with my instincts and is willing to listen. In fact, once we refuse to take the drugs they haphazardly throw at his symptoms, they consider us “non-compliant” and dismiss us. The lab values I’ve brought to their attention include elevated ferritin (600 ng/ml), elevated B12 (1200 pg/ml), elevated SGPT (45 U/L, this has been elevated for years), elevated TSH (7.91 uIU/ML), elevated TPA (293 iu/ml) and FSH, low RBC, Hematocrit and Hemoglobin, and elevated CO2 level. So two weeks ago, after finding your article –and out of desperation for answers in an attempt to save my husband’s life– I ordered Allithiamine online and started him on two tabs per day. For 3 days he felt better, but then began to feel worse. I then purchased B12 supplements and started him on 5000 mcg of methylcobalamin per day, along with 5-MTHF at 400mg as well as 450mg of Magnesium glyc. but with no change. He looks emaciated (down to 144 pounds on his big six-foot frame!) and has zero energy. I’ve searched here on Hormones Matter for direction, as well as on other sites, and don’t know where to turn. Is this just the paradox from starting the supplements? He hasn’t had any other genetic testing done, save for the MTHFR; could there be more mutations at the root of all his “Parkinson’s” symptoms that are causing the anemia? He has constant pins-and-needles pain, can’t sleep, has many food intolerances, does not eat grains or sugar, tremors horribly and is now so incapacitated that he has been unable to work for seven weeks. I’ve watched my once strong husband wither away to nothing and now I fear he will die soon if I can’t figure this out. Please, point me in the right direction if you’re able. My humble appreciation is given in advance. ~Mary in Missouri (USA)

    • This is all due to energy deficiency. He needs thiamine. Start with 50 mg Lipothiamine (from Cardiovascular Research) and wait for paradox. With beginning improvement, escalate dose of Lipo and try to find the “ideal dose”. Then add magnesium and a multivitamin

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