Doctor's unusual treatment shows promise for Gulf War illness
November 24, 1998
WASHINGTON - A former chief flight surgeon, now a doctor in Sacramento, has been asked by a White House panel to give the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department details of an unconventional treatment for symptoms of Gulf War illness.
The treatment, first devised to detoxify drug addicts, "can reduce the body burden of fat-soluble chemicals," says Dr. David Root, a retired Air Force colonel who has been using the method for years to treat occupational victims of toxic chemical exposures.
Root is board-certified in occupational medicine and aerospace medicine. He also holds a master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins University and is a former pilot. He told the Presidential Special Oversight Board of the treatment late last week.
He has treated more than 2,500 patients "with varying degrees of illness from exposure to toxic chemicals" since his military retirement in 1980. Many, even after serious exposure, have been returned "to full employment with no residual disability."
After the 1991 war with Iraq, Root followed the medical literature and media reports of phantom afflictions among about one-seventh of the 697,000 Americans who served: arthritic joint pain, memory loss, rashes, gastrointestinal inflammation, diarrhea, respiratory difficulties, insomnia, dizziness, bloody sputum, sensitivity to perfumes and other odors, quickness to anger, persistent fatigue and muscle weakness.
Root noticed "a striking similarity between the symptoms voiced by the veterans and the symptoms of patients exposed to toxic chemicals."
He began accepting a few Gulf War combat veterans for treatment. Their common experience, besides good health when arriving in Saudi Arabia, included taking the controversial pyridostigmine bromide (PB) tablets for protection against nerve agents; substantial exposure to various pesticides; and proximity to oil-well fires started by Saddam Hussein's retreating soldiers.
Root's detoxification treatment basically consists of flushing toxins through a series of 20-minute saunas, aerobic exercises, doses of niacin as a fat mobilizer, replenishment of electrolytes through fluid consumption, repeated showers, and ingestion of various edible unsaturated oils to block re-absorption by the liver - all in a daily, five-hour period for about a month.
His patients reported "80 to 95 percent improvement," he said.