MSH deficiency -- why the hypothalmus and pituitary shut down | ProHealth Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and Lyme Disease Forums

MSH deficiency -- why the hypothalmus and pituitary shut down

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Do you (or anyone else) know anything about this hormone? Has Dr G ever mentioned this hormone to you? I found this on Dr. Schaller's website. I've read a few of his articles in Lyme newspapers from my LLMD.


Q: What is alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH)?

A: MSH is an anti-inflammatory, regulatory hormone made in the hypothalamus. It controls production of hormones, modulates the immune system and controls nerve function, too. It is made when leptin is able to activate its receptor in the proopio-melanocortin (POMC) pathway. If the receptor is damaged by peripheral immune effects, such as the release of too many pro- inflammatory cytokines, then the receptor doesn't work right and MSH isn't made. Leptin controls storage of fatty acids as fat, so MSH and leptin are a major source of interest.

Q: Isn't this damage to the leptin receptor just like what we see in insulin resistance?

A: Actually, the mechanism is almost identical. A lot of our obesity and diabetes is inappropriately blamed on overeating when the real problem is damage to these regulatory receptors.

Q: What does MSH do?

A: MSH sits as the central hub of a series of important effects. MSH controls hypothalamic production of melatonin and endorphins. Without MSH, deficiency creates chronic non-restful sleep and chronic increased perception of pain, respectively. MSH deficiency causes chronic fatigue and chronic pain. MSH also controls many protective effects in the skin, gut and mucus membranes of the nose and lung. It also controls the peripheral release of cytokines; when there isn't enough MSH, the peripheral inflammatory effects are multiplied. MSH also controls pituitary function, with 60% of MSH deficient patients not having enough antidiuretic hormone. These patients will be thirsty all the time, urinate frequently and often will have unusual sensitivity to static electrical shocks. 40% of MSH deficient patients won't regulate male hormone production and another 40% won't regulate pro- per control of ACTH and cortisol.

Q: What illnesses are associated with MSH deficiency?

A: Any illness that begins with excessive production of pro- inflammatory cytokines will usually cause MSH deficiency. This is the basic mechanism that underlies damage caused by exposure to biologically produced toxins neurotoxins (biotoxins) made by invertebrate organisms, including fungi (molds), dino- flagellates (ciguatera and Pfiesteria), spirochetes (Lyme disease), blue-green algae (Cylindrospermopsis in Florida and Microcystis all over the world) and bacteria, like anthrax. Nearly 100% of the patients who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) will have MSH deficiency. Do we know that all CFS is due to biotoxins? No.

Q: OK, if something is going on in the body that causes inflammation, like exposure to toxins made by mold in Sick Building Syndrome, and the immune system is cranking out these proteins, cytokines, that are great for our health when they are released in the right amount at the right time, but harmful when too many are made at the wrong time, why don't we just fix the cytokine response and watch MSH get going again?

A: Good question. We are looking at an incredibly small area in the hypothalamus, one in which there is a real risk of permanent damage from cytokines to blood flow to this pathway. And who is to say that the vital receptors aren't destroyed by too much attack for too long? Once MSH production is damaged too much, it is too late.

Q: So, if the toxin and cytokine illness goes undiagnosed, or someone says the illness doesn't exist, like what we have seen for a long time with mold and in Lyme disease, there are going to be people whose MSH supply just dwindles down to nothing.

A: Right. These patients are miserable. They live, but there is no life. They are given Oxycontin or Neurontin or Elavil or Xanax, for example, but nothing really helps. Families are destroyed, careers are ruined, financial resources are poured into tests that mean nothing and therapies that hopefully won't cause harm, because they never help. Even worse, because MSH levels are rarely measured, many doctors look at the MSH deficient patients as if they are making up the illness, making up the pain to get drugs or looking for disability. And lots of them end up on disability, costing our society not just the unnecessary expense but also costing us the lost productivity.

Q: What is the answer for those people who are MSH deficient? Why don't we just give them MSH? It should be so simple, like giving insulin to a diabetic who needs it, right?

A: Should be, but it isn't. The FDA is real particular about giving potent hormones like MSH to just anybody. Just look at cortisone. A little bit is necessary for life, but too much will kill you. MSH can't be given to people until animal toxicity studies are done, showing safety, and that costs a lot of money, even if the paper work can be done.

Q: Why don't all the big drug companies jump on this? If what you are telling me is that there are a large number of people who will need daily replacement of MSH, and by the way, it looks like our supply of Sick Buildings that will generate MSH deficient patients won't dry up any time soon, then there should be a huge market for somebody.

A: No doubt about that. There are companies looking at MSH as we speak for weight loss, skin pigment changes and as an antidepressant, but no one is looking at MSH in chronic, fatiguing illnesses.

Q: So, if you can raise the money to prove MSH is safe, then what?

A: Researchers at the NIH, like Dr. Robert Star, would likely be willing to help with the experiments in humans. I'm sure there are other academic researchers who would come forward, but the problem is that the experience of physicians with MSH is so limited. Certain researchers like Dr. James Lipton of Zengen and Dr. Star, who know MSH, know what a huge area of medicine is involved with MSH. But the average endocrinologist, for example, just doesn't deal with MSH deficiency. We will use my database of nearly 2000 patients with illnesses associated with MSH deficiency to develop a double blind, placebo controlled, crossover clinical trial after we have done a titration study to prove how much MSH is needed, given in what route, for how long, with what side effects and with what adverse reactions over time. When our work demonstrates what I feel it will, then suddenly, there is hope for a large number of chronically suffering people of all ages.

For more information:
1. Look on Google for the many aMSH patents in process, chat groups, and new research
2. Look up MSH in Pubmed and see the thousands of articles on this topic.
3. Go to, which is the source of this article from Dr. R. Shoemaker.

MSH study - head injuries:[This Message was Edited on 08/04/2007]
[This Message was Edited on 08/04/2007]


New Member
many obese people lack leptin--and it signals the brain it is full---that may explain the huge weight gain many people with cfs have---and even when they diet--they cant loose the weight? how do we get this stuff?


New Member
This is really interesting information. I was just trying to find out where you saw that this deficiency is found in 100% of CFS, Lyme, and Mold patients? I saw where it said "Nearly 100% of the patients who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) will have MSH deficiency. Do we know that all CFS is due to biotoxins? No." But I don't see how they came to that conclusion ie testing etc.

Do you know how they came to this conclusion or figured this out? I really would like to read more about this.

[This Message was Edited on 08/03/2007]


In my excitement about this discovery I missed the word "nearly". I'm trying to google for more info and may have to switch over to scholarly google.

Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker's website has a visual contrast test that can be taken for about $9.

I passed the test online but was too close to the screen. I didn't think neurotoxins were an issue because the FFC ruled them out. I flunked the test that my LLMD uses because it had a bar to keep the test material the correct distance from my face.

As far as I know Dr. Shoemaker is putting a database of 2,000 patients together for research into MSH. I'd be very interested in finding out why my pituitary and hypothalmus are not making hormones.
[This Message was Edited on 08/04/2007]


New Member
Iam trying to get my head around autoimmune as thats what my doc reckons FMS and CFS is

I try and read and reread and nothing sticks so to speak

Iam interested in all this though

kind thoughts


I'm going to take this info to my LLMD and endocrinologist. Maybe I can get some answers on the hypothalmus and pituitary malfunction. I'll post if I can get more info.

Seems like no specialty of doctors wants us! CF and FM don't belong in the rheumies realm. Endos don't see the hormonal connection.


New Member
k darlin you do that and please come back with a translation so even stupid old me can understand....

sorry for the denseness but i just dont understand all the abbreviations etc

waiting in anticipation

angel hugs


Hi Connie:

I looked at your profile. You are a very special person! My aunt had C/P since birth so I had to take care of her when my grandmother went out. Just keep her seizure meds straight was difficult.

How long have you had this DD? Do you have CF or FM or both? I thought I had both but it turned out I have Lyme.
Have you looked into bioidentical hormones or any testing on low hormone status? I've got multiple hormone deficiencies.

Hugs back from the USA!


New Member
I will be waiting for what you can find out with your drs. I have asked and asked. WHY don't they want to hear us?
I know I have deficiencies, by reading my own body...
thx for info



My LLMD suggested calling Dr Shoemaker to see if MSH if available. He had heard the FDA won't allow it to be used in humans. I have that on my do list but have been busy seeing idiot doctors this week.

My endocrinologist was going to look to see if there was an assay for MSH. As far as he knows, it controls skin pigmentation only. I said I'd like to have this tested if he can find some way to measure it. Would be nice to know if this has any validity.

I'm obviously Hypo-HPA-Axis. I do my HGH shot before bed. Take cortisol, DHEA, two kinds of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and two kinds of thyroid meds. Replacing all of these hormones is expensive.

Now I've got to carry around a vial of Solu-Cortef for injection everywhere I go in case I have some kind of adrenal crisis. Most endocrinologists don't believe in adrenal insufficiency so I'm shocked this one does.

The doctor said to leave the RX at the pharmacy but that's a dumb plan. I live in a rural area and the pharmacy is only open from 10 AM to 6 PM. There's no 24 hour drive thru pharmacy here.

It supposed to be kept at 77 degrees or room temp and I've yet to figure out where to store the syringe. No room in my purse. Maybe I can find a diabetic storage case of some kind.

I got a little cooler with the HGH starter kit but that has slots for freezer packs. We are going on a motorcycle trip in a few weeks. I nebulize gluatathione twice a week but can't figure where to pack the device on the bike. The glutathione can go in the HGH cooler.

My HEMEX Mocha panel for hypercoagulation came back as positive for excess fibrinogen. My LLMD would like me to start on herarin injections but I have to change ABX first. From what I've been reading heparin may be another way to fix the hypothalmus and low hormone issues.

I've long thought that something is blocking my hormone production or binding to it. Now I realize is has to do with blood flow. My pathogens are candida, Borrelia or Lyme with co-infections, EBV, and chlamydia pneumonia. According to the second article the average CFS/FM patient has anywhere from one to seven pathogens that need eradication. Nice to know I'm AVERAGE.

Excerpt from the second article: "As blood viscosity increases and blood flow is reduced throughout the body, the patient becomes hypo-this and hypo-that, such as hypothyroid, hypo-HPA axis, hypo-estrogen, etc. Restoring the blood flow by the use of low dose heparin restores blood flow throughout the body and hormones from the endocrine system tend to normalize. Thus, the blood flow issue becomes one of the most important issues of chronic illnesses."



New Member
if you go to that mold warriors website and look at the Lab Orders section, i believe it lists most of the tests that Dr Shoemaker does, the lab used and even the test codes.

i know that there are special handling instructions for MSH and most LabCorps will most likely have never done the test before.

i have been told that if you have a DR who is willing to order the test, the nurses at Dr Shoemaker's office can be reached to describe how to prepare the sample to get an accurate result.

as they are very familiar with doing it.

i wonder what Dr Shoemaker thinks of low HGH.

maybe i will post this question to see if there are any Dr Shoemaker patients here.



"David Usborne reports in the 'Review' that a drug, Melanotan, is being developed in Australia and the US, that claims to protect against skin cancer, impart a natural all-over tan, encourage weight loss, dispel acne, and improve the libido. The drug, a synthetic version of the hormone alpha-MSH, was originally developed simply to induce a tan and protect against skin cancer. However, it was also discovered, by accident, that the drug caused spontaneous erections in male patients, and the drug's potential as a sexual dysfunction treatment is now being investigated in the US. Melanotan has been nicknamed 'the Barbie drug', and is still years away from being approved by the FDA in the United States."

I guess this potential for spontaneous erections way overrides our suffering as a focus of research. Too bad.
Sure paints a funny picture in my head, though. On the one hand, we have a CFSer, lying in bed drooling in unbearable agony after a crash and on the other, a guy with a big smile on his face. Individuals don't decided funding, though, groups do and groups of people go where the money is.

I wonder if there are precursors listed for POMC and MSH? Guess I'll go look.




New Member
I can't remember if you originally directed this question to me, but I didn't know anything about it at the time.

It's described in detail in "Mold Warriors" though.

I asked my Dr. G about it briefly at my last appointment. He says he's prescribed it for patients, but it's very expensive (something like $1500 per month, no insurance available) and people didn't find it useful enough to continue.

Here are some quotes about it from "Mold Warriors":

"I am amazed at its importance as the ultimate controlling hormone in so many pathways. I think that MSH is similar to a 'Boss' in a large corporation.

"You can have problems with MSH and still appear somewhat normal. When MSH is out of whack, your ability to _control_ each of the many systems under MSH control is markedly diminished.

"Cytokines just cruse across the blood brain barrier, looking for a compatible receptor. They find one quickly, but unfortunately for the biotoxin patient, the cytokine receptor is in the hypothalamus, right in the middle of one of our biggest and most important neuroregulatory pathways. Called the POMC for short (proopiomelanocortin), the pathway controls production of alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH).

MSH controls melatonin and endorphin production, as well as regulating cytokine pathways throughout the body. This hormone is incredibly active, regulating pituitary function as well as protective cytokine responses in skin (where it was found first), in the gastrointestinal tract and nasal mucus membranes, and possibly in the lungs too. MSH is the boss regulator of many hormone pathways. By 'patrolling the periphery' of skin, mucus membranes and gut (just like complement), MSH controls many of our _innate_ immune responses.

The POMC pathway begins with leptin, a big molecule made by fat cells that also quickly crosses into the brain. There it contributes to the control of many hormones. Ideally, leptin should bind to its receptor (the same one cytokines attach to), in the hypothalamus, activating it and ultimately making beta-endorphins and MSH. The POMC system is tightly regulated, so that leptin feeds MSH production, but then MSH swings around to control leptin. Leptin levels are often too high in most patients with biotoxin illnesses, making us wonder if there is a problem with leptin turning on its receptor.




After some searching, it looks like sunlight will increase production of MSH (which is produced in hair follices, even!) and so will melatonin:

"melatonin - Regulates the aging of the entire endocrine system. For example, it reverses the age of the pituitary gland enabling MSH production that reduces graying of hair.

Produced in the brain from the pineal gland from tryptophan. Hence supplementing with Niacin before going to sleep with a meal increases melatonin production.

Caffeine is reported to raise natural melatonin levels in the body, possibly due to effects on the liver enzyme cytochrome P450 1A2. However, caffeine may also alter circadian rhythms in the body, with effects on melatonin secretion.[1524] (YAY for coffee drinkers! I don't, I'll have to try it, though)

Supplementing with melatonin stimulates MSH production by reversing the age of the pituitary gland. “Melatonin is the only hormone secreted by the pineal gland”.[1692] Melatonin suppresses sexual maturation in kids and is also responsible for better sleeping behavior. As one ages and melatonin production decreases, sexual maturation occurs. Nevertheless for those over 40, melatonin supplementation may reduce DHT production, contribute to better sleep, and lower the sex drive."

I got this from

I have melatonin but don't use it. Guess I'll try some and see what happens.



I do feel better while on it. I take 5-6 mg per night. Kind of a high dose but that's the one that puts me into a solid sleep for 7-9 hours. Even if I get up to go potty I can fall back to sleep.

Whatever brain inflammation that I had that was interfering with my sleep seems to be going away. I'm skipping Ambien CR for the first time since my 2001 tick bite.

I'm thinking of asking for a free trial of 6.25 mg of Ambien CR and stepping down from a daily dose of 12.5 mg. I've taken Ambien in some form since 2001 so I don't think dropping it cold turkey would be smart.

I think my brain is settling down because of the right doses of hormones plus Babesiosis meds which are Zithromax and Malarone and Borrelia (Lyme) meds of Rifampin.
Interesting! Thanks for sharing all that, you all.

It makes me think about trying some melatonin, too.

Karen, wouldn't that be a TAN guy with a big smile on his face? lol




I just spit salad all over my laptop when I read that!

And my first thought ('cause I guess I'm getting better) is "I want to go out with this guy!"

I don't know, it's like the tan really did it for me!


[This Message was Edited on 01/31/2008]


New Member
i often wonder about a connection between GH and MSH which have a lot of overlap apparently in terms of functions they affect - including sleep, weight, immune system function, mood regulation, etc...

i wonder why Dr Shoemaker doesn't also investigate GH or discuss it - especially since the pathology that he identifies is toxin damage to the hypothalamus and a resultant HPA-axis dysregulation.

it is interesting how all these things could fit together (ie infections, immune system, hormones, toxins, etc)

i wonder if treating one would affect the levels of the other.

in addition to having low MSH (which is a test that not many Docs know about and labs have to be careful with to get accurate results) we also are supposed that HIGH levels of Leptin. which is a much more straight forward test.

i would like to get mine tested to see if it is high.

[This Message was Edited on 01/31/2008]
Oh, Karen, you crack me up!

I forgot to mention that Dr. Shoemaker has a new website called, and that he has a new version of the visual contrast test on there he's calling the BIRS test.

Hey, Bill, I think I'll be getting both the MSH and Leptin tests done, if my doctor will agree. They are part of the panel of blood tests that Dr. Shoemaker uses to diagnose mold illness. My doctor's appointment is in early March.

I got this list of tests from the site, where it says what a patient must have done in order to have Dr. Shoemaker consult with their doctor.