"Captain Mike" Hastings, Actor, Educator & Fibromyalgia Activist!
You may know him as "Captain Mike" from his hit TV series, "The West Wing". He's been in popular movies like Freaky Friday with Jamie Lee Curtis. Currently Michael James Hastings is using his "West Wing" celebrity to help create greater public awareness of fibromyalgia (FM) as well as providing practical nutritional tips to those suffering from it. Michael is continuing this work on his new show, Nutrition 101 with Michael James and Guests, soon to launch on the Freedom Broadcast Network. "Captain Mike" was born and raised in Birmingham, Michigan. His degrees include a B.A. in Theology and a Master?s Degree in Education. He was a mission director to Kenya, E. Africa and traveled extensively there, including a personal visit with President Moi at his home in Nairobi. Mike later moved to Los Angeles where he joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He paid his dues, while simultaneously fighting debilitating effects of FM, eventually landing a position with Warner Brothers as the Navy Captain on the hit series, "The West Wing."
Todd: Michael, many of us know someone with fibromyalgia, but many of us don't really know what FM is. Can you help explain the disease?
Michael: Yes. Fibromyalgia (pronounced fie-bro-my-AL-ja) is a complex chronic pain illness that challenges patients and health care professionals alike. It is estimated that fibromyalgia (FM) affects 8-10 million women, men, and children in the U.S alone. Symptoms include: extreme fatigue, sleep abnormalities, cognitive problems, difficulty speaking clearly, memory loss, brain fog, and so on. There's also irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs, migraine headaches, neurological symptoms, anxiety and environmental sensitivities. Ninety percent of those afflicted with FM are women. Ten percent are men. What activates fibromyalgia within a person can be anything from a thyroid condition to an auto accident, or some type of trauma or emotional stress. There is often a compromised immune system, hormonal imbalance, and even a possible enzyme deficiency. Because the stomach and intestines are made up of muscles, FM affects the entire digestive tract. The members in my FM support group in Santa Monica all have stomach problems. One of my doctors believes that the FM I have to battle with daily is a result of a thyroid problem. Thyroid problems run in my family and, not surprisingly, my brother, who lives on the other side of the country, has FM as well. We correspond and share with each other what does and does not work. My ten-year career as a schoolteacher came to an end due to having FM. I lost the energy I needed to work non-stop ten-hour days. I was forced by necessity to go into early retirement. As a result, I had to find a new manageable way to live. So I then went to Los Angeles to pursue a part-time acting career. Now, regardless of whether a task is big or small, I just try to do my best, one day at a time.
Todd: Michael, how did you experience the onset of FM?
Michael: Although I've really had FM for fifteen years, I wasn't actually diagnosed by my doctor until 1996. I was very energetic and athletic while growing up. During my twenties, I first went to University of Arizona in Tucson, and then to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and later to Point Loma University in San Diego, where I received a Master's Degree in Education. I followed that by moving to Florida to teach and to spend some time with my family. During summer breaks from teaching, I would go down to the Florida Keys or visit Miami for fun. I had plenty of energy up until I was 28-30 years old, when I noticed a drastic drop in my energy level. At that time, when I would exercise, it was very difficult for my muscles to recover after a workout, even if it was a light workout. By the time I was thirty, the muscles in my feet became unbearably tight. It became very difficult to stand or even walk very far. I had my feet X-rayed, and the reports would say that nothing was wrong. When I was thirty-five, I took some antibiotics to get rid of a cold and I ended up with a severe reaction to the antibiotic, erythromycin. My stomach swelled up like a balloon and felt unbearably tight. This was my first experience with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I could no longer digest my food. I developed severe food and chemical sensitivities. I could no longer digest vitamin B properly. I would be in excruciating pain for several hours after eating almost anything. I had to leave my teaching position and I ended up being mostly bedridden for two years due to exhaustion and the inability to digest food. During this time I went to twenty doctors. I had colonoscopys, endoscopies, barium x-rays and thyroid tests, but the results were always indicating a normal range. I knew that I was horribly sick but the doctors and the tests repeatedly said that nothing was wrong with me. Nevertheless, the doctors did provide more prescription medicines, especially antibiotics. It's strange that not one of these doctors mentioned or prescribed probiotics in any form for rebuilding the flora in my intestines that was destroyed by the long antibiotic regimen.
Eventually I would end up spending a large sum of money and going to 40 more doctors, with each helping just a little. It was a relief when I was finally diagnosed with FM, because it helped me narrow in on what was really going on. With everything falling apart, it was a relief to know it wasn't a rare foot disease, or a stomach parasite, or AIDS. I want to encourage men and women who are finally diagnosed with FM to not see it as a death notice, but rather a step in recovery. In 2002, I tried something new. I went online and submitted my medical history to Dr. Teitelbaum's Diagnosis Program, which you can find at www.vitality101.com. His incredible program spat out about 200 pages of very insightful information on what my body was deficient in. I began taking some of his recommended supplements and began to see some definite results. In spite of my poor track record with medical tests, he also recommended thyroid testing for FM suffers, even though it is well known that thyroid tests are frequently wrong. Dr. Teitelbaum believes that many people who have FM were actually having a thyroid problem, even though their thyroid tests come out in the normal range. I've had numerous thyroid tests over the years, and they've all been normal. I trekked back to my doctor and pleaded with him, even mentioning that there was a history of thyroid problems in my family. At first, he refused, simply because the tests said normal. I think doctors, fearing litigation, are reluctant to try a treatment path unsupported by test results. When you think about it, test ranges are really averages. What happens if your physiology falls outside the normal average? The tragic answer is: You can fall through the cracks! Finally, after much debate and arguing, I was able to get my doctor to provide a prescription for a small dosage of thyroid medicine. I began taking it immediately and after just two days I began to notice that the tight muscles in my stomach and legs began to loosen up.
This seemed miraculous. Unfortunately, I also had some negative side effects from the medicine, so I stopped taking it. Nevertheless, I was amazed at how my body responded to such a small dose of thyroid medicine. I think Dr. Teitelbaum is onto something. If you are fortunate enough to have an open-minded doctor, perhaps that avenue is worth exploring. In Dr. Teitelbaum's book, From Fatigue to Fantastic, he also advocates supplements for helping people with FM and chronic fatigue. I can verify that supplements have absolutely become part of my program and helped with restoring my systems to their natural balance. Some supplements that really helped me are: NADH, glutathione, l-carnitine, acetyl l-carnitine, revitalizing sleep formula, daily infusion powder and calcium d-glucarate. Please feel free to check out the full list of supplements on my website. If you are fatigued, you should really read Dr. Teitelbaum's book. For thyroid help, I would recommend people to take the supplement IODORAL, which is a high iodine and potassium supplement. It can be ordered through Dr. Tenpenny's website: www.osteomed.com. I have a list of really helpful doctors on my website. To FM sufferers, I highly recommend checking this list, visiting these doctors' web pages, and trying their protocols. Thanks to these doctors and various regimens, including supplements, my health is much, much better. Most people would have never guessed I went through such an ordeal. I still have to pace myself, and not push the limits. Staying healthy and maintaining my energy is a priority, so I've learned not to over-extend myself. I've learned to say no to some projects and activities and not feel guilty about it.
Todd: Wow! That's a lot to go through. Facing such huge obstacles, how did you keep your ship facing forward?
Michael: Well, living and healing are spiritual events. I am fortunate to have a degree in Theology and I have a strong daily spiritual practice, which has helped me to survive and thrive with complications of FM. That's not to say there haven't been some very dark days, but faith in God and the support of my spiritual network, including my wonderful family and friends have made all the difference. After arriving at LA, I had moved into a little apartment across the street from Warner Brothers. My roommate and I had decided to start a little Bible Study. We invited our neighbors and we prayed for many things including for my health to improve. One of our requests was for a door to open at Warner Brothers. Within a short time, our Bible Study group grew and our home couldn't contain all the people. A year later, the doors opened for me at Warner Brothers, and I was working on West Wing.
Todd: That's great! Can we tell the folks about your new show?
Michael: My web page has a new category called, "Nutrition Show", which will provide all the details.
Todd: Thanks Mike! For more about Mike and fibromyalgia, please visit his website at: www.captainhastings.com.
Todd Williams wears many hats at Source Naturals.