Chronic Fatigue: What is it? How is it Treated?
Chronic Fatigue goes by many names, including CFS and CFIDS or chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome. Part of the mystery of CFS stems from the fact that we still don't know what virus causes the syndrome. Epstein-Barr virus, or HHV-6, another member of the herpes family, has been implicated as possible causes. There is even some speculation that CFS is triggered by what may be "stealth" viruses, which may actually evade our immune system's powerful surveillance.
Whatever the cause, one thing is certain: CFS is not just fatigue. While most of us have been exceedingly tired at some point in our lives, sleep eventually restores our energy and vitality. For sufferers of CFS, however, there is no such thing as a good night’s sleep. They are constantly plagued with a deep, unrelenting exhaustion that sleep cannot remedy. They have the will and the desire to live a normal life, but their fatigue wears them down. This fatigue interferes with normal life, normal relationships, and our normal day-to-day functioning. CFS has been defined by the Centers for Disease Control [CDC], as a set of major and minor criteria - one hallmark being debilitating fatigue lasting at least six months that reduces average daily activity to below 50 per cent. One group of criteria for CFS suggests that hypotension, or abnormally low blood pressure, may be associated [with CFS] in some people.
Many patients suffering from CFS report that stress exacerbates their condition. Clearly, stress is not just a mental dysfunction; it can dismantle the health of the whole body. Patients have come to me hopelessly lethargic, wanting to go out and conquer life but constantly lacking the energy. Whether it be a high-pressure job in which they must consistently perform well, or even just getting the simplest tasks accomplished, stress severely handicaps their abilities.
There are a number of conditions that can mimic the symptoms of chronic fatigue, such as anemia, hypothyroidism, candida, lyme, HIV, and clinical depression. These can be ruled out by specific tests - alkaline phosphatase, cholesterol, IgG etc., In addition, allergies, environmental illness, food sensitivities, intestinal dysbiosis, parasitosis, and "sick building syndrome" should all be considered, and if necessary, tested for. For example, fatigue and chest pain in a young male may indicate asthma, or a cardiac condition - if shortness of breath is present. Or, excessive coldness, and/or hair loss may point to a thyroid problem.
Unfortunately, sufferers of CFS have long been stigmatized by the medical community. This disorder is frequently confused with psychiatric conditions such as clinical depression. Questions as to whether chronic fatigue syndrome is, in fact, a psychiatric condition persist to this day, even though studies have shown that they are two separate conditions: The Journal of Psychiatric Research concluded that major depression and seasonal effective disorder [SAD] are not the same illness as chronic fatigue syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism also found clear differences between CFS and depression. Their findings pointed to a hypothalamic deficiency in chronic fatigue syndrome - a finding not present in clinical depression.
I have found that there are numerous nutrients that I recommend for CFS, depending on the patients specific history and types of symptoms that they present I will put together a program that may include diet, supplements, stress management and lifestyle practices. I may also do testing to find underlying food allergies or chemical allergies that are causing symptoms. Occasional environmental toxins may be playing a role in fatigue, testing for mercury or lead poisoning may be performed.