Chronic fatigue is a complex and debilitating condition that affects millions of people around the world. Despite extensive research, the cause of chronic fatigue is still not fully understood, making it a challenging condition to treat effectively. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimate the prevalence of CFS to be about 2 per 1000 of the adult population; between 150,000 and 250,000 people in the UK have CFS.
Are you feeling tired, even after getting adequate sleep? Is your mind constantly feeling sluggish, despite having several cups of coffee? Does performing even the simplest of tasks leave you feeling drained and achy?
Contrary to popular belief that low energy levels and persistent fatigue are simply the result of not getting enough sleep, they may indicate a more serious condition known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS which needs a more thorough investigation
As a Functional Medicine nutritionist, I work closely with my patients to help them overcome chronic fatigue and its associated symptoms.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a complex and often misdiagnosed condition by healthcare professionals. In this article, we examine the nature of CFS, its potential causes, and how the functional medicine approach can offer a successful treatment option for those affected by it.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that is marked by intense fatigue, disrupted sleep patterns, pain, and a range of other symptoms that tend to worsen with physical or mental effort. Some experts believe that CFS may be associated with Adrenal Fatigue/Adrenal Insufficiency, a viral infection and/or systemic inflammation in the body.
The diagnosis of CFS is determined by specific symptoms that differentiate it from Adrenal Fatigue. These include: the presence of chronic fatigue lasting for over six months, which cannot be relieved through rest, and the co-occurrence of at least one additional symptom.
Other CFS symptoms
In addition to fatigue, individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) may experience various other symptoms, including:
Sleep disturbances Muscular and joint pain Headaches Impaired memory and concentration Flu-like sensations Dizziness and nausea Depression The intensity of symptoms may fluctuate from day to day, or even within a single day.
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscular and joint pain
- Un-refreshing sleep
- Trouble remembering, learning new things or decision making
- Flu-like sensations
- Dizziness and nausea
- Headaches Impaired memory and concentration
The intensity of symptoms may fluctuate from day to day, or even within a single day.
CFS/ME is a multi-causal disease, with a multitude of underlying factors. Conventional treatment approaches usually center around symptom management, but their success is limited, and many people continue to live with the condition for extended periods.
Causes of CFS
Genetics – Research suggests that some people may have a genetic predisposition to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and that environmental and other factors may activate it at a later time.
Inflammation and Leaky Gut – One of the most prominent sources of inflammation linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is gut inflammation. A leaky gut, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or an imbalance in the gut microbiome can trigger the immune system and lead to a multitude of symptoms associated with CFS.”
Viral infections and Co infections – Undetected infections, including viral, bacterial, fungal, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex, , and Lyme disease, can persist for an extended period causing CFS symptoms.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction – Mitochondria are present in every cell of the human body and are well-known for their role as the producers of ATP (energy) in the body. When there is dysfunction with ATP production, energy production can be affected. However, the role as a practitioner is looking at why this has happened.
The Conventional Medicine Approach to treating Chronic Fatigue
Currently, there are no specific drugs created to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. GPs typically address the symptoms, such as fatigue, by administering treatments for these individual symptoms. For instance, they may recommend sleep aids if a patient reports poor sleep quality or pain medication for joint pain and will often recommend to rest.
A Functional Medicine Approach to treating Chronic Fatigue
The conventional treatment method for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome falls short as it only addresses the symptoms and not the root cause of the condition. This approach merely provides temporary relief without actually solving the problem.
On the other hand, functional medicine takes a different approach by seeking to identify the underlying cause of CFS. It is acknowledged that this disorder can stem from a variety of triggers, including virsues, gut-related issues such as leaky gut or food sensitivities.A comprehensive approach will include looking at
Thyroid Dysfunction – “When it comes to Chronic fatigue syndrome, a functional thyroid screening should be conducted to eliminate the possibility of an underactive thyroid, which can contribute to fatigue even if it goes undetected by regular tests performed by a general practitioner.
Infections – Chronic fatigue syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis has been correlated with long-standing, untreated infections, particularly viruses that affect the liver, such as Epstein-Barr virus. These infections may not manifest with obvious signs and symptoms, but instead persist in the background
Adrenal Dysfunction “The regulation of our sleep-wake cycle and our stress response is attributed to these glands. If they are not functioning properly, it can lead to feelings of exhaustion and weariness.”
Environmental Toxins “ Individuals diagnosed with CFS/ME appear to be more susceptible to environmental toxins. This buildup of toxins can either directly or indirectly contribute to chronic fatigue symptoms by harming the cellular structures responsible for generating energy
Leaky Gut – The gut lining can become permeable, leading to a condition known as “leaky gut,” as a result of food sensitivities, stress, gut infections, imbalances in bacteria, or inflammation in the digestive system. This enables substances that typically remain in the digestive tract, such as undigested food, bacteria, and toxins, to seep into the body. This persistent inflammation and the added burden on the liver can result in symptoms such as fatigue, mental confusion, difficulty with focus, and joint discomfort.
How we can help?
Functional medicine takes a comprehensive approach to healthcare by examining not just the symptoms, but also the overall health and medical history of the patient to uncover potential underlying causes. The focus is on creating a personalized recovery plan tailored to the unique needs of each individual, rather than merely prescribing medication to address symptoms. Book an appointment today to discuss how we can help treat this condition.