Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Support

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Support

There’s been a lot of confusion in the medical world about chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), it’s characterised by severe and long-lasting mental and physical fatigue, typically made worse by exertion.

Although previously thought to be psychological, it’s now classified as a neurological disease. But, CFS specialist, Dr Silver says that despite this milestone and the flurry of scientific interest in the condition, it continues to be one of the most misunderstood diseases today; the cause for the illness remains elusive.

It’s been linked at various times to different viruses or infections, such as Epstein Barr, coxsackie, human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6), enterovirus, rubella and candida albicans. Other factors thought to either cause or perpetuate CFS include genetic predisposition, oxidative stress, intestinal bacterial imbalances or infections, neurological abnormalities and inappropriate immune system responses. Abnormal levels of the hormones produced in the adrenal glands, hypothalamus and pituitary gland have been found in people with chronic fatigue. Researchers are still baffled. A recent study found that patients with CFS displayed abnormalities on a cellular level. This study looked at the mitochondria (which are like energy-producing factories within our cells) and found that CFS sufferers did not produce normal levels of energy in the form of ATP (the energy molecule). The general consensus among experts is that CFS is a combination of various factors that result in disease development and progression. According to Dr Silver, it's imperative that other potentially serious diseases that may have similar symptoms to CFS are excluded before a diagnosis is made. These other conditions include multiple sclerosis (MS), hypothyroidism, autoimmune disorders including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; infection; heart, kidney or liver problems; tumour; or psychiatric disorders including addiction and depression.

“Because CFS is a multisystem disease, different organ systems must be carefully evaluated. Not all patients with CFS have the same features or the same severity of symptoms. Each patient must be assessed and treated individually,” says Dr Silver.

Dr Silver recommends the following for analysis and exploration where appropriate: immune function, levels of oxidative stress, neurotransmitter (brain chemical) balance, hormone testing, heavy metal exposure screening and stool testing for intestinal pathogens, to name a few. Great emphasis should also be placed on each patient’s psychological status, dietary, sleep and lifestyle factors, and ongoing stressors which may play a role in recovery.

While there’s no once-off panacea for CFS, there are ways you can manage and reduce the effects on your life. Various studies have found cognitive behavioural therapy (a process of understanding thoughts and emotions that drive behaviour patterns) to be one effective treatment strategy, as well as graded exercise therapy (starting with a very low level of exercise and gradually increasing activity). According to Dr Silver, a technique known as ‘pacing’ has also been shown to be of value in recovery. Pacing teaches you to understand your own boundaries and limitations, both physically and mentally.

Various supplements are currently under investigation for their role in alleviating symptoms in CFS sufferers, namely, L-carnitine and S-adenosylmethionine. There's also some research to support the use of intravenous magnesium. Acetyl-l-carnitine has been shown to improve both mental and physical fatigue as well as pain associated with fibromyalgia.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The major symptom of CFS is extreme fatigue; however, this needs to be: new; lasting at least six months; severe enough to limit your participation in certain activities; and not relieved by bed rest. Other symptoms include: difficulty concentrating; confusion; forgetfulness; extreme tiredness for a period of 24-hours or more after exercise that you’d usually consider easy; un-refreshed after a good night’s rest; joint pain without swelling; irritability; new types of headaches; muscle ache or weakness; sore throat; and sore lymph nodes.


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