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March 20, 2018  |  Login
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is one of the most mysterious and controversial maladies of our time. Even now, more than fifteen years after the disease was recognized and named, doctors argue about its origin or origins: Is it caused by a viral infection? Blood pressure abnormalities? Chronic infection? Food allergies? Chemical sensitivities? Some doctors wonder if the symptoms of CFS are indeed real.

Despite the doubts of a few doctors, chronic fatigue syndrome most definitely is real. And as its victims well know, it can also be horribly debilitating. Its predominant symptom is persistent, overwhelming fatigue that dramatically reduces its ­ sufferers' ability to participate in the regular activities of life. Along with the fatigue are problems with memory and concentration. It is also usually accompanied by several out of a long list of symptoms, including but not limited to headaches, insomnia, sore throat, and muscle and joint pain. These problems can come and go over a period of years. If you have deep fatigue for more than two weeks, or if for any reason you suspect that you have CFS, do not make a diagnosis on your own. See a doctor so that he or she can rule out other possible disorders. Once other disorders have been ruled out, your best chances of recovery are, in our opinion, from the use of natural therapies.

CFS is probably caused by a combination of factors and often results in a depressed immune system. Of course, the key to treatment is to find out and treat the reason(s) for the immune system imbalance, which can be related to many factors. For example, chronic infections are thought to play a role for some people, such as the viruses Epstein-Barr (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and human herpes virus (HHV-6). Other infections, such as mycoplasma and chlamydia, are also suspect. The overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans) seems to be a common problem for people with this ­ condition, and health practitioners frequently find parasite infection to be present.

One common finding in people with this condition is hormone imbalance. The most common one is adrenal gland insufficiency, also referred to as "adrenal burnout." The adrenal glands, located on top of both kidneys, produce the stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. These hormones are commonly depleted in people with chronic fatigue, and we find that restoring the levels to normal is generally quite helpful. The same can be said of many of the hormones in the body. Low thyroid function can be a core problem and will result in suboptimal energy production within the cells. In addition, deficiencies in testosterone or growth hormone and deficiencies or imbalances of estrogen and progesterone are common. Underlying much of the hormone imbalance can be hypothalamic dysfunction. This refers to an imbalance of the hormonal and the neural messages from the brain to the adrenal and the thyroid glands and other hormonal organs of the body.

Poor digestion and impaired detoxification also need to be considered as root causes of chronic fatigue. Malabsorption of foods and nutrients contributes to nutritional deficiencies. Environmental toxins, such as mercury and others, inhibit enzyme functions that are required for energy production.

An unhealthful diet can set the stage for chronic fatigue. A high amount of refined carbohydrates contributes to blood sugar problems, yeast overgrowth, increased demand on the adrenal glands, and chronic inflammation, and immune suppression can set in. more

Next: What are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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