Chronic Fatigue: Unravelling the Mystery

 
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By Emily Holler

There are a number of modern diseases that are baffling medical science. Illnesses such as fibromyalgia, IBS and chronic fatigue are all poorly understood by doctors, which makes them very challenging to treat and in most cases patients are informed that their condition cannot be cured.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder characterised by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any other underlying condition. 

‘When I was in my teens my father read an article on chronic fatigue syndrome and said straight out, these people are lazy,’ says Phil Baxter, one of our highly skilled acupuncturists. ‘Now I have been treating this condition for the last 20 years of my professional life and I have formed a more educated opinion.'

‘Historically the condition has had many names. In 1869 it was called Neurasthenia, and the treatment was a long holiday, preferability a long ocean cruse, in other words full rest. In 1959 in Iceland it was called “Icelandic Flu”. In 1982 it was called “Yuppy Flu”. Since then its been known as M.E., EBV, CFS, Fibromyalgia, Post Viral Syndrome and Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID). It is associated with viruses like Epstein Barr; Herpes; Alzheimers; Parasites; Bacteria such as Q Fever; Mycoplasma; Fungus like Candida biofilms and the list goes on.’

Not so long ago, doctors believed the condition to be psychosomatic. Perhaps it was simply easier to sweep it into the ‘too hard basket’ because the medical community didn’t have any answers. 

‘There are no blood tests to detect this—it is a multi-system condition,’ says our Clinical Director Reine DuBois. ‘Modern medicine is not good with syndromes that involve more then one body system, while functional medicine has long looked at the whole person and understands how all the systems work in synergy.’

‘The reason the medical establishment has such difficulty with chronic fatigue is that the damage to the body takes place on such a microscopic level it is hard to see,’ Phil continues. ‘Science sees our energy produced as a chemical called ATP, inside tiny cellular structures called mitochondria. With the viral damage associated with chronic fatigue, these structures get damaged. This affects our whole body as cellular level scarring. To heal this kind of damage, we must focus on the whole body and the way it works, and not just one part of it.

So what causes this kind of damage in the first place?

With all chronic disease you must look at the drivers, which could be anything from post viral syndrome, emotional shock, food allergies, chronic inflammation, endocrine exhaustion or dural injury including a bump on the head or a fall on the coccyx.

‘Emotion and stress are very significant,’ says Dr Sanjee Xavier, one of our holistic GPs; ‘Infections, stress, poor nutrition, poor breathing, inactivity, hormonal imbalances, metabolic issues, gut issues and poor sleep could also be drivers’. Reine confirms that while stress and emotions play a key role in its development, there will also be another factor that creates a tipping point into the disease state. She adds genetics, environmental toxins and compromised liver and kidney function to the long list of possible drivers.

Reine has had personal experience with CFS. For her it was a combination of working a 70-hour week in conjunction with a bad root canal and some unaddressed post-natal depletion, followed by a stressful surgical event that tipped her over the edge. But Reine is not one to give in easily. 

‘I recovered completely from CFS,’ she says. ‘It took all my focus for 12 months practicing yoga, meditation and using kinesiology, acupuncture, IV vitamin C, adrenal and hormonal support and bio-resonance. I also made very clean diet and lifestyle choices. My health is now better than it was prior to CFS.’

However Reine stresses that each persons recovery protocol will look a little different. ‘I identify the drivers, then treat at this level. The order of treatment is very important’ she concludes.

‘The fatigued body has a low tolerance for exercise, medicine, treatment, social interaction, and most regrettably, fun’ says Phil Baxter. ‘So therapies and rehabilitation must be of a “Low Dose” variety. Yin yoga, tai chi, feldenkrais, alexander technique, low level weight training, slow swimming. These are gentle activities, not extreme exercises. Many patients do not even tolerate acupuncture, so we use high dose moxibustion & pressure point stimulation instead. Also integrated manual therapies, such as combined cranio-sacral therapy, with neural visceral & vascular manipulation stretch the sympathetic nervous system and literally guide the body to down regulate chronic inflammation.’

Recovering from chronic fatigue can be a challenging and complex journey, but the good news is that it is possible. ‘Don’t give up’ says Reine. ‘CFS is a very treatable condition. Keep searching  for answers, it just takes time and a few pivotal lifestyle changes.’