Chronic Fatigue

Inside: Do you feel like you're tired all the time, to the point that you are starting to worry that something is seriously wrong? You might have what is known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Read on…

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, known medically as myalgic encephalomyelitis is a biological disease that is primarily characterized by intense and prolonged weariness or exhaustion that may aggravate with mental or physical activity, but does not improve after resting periods. But that’s not all! It’s a multi-systemic and complex illness, which along with fatigue induces symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, or headaches, tender lymph nodes, recurrent sore throat, significant problems with cognition and concentration, memory, and sleep, and deterioration after physical activity. The syndrome often results in severe functional limitation.

CFS may also be known as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID), Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), or named by several other terms

chronic fatigue

What is emerging from medicine, is that clinical CFS is considered part of a spectrum of diseases including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and perhaps some further autoimmune diseases, and thereby may be linked with autoimmune manifestations as well as exposure to drugs or vaccines.


How can I tell if I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Due to the diverse nature of the syndrome and the lack of a straightforward definition, as well as clear-cut criteria and a proper and suited diagnostic laboratory test, the diagnosis of this disease is difficult.

However, if one has been suffering from fatigue for at least 6 months if simple tasks such as taking a bath exhaust you and when no amount of rest energizes you, it is highly likely that the person is suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

A few other signs of the condition include:

Post Exertional Malaise (PEM)

A classic symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, PEM is the worsening of symptoms following even minor physical or mental exertion. It is multi-dimensional and could induce a range of benign and severe physical, mental and emotional symptoms.

During PEM, one can experience unusual or deteriorating conditions of the body such as debilitating exhaustion, muscle pain/aches, soreness, muscle weakness, inability to think clearly, difficulty finding words, brain fog, sensitivity to light and sound, flu-like symptoms, blurry vision, heavy eyes, nausea, difficulty breathing and more.

Sleeping too much or too little

On the one hand, it’s common for people with CFS to want to sleep at all times owing to fatigue and exhaustion.


But ironically, a lot of people either struggle to fall asleep or experience sleep disturbance presenting as unrefreshing or nonrestorative sleep, restless legs, vivid dreams, sleep apnea

Enlarged and painful lymph nodes

Swollen, painful, and/or tender lymph nodes in the neck and armpit area are a common occurrence in people having CFS. It’s one of the many clinical features that CFS shares with Adrenal Fatigue. However, tenderness is transient and therefore it’s studied along with other qualifying criteria

Sore throat

A chronic sore throat is a commonly reported symptom in patients with CFS. It forms part of the flu-like symptoms that CFS patients often experience.

Disturbed Gut Function

CFS was considered to be a psychological condition. Current studies however show that CFS is in our gut and not our heads. Many with CFS have Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as Irritable Bowel, Constipation, diarrhea, etc,…

gut function

What causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The specific cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown. There are a few factors that might contribute to triggering this condition. These are:

Chronic Viral Infections

Some people who develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome say that it started after another health issue such as a flu-like illness, a stomach bug, or a bout of viral infection and a few suspicious viruses include Epstein-Barr virus, and human herpesvirus 6. However, no conclusive link has yet been found.

Weakened Immune System

Studies show that a malfunctioning immune system could result in CFS. A surge in Cytokines is noticed in people having CFS. Cytokines are protein molecules essential for the healthy functioning of an immune system.

However, too much cytokine in the system could result in a cytokine storm which could adversely affect the immune system.  Cytokine storms can occur as a result of an infection, autoimmune condition, or other diseases.

Hormone Imbalance

Abnormal levels of hormones produced by the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland, and the hypothalamus can cause chronic fatigue symptoms.

The stress hormone Cortisol plays are linked to CFS and the group of hormones called estrogen helps control cortisol. When that regulation is weakened, the increased stress response can result in crushing fatigue

Toxic Stress

Toxic stress can damage the immune system leading to a higher risk of infection or development of autoimmune diseases and conditions such as CFS. Toxicity could stem from multiple sources including heavy metals such as lead or mercury, mold, pollutants, pesticides, and more.

toxic stress

Other factors include chronic stress, physical or mental trauma, genetic predisposition, or allergies.

Who is at risk?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may strike anyone in any peer group. But, teenage to middle-aged adults are most affected. Women are likelier than males to be affected by this Syndrome.

The Functional Medicine Intervention

While these are some of the classic symptoms of CFS, there's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of the disease and the diagnosis relies on ruling out other conditions such as infections, heart disease, or psychological disorders that may cause these symptoms.

CFS challenges the current healthcare culture because we have not yet found a widely agreed way to diagnose and treat the condition. It remains poorly understood even though it can cause immense suffering and loss of well-being and can, in some cases, be very debilitating or even life-threatening.

Luckily, alternative fields of medicine such as Functional Medicine do provide answers and relief. Given the diverse nature of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, there’s no one size fits all solution for this illness.

The treatment plan will vary from person to person depending on the symptom he or she is exhibiting. Firstly, a full clinical examination will be carried out to exclude other conditions. A detailed evaluation of the patient’s history is gathered and analyzed for pre-existing conditions, inflammation, gut health, hormonal imbalances, stress levels, nutritional imbalances, genetic predisposition, and more.

If red flag features are identified, the functional medicine practitioner may need the patient to undertake further tests such as the comprehensive stool test or a blood test to determine.

Upon identifying the root cause of the problem, a personalized treatment plan is arrived at which could one or more of the following strategies

Nutritional therapy

Do you want to digest the food you just ate? You need energy. Do you want to exercise? You need energy. Do you want to watch your favorite TV show? Yes, even that requires energy.

And the mitochondria throughout your body are the key to providing you with this life-supporting energy. Fatigue is a sign of mitochondrial dysfunction. When mitochondria are working well, people are less likely to have symptoms of fatigue, pain, "brain fog" and others commonly associated with mitochondrial dysfunction.

nutritional therapy

A number of factors affect the function of the mitochondria, the top one being food. So the first line of defense would be to put the patient on a specific mito food plan that supports the health and growth of mitochondria.

The mito food plan is typically rich in good fats and proteins and low on foods with a high glycemic index. If the patient has other pre-existing conditions such as poor gut, hormonal imbalances, etc, a specialized diet will be recommended.

Nutraceutical supplements

The world is a much different place from when our ancestors lived here. In our modern and ever-changing world, our bodies need more nutrients to handle and combat the toxins that we encounter on a daily basis.

The nutrients in food today are not up to the challenge. Even the water we drink is depleted of its nutrients. Supplements help bridge this gap.

There are specific supplements such as Omega 3, Fish Oil, Magnesium, etc… that support Mitochondrial health, and depending on other factors, the FM practitioner will recommend a list of supplements that promote energy production, health, and vitality.


You don’t have to feel good to exercise but rather exercise to feel better! But it’s a tricky matter for people with CFS. Given that even small amounts of exertion can lead to post-exertional malaise, exercise has a contested history in relation to people living with CFS.

However, inactivity makes the body even less able to handle exertion and can exacerbate other symptoms, such as pain and stiffness. Depending on the severity of the condition, the gentle supervised movement might form part of the doctor’s prescription.

Exercise can help build function and strength, and improve sleep and energy levels. It can help build confidence and push the patients to do more.

Better Sleep Hygiene

Sleep problems are one of the most common complaints among people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). Regardless of the number of hours slept, sleep is usually not restorative, meaning that people wake up tired rather than refreshed.

sleep hygiene

And when people are deprived of deep restorative sleep for many days in a row, they’re likely to develop fatigue, cognitive difficulties such as memory loss and brain fog, mood swings, muscle aches, and more. Addressing sleep problems with the help of sleep hygiene strategies is an essential part of the treatment.

A good sleep routine can help patients feel more energetic, decrease sensitivity to pain, and improve mood and overall well-being.


The symptoms of CFS are the heterogenous consequences of the slow intoxication of the body by toxic pollutants. Our body's ability to detox depends on a number of factors including our genetic disposition, production of liver enzymes, etc.

A detailed study of the detox pathway is done and required action is taken to enable our body to detoxify at an optimum level. Simultaneously, eating organic foods and buying clean products for the house, cosmetics, etc.


Living with CFS can be difficult. Extreme tiredness and other physical symptoms can make it hard to carry out everyday activities. CFS can also affect your mental and emotional health and have a negative effect on your self-esteem. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, seek help today!


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