Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). CFS is a condition characterized by feeling extremely tired and unable to sleep or rest adequately. Often dismissed in the past as ‘yuppie flu’, CFS is a seriously debilitating disorder that adversely affects the lives of patients we see.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is distinguished by extreme tiredness and fatigue that isn’t improved by rest. You don’t need a vacation or eight hours of sleep regularly – if you have CFS you suffer such crushing fatigue that you often can’t get out of bed, get dressed, prepare food, or manage any other daily tasks.
On ‘good’ days you may find you can do these things, but you may find it difficult to concentrate, or to walk to the end of the block. Pushing yourself to complete household chores and unfinished tasks can often exacerbate your symptoms (post-exertional malaise), meaning you have to spend more time in bed.
CFS is shown in part to be an autoimmune disease. Often, patients report that their energy levels dropped after coming down with the flu or mono, and they never recovered. Your body continues to fight an enemy that is no longer present resulting in the following:
- Your immuno-inflammatory pathways are being constantly activated, which results in inflammation of your different tissues (particularly those of the muscles and joints).
- Molecular mimicry, where your immune system mistakes healthy cells for infectious agents and attacks them.
- Depleted reserves of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – your body’s main energy currency.
When you consider all that is going on inside your body, it’s no surprise that you feel achy and you struggle to find energy.
Like many other autoimmune diseases, there can be a number of risk factors and underlying health issues that can contribute to the development of CFS.
Risk factors include:
- Being female.
- Being between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Suffering from stress or burnout.
Stress is an important factor to consider in a society that sees being stressed as a badge of honor. Here is a dramatic example: a study of Gulf War veterans showed a higher incidence of chronic fatigue syndrome against a civilian control group. Experiencing stress can make you ill. A period of prolonged stress can result in developing chronic fatigue syndrome.
Underlying health issues that can contribute to the development of CFS:
- A viral infection such as Epstein-Barr (responsible for mono) or the flu, mold exposure, tick borne illness.
- An already compromised immune system, caused by an existing chronic condition, hepatitis, or cancer treatments.
- Adrenal gland fatigue or other hormone imbalances. Low cortisol, in particular, has been linked to CFS.
You may check all the boxes for risks and underlying health issues, but the criteria lists don’t guarantee that you have chronic fatigue syndrome. We recommend reading a detailed list of symptoms to decide.
Contact Jellison Integrative MD
If you suspect you have chronic fatigue syndrome, or are looking for a functional medicine doctor in the Kansas City area, call us at (913) 568-0608 or fill out our bookings form below.
CFS is usually diagnosed after a period of six months from the time that you first presented with the fatigue. Chronic fatigue syndrome is an ongoing condition with no outright cure. Treatment is usually focused on pain relief and managing the disease effectively.
Sometimes your symptoms can affect you in cycles – periods of feeling worse alternating with periods where you feel much better. Some patients even enter a period of remission, but it is still possible to suffer a relapse. It is important to stay realistic and cautious when managing your health.
We recommend a treatment plan tailored to your needs and concerns, with the caveat that progress while living with CFS is slow work, but very rewarding.
We believe in the functional medicine approach, and we try to heal your body as a whole, not concentrating on just one area.
- An anti-inflammatory diet, specific to you and your needs to help alleviate your aches and pains.
- Investigate the possibility of allergies, or an additional undiagnosed autoimmune disease.
- Integrative therapies such as acupuncture and nutritional therapy
These treatments are intended as a long-term solution to reduce your symptoms and help you lead a more functional life.
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms feel very different to the period of recovery after an illness, or even the tiredness experienced by sufferers of depression. Chronic fatigue syndrome makes you feel so tired that you can’t do anything. If you have CFS, you may struggle to read to the end of this webpage.
- Feel permanently exhausted – not just down to a busy lifestyle, but exhausted even after a period of rest?
- Have trouble sleeping or staying asleep?
- Suffer from ‘brain fog’ or have difficulty focusing?
- Feel fatigue even upon waking up?
- Constantly suffer from headaches?
- Feel completely floored for a few days after exercising or thinking hard?
- Suffer from joint or muscle pain?
- Have enlarged lymph nodes in your armpits or neck?
- Have a sore throat?
If so, then you may have chronic fatigue syndrome.
Your doctor may wish to rule out other conditions before diagnosing CFS. These conditions include, but are not limited to: lupus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, mono, and thyroid disease.