Russell Skinner, MD
Chronic fatigue syndrome has baffled those in the medical profession for decades, but now research is surfacing linking this mysterious condition to inflammation.
What is chronic fatigue?
Fatigue is usually defined as a state of exhaustion and decreased strength accompanied by a feeling of weariness, sleepiness, and irritability, with a cognitive component. With chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), the extreme exhaustion is prolonged, comprising of a myriad of symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. When someone suffers from CFS, physical or mental activity can make it worse, but rest doesn’t make it better.
According to the CDC, between 836,000 and 2.5 million people in the United States have chronic fatigue syndrome. The CDC also estimate that approximately 90 percent of CFS cases remain undiagnosed, partly due to a lack of proper understanding of the condition on the part of many healthcare professionals. A report from the National Academies approximates that CFS generates direct and indirect expenses of $17-$24 billion annually.
What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?
The main symptom of CFS is extreme fatigue for six months or longer, but this condition may also include the following:
How is CFS and inflammation related?
According to University Health News, there’s been an increase in recent knowledge of the pathways and mechanisms by which inflammation levels can negatively influence the body, affecting the central nervous system and immune system, producing fatigue. Inflammation isn’t always visible. Often times, inflammation is silent, meaning it’s not easily detected and can exist throughout the entire body for a prolonged period of time.
A study, conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, reveals that CFS is indeed an inflammatory disease and its severity is dependent upon the levels of cytokines—cell-signaling molecules which regulate inflammation—present in the body. The scientists discovered that those with mild forms of CFS manifested lower levels of cytokines while those with severe CFS exhibited higher levels.
How is chronic fatigue syndrome treated?
Those who are diagnosed with CFS are often administered antivirals, anti-inflammatory drugs, or medicines that stimulate the immune system. While most of the pharmaceutical drugs carry negative side effects, the most effective and safe way to treat inflammation is through natural methods, such as:
While chronic fatigue syndrome had been previously labeled incurable by many in the healthcare field, the branding is being lifted because of the recent knowledge of its ties with inflammation. When one addresses the inflammation, they subsequently confront the chronic fatigue as well.