Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: What is Chronic Fatigue?
- Chapter 2: Conditions that Co-exist with ME
- Chapter 3: Adrenal Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Chapter 4: Poor Digestive Health and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Chapter 5: Heavy Metal Buildup and Chronic Fatigue
- Chapter 6: How to Heal Chronic Fatigue
- Chapter 7: Heavy Metal Detoxification
Chapter 1: What is Chronic Fatigue?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disorder in which one suffers from extreme fatigue which cannot be explained by any underlying medical problems. It can become worse with exertion but will not improve with rest. In addition to the extreme exhaustion, the other signs and symptoms are:
- Loss of memory.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Tiredness in the morning after a long night’s sleep.
- Sore throat.
- Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits.
- Unexplained muscle pain.
- Joint pain that moves from one joint to another but no swelling or redness.
- Significant changes in the levels of irritability, anxiety, mood swings, depression and panic attacks.
- Headache of a new kind, pattern or severity.
Because of these accompanying symptoms, a federal advisory committee has recommended that the name be changed to myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or myalgic encephalopathy chronic fatigue syndrome (ME-CFS) in order to accurately characterize the complex nature of the disease. (UMM). This makes sense since the term chronic fatigue syndrome alone implies fatigue as the only symptom.
ME is not a new condition. It started to raise its head in the 1930s when it became known as neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, when people had outbreaks of disease marked by exhaustion that lasted more than 6 months. It became a problem again in the mid 1980s. (UMM).
Because of the total lack of energy ME-CFS impairs a person’s normal function. It ends up affecting relationships with friends and family who fail to understand the unending fatigue. As a result the sufferers may develop anger, anxiety and guilt in response to such attitudes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 836,000 and 2.5 million Americans suffer from ME-CFS but less than 20% of them have been diagnosed. (CDC). Apparently, millions more have similar symptoms but do not meet the full criteria for ME-CFS diagnosis.
1.1 Who is at Risk of Developing ME?
ME-CFS seems to occur in all population groups, i.e. in both sexes, at all ages, and in all racial and ethnic groups. Chronic fatigue is more common in people who are in their 40s and 50s, and studies have found that 80% of people with ME-CFS are women, although the severity of the symptoms is the same in both men and women. Children and adolescents can also have ME-CFS although it is less common than in adults and studies have found that girls are more likely to suffer from it than boys. (UMM).
1.2 Causes of ME
Researchers are busy searching for the real cause of ME which is still unknown. Preliminary research findings have linked an over-active immune system, brain abnormalities, genes, viral infections, psychiatric or emotional conditions, stress-related hormonal imbalances, (UMM), chronic low blood pressure and nutritional deficiency to ME. Other research has linked oxidative stress, Celiac disease and food sensitivities to ME and these areas deserve further research. (Logan, AC & Wong C).
Though ME-CFS can develop after a viral infection, no particular type of infection has been found to cause it. Some ME-CFS patients have weakened immune systems but it is not yet known if that is a cause in itself. Other ME-CFS sufferers have abnormal hormone levels but it is not known whether that is a cause of ME-CFS. So far researchers have concluded that ME is caused by a combination of factors that vary from person to person. Research continues.
One of the key issues with chronic fatigue syndrome is that it cannot be diagnosed through laboratory tests. Some doctors believe that it is closely linked to adrenal fatigue which we will touch on below.
1.3 Diagnosis and Cure
In the absence of exact ways of diagnosing ME, doctors do it by eliminating underlying diseases until only chronic fatigue remains. Because the disease is non-specific, there is no specific cure for it and the American FDA has not approved any specific treatment. Each doctor treats it by addressing the symptoms which the patient presents, and since each patient has a unique set of symptoms, treatment varies from person to person. (Women’s Health).
Chapter 2: Conditions that Co-exist with ME
ME-CFS never comes alone. A number of conditions coexist with it and even have similar symptoms. ME-CFS sufferers may also suffer at the same time from fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity or both. It has not yet been established whether these conditions are the causes of ME, or are simply its risk factors, or share common causes with it or have no relationship with it at all.
2.1 Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a condition in which certain chemicals cause symptoms that are similar to those of ME. On the other hand, MCS has been observed in people who have ME. The following can help identify MCS:
- Symptoms can be triggered by various substances that are chemically unrelated.
- The symptoms appear whenever the person is exposed to common chemicals found in regular perfumes, fabric softeners, and air fresheners.
- The condition is chronic.
- Symptoms can occur after exposure to any of the chemicals at levels lower than the person tolerated in the past.
- The symptoms improve when the irritating chemical is removed.
- Symptoms involve more than one organ system.
Just like ME and fibromyalgia, there is debate whether multiple chemical sensitivity is a specific medical condition or whether it is a psychological problem. After all, almost everyone is exposed to the same chemicals daily and do not develop sensitivity nor do they develop ME.
Fibromyalgia is often confused with ME-CFS, and the two conditions appear together a lot. For example 30% of the children diagnosed with ME also suffer from fibromyalgia. Some experts think that these two conditions are different forms of the same condition. The difference is that fibromyalgia sufferers feel a lot of pain while ME sufferers feel severe fatigue. It is suspected that increased response to stimulation (central sensitization) which is suspected of causing fibromyalgia also contributes to ME.
Fibromyalgia sufferers have at least 11 tender points that are very sensitive and painful when touched firmly. These sites often include the:
- Top of the shoulder blades.
- Sides of the neck.
- Insides of the knees.
- Outside of the upper buttock and hip joint.
Some ME patients have similar tender pressure points. Other common fibromyalgia symptoms include low fever, repeated sore throat, headache, and depression. Both conditions are chronic.
2.3 Bulimia and Anorexia
Anorexia and bulimia have been observed in people who suffer from ME. Incidentally ME-CFS and these eating disorders share common risk factors and it is still not clear whether one causes the other. (UMM)
2.4 Other Conditions
The following conditions tend to co-exist with ME and are more common in ME patients than in healthy people:
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Chronic headaches.
- Sleep problems.
- Cognitive problems such as poor memory, difficulty concentrating, and certain symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Interstitial cystitis.
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
Chapter 3: Adrenal Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
One of the most well known causes of chronic fatigue is adrenal fatigue. Adrenal Fatigue is a syndrome that develops when the adrenal glands function below the normal levels, producing inadequate levels of cortisol. The poor functioning of the adrenals is usually linked to intense stress or chronic stress, which a person experiences during or after acute or chronic illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia. During the adaptation stage of stress the body adapts by producing extra cortisol, the stress hormone. However chronic stress leads to the exhaustion stage in which the body uses up its adaptive qualities and its systems break down. The adrenal glands also break down and fail to make the level of cortisol required by the body. (Dr. Wilson). That is when adrenal fatigue sets in.
The major symptom of adrenal fatigue is fatigue that never goes away even after sleep. With very low levels of cortisol the sufferer struggles to get out of bed for even a few hours and has to rely on many coffees in order to function during the day.
As adrenal malfunction worsens, the adrenal glands produce decreasing amounts of the hormones that the person generally needs in order to function. Therefore the levels of cortisol, together with neurotransmitters like adrenaline and norepinephrine are far lower than normal. The shortage of these vital hormones is the main reason why Adrenal Fatigue sufferers struggle to get up in the morning or to maintain their energy levels during the day.
As the condition progresses, other parts of the body are affected disrupting life. Metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats is affected just as sex drive, the function of the cardiovascular system, and the balancing of fluids and electrolytes. The effect of low adrenal function is even felt at cellular and biochemical levels which then result in fatigue. Fatigue is a huge price to pay for under-functioning adrenal glands which in turn is caused by stress.
Although adrenal fatigue affects millions of Americans and other nationalities, conventional medicine still does not identify it as a distinct syndrome maybe because every individual who suffers from Adrenal Fatigue tends to have a unique set of symptoms. Still there are complaints that are common to everyone. The most common symptoms suffered by everyone who has Adrenal Fatigue are:
- Cravings for salty foods.
- Inability to handle stress.
- Difficulty getting up in the morning and getting up only because of hunger.
- High levels of fatigue every day.
- High use of stimulants like coffee just to get by.
- Higher energy levels in the evenings.
- A weak immune system which results in high frequency of flu and other respiratory infections.
- Chronic late-night snacking which usually results in weight gain especially around the waist.
Every person who suffers from adrenal fatigue experiences some or all of these symptoms. A small sub-set of patients also have frequent urination and low blood pressure among their symptoms. (AFS). In addition to these common symptoms, some patients suffer from unexplained hair loss, heart palpitations, poor memory, light headedness on rising from the horizontal position, frequent diarrhea and constipation.
Although Adrenal Fatigue is a very common problem that has been known to be a separate clinical syndrome since the early 1900s, it is very difficult to diagnose because:
- Most medical institutions do not recognize it as a medical condition and so they do not teach it to medical students meaning that most physicians are not trained to diagnose it.
- The symptoms are non-specific making it is very difficult to diagnose a patient as having Adrenal Fatigue.
- Traditional blood tests generally show “normal” results though the adrenal glands are functioning below normal.
- On examination the adrenal glands look normal so physicians assume that the low cortisol output is caused by factors that are not linked to the adrenal glands.
Physicians do not perceive a threat to heath when a patient complains of the symptoms mentioned above and may tell patients to “relax” and take antidepressants.
Because the underlying cause is not addressed, patients do not get better and the condition deteriorates. If you have most of the common symptoms, chances are that you have Adrenal Fatigue. Be pro-active and manage the syndrome yourself to alleviate or reverse the symptoms.
Chapter 4: Poor Digestive Health and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The gastrointestinal tract contains 70% of the human immune system cells therefore malfunction of the GI tract is the main source of most health syndromes and degenerative diseases. Malfunction of the GI tract leads to:
- Chronic fatigue.
- Lactose intolerance.
- Abdominal pain.
- Celiac disease.
- Auto-immune problems.
- Systemic toxicity challenges. (Dr. Daenell)
Studies have repeatedly shown that if the immune cells in the GI tract are disturbed, a person is most likely to develop digestive tract illnesses, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. The person may also develop inflammatory diseases that are intrinsically linked to the GI tract, including ME and fibromyalgia. Incidentally many ME patients complain of gut dysfunction like irritable bowel syndrome. Studies have found that interactions between the gut flora, the mucosal barrier function, and the immune system play a role in how ME develops. (Lakhan SE & Kirchgessner A).
Some studies have shown that ME-CFS and fibromyalgia start when inflammation is triggered by undigested foods or intestinal parasites. When the body’s natural anti-inflammatory system is overwhelmed, the person develops leaky gut syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Leaky gut syndrome is a serious permeability of the digestive system in which undigested food can enter the blood stream. The immune system views the food as an invading toxin or a disease-causing bug, and therefore mounts an attack against the undigested protein. This leads so a series of immune problems which cause inflammation and other challenges.
A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found a link between IBS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Of 84 patients that had been referred for “unexplained digestive problems” 83 patients qualified for a diagnosis of IBS, 85% had ME and 71% had fibromyalgia. The researchers believe that the common denominator is poor digestion and food sensitivities. (Spilde I.)
To heal the ME and/or the fibromyalgia, the best approach should include the healing of the GI tract, the source of the problem.
Artificial Sweeteners Dangers
As we have identified gut health is paramount to a healthy immune system, we need to consider what we feed our gut with! Artificial sweeteners found in diet beverages such as diet coke researches from Israel found that they negatively effect the good bacteria in the gut. Common sweeteners in diet drinks and foods such as advantame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, aspartame, splenda and saccharin change the balance of the gut bacteria toxic! The frightening part is a small 1mg of these toxic sweeteners does this imagine if your consume these daily? As the phrase goes you are what you eat and in this case toxic!
Chapter 5: Heavy Metal Buildup and Chronic Fatigue
Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic and aluminum enter the body through drinking, eating, inhaling, and skin absorption and cause damage to the body at cellular level by initiating oxidative stress. This damage contributes hugely to the development of many diseases and health problems. The mental and central nervous system functions are impaired and vital organs are damaged. Some of the warning signs that you may have heavy metal poisoning are:
- Chronic fatigue.
- Brain fog.
- Depression, bi-polar and anxiety.
- Neurological disorders.
- Autoimmune diseases.
In the long term, these heavy metals will cause very serious health problems for example:
- Mercury seriously affects the nervous system leading to violent muscular spasms and even death.
- Aluminum is suspected of causing brain problems like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- Cadmium causes various cancers. Low levels of exposure over a long period causes fragile bones and the metal can accumulate in the kidneys and cause kidney disease.
- Arsenic (the inorganic version) is known to cause cancers of the skin, lungs, liver and bladder. In the long term, exposure to low levels causes darkening of the skin and development of small corns and warts on the palms, soles and torso.
- Barium can cause difficulties in breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, increased or decreased blood pressure, numbness around the face, and muscle weakness in the short term.
- Lead is suspected by the EPA of causing cancer and it affects every organ and system in the body. Long term exposure affects the functionality of the nervous system, and causes weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles. It also causes anemia and small increases in blood pressure.
If your chronic fatigue is due to heavy metal poisoning, then you face the risk of developing any of the above mentioned illnesses and more. So you need to detoxify to get rid of the heavy metals in the body. Also you need to prevent further exposure to the same heavy metals.
Chapter 6: How to Heal Chronic Fatigue
In the absence of exact ways of diagnosing ME, doctors diagnose by eliminating underlying diseases until only chronic fatigue remains. Mononucleosis, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, lupus (SLE), hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep disorders, side effects of certain drugs (e.g. antihistamines) and alcohol and major depressive disorder have symptoms that resemble those of ME. So it is wiser not to self-diagnose and to let your doctor rule out all these potential causes of fatigue.
There is no specific cure for ME and the American FDA has not approved any specific treatment. Each doctor treats it by addressing the symptoms which the patient presents, and since each patient has a unique set of symptoms, treatment varies from person to person. (Women’s Health). But there are a number of ways of addressing the problem.
6.1. Remove Food Sensitivities
You may be allergic to gluten, casein (milk) or some other food. To determine that, take an Immunoglobulin G (IgG) test to determine which foods you are sensitive to. By avoiding those foods that you are allergic to, you heal your body and symptoms of ME will disappear along with symptoms of ADHD, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis. (Dr. Axe).
6.2. Eliminate Candida
It is possible that you might be overwhelmed with Candida so include Candida albicans test with your IgG test. That is because Candida causes an inflammatory immune response which affects the intestinal lining and creates leaky gut syndrome. With or without the test, you can still rebalance your gut flora by eating foods high in probiotics such as sauerkraut, kimchi, flax seeds, chia seeds, yogurt, kefir, unsweetened cranberry juice and green vegetables. At the same time eliminate foods that encourage Candida such as sugar, fruits, grains and alcohol. (Dr. Axe).
6.3. Lifestyle Changes
You can reduce your symptoms by changing your lifestyle. Limit or eliminate caffeine to help you sleep better and ease insomnia. Limit intake of alcohol and nicotine.
Create a sleep routine, going to bed at the same time daily and waking up around the same time in the morning. Try not to take a nap during the day so that you are tired enough to sleep at night.
Do not overexert yourself during your day to day activities otherwise you create an episode of fatigue. Avoid physical, mental and emotional stress. Every day try to take time to relax and to engage in activities that you enjoy.
6.4. Heal Your Gut
If you have chronic fatigue and other unexplainable health problems, chances are you have a leaky gut that allows proteins and bacteria into the blood stream causing havoc. Ask for blood tests to evaluate your gut health. Leaky gut syndrome will be indicated by elevation in:
Zonulin, a protein that the body makes whose job is to open the tight junctions, your gut's "gatekeepers" to the blood stream. If there is an elevation of zonulin, you probably have "leaky gut."
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), toxins given off by some of your gut bacteria. If they're found in the blood, then know there's been a breach of your protective gut lining.
Eat bone broth which is rich in collagen and glutamine which are both useful for healing the GI tract and glycine which improves brain performance and energy. Take probiotic supplements that contain bidobacterium and lactobacillus to rebalance the gut flora.
6.5. Stress Management
If your fatigue is linked to long term stress, then you need to make an effort to get out of the stressful situation by changing jobs or getting out of a stressful/abusive relationship. If the stress is due to long term illness maybe as you recover from the illness your stress levels will ease off and you can begin to recover. Perform breathing exercises every day and practice a relaxation technique such as meditation or yoga daily.
6.6. Balance Hormones
Thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue and sex hormone imbalances can all cause chronic fatigue. If you have not yet been tested ask your doctor for a test. After diagnosis your doctor will prescribe hormonal medicines to balance your hormones.
6.7. Improve Nutrition
You may be feeling fatigued due to low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron and folate. Get your blood nutrient levels tested. Improve your diet by eating a clean diet that contains a wide variety of nutrient dense whole foods like vegetables, organic meats, fruits and healthy fats. Consider adding raw plant based food to your diet in the first few months. Raw food has 100% of its nutrients since it has not been damaged by cooking. Also raw food provides enzymes that help with digestion and will detoxify the gut by improving the elimination of waste. In this article a woman who suffered from chronic fatigue basically healed herself with raw plant foods and was healthy within 6 months and lost a lot of weight as a bonus.
6.8. Naturally Boost Your Immunity
Chronic fatigue may be caused by chronic infections such as Lyme disease which are generally undiagnosed. Get tested for underlying infections for which you will get a prescription. At the same time take a herbal blend containing Siberian ginseng, sarsaparilla, samento, astragalus, guaiacum, resveratrol, and cat's claw for their immune-strengthening properties.
6.9. Take Branched Chain Amino Acid Supplements
BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine compete with your "sleepy-time" amino acid tryptophan and prevent its transport into the blood, thus decreasing fatigue. Talk to your doctor about taking that supplement.
6.10. Take Supplements that Wake Up Your Cells
The mitochondria is the energy factory of the cells. Several studies have found that chronic fatigue patients have mitochondrial dysfunction. A study, published in NMR in Biomedicine, found that the brains of ME patients contain low levels of the powerfully healing antioxidant glutathione. Take L-arginine, CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) supplements, which naturally increase glutathione, protect and boost the mitochondria and increase the production of adenosine triphosphate, the cells’ high energy fuel.
Research has found that people who engage in some form of exercise, particularly aerobics, feel less tired feel an improvement in normal function. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes 5 days per week. Never over-exert otherwise you feel even more tired.
Add detoxifying foods to your diet, i.e. spirulina, sage, parsley, plantain leaf, red clover blossom, cilantro and garlic. Eat them in smoothies, salads or in the main meal, rotating them in your meal plan.
Doctors do not have any medication for chronic fatigue so they will supply medicines that are designed to control your range of symptoms. Just be aware that pharmaceuticals cause side effects so you are bound to create even more problems by taking them. You might want to consider seeing a naturopathy doctor or a homeopath who will provide you with natural medicines. Some people have been given papaya and devil’ claw to beat inflammation, cell food to help with energy levels, or certain natural medicines to beat hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, or to assist the pituitary glands. They might even give you herbal melatonin and 5HTP to help you to sleep. These worked for another sufferer who wrote about it here. Of course what you will get will be different from the next person so you have to trust your naturopathy doctor or homeopath.
Chapter 7: Heavy Metal Detoxification
If you suffer from fatigue accompanied by brain fog, weight problems, emotional instability and inability to handle stress and you don’t understand why, you may have heavy metal poisoning. Get tested for heavy metal toxins. One easy way of doing this is to use hair mineral analysis which shows mineral deficiencies, mineral imbalances and heavy metal toxicity. Also, individual mineral levels, ratios of different minerals to each other and patterns of minerals deposited in the hair will reveal your metabolic rate, immune function, stage of stress, adrenal function, digestive health, thyroid function, ability to handle sugar, and protein intake/use.
If hair analysis indicates that you have heavy metals in your body, you must remove them fast before they cause major illnesses. Start with a colon cleanse to remove dried up feces and toxins from the colon. To prevent further mercury poisoning ask a qualified holistic dentist to remove mercury fillings from your teeth and replace them with a holistic alternative. If removal is done by anyone else you will get a lot of mercury fumes into the lungs. Read more.
7.1 Dietary Detoxification
After the colon cleanse and the removal of mercury amalgams, use dietary methods to remove heavy metals from the brain and other organs. The foods mentioned below must be eaten together because, while they all remove heavy metals from the body, they do so in different ways and they are more effective if used together as a "team."
Spirulina extracts heavy metals from the brain, the central nervous system and the liver and absorbs heavy metals extracted by barley grass juice extract power. Take 2 teaspoons in juice daily.
Barley grass juice extract powder draws heavy metals from the intestine, spleen, thyroid, pancreas and the reproductive system. It prepares mercury so that it is totally absorbed by spirulina. Take 1 to 2 teaspoons in juice.
Wild blueberries pull heavy metals from the brain and its antioxidants repair any damage caused by oxidation. Experts claim that this is the best food for reversing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Eat at least 1 cup of wild blueberries per day.
Cilantro (coriander) penetrates the body cells to extract old metal deposits, including inherited ones. Blend 1 cup in a juice, smoothie, salad or guacamole daily.
Atlantic dulse is a powerful extractor of mercury from hard to reach places in the digestive tract. It binds with mercury and won’t release it till it leaves the body. It also binds with nickel, cadmium, copper, lead and aluminum.
Each food listed here has its own strengths and when taken together these foods form a formidable team against heavy metals. (William A.). Be diligent in your efforts to consume them. Make sure that you eat each of them in each 24 hour period. While extracting heavy metals, the foods also provide critical nutrients for restoring the body to health.
7.2 Minimize the Intake of Heavy Metals
You cannot completely avoid the intake of heavy metals but you can take the following steps to minimize their consumption and to eliminate them:
Reduce the intake of fat during the detox phase. This is critical for the success of your detoxification efforts because fat tends to bind to heavy metals and keep them in the body and you don't want that. So reduce the consumption of nuts, avocados, seeds, oily fish, vegetable oils, eggs, dairy, and cut down meat consumption to one serving per day.
Drink plenty of lemon water during detox because water helps with elimination and cleansing of the heavy metals out of the body. Lemon enhances the water's ability to bind with the heavy metals. The liver works hard during the night to get rid of toxins and you want to wash out those toxins first thing in the morning by drinking 32oz (950ml) of lemon water.
Juice fasting one day per week also helps with detoxification. Make a juice out of apples, cucumber, and celery which provides just the right proportions of natural sugars, mineral, salts, and potassium. Aim to consume 6 glasses of the juice and 6 glasses of water in a day. Aim to do this during the weekend so that you can lie down if you feel weak. During the first days of detox, the toxins coming out of the body will make you feel uncomfortable so lie down and rest often.
Aloe vera gel is very good at flushing metals out of the body. Fillet the leaf, take out the clear gel and make sure that you avoid the bitter green part. Eat the gel straight, in a juice or in a smoothie.
Infrared sauna sessions assist the body's built-in detoxification efforts, helping to remove heavy metals by increasing blood flow and oxygenation of blood. Have 15 to 20 minute sessions at the gym or massage therapy center two times per week. Make sure you drink plenty of water to wash out the toxins through sweat.