by Ruthie Harper
Short bouts of fatigue are a normal part of life when associated with excessive physical activity, overwork or a period of stress or illness. However, when suffering from severe fatigue that persists for months or even years and is accompanied by the symptoms listed below, one may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CFS is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue lasting for longer than six months that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. In addition to severe fatigue, one may be suffering from CFS when experiencing at least four of the following symptoms that appear after the onset of fatigue:
- Headache of new type, pattern, or severity
- Multi-joint pain without the swelling, redness or heat associated with an injury
- Chronic and persistent muscle pain
- Post-exertional malaise or fatigue lasting for longer than 24 hours
- Significant impairment in short-term memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Tender lymph nodes
- Unrefreshing sleep
The exact cause of CFS is unknown and because the symptoms differ from person to person, the diagnosis as well as treatment can be elusive. Several possible causes of CFS have been proposed including:
- Infections from Epstein-Barr or herpes viruses, rubella, candida, Ross River virus, giardia or Borrelia.
- Immune system imbalances leading to an increase in inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, muscles and the gut.
- Dysfunction of the connection between the brain, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands as a result of chronic physical or emotional stress that can lead to hormonal imbalances.
- Acute stress or illness causing brain or nervous system dysfunction lead- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome When One Is Tired of Being Tired by Ruthie Harper ing to pain, brain fog, blood pressure abnormalities and anxiety.
- Toxicity that impairs the function of healthy cells and muscles.
Because the diagnosis and treatment of CFS is complex, a comprehensive approach to healing is necessary to help one get his or her energy and quality of life back. Eliminating infection, removing toxicity, strengthening the immune system and learning how to manage stress are tools that will be necessary to recover from CFS. The best place to find support is with a practitioner that understands the complexity of CFS and looks at all potential causes to determine the origin of symptoms and customizes solutions that are right for the patient. A successful program for chronic fatigue must include:
- Comprehensive laboratory testing that simultaneously evaluates all reasons for fatigue.
- Personalized nutritional, food and vitamin recommendations custom-designed for each patient based on blood work and proven to support cellular healing and energy regeneration.
- Bioidentical hormones to help restore thyroid function and reproductive hormonal balance.
- Ongoing coaching and support to help reach the patient’s health goals and maintain them.
Today more than ever, CFS has been established as a real disease process that is not “just in one’s head”. Finding support and healing to regain energy and life is possible. Look for a doctor that specializes in integrative medicine and will take a comprehensive approach to address the underlying causes of symptoms to get patients on the road to recovery.
Ruthie Harper, M.D., is a board-certified internist and founder of Nutritional Medicine Associates, in Austin. For more information, call 512-343-9355 or visit RuthieHarper.com.