What is Fatigue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome…

Is a disorder that involves severe fatigue that lasts for more than six months. The US Institute of Medicine has proposed that the condition be renamed “systemic exertion intolerance disease” but most clinicians still refer to it as CFS.

Most doctors now acknowledge that CFS is a real disorder. And as its victims well know, it can also be horribly debilitating. Its predominant symptom is persistent, overwhelming fatigue that dramatically reduces its sufferers’ ability to participate in the regular activities of life. Along with the fatigue are problems with memory and concentration.

It is also usually accompanied by several out of a long list of symptoms, including but not limited to headaches, insomnia, sore throat, and muscle and joint pain.

If you have deep fatigue for more than two weeks, or if for any reason you suspect that you have CFS, do not make a diagnosis on your own. See a doctor so that he or she can rule out other possible disorders. Once other disorders have been ruled out, your best chances of recovery, in our opinion, involve the use of natural therapies.

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CFS is probably caused by a combination of factors and often results in a depressed immune system. Of course, the key to treatment is to find out and treat the reason(s) for the immune-system imbalance, which can be related to many factors. For example, chronic infections are thought to play a role for some people, such as the viruses Epstein-Barr (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and human herpes virus (HHV-6).

Other infections, such as mycoplasma, Lyme disease, and chlamydia, are also suspect. The overgrowth of fungi (Candida albicans) seems to be a common problem for people with this condition, and health practitioners frequently find parasite infection to be present.

chronic, fatigue, syndrome


CFS is diagnosed based on patients’ symptoms and on ruling out other diseases that have fatigue as a symptom. Besides experiencing severe fatigue for at least six months, one would also have four or more of the following symptoms to qualify for a diagnosis: substantial impairment in concentration or short-term memory, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, multijoint pain without swelling or redness, headaches, unrefreshed sleep, and postexertional fatigue lasting more than twenty-four hours.

One common finding in people with this condition is hormone imbalance. The most common one is adrenal-gland insufficiency, also referred to as “adrenal burnout”. The adrenal glands, located on top of both kidneys, produce the stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. These hormones are commonly depleted in people with chronic fatigue, and we find that restoring the levels to normal is generally quite helpful. The same can be said of many of the hormones in the body. Low thyroid function can be a core problem and will result in suboptimal energy production within the cells.

In addition, deficiencies in testosterone or growth hormone and deficiencies or imbalances of estrogen and progesterone are common. Underlying much of the hormone imbalance can be hypothalamic dysfunction. This refers to an imbalance of the hormonal and the neural messages from the brain to the adrenal and the thyroid glands and other hormonal organs of the body. Low neurotransmitters can also contribute to chronic fatigue.

Poor digestion and impaired detoxification also need to be considered as root causes of chronic fatigue. Malabsorption of foods and nutrients contributes to nutritional deficiencies. Environmental toxins, such as mercury and others, inhibit enzyme functions that are required for energy production.

An unhealthful diet can set the stage for chronic fatigue. A high amount of refined carbohydrates contributes to blood sugar problems, yeast overgrowth, increased demand on the adrenal glands, and chronic inflammation, and immune suppression can set in. In addition, a diet of processed foods is deficient of the nutrients required for energy production and a healthy immune system.

Also of prime importance are the effects of chronic stress on the body. People who do not deal with mental, emotional, and spiritual stresses effectively are more likely to suffer fatigue. In addition, unresolved problems with anxiety and depression contribute to fatigue.

Movement and exercise are fundamental keys to health. Too little exercise contributes to fatigue, while, at the opposite end of the spectrum. Overtraining and overexertion lead to breakdown of the organs involved with energy production.

A final area worth mentioning is sleep. This is your body’s way of recovering and regenerating. Adequate sleep is essential. If you suffer from a sleep problem, seek medical help and focus on natural ways to alleviate it. A good complementary-care regimen will address the whole body—and therefore many of the possible causes. If you have CFS, it’s important to find the treatments that give you the most relief; what works for one person might not be right for another.

In a randomized, double-blind study in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue. Researchers found that people who received an integrated treatment approach. Based on each individual’s symptoms and laboratory analysis, experienced significantly greater benefits than did people receiving a placebo. Long-term follow-up found that the active group had increasing improvement.