5 symptoms prove chronic fatigue syndrome is ‘biological’

Chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS is the gift that just keeps giving.

It keeps giving extreme exhaustion. It keeps giving muscle and joint pain. And it never seems to stop giving sleep troubles and problems with memory and thinking.

Even worse, it more often than not gives you friends, family and even doctors that believe the host of problems you experience are all just in your head.

That’s why in 2016, researchers from the US National Institutes of Health launched a study to finally determine whether CFS is really all psychosomatic, or if the issues start much deeper.

Now, eight years later the results of this landmark study are finally in, proving that the syndrome is ‘unambiguously biological’.

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Pulling out meaningful differences

To deliver this proof, the researchers initially selected a group of 217 individuals with chronic fatigue. It was a number that they later whittled down to just 17 to make it possible to complete an incredibly rigorous assessment and get to the bottom of the differences between CFS sufferers and otherwise healthy people.

All in all the 17 final participants were put through a battery of tests over a week’s time, including brain scans, sleep studies, muscle strength and cognitive performance tests, skin and muscle biopsies and blood tests. The researchers even tested their gut microbiomes and spinal fluid.

To top it off, all participants were required to eat a very specific diet and spend time in a metabolic chamber. This allowed the scientists to measure their energy and nutrient consumption under stable conditions.

A systemic disease proven by physical symptoms

The results clearly showed that people who live with chronic fatigue did not actually show signs of muscle fatigue or problems on cognitive tests, they were suffering from a systemic disease.

In fact, compared to normal healthy individuals, participants with CFS were found to have:

  • Higher resting heart rates
  • Markers of a drawn-out and overstimulated immune response that exhausts T cells
  • Less diverse gut bacteria
  • Lower levels of catechols in their cerebrospinal fluid (catechols are chemicals that help regulate the nervous system)
  • Less activity in the temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) of the brain during motor tasks

So why these issues, but not the muscle fatigue that is such a hallmark of the syndrome?

Well according to the researchers, the answer likely lies in that last bullet point on the list.

That’s because the temporal-parietal junction is necessary to drive the motor cortex of the brain, which tells the body to move.

So less activity in the TPJ could actually change the way the brain exerts effort and therefore a person’s perception of fatigue and ability to tolerate exertion.

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In other words, because a person with chronic fatigue has a malfunctioning TPJ, every activity feels more difficult and wears them out much more quickly.

The takeaway?

As neurologist Avindra Nath, lead researcher of the study and clinical director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) says, “CFS is a systemic disease and the people living with it deserve to have their experiences taken seriously.”

Help for chronic fatigue

Past studies have shown how some natural solutions can improve the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Optimizing thyroid function is important since chronic fatigue and thyroid issues can feed each other. Nutrients like copper, selenium, zinc and other thyroid-supporting amino acids and herbs can make a big difference in thyroid function.

Supplementing Coenzyme Q10 may be helpful. That’s because research shows that CFS sufferers are far more likely to have low CoQ10 levels and these low levels are associated with increased inflammation, which keeps the negative cycle going round.

Finally, although it may sound counter-intuitive, exercise is also important for anyone living with CFS.

The key is to use a graded exercise program that increases activity slowly and thoughtfully.

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Landmark Study Confirms Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is ‘Unambiguously Biological’ — Science Alert

NIH Study Provides Long-Awaited Insight Into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome — JAMA Medical News

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.