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Certain diseases inarguably affect women disproportionately compared to men.
One of the worst is chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS.
It’s an illness that leaves many women with overwhelming fatigue, no matter how much rest they might get. It can bring with it symptoms ranging from the inability to concentrate to pain, dizziness and trouble sleeping.
Sadly, according to the world’s largest study of the disease, women aren’t just more likely to live with CFS, but women who suffer long-term — more than 10 years — are likely to experience increasingly severe symptoms with age…
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gets progressively worse
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh followed a massive population of 17,000 people with CFS, finding that the experiences of women with chronic fatigue (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME) differ greatly from those of men.
Not only did they discover that women with CFS tend to have more symptoms and co-occurring conditions than men, but after living with it for more than 10 years, they’re more likely to experience much harsher symptoms.
Let’s break down what they found…
First, it’s important to note that the study once again confirmed the fact that yes — chronic fatigue is more common in women than men, with women making up almost 84 percent of CFS patients in the study.
Additionally, the study showed that more women with CFS than men (66.7 percent compared to 52.7 percent) also suffer from a co-occurring condition.
The most common conditions that women with CFS live with are:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (41.3 percent)
- Clinical depression (32.4 percent)
- Fibromyalgia (29.5 percent)
- Anemia (14.1 percent)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) (12.8 percent)
The researchers also found that in general, women experienced more problematic symptoms with CFS. On average, women complained of 42 separate symptoms, while for men that number was 36.
The most common symptoms included brain fog, poor sleep and muscle pain.
Finally, the study showed that after a decade of living with CFS, women are more likely to suffer from a worsening of their symptom intensity.
Finding an answer for chronic fatigue
Fortunately, research into CHS in recent years has helped draw attention to this very real condition, whereas in years past, doctors and even family and friends of those afflicted wondered about its validity.
However, there is still no specific diagnostic test or cure — but it may be possible to manage symptoms.
In 2016, researchers at Cornell University identified biological markers of the disease in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood as well as possible links to leaky gut syndrome capable of triggering an autoimmune response.
Though it’s hard to know which may have come first, both hypothyroidism and IBS (two of the most commonly reported CFS symptoms) share a possible root cause—an imbalance of bacteria in the gut.
For some going gluten-free can provide some relief. Researchers have reported a link between chronic fatigue and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. But giving up gluten can be difficult. It’s far easier to support the gut’s microbiome with probiotics and prebiotics.
Optimizing thyroid function may help as well. Chronic fatigue not only can go hand in hand with a thyroid condition, it can simulate it in many ways. This makes making sure your thyroid is optimal through the use of nutrients that benefit thyroid activity vital, including selenium and iodine.
Lastly, consider a graded exercise program. A gradual increase in activity over a 12-week period has been shown to greatly benefit CFS suffers. Just make sure not to push too hard, or too fast. Post-exertional malaise is a delayed dramatic worsening of symptoms following minor physical effort that affects people with CFS.
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Women more severely affected by ME/CFS, study shows – EurekAlert!