New Study Suggests Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Not in Your Head; It’s In Your Gut

If you’ve struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME/CFS), you were probably told at some point that your symptoms were “all in your head.” Of course researchers have known for years that ME/CFS is not psychosomatic; in fact, a recent Cornell University study suggests that ME/CFS may actually be all it your gut.

Patients with ME/CFS struggle with a long list of symptoms including debilitating fatigue brought on by ordinary exertion, unrefreshing sleep, concentration problems and unexplained muscle and joint pain. Scientists do not understand what causes this condition or how to treat it. Although studies have been published that suggest some possible ME/CFS triggers, this study is the first of its kind to use laboratory tests to gain a better grasp of what might be setting off this disease.

Scientists conducted stool samples and blood tests on patients diagnosed with and without ME/CFS. They found that those with ME/CFS had fewer species of anti-inflammatory bacteria in their stool samples compared to healthy people and noted similarities between ME/CFS samples with those of people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The study does not say whether the altered gut microbiome is a cause or a whether it is a consequence of ME/CFS. But researchers think that the gut might be responsible. They found inflammatory microbial agents in the blood of ME/CFS patients and suggested ME/CFS patients possibly having leaky gut syndrome. 

Physicians use the term leaky gut syndrome when certain proteins pass into the bloodstream. It generally occurs when the tight junctions between cells become “leaky," allowing proteins such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to enter the bloodstream. LPS is a major component of Gram-negative bacteria, which can cause pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis. It can also cause a significant inflammation within the body and has been linked with periodontal disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

“The medical community has been treating autoimmune conditions like ME/CFS for years without huge success,” explains Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Now that researchers are trying to get to the root of these conditions, hopefully, better diagnostic tests and treatments will be available in the near future.”  

ME/CFS may turn out to be more involved than a problem with gut bacteria, but keeping your gut healthy is important for a range of illnesses. Here are some steps you can take to keep your tummy out of trouble.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Certain foods can help foster gut bacteria diversity and balance. For instance, have plenty of vegetables, some fruit and fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir. Meanwhile, limit foods that are overly processed and high in refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. 
  • Strengthen your immune system. Because commercial cleaning products often kill good bacteria along with bad bacteria, use soap and water to wash hands instead of hand sanitizers and swap chemical-based cleaning products with natural disinfectants like vinegar and lemon juice.
  • Manage your stress. When you’re stressed, your body releases inflammatory substances as part of its stress response, raising your risk of chronic inflammation and a weaken immune system. Try yoga, meditation or relaxing walks.
  • Get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Adequate sleep seems to help control the inflammatory substances related to stress.
  • Exercise several times a week. A University College Cork study found that regular exercise can improve gut bacteria. Walking, cycling or swimming can be good choices. Discuss physical activity with your doctor before starting a fitness program.
If you are experiencing symptoms of ME/CFS, your MDVIP-affiliated physician can work with you to get to the root of your symptoms and recommend next steps. If you have been diagnosed with ME/CFS, your doctor can help you manage the condition, treat other conditions associated with ME/CFS and coordinate your care with specialists. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Find one near you by clicking here
10 Comments
Nora MacLaughlin
Aug 25th, 2016
Years of debilitating migraine have finally ended. There are pressure points in the web between the thumb and first finger. Strong pressure between the thumb and first finger offers almost immediate relief. Generally it takes less than minute of pressure to relieve the pain.

Extended periods of pressure can cause migraines; so experiment.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Aug 29th, 2016
Greetings Nora,

We’re glad to read that you were able to find relief from your migraines. Pressure points can provide relief for some people. Thank you for sharing your tip.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

nancy clark
Aug 11th, 2016
What about mass medication that we drink every day such as Flouride in our water systems ?
A proven neuro toxin that interferes with thyroid and every system in your body.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Aug 12th, 2016
Greetings Nancy,

Some people have theorized that there’s a connection between fluoridated water and CFS. But, at this point, there is very little scientific evidence to support it. A graduate student conducted a review (not a study) that was published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome back in 1999. This student hypothesized that fluoridated water interfered with our magnesium levels, causing an excess of fluoride in our bodies that can lead to health problems like CFS. The student recommended that clinical trials should be conducted to test her theory. If clinical trials were conducted, the results do not seem to be readily available. If you struggle with, or are concerned about, CFS, work with your doctor to find solutions that help raise your energy level and improve your quality of life.

In Good Health,
MDVIP
Lee
Aug 3rd, 2016
Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is often prescribed for narcolepsy. Have there been any studies using this substance in an effort to treat ME/CFS? If yes, what were the results? Reference?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Aug 4th, 2016
Greetings Lee,

A clinical trial was recently conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of methylphenidate. Researchers found that the differences between the control and patient groups were not statistically significant. You need to remember that narcolepsy and ME/CFS are not related diseases. Narcolepsy is a neurological condition caused by a deficiency of hypocretin, a neurotransmitter that promotes wakefulness. People with narcolepsy experience daytime sleepiness regardless of sleeping enough at night. However, ME/CFS patients are not sleepy; they’re fatigued and the fatigue worsens with exertion. ME/CFS is associated with fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain, IBS and TMJ. There are several possible causes of ME/CFS including gut health, early menopause, brain injuries and inherited HHV-6. To learn more about the Synergy (CFS/ME) clinical trial, read these articles --
http://thesynergytrial.org/ and http://solvecfs.org/preliminary-results-from-synergy-trial-released/.

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Christina Rightmer
Jul 22nd, 2016
a couple of years ago a study showed majority with CFS Fibromyalgia fit the diagnostic criterium for hypermobility ehlers syndrome and 75% of those with HEDS has some form of dysautonomia with [pstural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome being most prevalent. I take away from this is many are misdiagnosed there are too many enterlapping symotoms to not say whoa it could be genetic. EDS many have unrestorative sleep tired all the time and blood pressure and pulse alwaya changing and not seeming logical. we also twns to sound lo orgea NXIETY but its adrenalin surges and those with postural orthostatic tachycaedia syndrome has less anxiety than noemal population.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jul 22nd, 2016
Greetings Christina,

Hypermobility is a common feature of CFS and some CFS patients have postural tachycardia. Many CFS symptoms do overlap with other conditions. This is one reason why a standard treatment does not exist for CFS patients. Doctors usually treat to control the symptoms. Of course some manifestations can be genetically based but, more importantly, the symptoms suggest that there may be more than one cause of CFS. In addition to gut health and the connection to EDS, CFS also has ties to early menopause, brain abnormalities and inherited HHV-6 virus. This blog explains a little more. http://www.mdvip.com/community/blog/view/new-research-sheds-light-on-chronic-fatigue-syndrome

In Good Health,
MDVIP

Andrea Sklar
Jul 21st, 2016
I suffer from extreme chronic fatigue & in my case there can be several possible causes.
Does it matter what it is or would the treatment be the same no matter what the cause?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jul 21st, 2016
Greetings Andrea,

Experts are still fuzzy on what exactly causes CFS. And while several scientifically based studies exist, currently, it’s still speculation. There is no specific treatment for CFS. Doctors usually treat patients to control their specific symptoms, which implies that more than one cause may exist. If you have questions about your treatment plan, it’s best that you address them with your doctor.

In Good Health,
MDVIP
Joedna Smyth
Jul 20th, 2016
What's the latest on Narcolepsy?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jul 21st, 2016
Greetings Joedna,

Narcolepsy and CFS are two very different syndromes. Narcolepsy is a neurological condition that causes severe sleepiness despite getting enough sleep. However, CFS is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which patients experience severe exhaustion, not necessarily sleepiness. Your question, “what is the latest on narcolepsy” is a very broad question. This link to News Medical’s Narcolepsy News and Research page may be able to help you. http://www.news-medical.net/?tag=/Narcolepsy

In Good Health,
MDVIP

June
Jul 20th, 2016
8 or 9 hours sleep???? Are you kidding? Haven't had that much in
years !!
Shari
Jul 20th, 2016
How do people deal with the brain fog?
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jul 20th, 2016
Greetings Shari,

A number of conditions, including CFS, can cause brain fog and controlling it can be complicated. Some experts suggest eating a healthy diet, doing some light physical activity (like walking) and controlling stress may help. And while these tactics can be beneficial, you also may want to try simplifying your life. Keep to-do and shopping lists. Try to keep your home and work environments organized. Be sure to pace yourself. Maybe only schedule a few activities each day and limit the number of complicated issues you handle on a daily basis. For more information, read this article on brain fog from CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self Help – http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/lifting-fog-treating-cognitive-problems

In Good Health,
MDVIP



richard cushman
Jul 20th, 2016
your comments on stress, have a definite effect on fatigue, sleepless nights , walking also seems to help. veggies diet, not much meat, more fish, a definite must, has helped me.
1 Reply
MDVIP
Jul 20th, 2016
Greetings Richard.

There is no easy solution for insomnia. However, you are taking the right approach, as walking and eating a healthy diet can help. For further information, you may want to read these articles; the first provides tips for better sleep and the other covers stress management.

In Good Health,
MDVIP
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relievers/art-20047257
Jeff
Jul 19th, 2016
Yogurt and Yoga and more cowbell
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