New Study Suggests Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Not in Your Head; It’s In Your Gut
July 18, 2016If 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.