Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms
Have you heard of chronic fatigue syndrome? If not, but you struggle with stress, low energy, excess weight, or any of the other symptoms we’ve talked about on the blog before, then this syndrome might be worth learning about.
CFS is a fairly far-reaching illness because it can be caused by many different things, and can appear in many different forms. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be diagnosed, understood, and overcome!
Let’s explore a bit about the symptoms of CFS, then some of the varied causes people believe could be causing this syndrome.
While the term “chronic fatigue” is fairly descriptive of this crippling illness, it doesn’t tell the entire story. Chronic fatigue often starts suddenly, with flu-like symptoms. But unlike the flu, it can last a lifetime.
In addition to the profound fatigue experienced, other serious symptoms often accompany CFS, such as:
- joint pain that moves from one spot to another
- muscle pain
- poor concentration
- loss of memory
- enlarged lymph nodes
- night sweats
- digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome also experience significant alterations in levels of irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety and depression. According to a study published in Family Practice, 36 percent of individuals with CFS were clinically depressed and 22 percent had “seriously considered suicide in the past year.”(3)
Simply, the emotional and mental side effects of CFS cannot be overlooked, and treatment must include the mind, body and spirit.
– via Dr. Axe
What Causes It?
It could be plenty of things! From a highly stressful event, to a long lasting illness, even to gut health, there are many possible things that either cause or exacerbate chronic fatigue syndrome.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
If you read the official CDC and other governmental websites, they will all state that no cause has been discovered for CFS. That’s because there is not just ONE cause! There are multiple contributing factors, as in most illnesses. Traditional medicine put us in the mindset of thinking A causes B, and you take C to cure it. The body doesn’t work that way. You are a system of systems. Common contributing factors include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic infections, such as Lyme, Bartonella, Babesia, Mycoplasma and viruses, such as HHV‐6, Epstein‐Barr Virus, Cytomegalovirus, Parvo Virus, Coxsackie A and B viruses, and others.
- Adrenal and thyroid hormone imbalances. Cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, should be highest in the morning to wake us up and lowest in the evening so that we can sleep. Oftentimes in those with CFS, morning cortisol may be low and evening cortisol may be elevated, disrupting sleep. Or the total day’s cortisol load could be low, leaving you feeling exhausted all day long. As for thyroid imbalances, a number of scenarios are common. One of these situations is high reverse T3 (think brake pedal for your body), and low free T3 (think gas pedal for your body). Sometimes, one’s immune system mounts an attack against the thyroid which shows up as anti‐thyroglobulin a n t i b o d i e s and/or TPO antibodies. This prevents the thyroid hormone from working at the cellular level. The thyroid has effects on every system of the body, so if function is suboptimal, system‐wide disruption occurs. One may experience low body temperature, decreased tolerance to cold, decreased bowel movements, both mental and physical fatigue, hair loss, and more.
- Gut dysbiosis: A healthy human large intestine should have between 7,000 and 10,000 bacterial species. Due to the popularity of C‐sections, a rapid decline in breast feeding, overuse of antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, Round‐up TM, processed foods, meats containing antibiotics and several other factors, the average human microbiome—the collection of bacterial species in the colon—has drastically decreased in diversity. This has far‐reaching implications, affecting everything from blood sugar balance to immune function. Researchers have just scratched the surface in determining the roles and functions of our gut microbiome. Every species plays an important role in the overall niche. Some species help to decrease inflammation while others directly contribute to it. But, they balance one another out. Decreased levels of “good” bacteria leave space for harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites to set up shop in the large intestine. Common gut infections include C a n d ida Albicans, H. Pylori, Giardia, Blastocystis hominis, several species of Streptococcus bacteria and many more. Some of these are classified as gram‐negative bacteria and release lipopolysaccharides from their outer cell wall into the bloodstream. This creates a pro‐inflammatory immune response and raises cytokines (immune molecules), such as tumor necrosis factor‐alpha, interleukin‐1 Beta, and interleukin‐6. These are the same molecules that make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck when you have the flu or a cold. If these molecules remain elevated for long‐enough, they begin to punch holes in the blood‐brain barrier. So, what started out as a leaky gut has now led to a leaky blood‐brain barrier. This further contributes to brain fog and short‐term memory loss.
- Toxicity: Humans are now exposed to more synthetic environmental chemicals than at any time in recorded human history. Only a small fraction of these chemicals have been tested for long‐term safety. And scientists ultimately have no idea the danger that these chemicals pose when they interact with one another and bio‐accumulate in human tissue over many years. Obvious culprits are mercury, aluminum, lead, persistent organic pollutants, industrial solvents, and many more. While some scientists claim that small amounts of these chemicals are safe, they fail to realize that no one has that level of ONE chemical in their body. We are a walking chemical soup. Some of these we inherited in utero from other mothers. Others we acquire during our first few years of life. Many of these compounds are stored in the adipose (fat) tissue. Others are stored in the lymphatic system. Today, many people suffer from a congested lymphatic system. The lymph serves as our toxic waste dump but also where several immune cells are located. When the lymphatic system is not moving properly, the body becomes increasingly toxic. Lymph fluid requires muscular contractions to move it back toward the heart. Thus, exercise and movement are crucial to keep this fluid moving. Because of the toxic overload the average person is exposed to on a daily basis, the lymph is frequently overburdened. When this happens, it becomes viscous and thus does not move well throughout the body. Therefore, toxins aren’t excreted through the kidneys at the rate that they should be.
- Neurotransmitters: These are the chemical messengers used both in the brain and peripherally to communicate within the nervous system. They also communicate between the nervous system and the endocrine and immune systems. They include serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, histamine, acetylcholine, phenylethylamine (PEA), and GABA. Imbalances amongst the neurotransmitters can lead to depression, fatigue, insomnia, issues concentrating, decreased motivation, anxiety, short‐term memory loss, irritability and more. Very commonly, those with CFS have multiple neurotransmitter imbalances. Sometimes, the energizing neurotransmitters, like norepinephrine, dopamine, PEA, and epinephrine may be low. This can lead to decreased energy, malaise, brain fog, short‐term memory loss and decreased motivation. Very commonly, the calming brain chemicals—serotonin and GABA—may be low, leading to poor sleep quality and quantity. Lack of restorative sleep may contribute to decreased energy, brain fog, malaise, decreased motivation, and an inability to complete basic daily tasks. Thus, a vicious cycle begins.
Does the description of chronic fatigue syndrome sound like something that’s affecting you?