The truth is, no really knows, or at least there’s no general consensus on it. There are many theories out there however. Some of them include that it’s caused by some kind of virus. Other theories say that it due to “burnout,” is caused by unrelenting stress, or is caused by one initial stressful event like divorce or a car accident that fundamentally alters the way the body functions afterward.
It’s tough, unfortunately for those of us suffering from this illness, since fatigue itself is a marker of most disease states, and therefore it’s hard to pinpoint what this is exactly.
Chronic fatigue is feeling that you have no energy, absolutely zero energy – like you are at zero point energy — and even below that if it’s possible. It feels like the main switch in your body that gives you energy has been turn off – or shorted out — and you can’t turn it on again. It’s like your car battery has mostly died, but somehow it still sort of runs, sometimes by a miracle it feels.
CFS is categorized as a non-specific illness, yet there is nothing non-specific about feeling awful most of the time. To me, this is very specific: we don’t feel well. If it’s true that fatigue is a marker of most disease states (and it is), then the fact that we have unrelenting fatigue should be a huge red flag to those who treat us, and to those who love us.
So many people deal with fatigue the numbers are overwhelming: something like 50 million people worldwide deal with fatigue in one capacity or another. 3- 4 million people alone in the U.S. are said to have CFS. 5 million people in the U.S. are said to have fibromyalgia.
Fatigue is a big topic. And yet it is still such a mystery. Chronic fatigue has been labeled many things: HPA disorder (hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal axis), CFIDS – chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome, autonomic dysregulation, neuroanasthenia, and even a “women’s disease,” since two-thirds of all cases seem to be predominantly women of childbearing years.
But the truth is men get this illness as well. It does not discriminate. One man in a study said he became chronically fatigued after going through a stressful divorce. Trauma of some kind seems to be a possible indicator of future, unrelenting fatigue. Many people report getting CFS or even fibromyalgia after going through some kind of majorly stressful life event (job stress, divorce, death, etc.). There is a definitely a pattern to the onset of this illness.
· adrenal insufficiency
· deficiency of some B complex vitamins
· multiple sclerosis, lupus, autoimmune diseases
· sleep disorders
· mitochondrial diseases
· diabetes (both types)
Please note that different illnesses cause different kinds of fatigue. But fatigue is fatigue. The question is, how do you make it go away? Remember, fatigue is a symptom. It is the reminder from your body that something or things (the body works as a whole) in your body are not working as they should.
The Shadow of Fatigue
To feel a constant pull of slight fatigue is beyond frustrating. It marks your day, it’s like a constant reminder that something is not right. You lose your freedom, in some sense. Which is why people who suffer from chronic fatigue are always looking for answers.
I was intrigued to run across a relatively new theory of chronic fatigue syndrome. It believes that, due to a reaction to extreme trauma of some kind, the autonomic nervous system is on high-alert, all the time. The hypothalamus – body’s internal alarm system – is stuck on overdrive, and the hypothalamus controls energy levels.
The hypothalamus controls energy levels, and “transforms emotions into physical response.” Since the hypothalamus is the emotional center of the brain, it is clear we have headed straight into mind body theory. I believe most illnesses are connected both through the mind and body, but in the case of CFS, this theory seems to take center stage.
Severe, extreme, and/or on-going stress can literally override the natural feedback loop of the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) which responds to stress. In cases of chronic fatigue, the theory is that the hypothalamus cannot calm the body down again as it normally would, because it perceives that the trauma is still occurring, or will occur again, even if this is not the case.
This does sound a lot like post-traumatic stress disorder to me. As coined by Dr. John Eaton, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc. are all energy disorders. Interesting to say the least. According to him, the body communicates through its symptoms. And if the body-mind can be reassured that it’s not under constant threat, then the symptoms can be reversed. He calls this Reverse Therapy. It is also known as Mickel Therapy.
The field of body-mind medicine is pretty new. You may have heard of it as psychoneuroimmunology as well (the study of the emotions, brain, nervous system, and the immune system, all interdependent of one another).
Whatever the cause or causes, I think it’s pretty clear we are in new territory as far as illness goes. The body and mind are inextricably linked. Indeed, they are one and the same. You cannot treat one part of the body without addressing it as a whole. This is where healing comes from.
Fine, But How Do I Beat It?
There is so much that can contribute to chronic fatigue. It is also not usually one thing that helps chronic fatigue go away either, although sometimes you find that magic supplement or diet that does wonders. Usually though it’s a combination of the right kind of diet (for you), keeping stress levels very low, and loving yourself above all else that seem to work the best. Supplementation that is suited for your body can also be very helpful.
Here are some of the big guns that support energy:
Honor your emotions
Stay connected to others and yourself (love)
No stimulants (or very little)
No refined foods (sugar and flours)
Vitamin D supplementation (if you’re not getting enough sunlight)
Homeopathic Thyroid and/or Homeopathic Adrenal (the endocrine system is often affected by CFS, such as developing sub-clinical hypothyroidism)
Spirulina (from Hawaii)
Cell Food (for bioavailable oxygen)
Real Vitamin C (Camu-camu; Acerola Berry, etc.)
Sprouted Grains, Nuts & Seeds
Whole Eggs (adrenal hormones are made primarily out of cholesterol)
Valerian (valerian works as an adaptogen and helps you sleep well)
Potatoes (to produce natural serotonin for great sleep: Potatoes Not Prozac; www.radiantrecovery.com)
Adaptogens (to help the body adjust to non-specific stress):
-American Ginseng* (generally for women)
-Korean or Chinese Ginseng* (generally for men or small doses for women)
-Maca www.macaroot.com (generally for men or small doses for women)
*note: if you do not methylate properly, ginseng can be difficult to process. Smaller or microdoses of supplements are sometimes even more effective in many cases.
Unfortunately, there are many causes of fatigue. But there are also a ton of things you can do to support healthy energy levels. My book “The Memory of Health” (coming out this year) will go over all of these subjects in great detail. Fatigue is a symptom, which means there are answers.”
I believe there are answers to chronic fatigue. Stay tuned…
The Holistic Coach
*excerpt from my book “The Memory of Health” (due out this year)