Do you feel like you’re always tired? Are you having trouble staying awake during prime time TV programmes? Fatigue is an unexplained, persistent and relapsing exhaustion. When suffering from chronic fatigue you may wake up in the morning feeling as though you’ve not slept, or you may be unable to function well at work or be productive at home. In most cases, there’s a reason for the fatigue. Your medical doctor can help you find out what it is.
Science has shattered the myth that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is “just in your head”.
Many people, including medical experts, think that chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or systemic exertion intolerance disease) is a psychological or even imagined illness. However, scientific research is steadily proving this thinking to be false.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a non-profit organization that forms part of the US National Academy of Sciences, issued a report in 2015 stating that “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a real, physical disorder with a particular set of diagnostic criteria”. Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University added, “We are to put to rest, once and for all, the idea that this is just psychosomatic, that people are making this up or that they are just lazy”.
According to the report, up to 2.5 million Americans suffer from CFS. However, the figure may be even higher as it’s often misdiagnosed as depression or another psychological illness. “That’s not surprising”, say the authors of the report, “as less than half of medical textbooks include any reference to the condition, suggesting that most doctors may not recognize it when they see it”.
Additional physical evidence that proves that CFS is a biological illness and not a psychological illness is provided by researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health who identified biomarkers (indicators of a particular disease) in the gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood of people diagnosed with CFS. In other words, people with symptoms of the debilitating condition have specific chemical changes in their blood, possibly due to a “leaky gut” from intestinal problems that allow bacteria to enter the blood.
“We now have evidence confirming what millions of people with this disease already know, that CFS isn’t psychological,” states lead author, Mady Hornig, MD, director of translational research at the Center for Infection and Immunity and associate professor of Epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School. “Our results should accelerate the process of establishing the diagnosis after individuals first fall ill as well as discovery of new treatment strategies focusing on these early blood markers.”
In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead researcher Robert Naviaux says that CFS is similar to when animals slow their metabolism to hibernate. He adds that in CFS, the body may get stuck in this state, leading to chronic pain and disability.
As CFS symptoms vary and are common to many other diseases, currently people may spend years trying to get a correct diagnosis. Naviaux hopes that his work will lead to new treatments and a quicker diagnosis.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is not in your head, it’s in your gut. Neuroscience News. June 27, 2016.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3763433. (29 August 2016)