Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is an illness characterized by profound fatigue lasting six months or longer, often experienced together with symptoms of sleep abnormalities, generalized muscle and joint pain, brain fog, dizziness, and poor concentration. All symptoms are worsened with physical or mental activity, and a significant minority of those affected are homebound. The CDC estimates that there are up to 2.5 million Americans with CFS, although many remain undiagnosed.
Most people with CFS report that their illness began with an acute episode of infectious illness, such as mono or the flu. Although we don’t know the exact mechanisms by which pathogens can cause “long haul” symptoms like chronic fatigue, one theory is that viruses stimulate inflammatory cytokines that cross the blood brain barrier during infection. Once in the brain they enter the hypothalamus, an area that controls heart rate, blood pressure and appetite, leading to abnormalities in the sleep/wake cycle, and in digestive and cardiovascular function. (Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease can also mimic CFS, and it is important to get this screened.)
Another theory proposes CFS may be caused by defects in mitochondria (our cellular energy factories). Also, since mitochondria rely on a steady supply of oxygen to produce energy, it makes sense that an impairment in cardiovascular function (mentioned above) would affect energy levels as well as muscular function.
With no treatments beyond palliative offered for CFS in conventional medicine, are there other options? Yes! Although the exact mechanism is not understood, there are a growing number of holistic doctors treating CFS as an autoimmune disorder, often achieving significant improvement in symptoms. There are a wide range of antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial herbs that demonstrate potent effect on latent or chronic infections. In addition, another class of herbs called “adaptogens” work powerfully to boost oxygen, restore energy and stamina (supporting mitrochondrial function), and strengthen immunity. A number of studies have shown that oxidative stress may be involved in the development of CFS, and, therefore, the use of quality antioxidants may also be effective.
Finally, what about Eastern medicine? Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including Chinese herbal therapy and acupuncture, have been widely used in the treatment of CFS in China and other Asian countries. Multiple studies in China and South Korea examining the effects of acupuncture on CFS have shown effectiveness rates as high as 93 percent for symptomatic relief, and 43 percent for complete recovery! Modern mechanisms of TCM on CFS focus on adjusting immune dysfunction and regulating abnormal activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) or “stress” axis.
At Vital Health we use a highly effective evaluation process to identify the underlying causes of CFS and provide step-by-step guidance on what to do to restore health. Our powerful combination of acupuncture together with targeted diet, herb and nutritional therapies work synergistically to bring down inflammation, correct mechanisms impeding recovery, and strengthen the immune system. We get you well!
©2022 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health