Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME), is characterized by prolonged states of exhaustion often accompanied by problems with cognition, depression, and “all over” pain and stiffness after a minimal amount of activity. The CDC estimates that up to 2.5 million Americans suffer from this condition, although many remain undiagnosed. A significant minority are homebound, even bedbound.
For many decades CFS/ME was thought to be a psychological issue and was treated with antidepressants. In recent years this approach has largely been recognized as ineffective and abandoned. In fact, although studies have documented a range of neurologic, immunologic, and metabolic dysfunctions, no specific causes have been identified and no pharmacological treatments have been developed for it.
So what does cause CFS/ME, and is it possible for people to heal from this “mysterious” syndrome?
Large numbers of people with CFS/ME report that their illness began with an acute episode of infectious disease, often mono, Lyme disease, or flu. Confirming this association, the emergence of high numbers of people with post-Covid symptoms has caused new light to be shed on the role of infectious disease in the development of long-term CFS/ME-like conditions. Some theories that support this hypothesis include: pro-inflammatory cytokines stimulated during active infection can cross the blood brain barrier and cause abnormalities in the sleep/wake cycle, cognition and heart rate; disruption of lymphatic drainage in the brain during infection can result in chronic inflammation and resulting cell damage; and defects in mitochondrial function, vital in cellular energy production, can occur due to viral- or other microbial-related damage.
Indeed, the highly effective international use of Ivermectin (an antimicrobial drug) in the early treatment of Covid include studies that show that it additionally relieved symptoms of CFS/ME that existed in some participants prior to their contraction of Covid! This would indicate that there was an unidentified, underlying infectious component causing the CFS/ME symptoms.
Is it possible to heal? Yes, it is! One of the first therapies I would suggest for those suffering from ME/CFS symptoms is regular acupuncture. There have been multiple studies in China and South Korea examining the effects of acupuncture on CFS that show considerable improvement and resolution of symptoms, including unremitting and post-exertional fatigue, poor concentration, muscle and joint pain, headaches and unrefreshing sleep.
As with all long-term illness, the treatment should be tailored to the individual. Targeting underlying mineral and vitamin deficiencies is essential. Sufficient zinc tissue levels, for example, dramatically increase cell-mediated immunity which attack and kill viruses.
Finally, antiviral and antimicrobial herbal formulas can be used effectively in the treatment of CFS/ME (as well as post viral syndromes), although it should be understood that once the virus becomes “chronic” it takes more time and patience for symptoms to resolve. Typically, this can mean rotating different herbal formulas over an extended period of time.
Here at Vital Health, we integrate a detailed intake and testing approach to tailor treatments to an individual for optimal chance of recovery.
©2021 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health