Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Cause – Is There More Than One?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a complicated illness with the main symptom being extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any other underlying condition. The fatigue can become worse after physical or mental activity but doesn’t improve with normal rest.
There is no known single chronic fatigue syndrome cause, although many theories exist about how it might be triggered. Some theories are that it is caused by a viral infection or psychological stress.
My case I believe was triggered by physical and mental overwork which initially caused my adrenal glands to dysfunction. The result was adrenal fatigue and low thyroid issues. Learn more about adrenal fatigue here.
However, as my illness progressed over many years and I refused to acknowledge that I needed to make lifestyle changes to reduce my stress levels, it became obvious that there were now other contributing factors to my illness.
Some people believe their chronic fatigue started after a flu like illness, sore throat, or other infection like a stomach bug. The Epstein-Barr virus is also commonly known to be a trigger for chronic fatigue syndrome.
The virus can re-activate and be one of the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome. More information can be found here.
Many Factors Can Contribute
There can definitely be a combination of factors that contribute to having the illness. This makes recovery challenging. As my illness progressed more body systems became affected and my health went into a downward spiral.
Additional symptoms made an appearance on a regular basis until I could barely function normally.
The overwhelming symptom of fatigue was joined by muscle aches and pains, particularly in my neck and shoulders and Achilles/calf area.
Terrible stomach bloating and generalized fluid retention, extreme sensitivity to light and sound and feeling like I had flu every day added to my distress.
I had become pretty anti social battling each day to do the minimum of work, which completely drained my energy. Having previously been a regular gym goer exercise was now a thing of the past.
Even a ten-minute walk would set my heart racing at an abnormal speed, resulting in an energy crash the following day. I’d need to stay in bed for a day or two to recover a little energy so that I could function semi normally again.
My usually healthy eating pattern was out of control as my body craved carbs for energy. The end result was an additional 12 extra kilos of weight gain.
Thinning hair, broken nails and unhealthy looking skin, added to my symptoms, so all in all I wasn’t feeling great about my appearance either.
Developing bladder sensitivity meant getting a full night’s sleep was impossible. Getting up to pee several times a night was keeping me awake.
Feeling miserable, uncomfortable, and completely worn out, it was a struggle to get through each day. Despite my positive attitude to healing, I was afraid maybe I had pushed myself too far during the years of overwork. In such a broken state I started to think maybe recovery was impossible.
So How Do You Find Out What’s Causing It?
After many years of dealing with the illness I reached the point where I finally realized my lifestyle had to change. I started working with a naturopath who specializes in fatigue issues.
It cannot be stressed too strongly how important it is to find someone like this to help you.
So many pieces of the puzzle to fit together make it necessary to work with someone with specialized knowledge to guide you through it.
The jigsaw puzzle pieces need to be fitted together according to your particular case and you need someone to help you on your individual road to recovery.
A good naturopath will take a complete history from you, expect your initial consultation to take about 1.5 to 2 hours. This is important as it may provide clues from your past that can show underlying causes of your chronic fatigue illness.
You may need to go through quite a barrage of tests to get to the bottom of what could be causing your illness. The obvious tests will be to check the status of your thyroid and adrenal glands. For more information on how these two body systems connect read here.
Some other tests that may be carried out include:
Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) Testing
The Epstein Barr virus, a member of the herpes virus family is very common, infecting people all around the world. Known as ‘the kissing disease’ it is spread via saliva.
The EBV antibodies blood test detects the presence of antibodies showing if you are currently or have been infected in the past. Different types of antibodies present indicate the following:
- Presence of VCA IgG antibodies – shows infection some time recently or in the past.
- Presence of VCA IgM antibodies – shows the infection occurred recently.
- Presence of antibodies to EBNA – shows infection occurred sometime in the past.
In my case this test showed I had the infection sometime in the past, but I was not aware that I had ever contracted this virus. For me it was not a major contributing factor to my ongoing chronic fatigue syndrome. However, for some people it can be a major trigger for their illness.
Heavy Metal Testing
Heavy metals include:
- Mercury – From air pollution, amalgam fillings, mercury based vaccine preservatives, contaminated seafood.
- Arsenic – From pesticides, water, air pollution, certain fungicides, fish and shellfish from polluted waters.
- Lead – From lead based paints, contaminated water or water pipes, air pollution.
- Aluminum – From drinking water, antiperspirants, air pollution, aluminium cookware.
- Cadmium – From air pollution and tobacco smoke.
As you can see from the list, heavy metals can come from a number of different sources. They are foreign to the human body and build up in the tissues over time. Depending on the levels present they can have several detrimental effects on your health including causing fatigue. Hair analysis and blood tests can show the presence of heavy metals in your system.
If heavy metal toxicity is detected, your naturopath can work out a detox regime for you using chelation therapy to reduce the heavy metal load in your body.
Comprehensive Stool Analysis
This stool testing indicates if you have gut issues and includes testing for the following:
- Pathogenic bacteria.
- Yeast overgrowth such as candida.
- Low gastric acid production.
- Chronic bad digestion
- Food allergies which can impact on bowel absorption.
Good gut health is essential to overall health as I found out for myself. After carrying out EBV and heavy metal testing neither showed as contributing much, if at all to my chronic fatigue syndrome.
However, everything changed when it came to testing my gut. Finally this comprehensive testing showed that I had a few things that were wrong. It was a huge relief to finally identify issues that I could work on to start improving my health.
Yeast overgrowth, gut dysbiosis and a microscopic parasite called blastocystis hominis were my issues. It had taken a few months of carrying out different tests and working slowly on changing my lifestyle. With the guidance of my naturopath during a few months of testing, I was able to start overhauling my diet and begin a regime to kill the yeast overgrowth and the parasite infection. I also had gut dysbiosis meaning the bad bacteria level was out of balance with the good.
The news of the parasite infection was surprising to me because about eighteen months earlier whilst working with a previous naturopath I had already carried out testing for parasites and been given the all clear. This is how I learned that not all testing is created equal. You really need to have very good quality highly comprehensive gut testing to detect all possible problems. Some testing is just not thorough enough to detect all of the possible issues that can occur in your gut.
MTHFR Gene Mutation Testing
Variations in genes influence how human beings look and behave differently to each other. These variations also dictate how our bodies react differently to external factors, particularly to our lifestyle and the diet we eat.
A common gene variation is the MTHFR gene mutation. MTHFR is short for Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, which is an enzyme in the body. It is an enzyme necessary for the important metabolic process of methylation to occur.
People with specific MTHFR variations are unable to metabolize vitamins that contain folic acid or folate. Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome may have a mutation of this gene and testing should be carried out to check the status.
Some of the important functions of the MTHFR gene are:
- MTHFR works with the folate vitamins to break them down correctly.
- MTHFR converts the amino acid homocysteine to methionine, used by the body to utilize antioxidants, make proteins and help the liver process fats.
- Homocysteine is converted to glutathione a major antioxidant used by the body.
Mutations in this gene can result in an inability to eliminate toxic metals causing high levels of mercury, lead and copper to build up in the body.
High copper and low zinc levels are common when an MTHFR gene mutation is found. Additionally, high copper levels cause zinc levels to decline.
High copper levels in the body can cause:
- Lowered immune health.
- A worsening of hypothyroid condition.
- Adrenal Stress.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Cause – There Can Be Multiple Factors
All the puzzle pieces were put in place after answering lots of questions about my past health history coupled with comprehensive saliva, hair, blood and stool tests.
It was found that I had:
- Poor adrenal function.
- An under active thyroid.
- High blood sugar levels.
- High cholesterol.
- An overgrowth of yeast, an overgrowth of bad bacteria, and a parasite infection in my gut.
- Low immune levels due to the issues with my gut.
- Leaky gut syndrome.
- Some food and environmental sensitivities causing irritable bladder and histamine sensitivity.
Looking back, all I can say is, no wonder I was exhausted. And I’m thankful every day for the ongoing care, guidance and help from my naturopath who got me well.
It took two years of consistent effort and focused application on my part, but I DID recover. Along the way I learned a lot about myself, my health and my personal limits which now, I’m continually mindful of.
The road to recovery was not without some setbacks as different supplements/herbs were tried and I reacted poorly to some of them due to my weakened body state.
Many adjustments were made along the way. Learning a new nutritious way of eating rebuilt my body. That stubborn 12 kilos of weight gain slowly disappeared as my health returned and my body found its equilibrium.
Putting It All Together
Understand that it is very likely there is more than one factor contributing to your chronic fatigue syndrome. There is no one size fits all, magic pill that will cure you. Time, persistence, self awareness and a positive outlook are needed if you are to succeed.
Seek out a naturopath who can help guide you through the process of the testing required to work out your particular triggers and what’s going on in your body that is causing your particular form of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Make the required, recommended changes to diet and lifestyle that will make you well again and never lose sight of the fact that you can recover.
I’ll continue to write new posts about my road to recovery, which supplements I used, what I ate, how I changed my lifestyle, and what helped me on my journey to being completely well again.
Please feel free to leave a comment below.