The Alternative Medicine Section
Alternative Medicine and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Part 2Today, the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome remain a mystery, though there have been some clues as to what may trigger this condition in some individuals. People with CFS often test positive for a multitude of viral infections, including Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human herpes virus 6, cocksackie virus, and cytomegalovirus, which has led some to theorize that chronic fatigue is caused by an as-yet-unknown viral infection.
Chronic fatigue syndrome patients may also be more vulnerable to viral infections, as they tend to have low levels of natural killer (NK) cells, which are crucial to proper immune system functioning. In addition, CFS patients typically have lower levels of energy-providing glucose and the stress-reducing hormone, cortisol, after exercise. This may point to an inability of the body to respond normally to both mental and physical stress, and would help to explain the extreme fatigue and muscle pain that accompanies even the smallest of tasks. It might also provide an explanation as to why so many individuals with chronic fatigue have low blood pressure, since a drop in cortisol tends to contribute to low blood pressure and the resultant lack of energy.
However, some researchers believe that chronic fatigue syndrome may be the result of an overactive rather than a depressed immune system. A large number of people with CFS develop allergies, which are associated with an immune system that is hyper-responsive to environmental stimulus. Indeed, some believe that chronic fatigue syndrome is actually a form of another mysterious condition associated with autoimmune activity: fibromyalgia. However, although fibromyalgia patients experience many of the same symptoms associated with CFS, including depression, mental confusion, lack of sleep, and muscle and joint pain, the predominant symptom of fibromyalgia is pain rather than fatigue. And, unlike fibromyalgia, the onset of CFS is almost always preceded by a series of flu-like symptoms, which recur rather than abate over time.
There are a number of other factors that may contribute to the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome. People that get CFS typically fit the profile of the highly driven, ambitious, hardworking overachiever or perfectionist, and it may be that such individuals subject themselves to a more stressful environment, which over time exhausts the adrenal gland and leads to a shortage of cortisol in the body. Also, because CFS has been known to strike clusters of the population, it has been theorized that it may be due, in part, to exposure to an environmental toxin or chemical . Still yet another theory implicates a condition known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which low levels of thyroid hormone lead to a decrease in metabolic functioning that can result in feelings of exhaustion. Chronic fatigue patients tend to have lower levels of many hormones, including growth hormones, cortisol, and thyroid hormone.
However, despite continued research in this area, to date no definitive cause for Chronic fatigue syndrome has been uncovered. There is some evidence that CFS may run in families, and roughly two-thirds of those diagnosed with this condition are women, but more study is needed to determine what role, if any, gender or genetics may play in the development of this illness. Physicians today are consequently forced to focus on treating rather than curing chronic fatigue symptoms.
Some prescription medications used to treat those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome include narcotics to alleviate pain, and sleeping pills to promote restful sleep. In addition, tricyclic antidepressant drugs are also used to promote sleep and to relieve the depression that often accompanies this illness. It is important to note here that CFS is not thought to be in any way a result of depression—the vast majority of those diagnosed with CFS were not depressed before the onset of their illness, but became depressed as a result of the life-altering, often isolating living circumstances with which CFS leaves its victims. Some doctors have reported success with injections of synthetic hormones to help raise low hormonal levels; and the use of drugs such as kutapressin and gamma globulin to help regulate the immune system. Certain antiviral medications have also been reported to be successful in some individuals.
Unfortunately, those with CFS often have abnormal sensitivity to medications, and are more likely to experience side effects associated with some prescription drugs. For these individuals, a health regimen that includes the use of natural supplements either alone, or in combination with other medicines traditionally used to treat chronic fatigue, may offer the most effective form of treatment.
There are many supplements available that can help to increase energy levels and cellular metabolism in those with CFS, or Chronic fatigue syndrome. B-complex vitamins, including thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folic acid), and vitamin and B12 (cobalamin) all work together to help the cells produce life-sustaining energy, and also help strengthen the immune system and prevent depression and mental deterioration by protecting the central nervous system. In addition, B-complex vitamins help support adrenal gland function and may help regulate the body’s supply of cortisol during times of stress. People with CFS should be sure to take a B-complex supplement, especially if they are taking antidepressants, which are known to interfere with the body’s absorption of all B vitamins.
Because those with Chronic fatigue syndrome test positive for many viral infections, some researchers believe that a depressed immune system may be at the root of this illness, leaving its victims more vulnerable to both viral and fungal infections. Supplements containing antioxidant nutrients can protect help strengthen the immune system against infection.
Alternative Medicine and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Part 3
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