What is Chronic Fatigue and how can Functional Nutrition help?
Chronic Fatigue is a growing issue in our country, and often overlooked. People are expected to push through their fatigue because it is not considered a true medical illness. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, people with chronic fatigue syndrome are often diagnosed with clinical depression . This leads them down the path of psychological counseling to cure their "depression", with the belief that their fatigue will lighten. However, this does not get down to the root cause of why they are chronically tired.
Anyone who has ever experienced chronic fatigue will tell you that it is a debilitating illness that affects personal, emotional and social well being  and any wrongful diagnosis can lead to prolonged suffering. In fact, not all mental health manuals even list Chronic Fatigue as a mental diagnosis .
So what is Chronic Fatigue and how can it be fixed?
Chronic Fatigue is most often found after an exposure to a virus, bacteria, or parasite . When the body is exposed to such pathogens, intestinal permeability is compromised, leading to what is known as "Leaky Gut". This intestinal surface is modulated by gut bacteria and plays a large role in our immune system. It protects the human host by preventing microorganisms and toxins from entering the blood stream, while also allowing nutrients and minerals to pass through. How is this delicate balance maintained?-- By managing gut bacteria and through proper diet. When a virus or pathogen is exposed to the surface and there is not enough good bacteria to block it from the barrier, this pathogen will unfortunately pass through . If you have any other inflammatory disease present such as IBS, celiac disease, food allergies, obesity, or any other metabolic disorder, you are more susceptible to leaky gut.
Now that your body has a compromised intestinal permeability, pathogens are introduced to the immune system which causes it to work on overdrive to rid the body of this pathogen. This is how autoimmunity begins. Chronic fatigue is often associated with other chronic illnesses and does not stand alone . According to the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences, those with chronic fatigue have a disrupted ratio of intestinal bacteria which in turn releases inflammatory cytokines, increasing total body inflammation .
We now have a multilayer issue going on in the body that is more in depth than a simple quick fix. We need to first identify the root cause of the issue. Is there an underlying viral infection causing gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria)? Is there an exposure to Epstein Barre Virus or Lyme Disease that can be contributing to chronic fatigue? Has the intestinal permeability lead to food sensitivities contributing to autoimmune disease in the body? Often times, there can be an underlying autoimmune condition causing chronic fatigue with no known symptoms other than severe exhaustion. For example, a person can have "normal" thyroid labs, but can have thyroid antibodies present showing the presence of Hashimoto's Disease. What this means, is a persons immune system is taxed and the body has mistakenly created antibodies against the thyroid, although the thyroid is not yet compromised. In this particular case, if left untreated, the thyroid will soon become damaged.
Once we get a clearer picture of what is happening in the body, the healing process begins. As mentioned earlier, the intestinal surface plays a major role in a person's immune system. Restoring gut health will be of top priority. We need to restore the balance of good bacteria through probiotics and close the wall of the intestines to eliminate to passage of more pathogens. We then need to remove all inflammatory foods that could be taxing on the intestinal wall. You cannot expect to decrease inflammation in the body if you are constantly feeding it with inflammatory foods. This is where individuality comes in to play, as no two people are the same. As we discover what foods are causing inflammation in the body, we can secondarily address any viral or autoimmune issue going on through proper vitamin and herbal supplementation.
The body is an incredible machine and constantly fights to be in its perfect delicate balance (aka homeostasis). The role of Clinical Nutrition is to identify this underlying imbalance, and treat things naturally on a cellular level. With Chronic Fatigue, it is more that just being tired.
No, you do not need to sleep more.
No, you are not clinically depressed.
No, you are not making it up.
Chronic Fatigue is REAL!
Your body is imbalanced and it is working inefficiently. Your intestinal tract is not working properly and this is causing a whole cascade of negative health issues. They may seem minor now, but if left untreated Other major chronic diseases will develop. The biggest thing for you, is your fatigue. It is completely out of control and cannot be managed. It is beginning to compromise your day to day living and preventing you from doing things that you love.
Through simple assessment and dietary changes, this can all be addressed. You can begin to live a life that is symptom free and FINALLY live to your capacity. So take control of your health now, and book your appointment!
1. Griffith J, Zarrouf F. (2008). A Systematic Review of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Don't Assume It's Depression. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 10(2), 120-128
2. Castro-Merrero J, Saez-Francas N, Santillo D, Alegre J. (2017). Treatment and Management of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: all roads lead to Rome. Br J Pharmacol. 174(5), 345-369
3. Bischoff S, Barbara G, Buurman W. (2014). Intestinal permeability- a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterol. 14, 189
4. Mandarano A, Giloteaux L, Keller B. (2018). Eukaryotes in the gut microbiota in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. PeerJ. 6, e4282