Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) is a devastating disorder that is associated with a group of symptoms that manifest as severe, debilitating and unrelenting fatigue. The main problem is persistent fatigue to the level of such severity that an individual has significant reduction in their ability to function at normal activity levels. In short, symptoms such as achiness, “brain fog,” bowel disorders, short-term memory difficulties, concentration and attention issues, poor sleep, recurrent infections from weakened immunity, and exhaustion after minimal exercise or exertion are hallmarks of this disorder.
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) which manifests as painful trigger point areas in the muscles throughout the body can also be associated with CFS/CFIDS, and some people feel that FMS and CFS/CFIDS are the same disorder.
Current statistics for FMS from the American College of Rheumatology are estimated at a conservative 3 to 5% of the United States population. CFS/CFIDS figures seem much more poorly defined with estimates around 25,000 million Americans who have severe fatigue (fatigue lasting longer than one month). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put together a criteria list for a “classic case scenario” for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In short:
1. Unexplained, persistent, or relapsing chronic fatigue that is of new or defined onset (not lifelong), is not the result of ongoing over-activity, is not significantly relieved by rest, and results in substantial loss of daily activities, i.e. occupation, social, and personal.
2. Also, 4 or more of the following symptoms, all of which must have persisted or recurred 6 or more consecutive months of illness, and must not have predated the fatigue:
a. Impairment in short-term memory or concentration
b. Muscle pain
c. Multi-joint pain with swelling or redness
d. Headaches – new type, pattern, or severity
e. Sore throat
f. Incomplete sleep, or sleep that is un-refreshing
g. Malaise or exhaustion after exertion that lasts more than 24 hours
According to Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. in his book titled “From Fatigued to Fantastic” many people do not exactly fit this CDC criteria, however, they still suffer with substantial fatigue and respond positively to the same or similar therapies for classically defined CFS. Teitelbaum’s viewpoint (and I concur) is that if you have unexplained fatigue that significantly impacts your ability to function normally, and is associated with any two of the following then you have CFIDS until proven otherwise:
1. Bowel problems, and/or recurrent and/or persistent infections or flulike feelings/symptoms
2. Brain fog
3. Diffuse achiness
4. Increased thirst
5. Poor sleep
So What Causes CFS/CFIDS/FMS:
For most individuals who suffer with these conditions there is a myriad of different problems. No two people are exactly alike and so the combination of problems leading to CFS/CFIDS/FMS is individualized. In fact, it is not uncommon for an average person with CFS/CFIDS/FMS to display 4 to 6 factors ranging from dietary sensitivities, hormone imbalances and immune dysfunction. For the vast majority of individuals suffering with CFS/CFIDS/FMS the problem is insidious in nature and involves a complex network of multi-system breakdown such as hormone, immune, metabolic and cellular function.
Dr. Woeller is available for consultations to discuss integrative medical therapies helpful for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Immune Dysfunction. He can be contact HERE.