Your Guide to Eliminating Chronic Fatigue (Part 2 of 10) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Your Gut
By Michal Cooling, CNTP
As your functional medicine specialist in Denver, we have a holistic, whole-person view as well as molecular view, with tools and testing to evaluate the biochemistry of cells, tissues, and organs. We seek to find the exact imbalance in your body, the underlying cause for that imbalance, and the individualized solution.
With this approach, we view chronic fatigue differently than traditional medicine does, and usually find there is usually a network of things contributing towards this fatigue and other related symptoms.
Our Top Ten Strategies for Eliminating Chronic Fatigue
These are the top ten most common causes of chronic fatigue that we see, which are often not addressed by conventional or even holistic practitioners:
- Gut Function / Nutrient Imbalances / Poor Absorption
- Hidden Food Sensitivities
- Hidden Infections
- Brain Imbalance
- Emotional / Stress/ Post-Trauma
- Sleep Issues and Their Underlying Causes
- Hormone Imbalances (Thyroid, Adrenal, Sex)
- Detoxification and Metabolism Impairment
Today, Our Focus is on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Your Gut
A little bloating, heartburn, constipation, gas, or diarrhea, though annoying, may not seem that significant. But in reality, it is central to your entire health and connected to everything that happens in your body. All systems rely on a healthy digestive system.
The link between gut function and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) has been proven, but why haven’t we heard about it in conventional medicine? Perhaps, there just simply is no model in conventional medicine for successfully addressing the underlying causes. Nevertheless, we can’t ignore the connection or its impact on full recovery. Let’s explore the basis for this connection.
Physician Carrie Daenell explains, “The GI tract—a hollow tube measuring 25 to 30 feet in an average adult—is open to the world from the mouth to the anus. It is also home to 70% of our immune system’s cells and the primary reason that most health syndromes and degenerative diseases are directly related to the function of our digestive tract. If your digestive system is compromised, your immune system is compromised. Research repeatedly shows that if the immune cells in the GI tract are compromised, we are at higher risk for developing serious GI illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and chronic skin conditions, including psoriasis and eczema. Poor digestive health can also cause inflammatory diseases intrinsically linked to the GI tract, including CFS and FM [Fibromyalgia].
Hidden digestive issues can contribute to and cause:
- Sleep disturbances
- Abdominal pain
- Lactose intolerance
- Celiac disease
- Auto-immune problems
- Chronic fatigue
- Systemic toxicity challenges
- Mood disorders
- and more…
Carrie Daenell Explains This Connection:
“Recent studies have shown that CFS/FM often start when inflammation is triggered falsely, i.e., by undigested foods or intestinal parasites. Our body’s natural inflammatory fighters become overwhelmed, causing leaky gut syndrome (dangerous permeability of our GI tract) and CFS/FM. Once the gut becomes leaky, our intestinal lining is no longer able to keep those undigested foods out of the blood stream. When undigested foods enter the blood stream, they interact with our systemic immune system, which was not designed to recognize or accommodate their presence. Once the intestinal barrier is broken down, such as it is in a leaky gut scenario, it becomes a free-for-all. Undigested food is seen as an invading toxin or pathogen (“bug”), thus triggering the systemic immune system to mount a battle against the undigested protein. This begins a cascade of immune problems which fuels systemic inflammation and crossover auto-immune challenges. Once this cascade begins, there is no quick fix or bandaid solution to this scenario.”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive condition. Research has shown that IBS and CFS frequently coexist. Perhaps this explains the overlap of the underlying causes they both share. Everyday Health explains:
Studies indicate that many things lead to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue syndrome. Researchers who look at factors that the conditions share have come up with several theories based on scientific evidence that could explain why they often coexist — including infection, immune problems, and heightened pain perception, among others…. Dr. Chang says that many factors may contribute to the development of both conditions. Possible scenarios include:
- Post-infectious syndromes. IBS sometimes develops after a stomach bug or food poisoning, says Chang. Likewise, chronic fatigue syndrome has been seen in people after a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. “In fact, in chronic fatigue, one of the biggest theories is that some sort of infection is causing the symptoms,” she says.
- Overactive immune response.In IBS, scientists theorize that an immune response in the gut could trigger changes in secretions or the way the bowel moves or senses pain, causing symptoms, says Chang. In chronic fatigue, she says, a problem in the immune system could cause production of inflammatory substances that are linked to fatigue.
- Enhanced pain perception. People with IBS and possibly those with chronic fatigue syndrome tend to process pain differently than people without the conditions. Chang explains it this way: “Say I have IBS or another chronic pain condition and you don’t, and someone applies intense pressure to our thumbnails. At the same [applied] pressure, I’ll feel it as a much more intense pain. I will rate it as 8 out of 10, and you’ll rate it as 2 out of 10. The pressure threshold that I feel pain will be lower than yours.” In IBS, the increased sensitivity occurs mainly in the bowels.
- Stress from losing a job or caring for a sick parent also could contribute to the development of these conditions or trigger a flare, Chang says. “It’s possible that the combination of chronic stress and a certain genetic type would predispose an individual to getting IBS and chronic fatigue syndrome,” she adds.
Even in perfect world our gut has a hard time keeping things balanced. But in our world there are many things that knock our digestive system off balance.
What Are They?
- Our low fiber, high sugar, processed food, nutrient poor, high calorie diet that makes all the wrong bacteria and yeast grow in the gut leading to a damaged ecosystem.
- Dietary proteins, like gluten and dairy cause leaky gut.
- Lack of adequate digestive acid and enzyme function – which can come from acid blocking medication use, or zinc deficiency.
- Overuse of medications that damage the gut or block normal digestive function – things like anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, acid blocking drugs, steroids.
- Chronic low-grade infections or gut imbalances with overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, or yeast overgrowth or parasites, or even more serious gut infections.
- Blood sugar problems cause leaky gut.
- Hidden food sensitivities and autoimmunity cause inflammation and leaky gut.
- Pregnancy, menopause, and other hormone shifts causes leaky gut.
- Toxins damage the gut such as mercury and mold toxins.
- Stress can alter the gut nervous system causing a leaky gut and change the normal bacteria in the gut.
Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and IBS
See our blog on Eliminating IBS once and for all for how to give your gut a tune up here. Contact The Healing Center Denver for any questions regarding chronic fatigue.
In addition, the following therapies may be beneficial for those suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
- Mind-Body Stress-Reduction and Emotional Clearing Techniques. The techniques we use and teach our patients give them tools to manage their condition, provide them a sense of control, and help them feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
- Nutrients and Herbs that reduce inflammation and pain. We customize all our recommendations to the bio-individuality of each patient to provide remedies that reduce the pain from both conditions.
- Lifestyle changes. Having routine activities and daily structure and not overexerting yourself can help ease symptoms of both IBS and chronic fatigue.
- Improving mood and sleep will go a long way toward improving both conditions as well.