Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
This is a depressing and isolating condition which has only recently been recognised by conventional medical practitioners as a real illness. It affects every aspect of the sufferer’s life, making even every day routine tasks impossible, and causing a wide variation of distressing symptoms.
It is estimated that a staggering 250 000 people in Britain are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It appears that many cases are originally triggered by an infection but other triggers can include toxins, organophosphate pesticides, vaccinations, major trauma and stress.
A Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patient finds that they are unable to tolerate normal mental or physical activity, becoming absolutely exhausted afterwards. Other main symptoms include muscle pain or twitching, short term memory loss and problems with control of the autonomic nervous system resulting in palpitations, sweating and even fainting. Sore throats, enlarged glands and joint pains tend to point to an ongoing problem with the immune system. Alcohol intolerance is a very characteristic feature, also irritable bowel symptoms.
It can be very difficult to get a conventional diagnosis since this relies on ruling out other potential pathologies. Many people complain that they are simply treated for depression, rather than the underlying root cause. Here at the clinic I spend time taking a full case history and listening to the unique experience of each patient. This can take a long time and require quite a bit of detective work but it is essential to get the full picture. Commonly there has been a particular illness such as glandular fever or Lymes Disease which has triggered the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but also people can have an overloaded lymphatic system which causes their body to be flooded with toxicity. A recent case of mine had a chronic low grade infection in the sinuses which had lead over the years to a cascade of other effects.
Since a Chronic Fatigue patient is at a very low ebb, it is important to balance the careful support of body systems, with tackling any underlying residual infection. Borrelia for example (the spirochaete which causes Lymes disease) tends to be attracted to collagen where it lurks, evading treatments aimed at eliminating it. This can lead to strange ‘unexplained symptoms’ such as repeated cystitis which doesn’t seem to respond to treatment.
In my practice I have found that Andrographis paniculata is very effective in tackling chronic fatigue cases where there is a link to a particular immune challenge. This herb grows in South East Asia, China and India and it has a range of actions including boosting the immune system. The dosage needs to be built up slowly under the supervision of a medical herbalist in order to avoid side effects.
Closer to home, Blackcurrant leaves (Ribes nigrum) can help to balance cortisol levels in the body, which often become disturbed in cases of Chronic Fatigue leading to difficulty getting to sleep and then difficulty getting up in the morning. Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a South American rainforest herb which is excellent to tackle muscular aches and pains associated with Chronic Fatigue. Herbs which help to alleviate depression and stress are also indicated in some cases, depending on the circumstances.
As ever treatment is designed on an individual basis to support the unique circumstances of each patient. With good herbal support and positive lifestyle changes the prognosis can be very positive. It is very exciting to see Chronic Fatigue patients able to get more out of life again.