Eunice Beck, RN, on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Your Ability to Create Energy

Dear Friends,

I think I have finally “blown a fuse.” Not as we typically think of that phrase, related to level of anger, but in relation to my energy level. I was just beginning to get back to my norm after the high energy demands, both physical and emotional, of my spouse’s illness, when my body fell into its old routine. I got the respiratory virus that is going around this year, and then bronchitis, exactly what I used to do every winter when I was first diagnosed with CFIDS.

In a USAWEEKEND article last fall (September 23, 2003), Devin Zatorski wrote an article about how our bodies generate energy. ”The mitochondria — kidney-shaped balloons inside your cells — are furnaces that churn out energy in a complex biochemical process, part of a feedback loop that researchers are just beginning to manipulate.” “The inner walls of the mitochondria are coated with energy-making chemical reactors”. ” ‘That’s where energy happens,’ says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., a leading researcher on energy and fatigue.” ”In a feedback loop, the pituitary and the thyroid regulate energy production.”

” ‘For the first time, medicine is learning how to stoke the energy furnaces
by giving them what they need biochemically,’ says Teitelbaum, who directs
the Annapolis Research Center for Effective Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
Syndrome Therapies.”

Here’s how it works:

” ‘There’s a slow fire in the mitochondria that takes calories and burns them
in a slow, stepwise progression to create energy,’ Teitelbaum says. The
mitochondria’s inner walls are coated with energy-making chemical reactors
that take fuel and pull it apart, electron by electron. Result: compound
ATP, also called ‘energy dollars’.”

”Energy production requires a steady stream of nutrients. ‘If you have a
furnace, you’ve got to stoke it,’ Teitelbaum says. Without enough magnesium
or B vitamins, for example, the mitochondria cannot generate energy needed
for healthy cell function.”

”But the mitochondria’s furnaces need to be turned on. The switch is flipped
by hormones produced by the thyroid gland in the throat. The thyroid is told
to act by hormones secreted by the pituitary — a pea-sized gland deep in
the brain. And regulating it all is the hypothalamus, a walnut-sized gland
just in front of the pituitary.”

”So, if the mitochondria are energy furnaces, you can think of the thyroid as
a thermostat and the hypothalamus as the ‘main fuse’ for the system.”

”Here’s where the mighty microscopic mitochondria reassert themselves in the
power loop. If stress overloads your body’s energy needs and the mitochondria can’t
churn out enough supply, the hypothalamus ‘blows its fuse’ and shuts down, the
energy-making loop comes undone and chronic fatigue symptoms intensify.”*

Although this article (which I have had the intention to use since I read it in September) explains the energy production process with medical terms, it also gives details in language most of us can readily understand. I have talked before about energy budgets, and how we might conserve energy. This article explains some things that you can do to increase your energy creation ability. In my case, one attempt to maintain energy at the highest levels is to deal with my thyroid malfunction. I have chronic thyroiditis and must take medication, as well as monitor with blood tests to allow my thyroid to function at the level needed to continue giving me adequate energy. I also take both magnesium and B vitamin supplements.

But sometimes, no matter how one tries to provide all that the body needs to maintain energy levels, it becomes overwhelmed. As the article says, the mitochondria can’t produce enough, and the “energy-making loop comes undone and chronic fatigue symptoms intensify.” When I first read this article in September, it looked interesting and informative, but I was managing to maintain enough energy for my needs, so saw it as educational information I might pass on. Now I can see that this is exactly what happened to me as I became caregiver for my spouse.

Over the time of my spouse’s greatest need for care I was expending so much physical energy I had no real emotional energy left. Yet, there was emotional support to be given as well as keeping myself together. Thankfully, because I am a nurse, we were able to keep my spouse out of the hospital except for two overnight stays. For this I am very grateful, although at times, being a 24 hour nurse was almost beyond what I was capable of. I tried to sleep or rest whenever it was possible, and we “recovered” from the treatment experiences together. The current treatment plan was completed just before Christmas, with the expectation that my partner would need at least 3 months to return to prior level of function. And it seems the same applied to me.

But even that was not enough for my body. As I said, it fell into old habits. I have not had a serious respiratory virus or bronchitis for about 7 years, but I got it this year. My spouse had to take care of me again, and is now recovering from the same respiratory virus. This energy feed back loop is the same for everyone. Ours just becomes overwhelmed and shuts down more easily because we have CFIDS/FM. I am hopeful that our recoveries will continue smoothly and allow me to return to writing to you and answering your letters in a timely manner. But I also know you understand that family and my energy level must come first. Thank you for being such loyal readers. Take care and be well.

Yours in health,


I welcome your comments and questions at: My
articles and email responses are not being offered as those of a health care
provider. The information and opinions included are intended to give you
some information about your disease. It is very important that you empower
yourself with knowledge and participate in your own search for care. Any
advice given is not intended to take the place of advice of your physician
or mental health care provider. Always follow your physician’s advice, even
if contradicted by something written here. You and your physician know your
situation far better than I do. Thank you and be well.

Copyright 2003 USA WEEKEND. All Rights Reserved.

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