Treating the Real Causes of ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By Carole Caplin ME, short for myalgic encephalomyelitis — otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) — or, very insultingly, "yuppie flu" has long been thought by many doctors not to exist. When they tell you that the debilitating symptoms you're suffering are all in the mind, it's a frustrating experience. I know because I had ME in my twenties.

Muscle weakness and dysfunction, exhaustion, mood, vision and brain alterations, digestive disorders, an ashen face, over- sensitivity to sound and light and problems with balance are just some of the symptoms of this mysterious disease. One of the difficulties in diagnosing it, though, is that symptoms vary from person to person and often fluctuate from day to day. ME can appear and disappear for no apparent reason and last any amount of time, often for years, which is why doctors so often conclude that the sufferer's emotional state is the cause. Even psychological experts talk of this condition as 'your excuse', citing it as the mind's way of avoiding problems, or life in general.

Recently, though, medical researchers have proved that ME exists, identifying genetic abnormalities in the white blood cells of sufferers. That's great, but what happens next? Will doctors and pharmaceutical companies now be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of developing a vaccine or expensive array of drugs to cure ME? Identifying the cause of ME symptoms is all well and good, but what causes the blood-cell changes in the first place? ME can be a result of the Epstein-Barr virus, glandular fever, hepatitis and other viral infections. Or it can be a result of candida or other fungal infections or parasites; or dysfunction in the digestive system that results in inflammation or bacterial imbalance in the colon; or sensitivity to carbohydrates, or a magnesium deficiency. Or, to complicate matters even further, it can be a combination of any of the above. In other words, this is not a simple condition with a simple cure.

This is a perfect example of where practitioners, both orthodox and complementary, should share information and work together because ME is, in the main, a classic mind/body disease. A nutritional therapist would want to look at liver function, blood chemistry, food intolerances, bowel function and gut permeability. Some practitioners may look at hormone levels, emotional disposition and stress factors, while others may concentrate on breathing, posture and meditation, and gentle exercise. If you have ME, you need to identify the underlying factors, optimise the liver's detox capability, control any food intolerances, restore gastrointestinal function and support the immune system with, among other things, rest and recuperation.

This condition is a perfect example of where high-potency vitamin and mineral supplements may be useful, especially vitamin C and magnesium. A reportedly successful but still little-known supplement is germanium, a mineral present in all human tissue and organs. It maintains equilibrium throughout the body, lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, with a marked effect on many conditions from arthritis to angina. You can get it in small amounts from your diet, in some seeds and meat and dairy, but most of all in garlic. As a food supplement, germanium cannot be bought over the counter and must be taken under medical supervision. Diet-wise, patients should eat very lightly and not too late at night, cutting out any food intolerances.

Emotions may also play a big part, because stress can alter every chemical and system in the body, resulting in physical breakdown. If, as an ME sufferer, you can get a nutritionist, homeopath and bodywork specialist and, if needs be, emotional therapist working together, you'll make very positive progress. (C) 2005 Mail on Sunday. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved. Online at http://www.ediets.com/news/article.cfm/2/cmi_1335529/cid_7

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