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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


All of us feel tired occasionally, but for some people this is an everyday feeling, and it can cause a major disturbance to the person’s life.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a very debilitating condition where the person barely has the energy to do everyday tasks.  It affects the sufferer mentally and physically and is aggravated by activity.   Research has indicated that approximately 12,000 people in Ireland suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  In the UK it is estimated that 250,000 people suffer from the disease, and in America it affects about 1000,000 people.

Professor Jose Montoya from Stanford Medical University is a leading expert on the disease.  He says “About 15 years ago, I started working with 10 patients who’d had their lives devastated by this illness,” says Montoya, a professor at Stanford University and one of the world’s leading experts on the disease. “I had been able to help them, so I took my results to my academic mentor and he told me: ‘You are committing academic suicide. You’re turning your career into a mess.’

A few months later when he went to Paris with his mentor for a conference, he spoke to his mentor about the matter again.  Montoya said “There was a homeless man lying drunk in the street, and he pointed to him and told me: “That’s how you’re going to end up if you keep studying chronic fatigue syndrome.”

For the last thirty years’ doctors have failed to take Chronic Fatigue Syndrome seriously. Montoya says “When I was a medical student in the 90s, we were instructed that CFS patients could not be seen in our clinic,” “And a letter was sent out to those patients telling them not to come.”

This could be because in 1955 at the Royal Free Hospital in London, approximately 300 people were treated for CFS, which caused the hospital to be closed for three weeks.  Doctors were mystified by this disease and pathological results indicated that it could have been due to inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.  However, because they were unable to find what caused this, they felt it was down to mass hysteria.  In the 1980’s when another epidemic of the disease affected people in Nevada, psychiatrists in the UK and US denied that there was anything physically wrong with the people and believed it was psychological.

In 2011 scientists in the UK decided to look further into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  This consisted of a 5 -year study called the Pace trial which was funded by the UK government.  Although they were still unsure about what caused it, they recommended a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and different exercise techniques to help to treat the disease.

Professor Garth Nicolson, founder of the Institute for Molecular Medicine in California, saw soldiers coming home to America after the 1990-1991 Gulf War with symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  He says The more we looked into it, the more we found that infection appeared to be the root cause, which was why some of the sufferers transmitted CFS to family members,” he says. “Infections aren’t a universal cause, but they are definitely one of the main contributors.” Professor Nicolson is of the opinion that CFS is caused by a combination of underlying illnesses, some which are related to anxiety, and others are due to neurological impairment, energy and autoimmune dysfunction.

Professor Mady Hornig from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, studies the different causes and treatments for CFS. “The range of symptoms across CFS patients is extremely diverse,” she says. “In some cases, something may have damaged the mitochondria which provide energy for immune cells, brain cells and your muscle cells.” Other researchers in the US have suggested that such patients can improve a lot from treatments such as a membrane lipid replacement. “For others, viruses or bacteria appear to have induced antibodies that can react against parts of your bodily organs, including your brain and muscle tissue, causing disruption,” Hornig says. “There’s a group in Norway who have had success using immunotherapy to treat some CFS patients.”

Consult your doctor if you have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time.  Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

•  Loss of memory or concentration

•  Feeling exhausted even after a night’s sleep

•  Chronic insomnia (and other sleep disorders)

•  Muscle pain

•  Frequent headaches

•  Multi-joint pain without redness or swelling

•  Frequent sore throat

•  Tender lymph nodes in your neck and armpits


Holistic therapies to help to treat joint pains associated with CFS










Tai Chi


Lifestyle changes


Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake


Avoid alcohol and nicotine


Drink 2 litres of spring water daily


Eliminate junk food from your diet


Go to bed early and get up early


Try not to overwork/delegate when possible


Do something you enjoy every day


Laugh every day (perhaps watching a comedy will help with this)


Eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day


Try and avoid eating refined white flour or grains, and eat wholegrains instead


Eliminate processed food from your diet


Supplements to help with both mental and physical tiredness


COQ10 supplements


Fish oils or Udo’s oil




Vitamin B complex


Vitamin C


Liquorice root



(N.B always check with a doctor or pharmacists before taking health supplements if you are taking medication for another health condition.)

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