Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or is a diagnosis by exclusion. There is no one single definitive lab test to diagnose the existence of ME/ CFS. This illness is also less commonly referred to as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID).
Common Symptoms of ME/CFS
- Chronic tiredness/ exhaustion– can be mistaken for being “lazy” and simple daily activities feel like chores; body still feels tired or exhausted after getting enough or more than enough rest
- Cognitive impairment, which may include: brain fog, concentration problems and memory loss (“senior moments”) – the feeling of getting easily confused, distracted, forgetful, poor focus and lack of mental clarity
- Sore throat & fatigue/ “sickness behaviour”- you may feel like you’re “under the weather” or getting flu even if you’re body has no symptoms of flu
- Aching joints and fatigue – also known as arthralgia; common joint pains are in the shoulder, knee, and ankle; you may fell your joints are swollen
- Nausea – a sensation of unease and discomfort in the upper stomach with an involuntary urge to vomit
- Headache, Migraine, Pain behind your eye socket – pain in the head with pulsating nature and can be felt from two to 72 hours which can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, or smell
- Exercise intolerance – the inability or lowered ability of the body to do physical exercises at what would be measured to be the normally expected level or extent
- Post-exertional malaise (PEM)- the symptoms of ME/ CFS are worsened as time passes by and due to mental or physical exertion
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – IBS is a common sickness that upsets the large intestine. People with IBS may experience cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both.
- Disrupted sleep patterns – normal cycle of sleep is first, a light sleep followed by deep sleep and then a dream state referred to as Rapid Eye Movement (REM)-sleep. This full cycle should last for about 90 minutes and is normally repeated about 5 times during the night. People with CFS have irregular sleep-wake rhythm, causing unrefreshing sleep.
- Chronic yeast infection/ candida – an overgrowth of yeast in any part of the body and is the most common kind of yeast infection.
- Out of breath/ Palpitations – feelings or sensations that your heart is pounding or racing. They can be felt in your chest, throat, or neck.
Poor Sleep amongst ME/CFS
The complaint of unrefreshing, unrested sleep is universal among patients with ME/CFS (SEID). The lack of refreshing sleep causes a vicious cycle with ME, further plummeting the immune system, exacerbating low energy & fatigue.
One Australian study which explained the poor sleep in ME/CFS pointed to overactive sympathetic nervous system (your fight or flight stress response) which makes sleep stressful, rather than restful.
Causes of ME/CFS
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’s cause is still unknown until today. Some studies show that chronic fatigue is triggered by a combination of physical, emotional, environmental, and mental factors (including psychological stress & trauma).
ME/ CFS diagnosis often follows a viral infection which may occur may years ago. To confirm, you can organize the following blood test to confirm latent virus existence:
- Epstein-Barr virus / Glandular fever
- Herpes simplex (HSV
- West Nile virus (caused mostly by mosquito bites)
Facts on ME/ CFS
- Institute of Medicine report (published in 2015) estimates that 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from Myalgic Encephalopathy /Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Most of them have NOT been diagnosed
- CFS is more common in women than men and usually occurs at the age of 40 to 60, though it can occur at any age. Among children, the probability is estimated at 2 to 100. More teenagers are getting CFS than younger children.
CFS ME vs Fibromyalgia – Are they the same thing?
People suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome may find themselves experiencing the same symptoms with those who have fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), and vice versa.
The symptoms are highly similar, but the key difference between CFS & fibromyalgia is:
- In fibromyalgia, fatigue often takes a backseat to debilitating muscle pain
- In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, patients tend to experience an overwhelming lack of energy, but they can also be accompanied by some pain.
Categorization of ME
The extent of ME can be categorized using the scale of mild, moderate, severe and very severe – where the degree of immune dysfunction & limited mobility magnify as you progress through the scale.
Do I have ME/ CFS?
There’s no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. It’s worth consulting a medical doctor (preferably an integrative medical doctor) that specializes in chronic fatigue syndrome specialist.
Also, it’s worth checking your body is not:
- A host to parasite – Parasite such as blastocystis hominis lives on your gut and saps all the energies out of you.
- Allergic to any food ingredients- Allergic reactions can range from itching, swelling, sneezing, nasal congestion, trouble in breathing, dizziness or fainting if not treated promptly. These symptoms can continue especially if you do not know where or what you are allergic at.
We’ve also have created a 2-mins quiz here that you can take if you suspect you may have ME/ CFS. But this is by no means a substitute to medical advice.
Is there a Cure for ME/ CFS
There is no known cure for CFS. It’s a disease that the medical community still grapples with though. Within the most recent 2 years, there has been significantly more research performed in the disease and a lot more is still to be uncovered in relation to the disease.
The following are approved treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – for patients with mild to moderate CFS/ME; will help the patient accept his condition, feel more in control, understand his illness and prevent CFS/ME from advancing. CBT therapists usually conduct sessions individually.
- Graded exercise therapy (GET) -it is a planned exercise program, which ultimate goal is to increase your ability to carry out a physical activity which may include swimming or walking.
Medication/ Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has been focusing on symptom relief.
Although there is no known medicine that would cure CFS/ME, there are prescribed antiviral medication that your specialist doctor can prescribe. Note that this medication can provide symptomatic relief only & make you temporarily feel better.
The natural and the most effective management of CFS ME symptoms starts with changing your diet. We’ve created a helpful diet & lifestyle guide for you that you can download here.