Your body greatly relies on what you put into it – food, drinks and even environmental toxins all have an effect on how healthy your body is. The gastrointestinal tract is one of the most essential elements of the body, allowing for the digestion of food and the absorption of essential nutrients.
The gut microbiome, in particular, is known to contribute greatly to a number of functions in regards to overall wellbeing and nutrient absorption.
An unhealthy gut microbiome can cause a number of adverse reactions in the human body – not only affecting the gastrointestinal tract, but also the rest of the body.
ME/ CFS – What You Need To Know
CFS/ ME is a condition associated with both physical and mental fatigue. While accurate data is not available to provide an overview of the epidemiology of chronic fatigue syndrome, one study suggests that as much as 22% of the population may be affected to some extent. This remains the most underdiagnosed condition.
One study explains that CFS can oftentimes be confused with depression and/or anxiety. The study provides an overview of how the symptoms of this condition can cause signs that might cause a person to think they are suffering from depression – mental fatigue, mood-related problems and cognitive impairment.
This makes it essential to obtain a physical examination and to speak to a healthcare professional when such symptoms show up – especially when additional symptoms become present.
During a diagnosis, symptoms that will be taken into consideration include:
- Malaise following either mental or physical exertion, which takes the patient at least 24 hours to recover from.
- Fatigue that cannot be linked to another underlying medical condition and has lasted for the past six months.
- Impairment in memory function and concentration that lasts for a period longer than six months.
- Joint pain and possible muscle pain that lasts for six months or longer.
- Sleep disturbances, as well as not feeling refreshed after sleeping for a full night – sleep-related symptoms should also last for six months or longer to be considered possibly connected to chronic fatigue syndrome.
It should be noted that CFS will only be diagnosed when at least four symptoms are present in the patient, apart from the continuous presence of mental and physical fatigue (usually lasting 6 months +). In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, patients often also complain about headaches, tender lymph nodes, and possibly a sore throat.
Gut Microbiome, IBS & ME / CFS connection
The gut microbiome, a term used to describe the microorganisms that reside within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, consists of both organisms that reside in harmony with the digestive system, as well as bacteria and other microorganisms that are pathogenic.
A healthy gut microbiome refers to a larger abundance of those organisms that are considered harmonious and less pathogenic organisms. The larger the variety of beneficial microorganisms found in the GI tract, the better they contribute to a number of functions within the digestive tract, as well as other parts of the body – including the digestion of food and the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
One scientific paper notes that the gut microbiome of the GI tract in the human body has been linked to a number of elements, including:
- Physiological health
- Immune function
When the gut microbiome is compromised, then the body becomes more susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and illnesses. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory bowel diseases are common among people with a compromised gut microbiome. An unhealthy gut microbiome is also linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as causes a higher chance of the host becoming obese.
Recent data has also presented a connection between the gut microbiome and the brain. The brain communicates with the GI tract and, in turn, affects the microorganisms that reside within the digestive system.
On the other hand, the gut microbiome can also have an impact on the brain. In particular, research has shown that a healthy gut microbiome has a positive effect on the host’s ability to react to stress. High levels of stress, which is a factor that starts within the brain, has also been shown to affect the microbiota of the intestines – particularly the production of mucin, as well as secretions and peristalsis.
A recent study, published by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, has suggested a strong connection between an imbalance in the gut microbiome and chronic fatigue syndrome. The study found that certain bacterium species are found to be more abundant among people who have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, individuals diagnosed with this condition is also more prone to develop irritable bowel syndrome, which further provides evidence that a connection does exist between the condition and a microbiome imbalance – in fact, as much as 90% of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome also experience symptoms that qualify them for a diagnosis with IBS.
During the study, a total of 100 participants were monitored closely to determine how the gut microbiome may be connected to chronic fatigue syndrome. A total of 50 participants were diagnosed with the condition, whereas the other 50 participants were all healthy individuals. Blood samples were collected to analyze specific immune molecules, while fecal samples were analyzed for bacterium species.
The study revealed that specific bacterium species were found to be present at much higher levels in the participants with chronic fatigue syndrome. The particular bacterium species that the study linked to the condition included:
In addition to providing a method of analyzing the possible presence of chronic fatigue syndrome in a patient, the researchers found that the number of these bacterium species found in the fecal samples of participants also had a connection to the severity of their symptoms. Higher levels of these bacterium species were found in participants who complained about more severe fatigue and pain, in particular.
A study that was conducted in Australia also offered an overview of how the gut microbiome may be involved in the sleep disturbances often experienced by patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This study also provided further evidence of the gut-brain connection, by providing a solid overview of how the intestinal flora of a person may benefit or harm their sleep quality and patterns.
This study linked sleep and mood disturbances with two particular bacterium species:
When erythromycin was administered to the participants, and the number of these specific bacterium species reduces, they reported improvements in their sleep time, vigor score, and better mood.
Restoring A Healthy Gut Microbiome
Due to the new links that have been made between the gut microbiome and symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, researchers now believe that improvements in the intestinal flora of a person may yield reduced severity of their symptoms. A two-step process is highly recommended to assist with restoring a better balance in intestinal flora, which may help to improve symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome – this can reduce the severity of fatigue, improve sleep and help to lower levels of pain and discomfort.
Step 1: Gut Detoxification
The first step toward “healing” the gut and restoring a balanced gut microbiome is through optimal detoxification. The first step to optimal detoxification is through a cut down of processed foods and foods that contains refined sugars. Water consumption needs to be increased significantly, and exercise also plays a role. Additionally, the introduction of certain foods can help speed up the detoxification and yield to a better overall microbiome.
Seaweed is one of the best options for detoxing. This plant is high in minerals, including sulfur, cobalt, chlorine, calcium, and more. The plant is able to absorb certain toxins in the GI tract, including lead and cadmium. The chlorophyll found in seaweed can also help to remove certain toxins from the digestive system due to the fibers contained within the plant.
Step 2: Reincorporation Phase
Once the GI tract has been detoxified, the next step is the reincorporation phase. During this phase, special care needs to be taken to adjust back to a standard diet that does not place a particular focus on detoxification. The diet should include more foods that are beneficial not only for health but also for the gut microbiome.
Examples would include:
Yogurt, cheese, kefir, buttermilk, fermented vegetables, tempeh, natto, and miso.
The gut microbiome is known to assist with the absorption of nutrients that you consume through food and drinks but is very complex topic to discuss. A healthy variety of bacterium species is known to be more beneficial than a restricted variety. Studies have now also linked a poorer abundance of certain bacterium species in the GI tract to a possible worsening of symptoms associated with the presence of ME/ CFS. Fortunately, when the gut microbiome is not “healthy,” there is a 2 steps processes you can try to restore a better range of different bacterium species.