Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex illness characterized by extreme fatigue that appears to be linked to extreme changes in the gut microbiome; CFS worsens with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS?
“Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities”. All this comes from the CDC in America where 2.5 million people have this condition.
It’s a bit of a mystery. Or rather, it was.
Many experts believed it was caused by the remnant of viral attack, but then it is more prevalent in 40-60 year old women than men, although it can strike anybody.
Gut bacteria and yeasts linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
It is well known that a damaged microbiome can lead to yeast infestation in the gut. If a full complement of good bacteria were present they would consume your daily intake of yeasts at night while you sleep. If they are not present (for example, after a dose of antibiotics, or drugs, or because you eat badly, are stressed, binge drink or picked up a parasite when abroad), the yeasts lay their roots down creating small holes in the gut wall. This is the first step to a leaky gut. Worsened by gluten consumption that makes the holes bigger via an enzyme called zonulin, leaky gut at the outset may just allow small food molecules to pass into the blood stream, poisoning the blood and making you tired, seemingly for no apparent reason.
But when the holes are bigger, the yeasts themselves can get into the blood stream. Mouth ulcers, thrush, cystitis, bloating after meals, flatulence and fatigue are all symptoms.
This understanding has encouraged researchers to look further.
Cornell researchers studied (1) the faeces from 48 people with CFS and compared them with those of 39 healthy people using DNA sequencing from the stools and backing it up with sequencing from the blood.
They found that people with CFS had
- Less diversity in their gut microbiome
- Less anti-inflammatory gut bacterial species
- More inflammatory markers in the blood
- More evidence of a leaky gut
Their solution was to take probiotics and eat a diet high in natural fibre. However, a gut rebuild is never that simple and requires you to:
i) Heal the gut wall
ii) Kill the bad
iii) Replenish the good
iv) Heal the gut lining
We suggest you read our article – Heal your Gut, Heal your Body.
In a second study (2) researchers from a number of health centres across America studied possible links with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is known that many people with CFS have this disorder. Taking 50 patients with CFS and 50 healthy patients, they first determined that almost half (21) of the CFS patients, in fact, had IBS.
First, they compared the gut microbiomes of the CFS sufferers with those of healthy folk and found that six species in particular were more prevalent in the guts of CFS patients – Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, Dorea, Coprococcus, Clostridium, Ruminococcus and Coprobacillu. In fact, by studying the microbiome bacterial composition they could determine whether or not the patient had CFS.
People with CFS but no IBS had higher levels of a species called Bacteroides but lower levels of Bacteroides vulgatus. Those people who had both CFS and IBS had higher levels of the species Alistipes, but lower levels of Faecalibacterium.
Chicken or egg? Because you have the disease, you have an altered gut microbiome, or vice versa? Given the conclusions of the massive American Human Microbiome project (your gut gets ill first, then you get ill), it would seem that the way forward to treat the disease might start with yeast elimination, and then a rebuild of the gut microbiome.
In America, in extreme cases patients consider Faecal Enemas.
Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist added, “I am seeing an increasing number of cancer patients who have had IBS and/or CFS but never corrected it. A damaged gut microbiome can go on to lead to a number of chronic illnesses. CFS cannot just be left.”
A third study, this time from the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, showed that (3) the worse the CFS, the wider was the divergence of the microbiome from a healthy norm.
CFS may also be called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or ME/CFS,