Breakthrough study reveals hidden cause of chronic fatigue syndrome

For years, people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have been led to believe the condition is all in their heads. Because mainstream medicine could never pinpoint an exact cause or offer an easy cure, they treated the condition as a mystery at best…and more often, as a figment of the patient’s imagination.

Those of us in the integrative medicine field, though, have always known that CFS is as real as any other illness, and that no amount of willpower or attitude adjustment will make it go away. And, as in most things, we are being proven right yet again.

A new study just came out, and, for the first time, it revealed a physiological cause of CFS.

Researchers found that in cases of CFS and a related condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a key metabolic enzyme is blocked, leading to a profound lack of energy and other hallmark symptoms.

The study compared levels of 20 amino acids in 200 people with ME/CFS against 102 healthy people. As you know, I am a big fan of amino acids and the powerful effects they have. So I was thrilled when I saw them front and center in this study.

The participants with ME/CFS had low levels of the specific amino acids that fuel oxidative metabolism. That resulted in an impairment of the key enzyme necessary for turning carbohydrates into energy. The authors point out that when this enzyme is impaired, the body may be forced to consume different fuels. And that can cause energy levels to plummet. What’s more, it can spur a buildup of lactate in the muscles, which would explain why ME/CFS sufferers complain of burning pain after even the slightest bit of exertion.

While this might sound like a breakthrough to mainstream doctors, it’s right in the wheelhouse of functional medicine. Looking at all the amino acids and the roles they play in the body’s processes is critical. No surprise that it’s not yet “accepted and standard” practice, but for those of us in the know, it is a foundation of how we practice medicine and treat patients.

So what does this study mean to you if you have ME/CFS? A few things …

First, it means that you need to be careful about exercise. It doesn’t mean you can’t exercise — just that you need to get very thoughtfully considered recommendations from someone who is familiar with your condition. The fact is, any amount of activity can cause an energy drop and lactic acid build-up. The more severe your condition, the more the symptoms. So it’s essential to monitor your activity in order to avoid that all-too-familiar crash. Taking it too far will lead to major symptom flare-ups that can persist for weeks and even months.

Second, if you have ME/CFS, you need to pay close attention to your amino acid intake. This study found that women (the primary sufferers of ME/CFS) had significantly reduced levels of six specific amino acids—isoleucine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and tyrosine.

So if you have ME/CFS, it’s time to take a close look at your amino acid profile, then work to fill the gaps.

As you can see, amino acids control our lives in countless ways. This is just one way. Dieting and maintaining your weight is another.

This is precisely why I focused so heavily on amino acids in my new book The A-List Diet. Amino acids are critical for so many health functions. But everyone’s needs are different.

Here’s just one example of why individualized amino acid plans are essential. Men can use muscle tissue as a source of amino acids. Women, however, tend to have less muscle mass. So their bodies go first to amino acids in the blood for fuel. So men and women have different amino acid needs.

That’s why I formulated protein boost shots and shakes that can be individualized to meet your individual specific needs.

All of this is addressed in much more detail in The A-List Diet. So if you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, I urge you to take a minute to visit and reserve one today.

This is one area where a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t do. And the new ME/CFS study just backs that up.