For years, people sufffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) were told by mainstream doctors that it was all “in their heads.” But in the world of complementary medicine, we’ve always taken this mysterious, debilitating condition seriously. And now, finally, the mainstream is coming around as well.
In a new 235-page report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) asserted that this condition is indeed real. As one of the authors of this report bluntly put it, “It’s time to stop saying that this is a just figment of people’s imagination. This is a real disease, with real physical manifestations that need to be identified and cared for.”
In fact, chronic fatigue is absolutely rampant in this country. Current figures estimate between 836,000 and 2.5 million Americans currently have this illness. But a staggering 84% to 91% of them are not yet diagnosed.
In order to help mainstream doctors diagnose it accurately, the IOM report established the following checklist of symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue that lasts more than six months and isn’t brought on by excessive exertion or alleviated with rest
- Inability to engage in previous occupational, educational, social, or personal activities or levels of interaction
- Extreme malaise or fatigue (often described by patients as a “crash”) after minor activity or exertion
- Feeling unrefreshed by rest (even substantial amounts)
- Cognitive impairment or brain fog
Other symptoms include gastrointestinal and genitourinary problems, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, and sensitivity to external stimuli.
It’s a very familiar list to me, since I’ve been treating patients with all of these symptoms for decades. And, indeed, as another author of the IOM report remarked, “This is an illness that can have a profound impact on people’s function, their ability to maintain their jobs or continue their education.”
I’ve seen some of the devastating effects this condition can have on people’s lives—especially when it gets brushed off by mainstream medicine. People who suffer these symptoms can potentially lose their jobs, health insurance, marriages, and even homes—all because their illness is considered a function of psychology rather than pathology.
Which is why I’m glad to see it finally being taken seriously. Not only for my patients but also for those who suffer silently with this condition when their primary care physician tells them it’s “all in their head” and hands them a prescription for an anti-depressant.
In fact, in an effort to shed the previous stigma attached to the catch-all term “chronic fatigue syndrome,” the IOM even wants to change the name of this disorder—to “systemic exertion intolerance disease” (or SEID).
They believe this term is not only more accurate, but helps convey just how serious the condition really is.
So how does SEID start? Well, there’s still no consensus on a single cause. But the IOM found evidence linking the illness to immune dysfunction (especially diminished natural killer cell function), and infection (particularly Epstein-Barr Virus).
Which means, when it comes to treatment, one of the best places to start is with your immune system. But as I’ve cautioned before, your immune system is very complex. It’s made up of billons of cells. And they all need to be working in perfect harmony in order to keep you healthy. Haphazardly throwing popular “immune boosters” into the mix can tip this delicate balance dangerously off kilter.
The best approach to supporting your immune system is multi-tiered, encompassing every aspect involved in immunity.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of my top immune supporting supplement recommendations:
- Dimethylgycine HCl. This is a naturally occurring amino acid and antioxidant. Research suggests that it may help optimize both your humoral and your cell-mediated immune responses. This keeps your immune cells and your antibodies on guard—offering two layers of defense.
- Larch tree extract. Larch tree extract is packed with arabinogalactins—polysaccharides that pack serious immune support. In fact, clinical research shows that taking high doses of larch arabinogalactan may raise your odds of staying healthy by more than 50 percent.These results aren’t surprising, since studies also show that arabinogalactins call your natural killer cells to action. And these cells are your immune system’s first and most critical line of defense.
- Maitake D-fraction.® This powerful mushroom extract may help support all of your immune system’s key players—including macrophages, T-cells, natural killer cells, and interleukin-1 and -2.
- Beta 1,3 glucan. These are sugars extracted from the cell walls of baker’s yeast. And clinical studies show that supplementing with beta 1,3 glucans offers crucial support to a stressed immune system.
- Olive leaf extract. Extracts from olive leaf deliver a long list of phytochemicals that may help keep your immune system primed. That’s one reason why it’s been revered in the Mediterranean as the secret to good health since Biblical times.
And of course, my other core recommendations for immune health are AHCC (500 mg, twice per day), vitamin D3 (at least 5,000 IUs per day), and a good, multi-strain probiotic (one in the morning and evening, on an empty stomach).
I’ve also found that extreme fatigue can often be tied to adrenal burnout. In fact, this is one of the most common diagnoses I make. I wrote about it in detail—along with my specific recommendations for treating it—back in the April 2013 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter. (Subscribers can access this issue—and the complete archive—by visiting www.drpescatore.com and logging in to the Subscriber area of the website. And if you’re not already a subscriber, the website also has all the information you need to sign up today.)
I’ve successfully used this protocol for hundreds of patients. So I can say with absolute confidence that, if you stick with it, it will give your body a fighting chance to beat fatigue—and regain the energy and vibrance you’ve been missing.
“Panel Says Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is A Disease, And Renames It,” NPR (www.npr.org), 2/11/15