You Probably Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and You Don’t Even Know It

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an illness that's often undermined. This article will shine a light on this serious health condition.

A young woman is asleep on her desk, and her head is resting on her arms on top of a book

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not like any normal tiredness that you experience in everyday life. You’d feel like you’re barely making it through the day and can’t remember the last time you’re feeling rested. This disorder causes you to feel extreme fatigue that limits you to perform daily activities. Unfortunately, the condition may worsen with physical or mental activity, but sleep doesn’t improve it. 

The early signs of this illness are strong fatigue that comes suddenly. It often comes and goes and never stops and lasts for at least 6 consecutive months. It can occur at any age, affecting both children and adults. However, it can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition. 

Medical professionals are still unable to identify the exact cause of this condition yet, so it isn’t easy to diagnose. Nevertheless, you can treat the major symptoms.

From its causes to remedies, here are seven things you need to know about chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? 

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or usually abbreviated as CFS, is pretty much self-explanatory. The National Health Service (NHS) defines it as a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms, one of the most common being extreme tiredness. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) interprets it as a disorder characterised by extreme tiredness, which sleep and rest cannot improve.

It’s a Real Thing, Trust Us 

You probably think the definitions above sound vague, and you’re right. There’s still so much to be learned when it comes to CFS.

The reason is that a lot of people, doctors included, think CFS isn’t real. So much so that, to fight the stigma around it, some people prefer to refer to it with its other name, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

For years, doctors told people suffering from CFS that they were hysterical or that their symptoms were merely physical manifestations of their psychological condition. A study conducted on CFS patients shows that 77% of the responders have had a negative experience with doctors.

Symptoms & How CFS Affects Your Body

A woman sitting on the sofa looking displeased, facing a doctor whose back view is seen in the foreground
Symptoms of CFS include extreme tiredness that lasts for months.

Here are the symptoms of CFS: 

  • Extreme tiredness that lasts for at least six months and doesn’t improve with rest 
  • Muscle or joint pain 
  • Flu-like symptoms, including headache or dizziness and sore throat 
  • Difficulty in thinking, remembering, and concentrating (brain fog) 
  • Fast, irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations) 
  • Mental health problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety 

From TCM’s point of view, fatigue is harmful to your liver, kidney, and spleen. The liver itself circulates qi, or the energy responsible for the workings of the human body. So, when fatigue affects your liver, the flow of the qi will be disrupted as well, causing illnesses. 

TCM divides the illnesses into four: qi deficiency, yin deficiency, yang deficiency, and blood deficiency.

Who’s at Risk?

Although anyone can be at risk of CFS, it’s mostly found in women in the mid-20s to mid-40s, especially if they have underlying autoimmune conditions. In 2018, a study by the Autoimmunity Reviews finds that autoimmunity can trigger symptoms of CFS

This is because women have two X chromosomes, as opposed to men, who only have one. Since X chromosomes contain the highest level of immune-related genes, it makes it more likely for a woman’s immune system to develop hyperresponsiveness and attack itself.

What Causes CFS?

Part of the reason why CFS hasn’t been taken seriously is that its exact causes are still unknown or unconfirmed. There isn’t even a test that could help medical professionals to diagnose it.

But lately, this has changed for the better. And strangely, we can thank Covid-19 for that.

The Connection to Covid-19

Recently, experts have discovered that CFS shares a connection with long Covid. Based on 2021 research by John Hopkins Medicine, people with long Covid may experience persistent symptoms of CFS due to permanent damage to the vital organs.

Recently, experts have discovered that CFS has very similar symptoms with long Covid. According to the NHS, long Covid happens when a survivor still experiences the signs of the infection weeks or even months after they healed. The condition is also known as a post-Covid-19 syndrome.

Symptoms of long Covid include severe tiredness, pain, headache, sore throat, brain fog, heart palpitations, and depression. Sounds familiar? Maybe because they’re pretty much the same as the symptoms of CFS.

As more doctors recognise the similarities, they realise that CFS may be as real as Covid-19, after all. And like long Covid, it may be a by-product of a viral infection. This finding has prompted the United Kingdom government to fund research to find a cure to long Covid. It, in turn, would help CFS patients as well.

Treatments & Remedies

A close-up of a woman as she looks out the window
You can try natural remedies and treatments to help with CSF.

For now, the world is still waiting for a new health guideline on treating CSF, which unfortunately has met a setback. Supposedly published in mid-August 2021, the guideline would have dismissed the use of graded exercise therapy (GET) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to treat CSF, as they have been deemed futile.

Luckily, TCM offers some alternative remedies and treatments – although they cannot cure CSF entirely, they may do wonders for the symptoms. Ginseng tea, for example. American ginseng, or ginsenosides, has been known to reduce stress. It can help boost energy and therefore fight fatigue. Other fatigue-lessening herbs include Chinese yam and Cordyceps. Furthermore, you can also try lingzhi tea, which can improve the function of white blood cells and increase immunity.

As for physical treatments, TCM recommends acupuncture, cupping, and tui na massage to help correct imbalances in the body and provide relief for CFS patients. 

Living with the condition is hard; some people must quit their job because they can’t manage the pain. The NHS suggests asking for support from friends and family and talking to other people who have chronic fatigue syndrome. If you don’t know where to look for them, start with your social media connections. While we all have to wait a little longer before a cure arrives, we now know that there are researchers who are currently working tirelessly to find it. There is hope, and the future is bright.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.

 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. [Accessed 21 September 2021] 
  2. National Health Service. 2017. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME). [Accessed 21 September 2021] 
  3. National Health Service. 2021. Long-term effects of coronavirus (long COVID). [Accessed 21 September 2021] 
  4. Autoimmunity Reviews. 2018. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Evidence for an autoimmune disease. [Accessed 21 September 2021]  
  5. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). 2021. Redox imbalance links COVID-19 and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. [Accessed 21 September 2021] 
  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2021. COVID-19 NEWS: For Many, Long COVID Looks a Lot Like Chronic Fatigue[Accessed 21 September 2021] 

Share this article on

Was This Article Useful to You?

Related Articles

The contents of the All Things Health website are for informational and educational purposes only.
Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.