Chronic Fatigue / M.E.One of the most common presenting symptoms to the practice is that of persistant fatigue. Only a small percentage will have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I am reluctant to give them this label until all of the causes of fatigue have been explored. When patients present they are often frustrated in that all conventional blood tests are normal and they are “well in the laboratory”.
Q. Why do I feel so awful and yet all my blood tests are normal?
A. Blood tests cover a comprehensive list of causes of tiredness, including anaemia, liver, kidney and muscle disease, diabetes, infection, arthritis etc. It is reassuring that there is “nothing serious or life threatening”, but the patient is often left with a debilitating chronic fatigue. However, many common causes of tiredness, as discussed below, do not show up in conventional blood tests.
Q. My diet is generally not good and in particular I take a lot of sugars, tea and coffee. I feel temporarily better after these but could they be causing my tiredness?
A. There has been a dramatic increase in sugar intake in the last 30 years. This has a significant role in many illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity. However, it can also have a profound effect on energy and well-being. People often feel immediately better with sugar, but their energy levels drop with the rebound drop of blood sugar. Reduction of refined carbohydrates and caffeine, combined with probiotics and supplements can regulate blood sugar and energy levels.
Q. Can food allergy / intolerance cause my energy levels to be so low?
A. One of the most common undiagnosed causes of tiredness is that of Food Allergy / intolerance. Apart from allergy symptoms e.g. Asthma, Sinus and Eczema, the allergen affects many other organs producing deterioration in overall health. Detection of the allergen by history and allergy testing can produce a dramatic improvement in energy levels. It is reassuring to know that after a period of avoidance, the offending food can usually be reintroduced to some extent.
Q. What is Candida Syndrome and how can it affect my energy level?
A. This is a controversial concept that yeast/sugar sensitivity can contribute to a wide variety of health problems, including increased allergies, poor immunity, irritable bowel, skin disease and hormonal imbalance. In addition, it can also significantly affect general energy and well-being. A treatment programme aims to help the Immune System and muscle function through a combination of Diet, Herbal/Homeopathic Medicine, Acupuncture and Supplements. After 20 years experience of this condition, I do feel it can produce tremendous health benefits in properly selected patients, both in terms of specific medical conditions and overall health.
Q. I feel better after vitamins and minerals but I often read articles that they are a waste of money?
A. After qualification from medical school, I also believed that with a healthy diet, we had no need for extra vitamins and minerals. However, it does not take into account the affect of modern diet, change in the soil and individual absorption level on our needs. From the history and examination of the patient, e.g. nails, hair, skin etc., it is quite obvious that many people benefit considerably from supplements. Properly used at the correct dose for the right period of time, they are relatively free of side effects.
Q. How important is sleep, anxiety and depression in energy levels?
A. One of the first priorities in patients with fatigue is to ensure a proper level of sleep. Many patients have a sleep deficit which gradually affects them in terms of tiredness, irritability and increased anxiety. It is difficult to over-estimate the effect of anxiety and stress in terms of general tiredness and well-being. This may not become apparent until the stressful situation has passed. Management of sleep and relaxation techniques can bring significant benefits.
Q. What about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
A. I have deliberately left this to last as it is not diagnosed until all the above conditions have been outruled. The physical symptoms include joint and muscle pain, sore throats, painful glands, night sweats. Mental symptoms include fatigue, disturbed sleep, poor memory and concentration, low mood, headaches. Only 50% will have a history of a definite viral infection.
Muscle weakness and fatigue are the most prominent symptoms and are generally worse the day after exercise.
Treatment of Chronic Fatigue often requires a comprehensive treatment programme including Vitamin/Mineral supplementation, Herbal/Homeopathic Medicine and Acupuncture.
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