Our functional medicine coaching academy specializes in a turn key approach to learning functional medicine. Get a deeper understanding of lab testing, treatment and specific protocols all through our online school. In addition, you can get teacher feedback through our live, interactive webinars. Learn a bit about how we work with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in this article and sign up for our free training for clinicians on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome HERE.
In this blog, we will look at Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tests. You will learn:
- What Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is
- What testing is currently available
- How Functional Medicine can help in the case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
What are the Causes & Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is thought to be triggered by various factors including infections, major life stress, toxin exposure, immune system deficiency, nutritional deficiencies, genetic susceptibility and issues with ATP production (CDC, 2021) and (Esfandyarpour R, 2019).
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often comes on after a viral or bacterial infection. Common viral triggers can be EBV (Epstein-Barr or mononucleosis), Herpes virus, stomach viruses or other viruses (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). Bacterial infection can also be a trigger. Some researchers think that the source of the illness is viral (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). Lyme disease, other vector born infections, and mold toxins are common root causes we see and test for in our clinic.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction and depleted levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (Morris G, 2014). Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the cells that produce ATP. ATP is cellular energy. It provides the energy needed for all activities in the body, cells, muscles, nerves, etc. Low mitochondrial function results in low ATP, which results in fatigue. Of course, mitochondrial dysfunction also has a root cause and toxins, infections, and nutrient deficiencies are often times part of the root of why mitochondria stop working as well.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might also have an autoimmune component, as it does often involve changes in the immune system. Low ATP production and mitochondrial dysfunction can be a source of autoimmunity, by inhibiting apoptosis (natural and healthy cell death) and stimulating necrotic cell death (Morris G, 2014). This can lead to spilling cellular material into the tissue causing inflammation. Necrosis is a much more harmful way for a cell to die than apoptosis.
The full list of symptoms include: flu-like symptoms, fatigue, muscle /joint pain, unrefreshing sleep, cognitive issues and high sensitivity to light and sound. Patients often feel tingling and numbness in different parts of the body. They may have other symptoms like rapid heartbeat at times (tachycardia), light-headedness, digestive issues (nausea and abdominal pain), headaches, poor temperature regulation, cold or heat intolerance and recurring sore throats (Esfandyarpour R, 2019).
Current Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Tests
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a complicated condition that is not fully understood. In fact, most medical schools in the US do not have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as part of their physician training (CDC, 2021). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is often misunderstood and might not be taken seriously by some healthcare providers (CDC, 2021).
There is currently no single biomarker or medical test to diagnose or confirm Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Esfandyarpour R, 2019) and (CDC, 2021). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may appear to be similar to other illnesses. This makes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome difficult to diagnose.
It can be unpredictable. Symptoms may come and go, or they may change in severity over time. Because it is difficult to diagnose, treatment is often delayed until the correct diagnosis is made (Esfandyarpour R, 2019).
Despite all of this, there is hope. There are great tests out there that we can do that help to diagnose the ROOT CAUSE of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. We can test for Lyme Disease, Epstein-Barr Virus, chronic hidden bacteria, viruses and parasites as well as many environmental toxins which we have seen in our clinic as the root causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When we find the root causes and properly identify them, we can accurately treat this condition.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Tests: What do we do if there is currently no test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? How do we diagnose it?
A Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis is based on symptoms, such as exhaustion, sensitivity to light, unexplained pain or others.
The two criteria that must be met for a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are:
- Severe fatigue lasting six months or longer and
- Having four other symptoms typical of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, such as mild fever, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain and weakness, joint pain, headache, sleep disorders, confusion or memory loss
The diagnosis can only be made after other diseases are ruled out clinically. It is important to check for other conditions that cause similar symptoms. These other conditions might be treatable. Getting treatment for these other conditions might help someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome feel better.
New Research on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Tests
Researchers have looked into potential biomarkers to identify Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. These biomarkers show poor immune function and signs of autoimmunity. Examples include differences in cytokine profiles, natural killer cells, autoimmune activity and T cell responsiveness (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). The immune system is often the focus for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome research, given that a viral infection often triggers the start of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It is thought that ATP is deficient in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). Studies show that inducing a biological stressor on blood cells forces the cells to consume ATP, which may be deficient in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients.
To explore this low-ATP hypothesis and to test whether they could use ATP consumption to identify individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, scientists did an experiment. In 2019, they created a blood test that correctly identified Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients from people without Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). The test looked at people’s blood cells, and specifically at a type of immune cell that is easy to isolate from blood samples. The test used a “nanoelectronic assay”. This monitors blood cells’ electrical responses to an induced stressor. It can detect molecular and cellular interactions and their electrical reactions, measuring the electrical activity of cells (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). It measures changes in tiny amounts of energy as a proxy for the health of immune cells.
The subjects’ blood cells were “stressed”, using salt. The cells were put in a high salt environment. This creates a type of stress that cells can usually fix using ATP. The researchers then watched how the cells reacted. Any big change in cell behavior shows that the cells are struggling with the stress and cannot process it well.
All of the blood samples from the people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome showed the cells were clearly stressed (Esfandyarpour R, 2019). The results from the healthy controls in the experiment showed cells that reacted in a stable manner, indicating that their cells managed the stress better than those of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Esfandyarpour R, 2019).
The cells from healthy controls had a period of electrical change when exposed to high salt levels, but soon returned to normal. Cells from everyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the experiment showed much greater electrical changes. The healthy cells were better able to cope with the stress of a high-salt environment.
Cells from more severely ill people showed the greatest changes and those from healthy controls showed the lowest. This shows the test may also reflect disease severity.
The scientists don’t know exactly why the cells reacted as they did but there was a clear difference in how healthy and chronic fatigue syndrome immune cells process stress.
This is a good start. However, more studies are needed to confirm these findings. More research will hopefully provide a reliable biomarker to identify Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and distinguish it from other conditions with similar symptoms.
If you are considering joining our functional medicine coaching academy, we will take you through a variety of testing and treatment methods for a wide variety of disease processes including chronic fatigue syndrome.
Examples of what tests we would run for this condition include:
* Lyme Disease and other vector borne infections
*Gut dysbiosis and pathology
*Toxic overload via mold, metals or other environmental toxins.
*Nutrient imbalances, blood sugar abnormalities
*and many more..
In the meantime, how can Functional Medicine help with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
While there is not a clear-cut Chronic Fatigue Syndrome test, there are many tests that get to the root cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In many ways, these Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tests are even more important than the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is because when we test for and identify the root cause(s), we also understand what we need to do to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and bring someone to back to health. This is part of what we would be teaching you at our functional medicine coaching academy.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a complicated, multi-system disease, often misdiagnosed as being caused by psychological issues. But the onset of a multi-system illness is rarely due to psychological issues (Bransfield RC, 2019). Many complex conditions that have been described as “all in your head” are actually immune-mediated infections (Bransfield RC, 2019). They are most likely related to the immune system and/or the microbiome. Complex diseases require complex explanations. A disease is caused by something. When clinical findings are confusing, the Functional Medicine approach is to find the root causes, rule out other diseases and address the problem at its root. We have extensive experience in our clinic addressing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other complex diseases (see our site here).
Whether Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or something else) is the main cause of a person’s fatigue, we use Functional Medicine principles to find the root causes. In Functional Medicine, we look deeper to identify root causes. We would look for a previously undiagnosed underlying chronic infection, as this can often be a root cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Other potential root causes include gut dysfunction or infections, autoimmune tendencies, HPA axis issues, mitochondrial issues or reduced cellular metabolic function, thyroid or other hormonal imbalances, toxic overload (particularly metals) and nutrient deficiencies.
We may uncover other reasons for the fatigue. In Functional Medicine, we can look into these other issues and treat them alongside the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This would improve symptoms of overall fatigue. In our clinic, we have expertise in treating a range of complicated, difficult-to-diagnose conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. We regularly treat and resolve chronic infections, fatigue and other complex conditions in patients in our Functional Medicine clinic.
** Please stay tuned for our next Blog! **
As always, please get in touch with us. If you or someone you know is struggling with persistent fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, contact our clinic today. Book a free health evaluation call with us today, to see how we can help you. We can answer your questions and help you book an initial consult with one of the functional medicine doctors in our clinic.