(Health Secrets) In part one of this series we explained what chronic fatigue syndrome really is. Now it’s time for information that can be helpful in determining whether you have chronic fatigue syndrome or some other disease that mimics some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
It is of prime importance to be your own advocate and not to accept a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome until you feel confident that your health provider looked for and excluded all other possibilities and did not rely solely on test results. Often if you correct hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue and other problems, and you suddenly get better, you did not have chronic fatigue syndrome to begin with.
One key in determining whether you have true chronic fatigue syndrome or some other illness is the prolonged recovery time after exertion. Other diseases can cause extreme, debilitating fatigue too, but in chronic fatigue syndrome it takes much longer to recover from fatigue resulting from exertion – typically 24 hours or longer. A person with chronic fatigue syndrome may go grocery shopping and need to spend the next few days being very sedentary or even in bed, just to recover from the experience. Persons with other illnesses, even cancer, can rest a few hours and be back to their baseline.
Things that can go wrong in the diagnostic process:
* Improper reliance on, and interpretation of normal ranges of lab work. Lab ranges are designed to pick up people already acutely ill with whatever is being checked. 94 to 96% of the general population will fall into “normal ranges” regardless of symptoms. Few doctors give credence to a patient’s symptoms anymore. They have become completely reliant on lab tests, X-rays etc. The other problem with lab work is that most tests are a snapshot of that moment in time and could have been vastly different earlier or later in the same day or week. There is a huge difference between normal and optimal.
Never blindly accept that the doctor is right when you are told everything is normal. You are the one living in your body, not the doctor and certainly not the piece of paper with the lab report. Sadly, in light of “normal” lab work, most doctors are going to throw prescription medications at you to deal with symptoms. Worse yet, it is very possible you will get a diagnosis of depression and have anti-depressants and other mood-altering drugs prescribed for you. All any of these will do is cause further damage to your body. It is in your best interest to find a good alternative health care provider. Your chiropractor can help you get and interpret many tests.
* Hypothyroidism. The vast majority of health care providers test no more than TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and Free T4 when looking for thyroid problems. This probably misses 50% or more of those who have hypothyroidism. Although the American Endocrine Society changed the upper limit of TSH to 3 (from 5.5 to 6) back in 2003 for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, few labs and doctors have adopted the new ranges. To completely rule out thyroid problems you need several other thyroid tests and a knowledgeable provider to interpret them for you.
* Adrenal Fatigue (cortisol insufficiency/excess). Cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is called the stress hormone. It is vitally important in the body’s response to stress, regulating the immune system, and protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Both too little and too much cortisol are detrimental. Near total lack of cortisol will kill a person quickly. More and more studies are proving that in CFIDS, the hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal (HPA) axis is not functioning appropriately. Basically, the hypothalamus tells the pituitary to tell the adrenal glands to make cortisol.
A glitch anywhere along this axis causes either cortisol deficiency or cortisol excess. Those with chronic fatigue syndrome have low cortisol usually. Standard lab work will miss anything but acutely ill patients. There are multiple stages of adrenal fatigue and few people reach a level that conventional medicine can diagnose as being a problem. A person can be told they are fine but they feel miserable and have many/most of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Addison’s disease is extreme lack of cortisol, and Cushing’s disease is extreme excess. You need to be nearly dead for these to be diagnosed, especially Addison’s disease. Most conventional practitioners do not believe in anything outside these 2 extremes. Your chiropractor or other alternative health care provider can help you order the appropriate adrenal profile salivary test.
* Chronic Lyme Disease. Another problem rarely recognized by the conventional medical community, chronic Lyme disease has many of the same manifestations of chronic fatigue syndrome.
* Iron Overload. Excess iron in the body, even mild amounts, causes many of the same symptoms as chronic fatigue syndrome including disabling fatigue.
* Anemia. Anemia can include iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency and folate deficiency. Deficiencies can be diagnosed with simple blood tests including a CBC and by measuring levels of vitamin B12 and folate. Sometimes a complete iron panel may be needed.
Lab tests for these anemias however, have woefully low normal cut off points. A person can feel exhausted and ill yet results will fall in the normal range. Here, like with most labs, normal is far from optimal. Have your chiropractor or other knowledgeable health care provider interpret results for you in light of what is optimal.
* Hidden infections. Reactivations of Epstein Barr, mycoplasma, HHV-6, coxsackie virus, and other infections are common in chronic fatigue patients. Many patients can trace their illness to an acute viral infection. No single infectious cause of chronic fatigue has been found but there seems to be a definite link. If you are experiencing symptoms of chronic fatigue, your provider needs to look for active infections. Over 99% of US adults will show they have had prior infection with any of these, but there are ways to determine active infection.
* Cancer. Many times, the first symptom of a hidden cancer is unexplained fatigue. When searching for an answer, this needs to be kept in mind. Keep a log of all symptoms, no matter how trivial they seem to you. A pattern may point a finger at something early on.
Next week: Treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome that really work.
For more information:
Chronic Lyme Disease