According to the best statistical analyses and extrapolations used in assessing this disorder, it seems that there are some 250,000 people in the UK suffering with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). With incidence peaking in the 20-40 age group and a preponderance of females, it has been predicted that, in the next ten years, the number of sufferers across Europe will increase by 30%.
I have been treating ME/CFS with TCM for 20 years. Recently, I’ve noticed more young people presenting with a wide range of symptoms, including extreme tiredness, aches and pains, negative emotions and lack of concentration. Patients may also complain of memory problems, depression and poor sleep. Symptoms may vary from day to day or week to week in their intensity and from patient to patient. Research suggests 77% of CFS suffers have turned towards alternative medical approaches instead of or in combination with western medicine.
Western Medicine largely views this as having no identifiable cause and the most common diagnoses are; an auto-immune condition, a thyroid dysfunction, an adrenal disorder, inappropriate diet or even anaemia. In my view, CFS is a disorder of both mind and body. Overwork, stress and depression may be key elements in the sequence of events that lead to becoming ill.
Stress not only makes symptoms worse; it is also wholly or partially causal and is one of the first issues which should be addressed. While a useful survival response, prolonged exposure to stress can eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion compromising immunity.
Chinese medicine believes that CFS is caused by kidney yang or Spleen Qi (body energy) deficiency or liver blood deficiency. Kidneys restore the inherited vital essence from the parents which is called “Yuan Qi or Jing”. Spleen Qi is called “nutritional energy”, which is mainly absorbed or transformed from the daily food. The Liver restores and supplies blood when the bodies need it.
Chinese medicine practitioners suggest the immune system and energy production are closely related. With CFS, it may be using as much as 60 percent of the body’s energy storage, which manufactures proteins to make antibodies. In other words, the body is deprived of energy because the immune system is using energy to produce antibodies. Consequentially, there is constant exhaustion. Deficient organs are strengthened and nourished using acupuncture points relating to autoimmunity.
I suggest helping energy levels with food. It is very important to have high protein meals for breakfast along with complex carbohydrates and good fats from, perhaps, eggs, poultry, omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and sardines.
For vegetarians or vegans, a good source of rice protein powder with some coconut milk is much better than wheat-free organic muesli for breakfast as it boosts energy levels for the day.
Supplementary herbs like Siberian Ginseng, Panax Ginseng, Astragalus Membranaceaus, Rhodiola Rosea and Ashwaghanda help to re-balance the body’s primary stress response systems, especially the HPA axis, which is impaired in those with CFS.