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The 7 Most Common Factors in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Do you have an extreme exhaustion that no one can explain, your blood work won’t reveal, and a label of “hypochondriac” by your doctors?

You may also have joint pain, “sensory overload,” digestive disturbances, brain fog, and sleep disturbances too.

If you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/CFS, you aren’t alone. The most important thing you can understand about CFS is that it’s always a misdiagnosis. It means there’s something wrong… it just hasn’t been tested for or discovered yet.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is not Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Learn the differences here.

Below are the 7 most overlooked reasons I see my clients experience CFS. Many of the following on their own aren’t powerful enough to cause full-blown “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” – but these things tend to come in bundles. Because an infection or a low-grade toxicity can cause other body systems to go haywire…. CFS is really just the scenario of your “health barrel” overflowing. It’s imperative to figure out everything that’s going on so you can recover sustainably.

1. Adrenal Fatigue a.k.a. HPA Axis Dysregulation

Adrenal fatigue can exist by itself or as part of the larger picture of extreme fatigue or CFS. Because it’s always due to stress… it’s common. Emotional, environmental, inflammatory, or dietary stress can all lead to the demise of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis and cause what we all know of as “adrenal fatigue.” Once adrenal fatigue starts, secretory IgA lowers (a large part of gut immunity) and you become more susceptible to bacterial & fungal overgrowth in the digestive tract, and “bugs” like amoebic parasites.

Because of our modern lifestyles, stress is hard to get away from. But with things like yoga, a nutrient-dense diet, and adaptogenic herbs like holy basil (1), you can offset your everyday stress, protect your HPA axis, and ultimately guard yourself from adrenal fatigue.

2. Mold

Mold illness, also a key player in Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS, can be a huge missing link in someone with CFS. Mold illness can exist by itself or as part of reactivated Epstein-Barr, Lyme disease, and adrenal fatigue. 24% of the population carries a gene that makes them susceptible to mold illness. If you’re part of this 24%, it means you can’t detox mycotoxins (toxins that emit from mold spores) out of your body very easily. Once these mycotoxins accumulate in your body, they can stick around and wreak havoc on physical and mental health years or even decades after you’ve had mold exposure.

Step 1 is to get the mold out of your environment. (2) Step 2 is to get the mycotoxins out of your body. (3) Things like activated charcoal, bentonite clay, and dietamaceous earth (4) taken internally can all be used to bind to mycotoxins in the body and gently remove them. Steps 3, 4, and 5+ may involve correcting your electrolytes, protecting your glial (brain) cells, regulating detox processes of the body, clearing MARCoNS (a bacterial colonization in your sinuses) or a fungal sinus infection, and/or restoring immunity.

Work with a functional medicine practitioner if you believe you may be dealing with mold illness, as recovery can be a bit tricky and should ideally be slow and steady.

3. The Epstein-Barr Virus

The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) is known to cause mononucleosis or “mono” (a.k.a. the kissing disease). In most of us, this virus causes mono once and then doesn’t actively show up ever again. However, in a small subset of the population…. It keeps reactivating.

Learn how to test yourself for EBV here.

When it reactivates, it causes extreme fatigue, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, a mildly sore throat, headaches, and/or muscle weakness. The Epstein-Barr virus has also been linked to multiple different autoimmune diseases (5) such as Hashimotos, Lupus, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

As of now, we don’t know exactly why Epstein-Barr “reactivates.” Some of us may be more susceptible to this virus reactivating than others. In my own practice, I see reactivated Epstein-Barr in those with mold illness or Lyme disease often as well. Just like recovering from mold illness, recovering from reactivated Epstein-Barr can be a bit tricky and I recommend working with a practitioner to understand the deeper underlying imbalances that may be taking up all your immune system “soldiers.”

Beyond using strong herbal anti-virals (6) for Epstein-Barr… dealing with mold illness, Lyme, toxicity, thyroid imbalances, and adrenal fatigue are going to be the things that will ultimately prevent the Epstein-Barr from reactivating again once it’s gone.

The Epstein-Barr virus can be a contributing factor in CFS.

4. Toxicity

Mycotoxins come from exposure to mold, but other hidden toxins can be causing trouble for your thyroid, your adrenals, or your liver, and ultimately contributing to your CFS. Toxins like perchlorate from groundwater can affect thyroid function, (7) and organophosphates from common agricultural pesticides can lead to irritability and depression. (8) They can also contribute to the overall toxin accumulation in the body, which can cause detox pathways to become a bit “sluggish” and contribute to your overall fatigue.

No matter what the source of toxin overload is, the best options moving forward are to remove the toxin from your environment first, and then to remove it from your body next. Making sure your bowels are moving regularly first, and then using herbs that support glutathione production (as well as glutathione supplementation) generally helps immensely.

5. Chronic Lyme & Co-Infections

Lyme disease can come from a tick, mosquito, or other bug bite, and is traditionally defined as “infection by the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria.” We now know that many other types of Borrelia bacteria can lead to Lyme disease as well. (9) Many of us have been exposed to Borrelia bacteria, but not all of us develop Lyme disease. Just like reactivated Epstein-Barr, we don’t know exactly why some are more susceptible to this bacteria “activating” than others.

Lyme bacteria/Borrelia is tricky. It can actually suppress the immune system (10) which allows it to grow stronger. Beyond this, the reason why Lyme bacteria affects some more than others likely lies in what’s going on with the rest of the body systems that may be contributing to low immunity.

Things like mold illness, Lyme disease “co-infections” like mycoplasma and Bartonella, Epstein-Barr, or other bacterial or fungal overgrowth in the gut can be distracting to an already overworked immune system.Chronic Lyme is a clinical diagnosis, as not everyone with Lyme will show a positive on a Lyme blood test.

Beyond looking at underlying imbalances that are contributing to low immunity, herbs like samento, banderol, Chinese skullcap, and others may be useful. (11) Antibiotics tend to work well in the “acute” stage, but less so in the “chronic” stage.

Lyme disease is most commonly known to be caused by the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria.

6. A Sluggish Thyroid

This one is arguably the most well-known and well-studied reason for fatigue, but not often tested for in CFS necessarily. Beyond chronic fatigue, a sluggish thyroid can lead to weight gain, dry skin, thinning hair, and depression. A sluggish thyroid may be due to Hashimotos (a common autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your thyroid) or a dysfunctional HPA axis a.k.a. adrenal fatigue.

Restoring thyroid function may involve looking at the underlying causes of Hashimotos (remember there’s a scientific link to Epstein-Barr), or restoring your HPA axis and reversing your adrenal fatigue.

7. A Fungal Infection Of The Sinuses

You wouldn’t think something as simple as a fungal infection in your sinuses could cause near debilitating fatigue, but a recent study shows the most common symptom of chronic sinusitis is chronic fatigue, not a headache or a stuffy nose as we used to believe. (12)

When immunity is lowered due to mold illness, Lyme, reactivated Epstein-Barr, or adrenal fatigue, you’re much more prone to a sinus infection. And when that sinus infection is fungal, that fungus emits mycotoxins that you’re constantly breathing in (due to the nature of where the infection is).

Beyond looking at everything above to boost the immunity, probiotic nasal sprays that contain the beneficial bacteria L. Sakei, (13) colloidal silver nasal sprays, and citridrops nasal spray (14) can help calm down the infection.

You can see there are multiple different pathogens, toxins, and body systems that can be involved in CFS, but these are the most common ones I see as a practitioner.

I also rarely ever see just one of these things, as they unfortunately tend to travel in groups. If you feel you may be struggling with one or more of these things, please seek the assistance of a functional medicine practitioner, as they are trained to understand the specific tests that look into these deep underlying imbalances. There’s so much you can do about CFS, but figuring out exactly where it’s coming from is the first step.


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