Gut Bacteria Linked To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Further Studies Needed

It's not all in your head. At least, not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - in fact, the indicators appear that it may be linked to microbes in your intestines.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, has long baffled doctors. There's no specific test for the syndrome, which means that physicians rely on symptomatology and history to make a diagnosis after they rule other things out, like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even some psychiatric disorders such as depression.

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The key indicator of CFS seems to be when people perform an average amount of physical labor, such as would occur with normal day-to-day work and household chores, or a job that requires a moderate amount of standing, walking and lifting, but nothing laborious such as heavy physical labor, and they suffer from extreme exhaustion by the end of the day. Even stranger, patients report no rejuvenation that normally occurs with rest or sleep -- thus, they are chronically fatigued, according to The Cornell Chronicle.

They've gotten a bad rap. Many physicians believe CFS is psychosomatic, or caused from mental irregularities rather than physical irregularities, such as severe stress, an inability to cope with life and day-to-day activities, which leads to the question -- which came first, the chicken or the egg? However, researchers at Liberty Hyde Bailey have potentially vindicated many people.

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Maureen Hanson, a Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and the lead author of the study, says this is an important finding for the studies of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and related disorders.

"Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in ME/CFS patients isn't normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease. Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin."
Ruth Ley, associate professor in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics and Microbiology, is a co-author of the study and said that while more knowledge is needed, this is a useful tool for using dietary therapy to combat chronic fatigue syndrome in those who have it.
"In the future, we could see this technique as a complement to other noninvasive diagnoses, but if we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets, using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to help treat the disease."
Concurrently, the researchers discovered specific markers of inflammation in the blood, most likely due to a "Leaking" or unsealed gut from intestinal problems that allow foreign bacteria to enter the blood, Giloteaux said. This would account for massive inflammation and the general malaise and lethargy that is rampant with the syndrome.

The good news about this is -- those who suffer may be on the cusp of having a plausible treatment. Most gut bacteria can be eradicated from foreign area it has migrated to with antibiotics, although antibiotics are not a magic bullet and come with their own set of problems, including antibiotic resistance and other fungal infections.

Although there is more research that needs to be conducted, the body of evidence certainly shows that the facts of CFS are scientific and therefore not simply in one's mind, which is a gigantic feat for sufferers everywhere. Hope may indeed be on the horizon.

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