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Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia


Quick view: PMA Association

1)  Fatigue mixed with diffuse joint and muscle pain for greater than 6 months of unknown origin is the general description of chronic fatigue syndrome, with fibromyalgia being a more extreme version of this disorder.

2)  Correcting imbalances within the gut, adrenal/thyroid glands, and blood sugar system will yield positive results for most people suffering from the disorder.

3)  Chronic infections such as viruses, parasites,  bacteria (Lyme), mycoplasm, mold, yeast/fungus perpetuated by biofilms and toxic materials can perpetuate the illness.

4)  Identifying and providing proper support to genetic mutations (SNP’s) such as MTHFR to help support optimal cellular function is necessary for a number of people suffering from the disorder.

5)  Toxic metals and dental materials can be underlying factors in the CFS/FMS expression.

6)  10 key elements to overcome CFS/FMS outlined below.

In depth view:

Fatigue and widespread muscular and/or joint pain that persist for 6 months or longer with no known identified cause is the general description of chronic fatigue syndrome, and its more extreme cousin fibromyalgia.

There are a number of factors that can be involved in chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia (CFS/FMS).  I speak from experience, having overcome FMS myself.  While conventional medicine tends to look for one cause and therefore “one cure”, the reality is that issues affecting the gut, blood sugar, adrenals/thryoid dysfunction, electrogmagnetic sensitivity in addition to chronic infections appear to be at the root of many of the complaints people label as CFS/FMS.  The difference between CFS and FMS appear to be extremes of the factors contributing to the symptoms, with FMS being a more extreme expression of CFS (1).  What is important is to understand is the physiology that is disrupted and address the factors which are manifesting as the pain, fatigue, and mental/emotional problems (depression, anxiety) that tend to come along with it.

The foundation to restoring health, CFS/FMS  included, must be centered around optimizing the biochemical triad of health.  That is, optimizing gut function, blood sugar, and adrenal/thyroid function.   Neglecting one of these areas will likely result in poor outcome.  Addressing all three simultaneously will almost certainly yield results, often dramatically in a relatively short period of time.

The gut connection: 

Any digestive distress, whether it be gas, bloating, indigestion, loose stools, or constipation should be viewed as a warning light that not just the gut is impaired, but the immune system too, as the gut accounts for approximately 70% of the immune system (2).  Research has very clearly demonstrated a link between gut imbalances such as “leaky gut” and “small intestine bacterial overgrowth” (SIBO) aka “dysbiosis” with both CFS (3)(4)(5)(6) and FMS (7) (8)(9)(10).  It’s worth noting that leaky gut and dsybiosis are also strongly linked to anxiety, depression, and digestive complaints, symptoms commonly part of the CFS/FMS expression (11)(12).

Part of the the creation of the leaky gut and dysbiosis is poor diet, rich in sugar and grains, which will feed pathogenic microorganisms, bacteria, parasites, mold, yeast, or fungus living in the gut.  Complicating the matter is the use of antibiotics which are commonly given to the immune compromised CFS/FMS patients, which can feed a yeast/fungal/mold infection.  The waste products produced by these micro-organisms are potent neurotoxins and tissue irritants.  These waste products can overwhelm the liver and kidneys in their ability to eliminate waste, resulting in hormonal imbalances, fatigue, depression, anxiety, etc.  Acetaldehyde is a toxin produced by candida (yeast), which can be particularly irritating and cause brain fog, depression, and muscle pain (13).  Acetaldehyde is also a known inhibitor to a key enzyme, methionine synthase (13.5), in the methylation cycle (discussed below) thus leading to a depletion in our bodies most important detoxifying chemical, glutathione.

Long standing overgrowths of pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungus can create a “biofilm”, which is a protective membrane that will be unresponsive to antibiotics and antimicrobials (14)(15).  This is one of the reasons why chronic infections can be chronic, and it’s rarely diagnosed even though it’s extremely common!  In order to eliminate the biofilms, certain enzymes or other mechanical destroyers (biofilms are resistant to substances that are toxic to the non biofilm form of the microorganism) of the biofilms can be necessary to effectively eliminate the chronic infections.  It’s important to recognize that the biofilms will form over tissues that are weakened, and this weakness typically has a toxin such as a heavy metal at its root.  Therefore, the proper strategy to effectively eliminate a biofilm is to break it down with the proper product (enzymes, chitosan), mop up the toxins perpetuating the infection (bentonite, charcoal), and recolonize the tissue with beneficial microbes.

If you have altered gut function, particularly dysbiosis and/or leaky gut, you should think malabsorbtion of nutrients.  The gut alterations and microbial overgrowth can and will result in impaired nutrient absorption, which can result in hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances which are seen within CFS/FMS (16)(17)(18).

Certain foods and food additives can also be very problematic in individuals dealing with CFS/FMS.  Clinically speaking it has been observed that those who are dealing with leaky gut will have many food sensitivities, as well as airborne allergies.  Once the leaky gut has been healed, many, if not most, sensitivities will disappear.  Food additives such as MSG, it’s derivatives, and Aspartame are neurotoxic agents which have also been shown to exacerbate many CFS/FMS symptoms.  Eliminating the problem foods and additives are critical steps in resolving CFS/FMS and typically produce dramatic results in short periods of time (19).

The thyroid connection: 

A significant consequence of long standing leaky gut and dysbiosis will result in impaired thyroid function.  Unfortunately, most doctor’s assessing thyroid function rely solely on blood tests measuring the hormones TSH, and occasionally free T4 in assessing the function of the thyroid.  If the values on these tests come back in the “normal” range, you’ll be told your thyroid is doing fine.   While it may be true that the thyroid itself is fine, the active thyroid hormone (T3)  may be low relative to it’s mirror image reverse T3 (rT3) which the liver also produces from the T4 released by the thyroid gland.  If the liver is toxic, among other things, it can create a dominance of reverse T3 relative to Free T3, which results in the cell receptors becoming blocked with rT3.  Some research indicates that the ratio of Free T3 to rT3 may be the best assessment of overall thyroid hormone cellular response from a blood test standpoint for this reason (20).  A more simple and cheap test for assessing thyroid function is to chart temperature throughout the day using a non-digital thermometer.  If the body temp is consistently below 98.0, there’s a very good indicator that the cellular response to  active thyroid hormone (T3) is impaired.   The end result of impaired cellular response to active thyroid hormone can mimic hypothyroidism (21), which in terms of symptoms, mirrors much of CFS/FMS.

While it is best to address the underlying causes which will contribute to rT3 dominance, it may be appropriate to find a medical doctor to prescribe T3 without any T4.  The use of T4 (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothyroxine) can amplify an rT3 problem, as more T4 means more rT3 when the liver is toxic, iron deficient, cortisol is either high or low, and/or infections are present.

The blood sugar connection:

Every cell in the body relies upon sugar (glucose) to enter into the cells in order for the cells to have energy to carry out their function.  The hormone insulin is released from the pancreas in response to sugar entering the blood stream after consuming a drink or eating food.  Ideally, the sugar enters the blood slowly resulting in a gradual release of insulin.  When high sugar, or high glycemic foods are consumed a quick surge in blood sugar will result in a surge of insulin.  Unfortunately, the average American consumes far too many high glycemic foods which results in insulin resistance over time.  As the cells hear the call of insulin to carry glucose into the cells so frequently, from the high glycemic diet, they become less responsive to the call of insulin. More insulin is therefore needed to cause the cells to respond to the increased blood sugar.

One of the more heavily investigated areas of research relative to CFS/FMS centers around what is termed the “hypothalamic-pituitary -adrenal axis” (HPA).  It’s been shown that alterations within the HPA are linked with CFS/FMS, although it appears that this alteration is functional in nature, not a hard wired genetic trait (22)(23), rather other forces are at work causing such an alteration.  One of the  main causes of this is insulin resistance (24).

The adrenal connection: 

The adrenal glands are little glands that sit on top of the kidneys.  These glands play a role in stabilizing blood sugar, in addition to responding to stress.  When blood sugar becomes too low, they will release the hormone cortisol, which is the hormone that should be highest in the morning, waking us up from sleep, and decrease at night allowing us to sleep.  Commonly sleep problems are related to improper adrenal function releasing cortisol at high levels at night, which interferes with sleep (25).   This is largely responsible for much of the insomnia that people with FMS deal with.

The adrenal glands allow us to respond to stress and give us bursts of energy when we need it.  In today’s world of go, go, go, the adrenal glands can become overstimulated and will adapt and hypertrophy (grow), resulting in chronically high levels of cortisol.  The effect of this over-activity of the adrenal glands will result in a down regulation of the thyroid gland.  The thyroids function is to keep our bodies energy good and stable, like cruise control on in your car.  The adrenals are more like a turbo booster.  When the turbo is on, there is less need for the thyroid to do what it does, and so it slows down.  In this situation, the thyroid isn’t the problem, it’s the adrenals.  This is why I link both the adrenals and the thyroid gland together in much of my writings.

The adrenals role in blood sugar stability is centered around the release of cortisol when blood sugar gets low.  When high sugar/high glycemic foods are consumed, blood sugar will spike causing a surge in insulin.  When this happens, blood sugar will raise, but because the insulin surges out, the blood sugar can actually become temporarily low.  When it becomes low, cortisol is released to stimulate the release of stored glucose in the liver (glycogen).  What is important to understand here is that high glycemic/blood sugar diets result in more adrenal stress.  More adrenal stress results in more CFS/FMS symptoms (26).

Genetic mutation connection: Genetic Mutation

All disease is cell disease, and every cell utilizes a process called “methylation” as the backbone for biochemical function.  This can be a rather complicated subject to describe, but in short, methylation involves the molecule of carbon and three hydrogen atoms bound together.  This molecule aids in DNA repair, detoxification, neurotransmitter synthesis, immune function, inflammation, energy production and more.  MTHFR is a gene that sits on a key juncture within the methylation cycle, and a consequence of having a mutation in this gene along with other genetic mutations which impact optimal methylation may fuel every complaint of somebody dealing with CFS/FMS.

MTHFR’s primary function is to create an active form of folic acid, called 5-methyltetrahydafolate (5-MTHF).   Biochemically speaking, folic acid converts into folinic acid, and folinic acid converts into 5-MTHF.  MTHFR mutations compromise this conversion, therefore people with this mutation will need to supplement with active forms of folic acid to get their methylation cycle functioning properly.  It’s worth noting that studies have found that supplementing with folinic acid has yielded positive benefits for upwards of 80% of those dealing with chronic fatigue (27)!

Much of the clinical understanding and buzz around methylation cycle defects such as MTHFR can be attributed to Dr. Amy Yasko and her pioneering work with these mutations.  I would recommend all who suffer with chronic health problems to read her book, “Autism: Pathways to Healing“.  It’s about much more than autism!

The virus connection: 

It’s worth restating that the gut is 70% of the immune system, so it’s important to recognize that when looking at systemic viral infections you keep in mind that their activity depends upon how well the immune system function.  To simply treat chronic viral infections with antiviral medications or herbs, while neglecting digestive imbalances is almost guaranteed to result in failure.

That being said, chronic viral infections can certainly be a significant factor in CFS/FMS.  Epstein Barr, Parvo, and HHV-6 all have been correlated to some degree with both CFS/FMS (27)(28).   It’s been my observation that the link is quite strong, although it’s one of the complicating factors to CFS/FMS and rarely is the one thing behind it all.

The chronic Lyme connection: 

Chronic Lyme disease is a reference to a chronic low grade infection with bacteria Borrellia Burgdorferi infection, although co-infections with various forms of mycoplasms(29)(30), viruses, mold(31), and bacteria can commonly be found.  Conventional testing has not been favorable for validating this(32), although this is probably more of a consequence of lack of sensitivity in the testing for the presence of such infections.  The reason I say this, is because there are numerous reports of people resolving their chronic fatigue symptoms following long term antimicrobial therapy.   The documentary, “Under Our Skin” does a great job of exposing the politics of chronic Lyme diagnosis and treatment.

The electromagnetic smog connection: 

This is probably the most overlooked of all the factors associated with CFS/FMS.  It’s estimated that at a minimum 3% of the population is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, and about 30% are moderately sensitive.  The low frequency waves of high power lines and electric appliances, as well as the high frequency waves of wi-fi, cell towers, cordless phones, “smart-meters”, and microwave ovens are collectively referred to electrogmagnetic smog.

“You are sitting in levels (of radiation -3, 4G) that are approximately one million billion times above natural background… Therefore you must ask yourself, do we through evolution have a microwave shield built into our bodies? …of course we don’t.” – Ollie Johansson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Research on the biological effects from exposure to such smog has been linked to cancer, break downs in the blood brain barrier  (leaky brain), DNA damage, altered circadian rhythm of the endocrine system,  diabetes, as well as fatigue(33)(34).  This is a broad subject that is covered in great detail in the excellent documentary, “Beings of Frequency“.    It’s most likely no coincidence that the rise in many chronic illnesses, including CFS/FMS, correlates with the rise in the use of microwave radiation from cell towers, cordless phones, etc.

The toxic metal connection:

The cells of our body have two forms of energy production, aerGLYCOLobic and anaerobic energy.   In terms of energy production, it is desirable for our cells to utilize aerobic energy production as the dominant form of energy production.  The “currency” that our cells spend to fuel our existence comes in the form of “ATP”.  The more ATP our cells produce, the more energy we have.  The anaerobic energy system is called “glycolysis”, which is where we convert glucose into pyruvate.  This yields 2 ATP molecules.  By contrast, aerobic energy production, which occurs in the mitochondria of our cells yields 36 ATP molecules to be spent for generating energy in our body.

What we want is for the pyruvate to become converted into “acetyl CoA” in the mitochondria of the cells where aerobic energy production takes place.  When pyruvate is not converted into “acetyl CoA” in the mitochondria, it is left to convert into “lactic acid” which can cause much of the pain associated with fibromylagia (36).

Cellular Respiration

Toxic metals such as mercury, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and nickel are very problematic, and can be at the root of many chronic illnesses, including CFS/FMS (37).   It is fully recognized, at least to some biochemists, that a number of these metals either directly or indirectly interfere with the enzyme which allows pyruvate to convert into acetyl CoA in the mitochondria, and therefore blocks aerobic energy production in the cells.  In other words, metal toxicity leads to low energy levels because they can poison a key enzyme within our cells, which leads to low energy and high amounts of pain producing lactic acid!

Dental materials such as “silver amalgam” fillings commonly leach toxic mercury into the body, and while most dentists will deny this fact, it’s really strangely comical such a denial exists.  The material will enter the dentists office in bio-hazard container when it arrives, and if they remove it from somebody’s mouth it will be disposed as toxic substance thus inferring that the only safe place for it resides in your mouth.  That make sense to you?  No? Me neither.  Mercury is known to directly interfere with converting pyruvate into acetyl CoA.

Arsenic toxicity is commonly a result of eating conventionally raised chickens, exposure to pressure treated lumber (playgrounds, decks, etc),  and possibly even brown rice (38)(39).  Arsenic is known to directly interfere with converting pyruvate into acetyl CoA.(40)

Aluminum toxicity is commonly acquired from antiperspirants, cookware, and vaccines.  Aluminum is known to indirectly interfere with the conversion of pyruvate into acetyl CoA. (41).

Cadmium toxicity is most commonly a result of smoking cigarettes for any length of time.  It appears like cadmium toxicity probably interferes with converting pyruvate into acetyl CoA (42).

Nickel is also commonly used as a material for dental crowns, in addition to stainless steel cookware, and can be a problem as well.  Nickel indirectly interferes with pyruvate converting into acetyl CoA. (43)

Lead, from paint, batteries, and even products from China still pollute our environment, even though it’s industrial use has gone down over the last 30 years.  Consequently, lead pollutes many of our bodies.  Lead is known to directly interfere with converting pyruvate into acetyl CoA.(44

There are certainly other metals that can be problematic, and we’re all challenged to some degree with some of the metals, it’s really a matter of minimizing exposure and doing what we can to make sure our bodies aren’t so prone to accumulating them.   Maintaining adequate mineral status goes a long way towards preventing toxic metal accumulation in our bodies.

One of the problems with heavy metal toxicity,  is that it seems to be at the root of many chronic fungal and yeast infections.  Again, this can be one of the reasons why many rounds of antifungals fail to eradicate yeast/fungus.

 Dr. Buckley’s 10 key elements to overcoming CFS/FMS:  

1)  Optimize diet/digestion.  Eliminate problem foods, especially grains, sugar, and food additives.  A paleo like diet is generally the best strategy, as it will not only eliminate most of the offending foods, it will also help to stabilize blood sugar.  Plant based digestive enzymes along with the use of betaine HCL can go a long way towards ensuring food is properly broken down.

2)  Measure living space for electromagnetic smog, and mold toxicity.  (I provide patients with an RF and ELF meter to measure their homes with.)  Mold testing is done with the aid of www.immunolytics.com.  If living space is overly toxic, it may be necessary to move.

3)  Cleanse the bowels.  Increased bowel toxicity puts stress on all organs, particularly the liver and kidneys.  Utilizing magnesium peroxide and possibly colonics can help take much of the toxic stress off the colon and other organs of elimination.  Magnesium peroxide provides magnesium and can increase oxygen levels as well.

4)  Eradicate pathogenic microbes.  Utilizing specific herbs, as revealed through bioenergetic assessment, in addition to energetic therapies such as biomagnetism and NMT can go a long way towards recovery.   If chronic viral infections are in play, a combination of biomagnetism, a low aginine diet, L Lysine, and possibly Isopathic remedies may need to be used.

5)  Repair the gut with beneficial micro-organisms and nutrients such as L-glutamine, zinc, n. acetyl glucosamine, aloe, etc.

6)  Balance the structure of the body utilizing applied kinesiology, biomagnetism, chiro + kinesiology, and neuromodulation technique.

7)  Replete overall nutrient status, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids.

8)  Support adrenals and thyroid function as needed utilizing herbs, glandulars, homeopathics, and if necessary prescription meds such as T3.

9) Detoxify kidneys and liver using herbs and homeopathics.

10)  Chelate toxic metals.

*This approach is provided only to members of the PMA. 

Dr. Matthew Buckley
  • Dr. Matthew Buckley, PSc.D.