Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest. This condition is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Sometimes it’s abbreviated as ME/CFS.
There’s no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on symptom relief.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
People who have chronic fatigue syndrome appear to be hypersensitive to even normal amounts of exercise and activity. Why this occurs in some people and not others is still unknown. Some people may be born with a predisposition for the disorder, which is then triggered by a combination of factors. Potential triggers include:
Viral infections. Because some people develop chronic fatigue syndrome after having a viral infection, researchers question whether some viruses might trigger the disorder. Suspicious viruses include Epstein-Barr virus, human herpes virus 6 and mouse leukemia viruses. No conclusive link has yet been found.
Immune system problems. The immune systems of people who have chronic fatigue syndrome appear to be impaired slightly, but it’s unclear if this impairment is enough to actually cause the disorder
Hormonal imbalances. People who have chronic fatigue syndrome also sometimes experience abnormal blood levels of hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands. But the significance of these abnormalities is still unknown.
Omega 3 fish oil EPA and chronic Fatigue syndrome
The most recent study that has been performed was published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. In the study, doctors from London found that in the brains of people with chronic fatigue syndrome there are high levels of two key chemicals, choline and creatine.Choline is important for controlling fat levels in brain cells while creatine provides energy.
The doctors said the findings suggested CFS patients had abnormal phospholipid metabolisms. Phospholipids are special types of fats which are an essential component of cells. They are protected by certain types of fatty acids.
The London doctors believed fatty acid supplements could help to restore the chemical imbalance in the brain and alleviate the symptoms of CFS. EPA, which is found in omega 3 fish oil supplements, may be particularly useful. The leader of the study said: “This study suggests that if patients with CFS take a high-EPA fatty acid supplement, then this should have a beneficial action on the chemical imbalances in the brain which we have identified.”
Since this study was published further advances have been made, and the findings released by a leading professor in the United Kingdom state clearly that he considers Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to be a genuine physical illness. The professor describes how he came to conclude that CFS could be successfully treated by supplementation with essential fatty acids, specifically ultra-pure EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Essential fatty acids – linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha linolenic acid (omega-3) – are known as such because they must be acquired from food and cannot be manufactured by the body. The professor explains how viruses can cause the symptoms of CFS by inhibiting a crucial enzyme in the chains that convert these essential fatty acids into other fatty acids required by the body, including GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), EPA and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This leads to a deficiency in these fatty acids. He believes the resulting lack of EFAs in the body leads to many of the symptoms familiar to CFS sufferers, including tiredness, poor immune response and painful joints.
The professor concluded by saying that by giving patients large amounts of GLA and EPA the effects of the virus can be circumvented and how CFS patients taking high-dose supplements of omega-3 reported improvements in symptoms within 12 weeks.
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