Do you feel tired all the time? Many people do—and it could be a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
I contracted CFS when I was in medical school and dedicated the next 35 years of my life to finding an effective treatment, treating more than 15,000 CFS patients. I developed a treatment plan that has been proven effective in a scientific study and is regarded by many as the “gold standard” in CFS treatment.
My treatment works because I address the real cause of CFS…
THE REAL CAUSE
In October 2009, Science published a study that linked CFS to the XMRV virus (xenotropic murine leukemia virus). But study after study failed to replicate the results in Science—and subsequent research showed that XMRV probably was nothing more than a laboratory contaminant. In December 2011, Science retracted the study.
I’m not surprised. CFS is an energy crisis. When you use more energy than your body can manufacture—usually because of long-term physical and/or mental stresses—your body can “blow a fuse.”
That fuse is the hypothalamus—the part of the brain that controls sleep…the hormone-producing endocrine system…hunger and thirst…mood…sex drive…blood flow…blood pressure…body temperature and sweating…and bowel function.
The main symptoms of the hypothalamic disorder of CFS are severe chronic fatigue and insomnia. Other symptoms include achiness…forgetfulness…brain fog…increased thirst…bowel disorders…recurrent infections…weight gain…and low libido.
Very important: Don’t let your doctor tell you that your symptoms are “all in your head” or that CFS is “not a real disease.” Many physicians aren’t trained to recognize or treat CFS, and they question its validity. But the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all recognize CFS as real.
THE SHINE PROTOCOL
The hypothalamus isn’t damaged in CFS, but it does go into “slow mode” until the energy crisis is treated. The SHINE protocol that I developed can treat the crisis, easing symptoms and restoring vitality in an average of six weeks. SHINE stands for Sleep restoration…Hormonal balancing…Infection treatment…Nutritional supplementation…and Exercise, as able.
Helpful: You may need to find a holistic physician to help you with the SHINE protocol. Go to one of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers listed at www.FibroAndFatigue.com, where physicians are up-to-date on CFS research and treatment.
• Sleep restoration. Getting enough sleep is critical to feeling better, but getting seven to eight hours of sleep (including deep, nondreaming sleep, the most refreshing kind) can seem almost impossible.
That’s because the hypothalamus controls sleep, and when it is malfunctioning, so is your sleep center. During the first six months of treatment for CFS, you may need to try different types of sleep treatments to achieve eight hours of sleep a night—taking a low dose of each rather than a high dose of one. You should do this only under a doctor’s supervision.
What to do: You can first try a natural sleep aid such as Revitalization Sleep Formula from Enzymatic Therapy, which contains six relaxing, sleep-inducing herbs. Take two to four capsules nightly, 30 to 90 minutes before bedtime.
If this doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about sleeping pills. Be aware that many sleep medications make CFS worse because they cut down on deep sleep. The right types of sleep medication include zolpidem (Ambien)…trazodone (Desyrel)…clonazepam (Klonopin)…and/or pregabalin (Lyrica).
OTC medications such as doxylamine (Unisom) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) also can be effective at a bedtime dosage of 25 mg to 50 mg.
You probably can be weaned off sleep medications after six to 18 months of feeling well. But you may need to take a low dose of sleep medication (or a sleep-enhancing herbal formula) for the rest of your life—particularly during periods of high stress—to prevent a relapse.
• Hormonal balancing. The hypothalamus controls the production of hormones throughout your body. When it isn’t up to par, you can have all kinds of hormonal imbalances and deficiencies.
What to do: It’s helpful to treat CFS with bioidentical (as compared to synthetic) thyroid, adrenal, ovarian and/or testicular hormones, which have been shown to be safer than their synthetic counterparts.
Examples: Bioidentical estrogen and progesterone can help women who have CFS symptoms that worsen around their periods…bioidentical testosterone can benefit men whose blood test results are in the lowest 30% of the normal range…and energizing thyroid hormone can help most people with CFS.
A daily dose of 2.5 mg to 15 mg of natural hydrocortisone (such as prescription Cortef) can help reenergize exhausted adrenal glands. An NIH study found that Cortef caused some patients’ adrenal glands to “go to sleep.” But the dose in the study was two to three times as high as most patients need. Our studies show that ultra-low-dose Cortef is unlikely to cause adrenal suppression.
• Infection treatment. Most people with CFS have weakened immune systems, which can result in infections and a wide range of symptoms.
What to do: The most common infection in CFS is an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Sinusitis and bowel problems, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, are common symptoms.
Treatment may include taking the antifungal fluconazole (Diflucan) daily for six weeks. Other ways to help banish Candida include a no-sugar diet, taking a daily probiotic supplement, regularly eating acidophilus-rich yogurt and taking an antifungal herbal supplement. (My favorite is Anti-Yeast from NutriElements.)
If after treating Candida your symptoms persist, you may need to be tested and treated for other infections.
• Nutritional supplementation. Everyone with CFS needs a therapeutic dose of energizing nutrients, such as B vitamins and magnesium.
What to do: Take Energy Revitalization Formula, the multinutrient powder that I formulated specifically for CFS patients. (All profits from this and other products I have formulated go to charity.)
Also helpful: Supplement your diet with ribose—a healthful sugar and key building block of cellular energy. In studies that my colleagues and I conducted involving nearly 300 people with CFS or fibromyalgia (a similar condition), ribose increased energy by an average of 60% after three weeks. Take five grams, three times a day, for 25 days, then reduce your dose to five grams twice a day.
• Exercise. Exercise is energizing for just about everyone, but if people with CFS exercise beyond a certain point, they may be bedridden the next day.
What to do: Begin with light exercise, such as walking or water-walking in a heated pool. Exercise only as much as you comfortably can (or start with five minutes). Increase exercise time by one minute every one to two days, as comfortable. When you get to the point that leaves you feeling worse the next day, cut back a bit to the comfortable level and continue that amount of exercise each day.
Source: Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a board-certified internist and medical director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, headquartered in Austin, Texas. He is author of several books, including the best-selling From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery/Penguin) and Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale), and creator of the free iPhone application “Cures A–Z.” His studies on the integrative treatment of chronic fatigue have appeared in Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. www.EndFatigue.com