Here is a condition that I know like the back of my hand. I lived with it for years under the generic name of depression. It is a complex condition but one with an explanation…and a solution. This syndrome was first described in the 1980s, a fact I find interesting in light of the relatively high incidence of it today. What changed in the years prior to this condition crawling out of the woodwork? It couldn’t be Americas love affair with the fast food industry again, could it? Hmmm….
Many theories have been proposed for this life-altering, yet elusive group of symptoms, often coupled with fibromyalgia. Like many of the conditions I have studied, I believe the answer lies in the proper combination of these ideas. Yes, Epstein-Barr virus is likely to be a factor, but not the cause. Yes, alterations of brain chemicals such as serotonin are also contributing issues, but not the issue.
Just as a syndrome should have, chronic fatigue has a complex origin but one that I believe can be understood by the least medically-minded. Lets start with a medical fact from the medical texts: 50% of our children have Epstein-Barr infection by age 5. Wow! I think we can assume that the rest of us get it at some point between then and our twenties or so. Teenagers seem to readily pick it up in the form of mononucleosis. More on that in a second. This virus is a classic example of a latent virus. Once acquired, our immune system takes care of the initial infection but does not completely eliminate the virus from the body. (Why this occurs is described in The Answer. Hint: Taking fever reducers for fevers caused by viruses. Errrh.) Chicken pox and the related shingles 40-70 years later is another example.
Once in our body, this virus lays in wait for innocent blood, dormant until there is a change in the status of the immune system that would allow it to resurface and become active again. What causes this crash in our immunity? Well, those who have read any of the papers on this site know the answer to that question. This syndrome is another example of our system being overworked and underpaid. Once the problem in our duodenum…Pandora’s Box… reaches a critical state, our immunity suffers, unleashing the plagues onto mankind. This includes losing its grasp on Epstein-Barr. As in most viral infections, the symptoms include depression; a normal response of the body to the invaders and one that reinforces needed rest by the host. So, this transient sort of depression associated with lesser viruses should be considered normal. But, the lengthy and often debilitating depression that is chronic fatigue syndrome is of course totally abnormal. But once the reader sees that the virus is unleashed by a faltering immune system, they better understand the process.
This can actually be seen by looking at the two different presentations of mononucleosis in teenagers. My daughter and I actually illustrate the point. My daughter had mono last year and was over it in 3-4 days. I, on the other hand, had it twice: once at age 13, when I was out of school for 6 weeks and again at 15, when I was out for a month. Why the difference? I have celiac disease, the poster condition for the overworked/underpaid idea. My daughter tested negative for this immunosuppressive disease. So, it may be easy to distinguish between those who just acquired the EB virus and those who have had it all along by the clinical course. Those who are healthy and newly acquire the virus fight it off in short order. Those who acquired it in the first five years of life but who later become immune-suppressed like I became from the celiac disease will have lengthier courses and even suffer relapses like I did. When the immune system really gets in trouble, this virus comes up and stays active. I know of two teenage girls that developed mononucleosis last year and have yet to recover from the associated fatigue. This is now very explainable.
But, there is another element here. Those same foods that cause the duodenal damage also contain the depressants described in the ADHD section above. The casomorphins and gliadorphins play a huge role in chronic fatigue as well. Once again, the cow milk provides the casomorphins and the gluten-grains provide the gliadorphins. Because 60-70% of our diet is dairy and wheat alone, we are constantly consuming major quantities of these morphine-like compounds. As these saturate our brain over time, it takes less and less of them to cause major depression after meals. How many meals have you eaten in the recent past that did not include wheat or dairy products? How about in between meal snacks? Hmmm…. Get the point? Once the saturation takes place, a little more morphine goes a long way.
It takes a full year for us to clear these substances from our brain once we eliminate them completely from our diet. It also takes differing periods of time for individuals to reach the saturation point determined partially by their different diets and partly by their immune response to foods. Therefore, once again, we are all on a spectrum here. The worst of the worst are called autistics (we will get to this one). The best of the worst are called normal.
So, the treatment for chronic fatigue becomes relatively simplified, doesn’t it? Eliminate the foods that are damaging the gut and crushing your immune system. These foods just happen to be the same ones that have the depressing morphine-like substances in them.
Initial response can be rapid, as soon as 4-7 days as the levels of casomorphins and gliadorphins drop. The long-term cure comes as your immune system recovers and gets Epstein-Barr under control.
Do we ever completely eliminate the EB virus? Great question. I know that we should be capable of that…if that were possible. Our immune systems are under full assault these days. We just have to identify the culprits one by one and knock em down with a two-by-four.