M.E. and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

M.E. or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, to use its proper name which demonstrates why it’s rarely used; is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sometimes also abbreviated to CFS.

The main symptoms are extreme tiredness after minimal exercise, fleeting muscular and joint pains, together with poor concentration and memory, and sleep disturbance. It is thought that it may be an autoimmune disease when the body’s immune system turns on itself. The trigger is thought to be a number of different infectious organisms which could include parasites, virus and bacteria. The frequent persistence of enlarged lymph glands supports this theory. Many individuals have gut symptoms and the development of allergies as a result of a leaky gut. The healthy gut wall should only allow small digested particles to pass through; whereas a leaky gut allows the passage of whole proteins through its wall where it then passes into the blood. Once these whole proteins have got into the blood the white blood cells produce antibodies which attack the foreign protein. There is also evidence that the disease sits at the centre of the energy producing mitochondria within the cell itself.

There have traditionally been few treatments for ME/CSF though recently treatment with antibiotics, and anti-viral agents have been used with success.

How can a Complementary therapy like Functional Biochemistry help?

The Principle of Functional Biochemistry is that the body derives everything of itself from the nutrients that we gain. Traditionally this was thought that most nutrients came from food but of course oxygen is a nutrient gained from breathing in air, minerals from water and increasingly many are considering that the sun also provides us directly with nutrients. If the body has all of the nutrients it needs it should remain well. It should be able to support all of the functions of the body to:  make and breakdown all the chemicals, grow and repair cells, create sufficient energy and fight infection. Functional Biochemistry identifies nutritional and biochemical imbalance and, which nutrient puts this imbalance right. The science behind Functional biochemistry is straight from the text book, with many therapists keeping in touch with the development of modern knowledge.  Diagnosis is made from identifying changes in muscle tone using Applied Kinesiology. Applied Kinesiology is considered by many to be unconventional and unscientific, and therefore hocus pocus. However, I have used Applied Kinesiology as a diagnostic tool for 13 years with many great successes. And as an ex nurse appreciate much more the treatment that provides the body with what it naturally uses rather than treatment through drugs which mainly treat the symptom rather than the cause. Equally, nutritional supplements do not have bad side effects.

The principal behind Applied Kinesiology is that something your body likes will leave a strong muscle strong; something the body doesn’t like will weaken a strong muscle; and something that your body needs will strengthen a weak muscle. Sounds odd but it is something we know that does naturally happen. If I’m unhappy my muscles lose tone, but when I’m happy I stand straighter, taller, smile. We also don’t question that our body naturally knows how to cure a cold, repair a wound, grow a baby; so why should we not believe that it can know when it is deficient and exactly what it needs; after all cravings for specific foods are often just that.  I have been trained to recognise these changes in muscle tone, trained to listen to each individual body so that the body can identify just what it needs to get and stay well.

Each individual is different and no one deficiency of any specific nutrient is ever the single cause for different illnesses. I rarely find that people are deficient in many vitamins, but I do find that many are deficient in minerals. Minerals are essential in many enzyme processes and as all chemical activity in the body is performed by enzymes they are vital for health.

Zinc is required for 250 known chemical reactions in the body, including: tissue growth, manufacture and breakdown of chemicals, production of energy and immunity. Magnesium is required for a known 300 chemical reactions in the body: manufacture of energy, calcium metabolism, muscle relaxation, manufacture and breakdown of chemicals. Iodine and selenium are both needed for immunity and production of energy. Phosphorus is required to make energy as well as many other functions.

The B group of vitamins are also vital for enzyme function but they cannot be used by the body in the dietary form, they have to be “activated” by the body. This activation is performed by enzymes that require minerals and other activated vitamins. So although I rarely find a vitamin B deficiency, I frequently find that they are not being activated sufficiently for the body’s requirements; this is frequently due to a mineral deficiency but as each vitamin B requires another activated vitamin of the B group it is easy for a cascading problem to emerge. For example, activation of vitamin B6 requires the minerals zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and the activated form of vitamin B2. Activation of vitamin B2 requires iodine; so that a deficiency of any one of these can result in poor activation of vitamin B2 and B6. Activated B6 is also required to activate B5, and Folic Acid. The results can be lack of energy, an imbalance of a number of body and brain chemicals, poor immune function and failure to digest and heal adequately.

In treating anybody I would always like to treat the cause, not simply address the symptoms. Whenever there are a number of apparently unrelated symptoms there is usually a co-relation based on the actions of the nutrient that is deficient. Functional biochemistry enables the therapist to identify the deficiency and the co-relationship of all symptoms. A deficiency of zinc will prevent activation of vitamin B6, which in turn will decrease the secretion of digestive enzymes; it will inhibit the ability of the body to repair. Therefore zinc deficiency can easily explain the gut symptoms and the development of allergy. Zinc is required for immunity so can explain the persistence of infection, in fact the potential for infection in the first place. Iodine is essential to activate vitamin B2 and therefore B6, it is also important for the production of thyroxin which controls the rate at which energy is produced. Iodine also acts as an antiseptic reducing the risk of infection. Concentration requires a balance between those chemicals that enable nerve cells to be stimulated and those that block stimulation. Too little of the first we are under stimulated, but too much of the first we become over stimulated by distracting material so that it is difficult to focus and concentrate. To maintain a balance between these two sets of brain chemicals we need adequate levels of activated B2 and B6. Mood is also just as influenced by the mineral and activated vitamin levels, as serotonin and dopamine require activated B6, activated Folic Acid, zinc and magnesium. Sleep is also a chemical process with melatonin that induces sleep being made from serotonin, so that any deficiency in serotonin can cause a reduction in the amount of melatonin. Learning and memory are both chemical processes so too will be affected by deficiency; exacerbated by poor sleep.

Why should some individuals become deficient enough to develop illness?

Sometimes of course it is diet, because people choose a bad diet, or because they cannot afford to eat a balanced diet. Balanced diet means eating and drinking what the body needs in the right proportion and no more. More usually it is not that simple; each regions soil is derived from a different rock which will contain some minerals in abundance others not so. UK is known to have borderline levels of iodine and selenium. This means that these nutrients will be low in the animals and plants that gain their nutrients from the soil. Modern farming techniques deplete the soils of their nutrients, especially minerals. Food manufacturers remove vital nutrients for appearance (refining flour and sugar) and to improve shelf life. We are exposed to a vast number of artificial chemicals in food, atmosphere, water, toothpaste, toiletries, cleaning materials, an estimated 75,000 since the 1930’s. It takes minerals and vitamins to eliminate these chemicals from the body. On top of this all of us are born with specific enzymes that don’t work as well as they should, to make them work they use more minerals and vitamins. This means that there is no recommended daily intake that encompasses all. The chronic diseases of aging are probably brought about by this gradual decline into deficiency. We inherit the enzymes that aren’t efficient which is why diseases tend to run in families; and when our mother is deficient when pregnant with us we will also potentially be deficient and it’s hard to play the catch up game.

In summary I think it worth repeating that to function well the body needs sufficient nutrients and that there is not one level that fits all. That illness is usually a reflection of a deficiency of a vital nutrient and that the best way to offset that illness is to repair that deficiency and no-one has ever been deficient in a drug. Drugs usually work by blocking an enzyme and hence removing the symptom, they rarely treat the cause.