by Lindsay DeHaas, ND
Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (CFS and FM, respectively) are both illnesses that have been given a name based on a presentation of signs and symptoms.
They are both very similar, and have historically generated controversy on how to diagnose them, what causes them and how to treat. Both are characterized by persistent pain and fatigue, and many people who experience these syndromes can also have difficulty sleeping, trouble thinking, depression, headaches, digestive issues and swollen lymph nodes.
More than 1 million Americans have chronic fatigue and about 5 million have fibromyalgia, as estimated by the CDC, and each occur more often in women and adults.
Some groups believe the current name trivializes the seriousness of the condition and are promoting a name change to myalgic encephalomyelitis, post-viral fatigue syndrome or chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome.
These potential names are clues to underlying causes that naturopathic doctors find can be associated with both CFS and FM. The diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia include nine paired tender points on various locations of the body, and fibromyalgia is appearing in more recent research to be associated with neuro-chemical imbalances that lead to an increased perception of pain.
Evaluation and treatment of these illnesses, for a naturopathic doctor, are pretty similar. We find that patients with these conditions improve with treatments that focus on improving digestive health, supporting detoxification, improving immune system function, treating any persistent viral and bacterial infections and balancing hormones.
Each person can be different as far as how much treatment is needed and which of these areas needs the most attention. This naturopathic, multi-system approach considers that the source of these ailments are multi-causal, and so evaluation and treatment can take multiple visits in order to peel away at the various layers that have led to the manifestation of these disorders.
When suffering from a generalized condition such as FM or CFS, the long-term pain and fatigue can begin to take their toll on the spirit of anyone experiencing them. Including mind-body practices and/or psychological therapy can be very beneficial to help restore the hope that healing is possible.
At North Coast Family Health, we have found that a well-rounded approach to healing these illnesses can yield the strongest results. Our treatments can include breathing exercises, meditation, healing touch and art-therapy recommendations along with minerals, enzymes, diet changes, IV nutrition and detoxification.
Healing from a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will not happen over night, but is possible with persistence and qualified guidance.