Acute and chronic diseases are as different as apples and oranges.
Yet both illnesses are treated the same.
It’s no wonder chronic disease is getting worse. The treatment is a complete mismatch for the illness.
Treatment for chronic fatigue needs to change!
If you have a bacterial infection, how is it treated?
A course of antibiotics will usually do the trick.
If you have chronic fatigue syndrome, how is it treated?
You’re given anti-virals for your supposed Epstein-Barr infection or antibiotics for your chronic Lyme infection, or chelation to remove mercury and other heavy metals.
I want you to notice just how similar the approach to treating chronic fatigue syndrome is to treating an acute bacterial infection. The basic steps are as follows:
- Identify the agent causing illness.
- Give medication or supplements to remove the offending agent.
- Get better.
Here’s the problem: those with chronic fatigue or other chronic illnesses never make it to step 3. It’s not because doctors have got the diagnosis wrong. It’s because the ways in which you treat chronic illness are not the same as acute illness. To successfully treat chronic illness, you need to do more than simply reverse the steps that got you there.
What’s really going on with chronic illness?
In the acute stage of illness, the body becomes sickened by a disease-carrying agent. Your throat is really sore. You visit a doctor who swabs your throat and cultures the bacteria. Lo and behold, you’ve got Strep throat. Two weeks of antibiotics and your throat is feeling so much better!
By treating symptoms in the acute stage of an illness you often end up treating the root cause of the disease. The Streptococcus bacteria was the root cause of your sore throat. It works incredibly well. But it only works well for acute infections, physical injuries, and other short-term illnesses.
Chronic illness has far less to do with a disease-carrying agent. Instead, chronic illness is all about your body’s inappropriate response(s) to an acute illness. Chronic illness has far less to do with the initial or triggering injury/infection. Yet clinicians spend all their time searching for what might have caused this illness.
It doesn’t matter what caused it!
That is not the problem. The problem is how and why the body responded in this way. And what can be done to stop the body from engaging in this manner in the future. We can know everything there is to know about a particular disease but still not be able to successfully treat it.
Said another way, treating chronic illness is all about unblocking steps and processes in the healing cycle. All chronic illnesses share a common feature of the body’s inability to heal from the initial injury. When you unblock the healing cycle, the body can return to a state of health. You do not unblock the healing cycle by treating viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc.
Why chronic illness is a neverending loop of sadness
What happens when you break your ankle?
A doctor will ensure the bones are best aligned for healing. Then, s/he’ll ensure they maintain that alignment. This is done via the use of a cast of air boot.
Then what happens?
Usually, that’s the end of medical intervention. Your body does the rest. That whole healing thing is done by you and that remarkable body of yours. No additional instructions required. It’s bloody brilliant.
That’s an example of healing from acute illness. There’s a defined beginning (the injury), middle (healing), and end (resolution of the injury). It doesn’t work like that when dealing with chronic illness. For many with chronic illness, they are stuck in a repeating loop. A loop that never sees the resolution of illness. (1)
To better understand chronic illness, we need to look into the endless healing cycle patients are trapped in. Specifically, what goes on during this cycle and why it never achieves resolution. To better understand this, we’re going to turn our attention to nematodes!
How a nematode can help you better understand chronic illness
Meet Caenorhabditis elegans better known as C. elegans. C. elegans is a nematode. S/He’s about 1mm long and likes to live in temperate soil environments. (2)
Take a boo at the attached image. There, you’ll see the life cycle of C elegans transitioning from egg to adult nematode.
I want to draw your attention to the area of the chart at the bottom. You’ll see in red the words crowding, starvation, and high temperature. These represent stresses to C. elegans. When the stresses get to be too much, C. elegans goes into something called the Dauer phase.
The typical lifecycle of C. elegans is 2 weeks. But when it goes into the Dauer phase, it can live for up to 4 months. Essentially, the Dauer state is one of energy relocation.
The Dauer phase of C. elegans gives us a beautiful glimpse into chronic fatigue syndrome and other chronic illnesses. If C. elegans ends up in the Dauer phase due to a high-stress circumstance, s/he does not come out of the Dauer phase by simply reversing the steps. Instead, moving out of the Dauer phase and into a mature adult is an entirely separate process.
When practitioners are treating a chronic illness like CFS, they play detective to uncover the triggering event. In the context of chronic fatigue, that triggering event could be mold, a tick bite, a viral infection, a bacterial infection, and many others. Once the event has been uncovered, practitioners work backward trying to remove the trigger.
C. elegans does not get out of the Dauer phase by simply reversing the steps that got him/her there. Getting out of Dauer is an entirely separate pathway. Similarly, getting out of chronic fatigue is not about reversing the steps that got you there. You need to create an entirely different pathway! A pathway that will actually lead you out of illness and into health.
Chronic fatigue is a lot like the Dauer phase
Now that you’re an expert on C. elegans, I want to show you just how similar the Dauer phase is to chronic fatigue syndrome. The Dauer state is one of energy relocation. Think of it as a hibernation for nematodes.
When in the Dauer state, C. elegans is sensitive to multiple different chemicals. It also experiences crashes after periods of excitation. Something those of you with chronic fatigue may call post-exertional malaise.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a hibernation state for humans. Much like C. Elegans, you won’t overcome chronic fatigue by simply reversing the steps that got you there. You need to be like a nematode. You need to create your very own healing pathway in order to reclaim your energy.
Natural medicine isn’t much better at treating chronic fatigue syndrome
In the context of chronic fatigue syndrome, natural medicine will have more empowering suggestions than conventional medicine. Your family doc will offer stimulants and antidepressants to help your fatigue. While these might offer a temporary increase in energy, they’re no long-term solution to the problem.
Natural medicine will help uncover what they think is the underlying or root cause of your fatigue. Practitioners might look at your gut health, heavy metal burden, tick exposure, etc. But these well-meaning practitioners run into the same issue as conventional docs – they’re trying to reverse the steps that got you fatigued. Supplements for a leaky gut, binders for heavy metals, antibiotic therapies for Lyme disease. All of this continues in the same vein of reversing what originally got you tired.
This will never work.
You need to create a separate pathway for healing. This is the way out of chronic illness.
A new understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome
Conventional medicine and a lot of natural medicines are what I call Fast Medicine. They treat your symptoms. The new medicine, what I call Slow Medicine, has little to do with your initial injury or symptoms. Slow medicine has everything to do with how and why your body responded in the way it did.
There’s a great deal of new science to support this theory too – it’s not just my opinion on the matter. Dr. Robert Naviaux at Naviaux Labs has done profound research on your mitochondria. Dr. Naviaux’s research is focused on a phenomenon he calls the Cell Danger Response (CDR).
Just like when C. elegans is exposed to stress, your body’s cells have a mechanism to deal with stressors. That response is the Cell Danger Response. Your mitochondria have evolved to sense these threats and alter their flow of electrons in response to stress. (2) By reducing the flow of electrons, mitochondria are able to consume less oxygen. This is done to improve the chances of cell survival after being infected or damaged. Some of the changes you can experience during the Cell Danger Response include:
- Reduced cellular metabolism
- This prevents viruses from replicating through your cells.
- You’ll experience it as profound fatigue.
- The stiffening of cellular membranes
- This keeps the bad guys within the cell. Preventing them from spreading to other cells.
- Release of antiviral and antimicrobial chemicals
- Think, lots of inflammation!
- Increases autophagy
- Alters gene expression
- Warns neighboring cells of the danger
- Alters the behavior of you (the host) to prevent the spread of infection.
- You’ll experience this as sleeping more. A lot more.
Those seven bullets sound a lot like chronic fatigue syndrome, don’t they?
Next, we’ll explore exactly what happens to your body when it undergoes a Cell Danger Response.
The Cell Danger Response & chronic fatigue
You’ve all experienced the Cell Danger Response. Each and every time your bodies are exposed to stress, chemicals, toxins, infections, etc. the Cell Danger Response is activated. Most of the time, the CDR resolves and your cells go back to their regular routines. But in some of you, the CDR never resolves. When this happens, the body is stuck in a neverending loop. When this occurs, you’re left with debilitating, chronic illnesses like CFS.
One study done by Dr. Naviaux looked to identify exactly what was going on in chronic fatigue patients. In this study, fatigue patients had many differing triggers for their illness. Some of the more common triggers included: (3)
- Biological exposures
- Viral, bacterial, fungal/mold, and parasitic infections.
- Chemical exposures
- Physical trauma
- Psychological trauma
The key takeaway here is that the initial trigger didn’t matter. All of these patients went on to develop the Cell Danger Response – regardless of what their initial trigger was. This illustrates why simply trying to reverse the steps that got you fatigued doesn’t work. Recovering from chronic fatigue is far more involved than:
- Killing a virus/bacteria.
- Removing or chelating chemicals from your body.
- Physiotherapy to overcome physical trauma.
- Healing from psychological trauma
Because of the exposure, the behaviors exhibited by your body’s cells are fundamentally altered. Until the cellular behavior is recalibrated, you will remain in illness. This recalibration is not done by reversing the steps that got you there. As many of my patients can attest to, getting treatment for Lyme, mercury toxicity, SIBO, etc. never resulted in the end of their fatigue.
Can chronic fatigue ever be reversed?
I believe it can. The reason being is that CFS is a change in the functioning of your body’s cells. Not a loss of cells or a change in the cell’s fundamental structure. Should you be able to reprogram the functioning of your cells, chronic fatigue is completely reversible. Though there needs to be a change in language…
Reversible implies simply going back through the steps that brought you into illness. That is not the path towards healing. Just like C. Elegans and the Dauer state, healing chronic fatigue will result from creating an entirely new path back to health. Let me help you take that first step. Click here to learn about my personalized program on ridding yourself of CFS for good.
Now, I want to hear from you.
How has this post altered your thinking about treating chronic fatigue?
What is the next step you’ll take to improving your energy?
leave your answers in the comments section below!