Joan was 29, but she felt like 65. She was tired,
really tired. She had been that way for close to five years, since
moving to Seattle from Iowa. She was exhausted after coming home from her work
as a corporate manager. She was tired on weekends. She was tired all the time,
and never seemed to be able to catch up on her rest, even when she slept nine
or ten hours a night. Joan felt the fatigue like a cloud which came over her.
Her body felt like it just faded away, and before she knew it she was asleep.
The fatigue interfered with everything in her life. The cooking, gardening and
creative projects which had once captivated her interest now seemed just too
much effort to get into. She could not enjoy her time away from work. Her
husband complained that she had no interest in sex. Life had become a drowsy
prison for Joan, and she realized that what she had was more than just
When Joan came to see us, we realized that she was suffering from
chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, which has been popularized in the media as
the “Yuppie Flu”, because it often strikes young professionals with busy lives.
Chronic fatigue can happen to anyone, however. In a recent article in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, 21% of people coming to a large
general practice met the criteria for CFS. The syndrome is more common in women
than men. 45% of those patients with CFS were periodically bedridden. Up to 73%
also have mild fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, joint pain, night
sweats, and difficulty in concentration and sleeping. 50% of the people who
have chronic fatigue also complain of chronic depression or anxiety. Some are
just extremely frustrated by how the fatigue has interfered with their usually
active lives. They are just tired of being tired.
What causes CFS? Doctors have debated in the medical journals over
whether the disease even exists. But those who have it know it does. It
has been assumed to be a chronic post-viral syndrome, occuring after
mononucleosis or influenza infection, or after infection with an intestinal
virus. For a number of years it was thought that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
was the culprit. This is the virus which causes mononucleosis, the “kissing
disease”, which affects young adults with extreme tiredness, sore throat,
swollen glands and liver inflammation. Although most people recover
uneventfully from mononucleosis, in many cases the virus goes underground, and
may appear years later as CFS. EBV antibody levels, however, are usually only
slightly higher in CFS patients than in healthy controls without chronic
fatigue. This means that Epstein-Barr only accounts for some of the chronic
fatigue that is so prevalent. Researchers in England have proposed an
intestinal virus, Coxsackie B, as the main cause for CFS, or Myalgic
Encephalitis (ME), as it is called there. Like EBV, though, Coxsackie B virus
antibodies are also found in healthy controls. So although exposure to viral
illness often precedes chronic fatigue syndrome, it is not the whole story.
Why does one person recover completely from a viral illness and another
go on to develop CFS? The answer is a complex one. The philosophy of
homeopathic medicine sheds some light on the subject. According to homeopathic
thought, all illness comes about from an imbalance in the vital force. Your
vital force is an intelligent energy principle in your body, which organizes
and balances the many functions of life, and provides protection from illness.
Your vital force can become imbalanced from many factors including stress, poor
diet, lack of exercise, exposure to the elements, emotional trauma, and
injuries. There can also be hereditary imbalances in the vital force which also
lead to increased susceptibility to disease. Infectious agents such as viruses,
bacteria and fungi find that the weakness in your vital force and its physical
counterpart, the immune system, provides an opportunity to take hold in your
body and grow. Whether this creates symptoms of illness or not depends on how
well your body-mind is meeting the challenges of life. The vital force produces
symptoms such as the fatigue, swollen glands, mild fever and muscle and joint
aches typical of CFS as part of its attempt to restore balance to your system.
In CFS cases, the vital force is unable to restore the proper balance after an
acute illness, the person never recovers their full vitality, and the illness
becomes chronic. If your vital force is functioning well, even if the virus is
still present, you will not feel sick.
At present, there is essentially no effective treatment offered by
orthodox medicine for CFS. No antiviral or antibiotic drugs make any
difference in the course of the disease As naturopathic and homeopathic
doctors, we see that the issue in treating chronic fatigue syndrome is not
about killing viruses or preventing their replication, but to strengthen your
vital force. Many people are infected chronically with viruses and bacteria,
but suffer no illness whatsoever, because their vital force and immune system
are strong and healthy. In fact, it is virtually impossible to be alive and not
be infected with some pathogenic organisms. What is important is how your body
responds to remain healthy.
You can protect yourself from developing chronic fatigue syndrome as well
as treat it effectively with natural treatments if you do get it. It is
important in prevention to get adequate rest and not to allow yourself to
become chronically stressed in your work or home life. Regular aerobic exercise
is important. Nutritionally, daily vitamin C (1000-3000 mg), B-complex, beta
carotene (25,000 to 50,000 IU’s), and 30 mg. of zinc are helpful in bolstering
the immune system against infection. In treating chronic fatigue, we have found
overwhelmingly that homeopathic medicine produces the best results. A remedy
which matches all of your symptoms will stimulate your vital force to restore
balance and health. We use a wide variety of homeopathic remedies in treating
CFS, and it is important to see a homeopath for treatment rather than trying to
treat yourself. It is also important to remove the stressors, lifestyle factors
and nutritional deficiencies which may predispose to weakening the vital force
and developing chronic fatigue.
In Joan’s case a single dose of the homeopathic medicine Silica
200C restored her energy within several weeks, after five years of chronic
fatigue. Her creativity and sexual interest came back as well. She felt let out
of prison and able to resume her normal life.
Even though its causes and diagnosis are still somewhat indefinite, there
is hope for people with chronic fatigue syndrome to lead vital, happy lives
with proper prevention and effective natural treatment.
Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)