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Chronic fatigue … why it’s in the news, why there will never be one drug to fix it

Chronic fatigue has been in the news a lot recently - and with good reason. It comes with many names – chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, post-viral fatigue, long Covid, ME (though rarely, these days, thank goodness, “yuppy flu”). For simplicity, in this piece, I will talk about “chronic fatigue”, though please understand I use that term as an umbrella to incorporate all the above.

And the headlines all say the same thing – that the way people are treated is scandalous, inhumane, unforgivable. That people with chronic fatigue deserve better. That these patients are not listened to, they are dismissed, gaslit, or even told that “it’s all in your head”, or perhaps worse “you don’t want to get better”. I would recommend that you read the George Monbiot Guardian article (find it here), it does highlight very well what typically happens to someone presenting to their healthcare provider with long term and overwhelming tiredness.

One of the reasons behind this plethora of news articles is the new awareness of chronic fatigue, or post-viral fatigue, driven by the sheer numbers of people suffering from long Covid. It isn’t a different condition, it’s the same. So what’s going on? I think 3 of the reasons that chronic fatigue is so misunderstood is that:


  1. It doesn’t show up well in standard blood tests. There is not a one-off blood test “for” these conditions. I should know – I’m a post-viral fatigue “recoveree” – the number of blood tests I had done at the height of my post-viral fatigue is phenomenal, always to be told the same thing, “hmm, we can’t see anything wrong”.


2. The solutions offered by the orthodox medical profession tend to be drugs (or surgery, but there isn’t an organ or bit that can be conveniently chopped out in the case of these conditions). However, there will never be one drug for chronic fatigue because of point number 3…


3. The reason there is not one drug, or one blood test, is because there are so many reasons that someone can end up chronically fatigued. This is where a truly skilled practitioner can come in.

I have seen and helped a number of clients with chronic fatigue, long covid, etc over the past couple of years. What becomes absolutely clear is that these clients are all different – but all had underlying reasons as to why their bodies didn’t simply bounce back after a virus, or other chronic fatigue trigger – and these are many:


Some clients are burnt out before the virus hits, they are already in an “energy deficit”, be it burn out from work, being a carer, overexercising (yes, exercise has a goldilocks spot) or other life situation they have been in for a while.


Some are not assimilating nutrients well – either their diet is poor, or they have gut issues, or (usually, because it’s chicken and egg) a combination of both.


Some have been using prescription drugs for a long time and not realised the toll that the drug is taking, often in the form of nutrient deficiencies (most prescription and over the counter drugs create nutrient deficiencies in the body). For example, all statins deplete CoQ10, a powerful and necessary co-factor in the electron transport chain (part of the way energy is produced in our cells).


Sometimes it’s something epigenetic – don’t be frightened of the term, it just means something in the way our genes are set up that predisposes us to react in some way to things in our environment. One very common epigenetic “glitch” is that many people do not methylate well (yours truly included, I’ve done the tests). Methylation is necessary for a myriad of biological functions in our bodies, not lease making new DNA and detoxification. Not methylating well is not the end of the world, it has been said many times that while it is genes that load the gun it is most definitely diet and lifestyle that pull the trigger.


Sometimes it’s showing up because of issues in organs – liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart, brain – disease or disorder in any of these organs can create long-term fatigue.


Sometimes it’s disease in the smaller organs we call glands – particularly the adrenal and thyroid glands. These two little often organs are very easily knocked off balance, by a myriad of factors – heavy metals, hormonal disruptors like plastics, autoimmune disease, life changes like pregnancy and menopause, or just the constant, never-letting-up toll of modern day life.


Sometimes it’s something else – disruption of circadian rhythm / lack of sleep, exposure to environmental pollutants, lack of movement, disruption of the nervous system, some major suppression of something in an individual’s life. Think on that one.


In the words of the inimitable but oh so lovely Dr Sarah Myhill “It’s mitochondria, not hypochondria”. In other words, something has happened which means that those little power houses of our cells, the mitochondria, can no longer pump out the energy required for these hectic 21st century days. The fact that Sarah’s book is almost 450 pages long is testament to the fact that there are multiple and overlapping reasons why a person may end up chronically fatigued. There are also multiple and overlapping ways out of it. It’s unlikely to happen overnight, but there is are certainly multiple paths to getting better.


What’s needed is not a drug, but a health detective. Someone who knows where to look for the clues which will tell the client what area of life to change to help them back to beautiful, bountiful energy.


If you know someone suffering from chronic fatigue, please do pass this blog post on to them.  To book a discovery call to see how I might be able to help, click here. Here's to health.


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