Chronic Fatigue And Your Gut: A Newly Discovered Connection

Despite all of the Western world’s advances in medical research, one disorder that we still know relatively little about is chronic fatigue syndrome, commonly abbreviated as CFS. There are currently no proven triggers for CFS, and until only recently, it was thought by many to be psychological.

Today, we know that CFS is a physiological problem — it’s not all in your head. However, there is still much that we don’t know. On what we do know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains:

“Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. Symptoms affect several body systems and may include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration and insomnia, which can result in reduced participation in daily activities.”

The CDC also states that over one million people in the United States suffer from CFS, and most of them are women in their 40s and 50s. However, this is not exclusive, and this disease can strike any gender, of any age group and race. It’s needless to say that people who suffer from this condition have long been seeking answers.

Thanks to a new study, performed by researchers at Cornell University and published in the journal Microbiome, we may be a bit closer to understanding chronic fatigue. The new study has found a relationship between CFS and gut bacteria. Understanding this relationship further could one day be a game-changer as far as how we view, understand, prevent and treat this disease.

Maureen Hanson, the senior author of the study, explains:

“Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease. Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”

For their experiment, researchers recruited 48 people with chronic fatigue syndrome and 39 healthy people without chronic fatigue syndrome to provide samples of stool and blood. Through microbial DNA sequencing, the researchers identified various strains of bacteria. By analyzing the bacteria and inflammatory markers in the samples, they were able to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome with an 83 percent accuracy rate.


Specifically, the researchers found that individuals diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome had less bacterial diversity in their samples. They also found less anti-inflammatory bacterial species. Additionally, the researchers found inflammatory markers in the blood samples of the chronic fatigue patients, and these were correlated to leaky gut, which allows bacteria to seep into the blood.

While more research needs to be done, and the researchers are unsure whether the gut bacteria abnormalities are the cause of the CFS or if the CFS triggered the bacterial abnormalities, this study is certainly a step forward. According to Ludovic Giloteaux, the first author of the study:

“In the future, we could see this technique as a complement to other noninvasive diagnoses, but if we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets, using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to help treat the disease.”


Yet another reason to take good care of your gut! There are many others: a healthy microbiome has also been linked to longevity. Your gut is a critical part of your immune system, so make sure you treat it right. One great way to start is by cutting processed foods out of your diet, focusing on real, whole foods from the Earth, and adding some gut-friendly superfoods to your meals.

Doing so could help prevent a wide range of disorders, and keep your body as healthy as possible overall.

— Tanya Rakhmilevich

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