In order to assist in understanding modern naturopathic holistic health care, I propose to use as models in this series a number of health problems such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/M.E.) as well as the widespread muscle pain problem currently defined as fibromyalgia, or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). In this article there will be a brief overview of these two conditions, and as the series develops we will examine the common threads in causation, the differences, as well as ‘what works’ in therapeutic terms based on research to date.
I have chosen these two conditions specifically because each contains within it’s possible aetiology a cluster of causative and potentiating factors and conditions which are remarkably similar. FMS and CFS(ME) also have a wide range of identical symptoms ranging from fatigue through impaired cognitive and memory functions, to muscular pain, digestive disturbances, headaches and sleep disturbance.1,2,3
By virtue of their ill-defined natures these conditions have become a refuge, one could say a dumping ground, for a host of undiagnosed and apparently undiagnosable health problems.
The majority of medical practitioners seem either to be unaware of the reality of the causes, nature and appropriate care of such problems or are openly disbelieving as to their very existence. These are often patients dubbed ‘heart sink’ because of their emotional effect on the doctor, as the patient enters the room, yet again clutching a list of symptoms and requests for help.
All too often classified as ‘neurotic’ with their symptoms ascribed to ‘depression’, this is a truly miserable population of people, who often feel profoundly misunderstood by those around them (sympathy is finite and six months into such conditions it is often in scant supply from friends and family) as well as let down by the medical profession who is either disinterested, dismissive or perfunctory in its prescribing of antidepressant medication.
To have to endure this sort of emotional and social isolation as well, as the cluster of demoralising symptoms with which they are burdened, is clearly enough to depress anyone, and it is the experience of most practitioners and therapists involved in working with such patients that any apparent depression is usually a result, rather than a cause, of their problems.
In the alternative and complementary health field a veritable industry has emerged which treats such problems with varying degrees of success using a range of approaches and methods - sometimes suitable and sometimes not. All too often what is on offer addresses such patient’s needs only partially, with predictably disappointing results.
There are no simple answers to conditions where causes lie in a mix of nutritional deficiencies, acquired toxicities, bowel dysbiosis, inadequate stress coping abilities, sensitivities and allergies, inappropriate or excessive medication, inadequate sugar control mechanisms, hormonal imbalances, poor posture and breathing dysfunction, current or past viral, parasitic, yeast or bacterial infections, impaired organs of digestion and elimination, emotional distress..... and more. There are certainly no magic bullets which can remedy a situation which may have taken many years to evolve.
These are a growing army of these walking wounded, the ‘vertically ill’ who are too sick to function adequately but are commonly not quite sick enough to become ‘horizontally ill’, actually bed bound, although this is all too often an outcome in severe examples.