No. It’s not all in the patients’ heads.
Chalk another mystery illness up to unhealthy gut issues. This week, researchers at Cornell University announced and published the results of a study done in collaboration with a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) expert in New York City to get a good look at the stools and gut microbes of over 80 people. The test subjects were split between those diagnosed with CFS and healthy individuals who were used as a control.
The study indicates that people with CFS lack complete gut bacteria allowing researchers to identify biological markers both in the stools, and in blood tests that indicate the syndrome.
“Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in ME/CFS patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease,” said Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and the paper’s senior author. “Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”…
“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,” said Ludovic Giloteaux, a postdoctoral researcher in both Hanson’s and Ley’s labs and first author of the study.
The study indicates that 83% of the test subjects could be identified as CFS sufferers based on this criteria alone. The make-up of the gut bacteria profile in the test subjects was similar to those with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis as gut bacteria known to be anti-inflammatory was notably absent.
Symptoms of CFS also include a list of ailments eerily familiar to those of celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies: ” fatigue even after sleep, muscle and joint pain, migraines and gastrointestinal distress.”
Prior to this discovery, CFS was only diagnosed after a lengthy battery of tests with a known expert. Many physicians practicing medicine believed (and probably still do) that the constant debilitating exhaustion was all in patients’ heads. Now, it looks like diagnosis could go the same direction as celiac disease, and gluten intolerance are headed in simply looking for biological markers rather than using invasive procedures. The research team is turning now to study gut viruses and fungi to try to pinpoint a root cause of the disease. At this point, the team is not sure if the gut bacteria deficiencies are a cause or a symptom.
In the meantime, one treatment offering relief is the use of a cancer drug. However, given the statement above of the possibility of using diet for relief – adding in prebiotics, probiotics and roughage – there is every hope that treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might just be far more simple than a course of cancer drugs.
The National Institutes of Health study was published in the medical journal Microbe, June 23 issue.