For 20 years, I lived with a great mystery in my life. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) and nobody could tell me why I had it or why it made me feel the way it did.
It was back in 1996, when my life completely changed. I was a busy, energetic woman who liked to keep on the go. I was rather casual about how I ate, what personal care lotions and potions I applied to my skin and hair, and after four years as a student in the USA, my general way of living was less than ideal. It was during the winter that I was hit with a bad case of flu. While others around me recovered, the constant fatigue and weakness that comes hand in hand with the virus, never completely left me. When it came to physical or mental exertion, I had no stamina and would have to take to my bed nearly every day to get through to the evening.
The symptoms were not only restricted to extreme fatigue. My eyesight would judder, like a TV programme with a poor signal, I would feel dizzy and have to sit down or I'd fall down, my heart would beat at 90 miles an hour just from the strain of waking up in the morning, and it felt like the signal that went from my brain to move my legs, was just not transmitting correctly. If I came in contact with any chemicals, even just to smell them, I would feel very unwell. I had bad IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), my periods became erratic and my concentration was appalling. It seemed that every function in my body was out of kilter.
After two years of relentless tests it appeared that everything that could be tested was 'normal'. As a result, I received a diagnosis of M.E or, as it is more commonly known today, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME). Diagnosis of CFS happens with elimination of all 'known' conditions, and a fulfilment of several symptom criteria listed in the International Consensus Criteria for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME).
Finally, having a diagnosis to focus on, I began to find out all I could about the illness. Year by year, I discovered that I could fight the symptoms from many different angles. This included looking carefully at what I ate and how it made me feel, managing my physical and mental output, as well as keeping my stress to a minimum. I realised that I needed to avoid harsh chemicals and that standing too long would make me very dizzy.
So gradually, living my tightly managed life, I was able to function to about 85% capacity. But still no one could tell me why my body couldn't totally keep up with the demands of normal life.
Nineteen years on from my original diagnosis, I was faced with a frightening prospect. The CFS symptoms were getting worse again. Instead of holding ground, (my health ticking along, blighted by the odd relapse), I was in fact getting steadily weaker without reprieve.
My work and life had been getting overly busy, and I realized I was no longer living a very good lifestyle. I was once again setting up the 'Perfect Storm', which was taking me back to the depths of Chronic Fatigue. I felt a mix of complete bewilderment and despair arriving at this place once more, but I'd 'recovered' previously, so I knew I could do it again.
This time though, I was in a different situation. I had done years of studying lifestyle, health, and nutrition and I had the internet as my friend. To my delight, I found some fantastic new research, which would finally solve the mystery of why I felt like I did.
The research being done was in relation to the Mitochondria. These little sausage shaped elements of every cell in our body are fundamentally responsible for producing the magical chemical ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). ATP provides energy to our muscles and all the busy internal organs in our body, including the liver, heart and brain. Research level testing has been developed, that shows how the production of ATP, and its subsequent recycling, can be reduced and blocked.
So this then raised the question of what's causing the blockages? To my real surprise, my test results showed it was due to various, off-the-shelf chemicals (found in, amongst other places, personal care products and household cleaners) along with a mix of nutritional deficiencies caused by malabsorption or diet deficiencies. In other words, modern day life was truly taking its toll!
This information about energy creation in the body all made perfect sense to me, and was why I struggled so much to keep up with everyday functions and demands. It also confirmed why the many protocols of healthy lifestyle changes, as well as good nutrition, and minimal exposure to chemicals, had produced results in the past. My slipping into bad habits, and allowing too many chemicals to enter my life had once again, gradually blocked and reduced the production of ATP in my cells. With my new knowledge to hand I could now follow an even more targeted approach to get myself back on track.
Finally, the mystery of my life was solved. Instead of 10 years, as previously, to get to the point of walking again without a stick, it took 12 months.
Reversing the effects of such imbalances in the body can be a slow process, and the lifestyle changes and nutritional needs of each person varies, but to travel with a new understanding of what was happening, gave me a sense of clarity. The open loop of the last 20 years had finally been closed.
If you're dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), knowledge is key, and when it comes to getting well again, Mitochondria rule!
by Jacquie Eyre-Young