Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Hope & Healing for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Niki Gratrix

In this episode of The Functional Medicine Radio Show, Dr. Carri’s special guest Niki Gratrix explains how you can get to the underlying cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and kiss it good-bye!

Niki is an award-winning, internationally-renowned registered nutritionist and health writer who helps people optimize their energy. In 2005, she co-founded one of the largest mind-body medicine clinics specializing in fatigue in the world. Niki is also the host of the Abundant Energy Summit.

Main Questions Asked:

  • Why are you so interested in fatigue and helping people optimize their energy?
  • Can you explain the difference between just regular fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
  • What are some of the underlying causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
  • What are some of the key tests that should be run for those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Key Points made by Niki:

  • Chronic fatigue is NOT the same as depression. Depression can be a side effect of having chronic fatigue.
  • For a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) diagnosis, you need to have about 4 out of 8 symptoms for longer than 6 months: fatigue, sleep problems, memory/concentration issues, muscle pains and aches, or digestive problems. However, the key defining factor is post-exertional malaise. That’s the key thing – a failure of energy after doing some kind of exercise or mental or emotional exertion.
  • You can have either an immediate drop in energy or a delayed fatigue so it could hit a day or two later. It’s a real rationing of physical, mental, and emotional energy.
  • Burnout is much more involved with chronic overwork, it tends to be more psychologically induced but you can have a full-blown physical and emotional burnout. It can turn into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is specifically that post-exertional aspect.
  • One route to getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a toxic or viral onset.
  • Getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is very serious. These people can be more functionally impaired than people with Type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.
  • There’s a whole range of physiological, brain-related, and psychological factors to consider. At the top is gut-related issues.  It’s back to this idea that health really starts and ends in the gut.  Research is linking gut dysbiosis and problems in the gut with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • The microbiota is very important. Ninety percent of all the cells in our body are made of the bacteria in our gut.  That’s hugely important and is huge factor in immunity as well.
  • There are a lot of consequences from an imbalance in gut bacteria. The toxins produced by them spread through the gut lining which then become damaged and systemic in the body.  When that happens, the key thing you want to focus on with fatigue is those toxins affecting mitochondrial function.  Mitochondria are the power section of all of our cells.
  • We have 50 trillion cells in the body and almost every single cell has this little bit of mitochondria which produces ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) – the energy currency of the body. When we have a problem in the mitochondria, there’s your energy rationing, that post-exertional fatigue.
  • You’re looking at causes caused by other causes that are underlying and due to other things. It’s this system approach that you need.  It’s not a one-shot thing that goes wrong and that causes your fatigue.
  • Look at things like food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, use of antibiotics in the past. Correct the environment to get rid of any negative factors, then heal the gut and gut lining and sort out the gut bacteria.  When you’ve done that you can then come in with these other things like targeted support to reboot mitochondrial function.
  • Usually we’ll start with the gut then we’ll do targeted support for other areas. Adrenal fatigue could have occurred.  The thyroid can be going a bit out of balance.
  • The testing of gut bacteria is changing and improving all the time. We’re getting into DNA sequencing of bacteria in the gut now which is even more accurate than cultures of gut bacteria.
  • Amalgam fillings can be a problem for some people but not others. That’s an area where you could get tested to see if it’s a problem for you.
  • Limbic kindling is this idea that a chemical or environmental toxin, a microbe, or a psychological thing like emotional trauma, can actually get programmed into the unconscious part of the brain, the limbic system. When that happens, it’s as if you literally start having a neurological sensitivity to certain things.  This can be caused by a one-off shock to the brain or it could be a low level intermittent exposure which, over time, reduces the threshold required for a sensitivity response to those environmental factors.
  • There’s a neurological reaction occurring where the brain is having a fight or flight response because it’s in a state of stress and fear. It’s been trained to react that way to those exposures either from a toxic one-off shock or this low level intermittent exposure.
  • So we can have an extreme reaction. It might even be what’s going on in the brain is affecting the immune system. So until you stop what’s going on in the brain, you can’t fix the immune system.
  • This is a tragic thing that’s happening in the brain which is this missed aspect and the psychology techniques are going to be the very best techniques. That’s why things like meditation are so important because the studies are there showing that you can calm the amygdala response down through meditation.
  • If the brain is in this chronic state of stress because it’s got limbic kindling, your whole body is in a state of chronic stress because the brain is the master controller of the rest of the body. It means you’re not in rest-digest-detoxify.  Patients need to be in their healing states while you address the gut, mitochondria and these other things.
  • The limbic work is very important. I recommend people look up the work of Patricia Fennell because she had done work on this amazing thing called The Four Phase Model of Chronic Complex Illness and it doesn’t just apply to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • Basically people go through crisis phase, stabilization, resolution and then integration.
  • The first phase of the illness, becoming ill is a trauma. The process of your life collapsing around you is a trauma.  Emotional trauma is a form of limbic kindling.  At this stage, you want to match treatment intervention to the phase the patient’s in.
  • During the Abundant Energy Summit, you’ll enjoy: Optimizing physical, energetic, psychological and spiritual energy; Cutting edge state-of-the art modern research in biochemistry and physics; Ancient perennial wisdom from Eastern and Western traditions; Practical steps you can take TODAY to improve your energy; And more.

Resources Mentioned:

The Abundant Energy Summit

Niki’s website

Book – Managing Chronic Illness Using the Four-Phase Treatment Approach: A Mental Health Professional’s Guide to Helping Chronically Ill People

Book – Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again

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