Finding the Roots of Chronic Fatigue

Finding the Roots of Chronic Fatigue

October 18, 2016

An Interview for UK Health Radio

Finding the roots of chronic fatigue is literally a rollercoaster of discovery.  Each case has to be looked at individually in order to help empower the person achieve optimal recovery. Dr Sarah Myhill is a leading expert who specialises in chronic fatigue and alongside Councillor Annie Brewster who lives with the condition they share key strategies, which could make a real difference for so many individuals.

If you’re not familiar with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) it’s often given many different names and is thought to affect some 250,000 people in Britain and 2.5 million in the US. Other names include myalgic ensethalopathy, post viral fatigue syndrome and chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome. It can affect anyone at any age and common signs and symptoms include severe and debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, poor memory and concentration. Triggers are often unknown and treatment can be hugely variable.


Dr Sarah Myhill

Dr Sarah Myhill is a pioneering GP who specialises in CFS and has published several papers detailing the physiological basis of the condition. She explains that CFS is not a diagnosis but the clinical picture that arises when we don’t have the energy to achieve all we want to. If our energy levels become impaired the body will ultimately go slow. Foggy brain is a common symptom seen in Sarah’s clinical work and though the brain weighs only 2% of body weight it uses 20% of the body’s energy. When energy levels become reduced brain fog, poor concentration, low mood and depression can be evident. Sarah uses the analogy of a car to describe the body. Our diet is the fuel we require and our mitochondria, the powerhouses within every body cell, is like the engine. The mitochondria take fuel and oxygen from the bloodstream and burn that fuel to generate energy. This energy can be thought of as money that can buy any job in the body such as contracting a muscle, detoxing a chemical or creating new proteins. If at any point energy production becomes slow the clinical picture that results is CFS.

There are misconceptions that CFS is psychological but evidence has highlighted the physical nature of the condition and the impact on body systems. The PACE trial which was published in The Lancet in 2011 focused on the psychological angle of the condition and after more than 12,000 patients and several charities signed a petition questioning the validity of the study a recent re-analysis of the data has revealed that graded exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy was associated with a mild placebo effect. Since 2011 this protocol has become part of NICE guidelines for treating CFS, which Sarah feels has been hugely damaging for so many individuals who have been advised to follow this protocol.

Sarah explains that the root causes of the condition can include a virus, chemical poisoning which if the condition develops gradually can be a food related allergy or intolerance or mitochondrial function. This is all closely linked to our modern lifestyle and diet. Modern diet can be a significant factor for energy production because it tends to be high in sugar and carbohydrates. General dietary guidance that has been given to populations for the last few decades has generally been poor advice. The main problem with high sugar and carbohydrates is that these foods are addictive, drive our blood sugar levels to rise and fall rapidly and increase our risk of diabetes, cancer and arterial disease

Aside from diet another possible cause of CFS may be allergy. We are currently seeing epidemics of allergies in western populations, which are high inflammatory states for the body. Factors like high sugar and vaccinations can switch on the immune system and trigger allergies to foods. Common allergens include dairy, gluten, grains and yeast, which is one reason why Sarah recommends a Paleo based diet for all her clients.

Another major problem with modern food is the lack of micro-nutrients and as foods have become progressively more deficient in nutrients there has also been a gradual insidious erosion of our good health. With all these factors in mind Sarah advocates a protocol for recovery that includes;

  1. Paleo diet – low carbohydrates, no gluten dairy, grains or yeast
  2. Nutrients (supplements)– Multi vitamin and mineral, Vitamin D, Essential Fatty Acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin D
  3. Sleep – establish a good bedtime routine, dark room and self hypnosis
  4. Freedom from emotional and psychological stress – this is particularly challenging but important to address
  5. Assess for chemical stressors – identify if there is chemical poisoning, then help to download and reduce exposure
  6. Assess for an underlying virus and seek support with anti-virals and herbals

Sarah works with clients to get them back to optimal health and once the root cause has been identified she finds clients can better fairly quickly. She does stress getting back to good health is a hard path to tread and involves people taking responsibility for their own health but with support it’s certainly possible.


Councillor Annie Brewster

Councillor Annie Brewster can share her experience of CFS from a very personal perspective. At the age of 17 Annie won silver in the 1500m at the UK Championships and lived a very full and active life. Since her late 30’s she developed CFS and has strived to find the root causes for 17 years to help her regain optimal health. For her the condition was triggered by a double bereavement, stress and a flu like virus. This then initiated a whole cascade of signs and symptoms and after the flu like symptoms didn’t subside Annie began a journey to unravel her condition.

She received very little support from conventional medicine so started to become her own doctor. She was allergy tested, changed her diet to low glycaemic with no dairy, no gluten or sugar, focused on detox including coffee enemas, Epsom salt baths, infrared saunas and some gentle exercise such as yoga and Pilates. She also did some EFT and stress reduction. Annie feels a lot of these treatments help to mop up some of the symptoms and she is passionate about bringing experts together to provide a joined up approach to CFS. For Annie getting back to sport is a huge hurdle she is yet to achieve and after a recent accident that brought back many of her symptoms she has started to look at her body’s structure and mechanics. She has began working on the Raymond Perrin technique and realigning her bite to support her body to detoxify more efficiently and support her lymphatic system for increased energy production, which is still very much work in progress at this stage.


To hear to this interview in full click here

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