\ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Causes and Effects

Causes and Effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Bodily Requirements
What causes 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome'? Can it happen to me?
Effects of above factors on body
How Can Children and Teenagers get CFS?
CFS and Genetics

Bodily Requirements:

Our bodies are magnificent devices, and have an amazing ability to heal themselves. However, the weak link in the chain is your mind! You mind controls the necessary inputs the body needs to function optimally. However, it frequently does not do its job properly as it is preoccupied with abstract matters. These inputs are summarised below, and are fairly obvious.

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What causes 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome'? Can it happen to me?

When the above inputs are inadequate, then a state of fatigue may arise. If out of balance over decades, then the body's functions may become seriously disrupted. Below we shall list some of the causes of CFS and related conditions, although the causes vary even more so than the symptoms themselves in terms of which apply and their severity. Please note that not all causes apply to all patients. This is not an exhaustive list. Some of these may sound wishy washy, but over time can cause massive biochemical, energetic and electromagnetic problems in the body.

Please bear in mind that it is easy to think that our current diet is 'normal' and humans have been eating like this for centuries, even millennia. This is not the case, and western diets have hugely changed over the last 100 years. Several hundred years ago, it was rare for the common population to eat any sugar at all. It was a luxury reserved for royalty. Now, we consume huge amounts of sugar. Drinking raw milk was also commonplace at the turn of the century, but now virtually all milk is pasturised, denaturing the certain amino acids and killing off naturally occurring enzymes etc. Tescos ready-made dinners were also not the common staple of 19th Century westerners. Nor were petrochemical-based bathroom and hygiene products. Lifestyles were very different, with less 'rushing around', trying to cram in as much into each day as possible, yet ironically education standards were often much higher. There are many other examples, but I am sure you get the general picture.

Below is a link to a time line of the last century, entitled the 'Slippery Slope Index', containing statistics regarding mortality rates and health problems, and relating these to the changes in agriculture, the rise of mass production techniques (e.g. use of growth hormones and antibiotics in cattle/poultry populations; irradiation; crop spraying; food additives), the rise of processed/convenience foods and increase in saturated fat content of the average meal, the decrease in average fibre content and intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, decrease in exercise taken, the introduction of petrochemical products, the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Clearly, it is up to the individual as to how to interpret these figures, but they do paint a rather disturbing picture about modern dietary and health (mal)practices and their huge cost on modern populations. The information was compiled by Randall Fitzgerald in his slightly controversial (but factual) book 'The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health' (2007).


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Effects of the above factors on the body:

The above factors may result in a number of effects on the body. On a high level these can be classified as cellular dysfunction/inefficiency, biochemical problems and electromagnetic deficiency or imbalance. These are listed below, and are explored in more detail in subsequent sections. Please note that each factor is not a singular, binary condition, but there are a huge number of sub-factors, biochemical processes and variables to consider, so each case has to be reviewed individually and nothing can be necessarily assumed.

Please note that oriental medicine and various energetic therapies view a CFS sufferer's main problem as that of energetic imbalance, of energetic blockages in the body's various meridians and of low qi levels. Whilst some people may view this as an additional root problem, it is a different way of describing all of the above problems. For example, low spleen meridian energy is another way of describing a poorly functioning digestive system, in particular the pancreas. Another example is qi stagnation and qi deficiency resulting in a drop in blood pressure. Energetic problems have a corresponding biochemical and physiological impact on the body and may render the body sensitive to certain types of infection or toxic build up. Indeed, one of more of the above core problems will have a corresponding energetic impact on the body. In specific cases, energetic therapies will not be enough to cure a person, and require physically resolving certain specific underlying conditions (of the above) before they can work effectively. I have therefore chosen to incorporate references to internal medicine/body energy within each relevant section, but has also created a separate page Energetic Therapies. I hope this does not cause any confusion.

It is often assumed that CFS is caused by a bad viral or bacterial infection episode, which may have indeed marked the onset of the more noticeable effects of the condition. However, the viral episode or bacterial infection is in most cases likely to just be the trigger that pushes an already stretched immune system and dysfunctional body 'over the edge' into an area where symptoms are more noticeable. The terminology 'post viral fatigue syndrome' is therefore not so useful a term and masks the real causes and conditions that lie behind the fatigue and other symptoms experienced.

Please note that significant stress or psychological imbalance can result from some of the negative lifestyle factors described above, and also from the long term effects of these on the body as listed in the effects list. Stress may continue to be a contributary factor in certain people's conditions (not necessarily the prime cause) exaccerbating their bio-chemical conditions.

For an examination of the role of viruses in causing/triggering/worsening CFS and related conditions, please see the Stealth Viruses page.

A general overview of some of the above potential causes of CFS are discussed on the Immune Support web site, listed below.


Each sufferer of CFS or related conditions has a unique combination of some of the above problems, each in varying degrees. The above problems are interrelated, and a person rarely has a chronic problem in one of these areas without associated problems in other areas to varying degrees, even if just moderately or mildly. Treatments that focus too narrowly or that do not attempt to identify all the root problems are unlikely to be completely successful. All specific root problems that a person has need to be identified before they can be dealt with properly and result in a complete and permanent cure. This is why it is so important to really examine the key areas at the start, to make sure that no chronic factor has been overlooked or missed. Individual factors can get worse over time if not treated, and often they impact other areas of health, and missing one major factor or number of factors can render a treatment unsuccessful.

Western culture often tries to simply life's problems in general, and conditions us to look for a single, clearly defined cause for every problem, so we can go out and 'fix it'. We thus often look for a 'dramatic' reason for CFS, a single factor which clearly cannot apply to people who do not have CFS or they would have it too, and we may often tend to overlook the lifestyle causes as they often apply to most people and we may also tend to overlook the above conditions/effects as they are usually the babblings of health bores that most people don't pay attention to (and the average person don't have CFS)! Clearly the media and medical establishment are not exactly enlightening people either.

It is important to understand that the individual problems that a patient may have are not binary in nature, and as such are not either 'on' or 'off'. Equally, the exact nature of the individual problems can vary considerably, depending on a wide variety of co-factors, biochemical and electrical processes in the body. So a 'one size fits all' approach to a given problem may not always be successful. The medical establishment in a sense encourages people to be somewhat passive, and to see an 'out of the box', 'one size fits all', often drug-based, 'quick fix' solution to usually just relieve the symptoms in the short term or which fixes one problem at the expense of a number of other processes in the body; and not actually examine what is actually going on in the body and adapt one's approach accordingly.

It is important to appreciate what the original root cause of one's ill health is (if there is a single main cause) and tackle that original root cause. Rarely is one cause acting alone, but is often working in conjunction with a number of other causes in conjunction. Some cause may be sudden, in that they act over a short period of time, whereas others may take a long time to manifest. Address the root cause or original root cause of one's ill health is therefore extremely important. In some cases, simply 'undoing' these factors, if they are ongoing factors, may be enough to facilitate a significant recovery in a short space of time.

It is however critical to recognise the downstream and knock on effects of the original problem(s), and the effects of these on other interrelated areas of the body's biochemistry. If these downstream effects (and subsequent effects) are of such a severity then they usually require treating in additional to the original root cause. As can be seen from the relevant pages in this section, many of the problems are interdependent and a problem in one area often leads to multiple disorders in the body's biochemistry, and if left untreated, can result in the observed downward spiral and vicious circle of CFS. Often, the long it is left, or the more a person pushes himself or herself whilst unwell, the harder it becomes to treat as the more complex and severe these multiple problems become. Treatment must not only address the root cause(s) of the problem but also tackle the downstream and knock on effects of the original problem, to support the body for a full recovery.

Whilst the above list of causes and effects is not exhaustive, it seems to describe a list of those causes and effects of which a subset seem to be present in nearly every CFS sufferer. Indeed, the exact nuances and variations within each category are very large indeed, creating a complex and unique pattern of biochemical problems in each individual with CFS. Often one problem exaccerbates another existing problem and vice versa. The problems may well develop over many years or decades. The problems vary in degree and their effects are not binary (either completely well or completely fatigued). We would encourage CFS sufferers to proactively try to identify all of their underlying problems, whatever they may be, and tackle them in a positive, appropriate and sensible manner.

Some people have commented that there are different 'families' or 'types' of CFS, purely based upon observation and symptoms and recovery patterns. Whilst this may be true in a symptomatic and empirical way, it is a somewhat crude way of saying that the exact nature of CFS varies in each individual, but that certain combinations of biochemical problems can be grouped together in a way to describe the symptoms a group of individuals suffer. Whilst there may be some merit in this approach, it does not really add much value, and does not actually consider the causative nature of each individual condition, a step that is necessary to actually treat a given individual.

Ironically, medical doctors have conducted a series of experiments on the slopes of Mount Everest (in early 2007, project entitled 'Extreme Everest') in the hope of trying to understand why some people can utilise oxygen in their cells more efficiently than others, regardless of the level of physical fitness of the people tested. This is especially important at high altitude where the air is 3 times thinner than at sea level, where people have to work out (i.e. climb). The air is so thin at altitude that climbers are limited in their climbing rate by the available oxygen. Some climbers of top physical fitness fall extremely ill and risk dieing if they stay at altitude, whereas other climbs have been known to climb to the summit solo and without oxygen. 3 laboratories were set up inside tents at the various camps along the mountain, including one in the 'death zone' at around 8000m.



The research is hoped to gain insight into the reasons for differing levels of recovery amongst patients in intensive care in hospitals around the world. There may well be some evidence to support the idea of a gene that predisposes some people to better oxygen usage efficiency. But perhaps if these doctors actually researched the areas of neurotoxic membrane syndrome, decreased mitochondrial efficiency and electromagnetic deficiency, this would go at least a long way to explaining mitochondrial and metabolic differences between cells in different patients/test subjects. And it could be achieved without literally going to the ends of the earth! And potentially endangering people's lives. Of course, it would not be as sexy, adventurous or as fun! If I was paid to travel to Everest, of course, I'd be there like a shot. We shall see what the results show when they have been fully analysed. Clearly the mainstream of western medicine has some way to go before it really embraces the lesser known medical research within its domain.

As explained on the Nutritional Deficiencies page, CFS sufferers in general have a lower life expectancy on account of poor liver function and low glutathione levels. A low glutathione level has been linked to an increased risk of death from all common causes. The corresponding high levels of homocysteine in the human body increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (i.e. strokes and heart attacks), pregnancy complications, the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease, Diabetes and Osteoporosis.

Some people ask whether one can die of CFS. Well, the answer is indirectly, yes. CFS often puts patients into the 'high risk' category of cardiovascular disease, and whilst it may not be a factor in the short term, if untreated, may well come into play in the long term. In addition, many of the factors that affect CFS patients are common to cancer patients, although I am not going to make any statement or direct connection between the development of cancer and CFS pre-disposing factors. There is however evidence to show that those with CFS develop cancer at a much younger age (24 years earlier) than the rest of the 'healthy' population.



Suicide rates are also much higher in CFS sufferers and those suffering from related conditions than in the rest of the population. This comes down to poor education and knowledge in the public domain and health service, with sufferers feeling alone and isolated and their struggle being 'hopeless', i.e. without any proper and appropriate treatment.

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How Can Children and Teenagers get CFS?

Whilst many of the above causes may apply to people who do not suffer from CFS or related conditions, this is not to say that they are particularly healthy either. CFS happens gradually over a period of many years, usually afflicting people in their 20s or 30s. It is not a binary condition.

It is becoming increasingly common for young children and teenagers to become affected by CFS or related conditions. Surely the above causes don't really apply to babies? Whilst increasingly unhealthy diet and lifestyles are partly to blame for CFS or related conditions in teenagers, one can also assume that it is likely they were actually born with some of the above problems. This explains why children as young as 3 or 4 can have CFS or related conditions. I believe this is a result of the biochemical, immune system and toxic condition of the mother as opposed to genetic characteristics. If you consider the complete lifecycle of a human being, the sole source of nutrition, oxygen and biochemical inputs comes from the mother's blood for the first 9 months of life (the child's body weight at birth is thus built up from nutrients and (bio)chemical compounds in the mother's blood). After this (i.e. birth), and until death, nutrition comes from food and drink. Just as we should consider the negative impacts of nutrition and environmental exposure etc. after birth, we should also consider any possible negative health issues passed onto the child through the mother's blood during the first 9 months of life. This is explored in more detail below.

A mother may well building up minor health problems and bodily biochemical dysfunction over 20 to 30 years of life of poor nutrition and lifestyle, stress and environmental exposure. However, when it comes to rearing a child, the child in the womb absorbs all the toxins and harmful micro-organisms from the mother through the umbilical cord. Even slight affliction of digestive unhealth, impaired immune system functioning (often resulting in overgrowth of bad bacteria, mycoplasma fungus and/or parasites) nutritional deficiencies and toxicity will be passed on to the child in the womb through the mother's blood for 9 months of the child's initial development. The foetus is effectively lightly poisoned from the actual egg stage and inception until birth, and more than likely thereafter mainly by diet. Red Cross studies have shown that umbilical cords contain up to 200 different toxic compounds, 60 of which are carcinogenic. The umbilical cord does not contain a filter to remove toxins in anticipation of poor life management of the mother. The human body's biology has not taken that into consideration and assumes that the mother is doing her job properly by staying alive, safe, warm and eating healthily. Of course, the foetus has a liver too (depending on how old it is) to filter out some of the toxins, assuming it is fully healthy. The foetus' liver is however extremely small and is not really biologically designed at this stage to do this much additional work.

A recent study of 10 'racial and ethnic minority' babies by 5 indepedent research laboratories in the USA, Canada and the Netherlands has shown that up to 232 toxic chemicals were found in each baby, providing firm evidence that each baby was subjected to a host of dangerous substances whilst still in the mother's womb (i.e. absorbed directly from the mother's cumulative toxicity levels or daily exposure to these chemicals), including Bisphenol A (BPA), Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), Galaxolide and Tonalide, Perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA or C4) and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).



It is speculative, but it is also possible that electromagnetic/energetic deficiencies and imbalances can be passed on from the mother to the child, as the child is being formed from the blood and in the energetic and electromagnetic environment of the mother's womb and so to some extent will be influenced by these conditions in the mother's body.

Over generations, this effect is likely to be amplified. This is no doubt exaccerbated by the decline in the quality of diets over the last 100 years and it is highly likely that the general health of new born babies has declined over this period. This is probably one of the reasons why we are seeing more and more CFS cases now. And this trend is likely to continue and intensify for the forseeable future unless radical lifestyle changes become the norm and popular across the whole of society. Afflicted families may well more than one child developing CFS, as well as perhaps the mother to a lesser extent. This may also be partly due to the food prepared in the household, which is normally a common factor to all family members. Parents therefore pass their poor nutritional habits onto their children. What a gift! What a start in life! Many mothers give sugar containing foods and processed foods to babies, setting the child up for further digestive system impairment later in life.

The woman's body is genetically designed to pass on more nutrients such as amino acids on to the baby in the event of starvation. In the case of mothers with chronic nutritional deficiencies, there simply aren't enough of the deficient nutrients to provide for both the mother's and child's requirements. The result is that neither mother nor child get enough of certain key minerals, amino acids and vitamins. This is partly on account of the poor nutritional value of the modern diet but also because most people's digestive systems are not working at optimum efficiency either. The average person doesn't not fulfill his requirements with a poor to average diet and taking a multivitamin tablet daily. It is likely that the nutritional deficiencies, foreign micro-organisms and toxicity from birth have increased gradually over the last hundred years on account of shifting diets and increasing environmental exposure and pollution. Of course, I am not looking back on history with rose tinted spectacles, and lack of basic healthcare, smog, industrial pollution and limited food type availability etc. have played a significant impact on people in the past few hundred years also. So we've improved some areas and gone backwards in others.

It is also observed that mothers who have multiple children in close succession often suffer from nutritional deficiencies, partly because they pass more nutrients onto their children than they use for themselves, and that the body does not have time to recover and restore the balance of nutrients before the next child is conceived. This can result in successive children being born with increased nutritional deficiencies (and indeed the mothers being more deficient in vital nutrients also). This topic is discussed in relation to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on the Energetic Therapies page.

In cases of severe heavy metal toxicity of new born babies, the mother often has a history of a leaking mercury filling, recent dental surgery, a filling become chipped or elevated biotoxin levels during pregnancy. These toxins are transferred directly to the baby via the umbilical cord.

In strictly biological terms, the ill health of the father does not influence the biological health of his child at birth. However, significant levels of environmental toxins in the body can cause damage to a man's sperm. Studies in rats show that exposure to garden chemicals result in damaged sperm not only in the exposed specimens, but also in subsequent generations, with sperm damage only disappearing completely after 4 generations.


So whilst the father merely contributes his sperm to fertilise the mother's egg in the uterus, his sperm may be damaged. What effect this has on the toxicity levels or biochemical health of the foetus as it grows in the mother's womb or how it might affect susceptibility to CFS or related conditions in the baby is not certain. The father is of course not biologically related or connected to the mother. The mother however passes her blood to the foetus for 9 months prior to birth of the child. So the mother's general health and level of toxicity during child rearing is of critical importance. It could be said that women who intend to one day bear a child or several children should take particular care with respect to their digestive health, levels of toxicity and nutrition, as it affects not only themselves but their children. For men, it is also of high importance. In addition, the dietary and lifestyle habits of the parents may well indeed influence the children's. It is therefore every adult's responsibility to look after his health and to become knowledgeable in what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and how to maintain a healthy body and mind.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the level of Kidney Qi or Kidney energy is thought be to determined partly by the health of one's parents at the time of conception, but also the level of Qi of the mother during pregnancy. Kidney Qi is also thought to be influenced by a person's lifestyle during the course of his or her life, after birth. So if a mother (or indeed father) has low Qi at the time of conception, this according to TCM may be passed onto the child. Please see the Energetic Therapies page for related discussion.

It is clear that toxicity, micro-organism and nutritional deficiency problems can be passed onto her child by the mother. The effects of these issues will be cumulative over many generations of maternal parents. However, if a mother has only sons, then these factors will no longer be passed onto her sons' children. The pattern has been broken! However, these sons may well meet a partner and have their own children. So the general health of their wives/partners will determine this 'birth factor'. The cumulative birth factors over many generations of maternal parents will influence the health of these wives/partners. So a different maternal family tree of health factors is brought into play on this next generation of children. Of course, the extent of these 'birth factors' varies between mothers, and in many cases, the factors after birth (i.e. lifestyle) are much more significant than those than were accumulated through birth. One has to consider the entire picture for each individual, and not just focus on one particular area.

Whilst discussing reproduction and the female reproductive system, in terms of raw statistics, women tend to develop CFS and also conditions like Fibromyalgia more than men. This may be partly on account on the fact that women lose some blood each month during menstruation, resulting in nutrient depletion over many years if the diet is not high enough in nutritional elements, vitamins and protein to make up the lost blood (and material building blocks required to build up the uterus lining each month).


Exposure from one generation to the next of certain pathogens may result in a gradual decrease in efficiency of the immune system from one generation to the next and a built up of certain pathogens or toxins in the tissues. Toxins and pathogens that are inherited from the mother in the womb are generally referred to as 'Autogenous Toxins'.

It is a tragedy that in many families, successive generations suffer from serious illness, of a viral, bacterial, digestive or central nervous system kind etc, and that each generation never quite figures out why this should be so. To break this chain of inherited suffering is clearly required by getting to the root of the associated health issues and tackling them. Most sufferers seek inappropriate treatments from the national health service or from mainstream medical doctors; or in other cases spend huge amounts of money on alternative treatments that are very good in themselves but do not get to the root of the core problem.

Another important factor to take into account is that with each successive generation, people are being exposed to more and more harmful electromagnetic fields and radiation, from any early age onwards. Children are using mobile phones at younger and younger ages, seeing them as toys or as a form of self-expression and rebellion. The average home contains more and more electrical and electronic devices. The average person wears and uses more and more electronic devices. Clearly some cases of CFS in children may relate partly to to the modern phenomenon EM smog. Perhaps partly also to the biochemical factors described above. However, EM smog is probably not likely to explain CFS conditions in very young children. With teens, EM smog is most likely to play a part in CFS sufferers.

It is worth considering that although toxicity and harmful micro-organisms may be passed onto a mother's children through the umbilical cord whilst in the womb, those children will all be subject to EM smog in their lives if they live in western industrialised countries. So a brother and sister of the same family at birth will most likely have a similar toxic and microbial burden (unless there is a specific complication during pregnancy involving dental surgery or problems (i.e. mercury amalgam fillings) or food poisoning etc.), but after that may be subject to slightly different patterns of EM smog depending on lifestyle. It is unlikely that a father with a high level of toxicity or harmful microbial overgrowth will have much of a contribution biologically to these conditions in his children, as all he is contributing is a sperm to each child. However, the mother's levels of these factors are of critical importance. That is not to say that father's or men in general should be slack about their health, as they have their own life to live! So whilst CFS patients have their own lives affected, there is the power there to stop this affecting anyone else.

If a woman has CFS, a heavy toxic burden, a heavy harmful micro-organism overgrowth, or has used anti-biotics heavily, and wants to have a child, then clearly it is her decision. In the ideal world, one would resolve all these problems prior to engaging in child rearing activities (!) Many of the treatments for overcoming these problems are not generally suitable for use by pregnant mothers (although there are exceptions/conditions underwhich some can be pursued). Therefore any mother who has a child under these conditions (and not all pregnancies are planned) should bear in mind that problems may develop in the child as he grows older. The mother may wish to act preventatively in such cases or wait until the child has visible problems. It is clearly her decision.

My own speculation: Cumulative build up of micro-organisms, nutritional deficiencies and toxicity between generations and increasing exposure to EM smog from an early age are highly likely to contribute to an 'epidemic' of CFS or related conditions across the majority of the population over perhaps the next 4 - 8 generations. Given that the average adult in western industrialised societies is not particularly healthy in absolute terms, then in 4 - 8 generations the average adult will probably be considerably less healthy in absolute terms, so much so that he will experience severe symptoms of CFS or related conditions. The effects of the majority of a workforce being unable to work are unthinkable to economists! Whilst this is likely, a shift in diets and eating habits may well slow down this process considerably. Media and government focus tends to fall onto illnesses such as AIDS, a major killer in Africa, which is more easily understood, quantifiable and preventable (where short term efforts can yield tangible results). Who can really predict the future however? Focus on today what you can do for yourself first.

It is clear that a mother's health is critical in conjunction with child bearing. What can we do about it? How can we ensure we overcome these health issues and stay in optimum health? What can we do to expose ourselves to less harmful EMFs? Please read on.

Please note that this section is not intended to be sexist in any way, is not judging, blaming or condemning anyone, but is merely concerning itself with the biological and biochemical facts. I appreciate your understanding.

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CFS and Genetics:

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) holds that people are born with certain genetic dispositions with regards to energy weakness in certain areas (for example, low kidney or spleen energy). The theory is that the amount of reserve 'life force' or Jing you are born with is determined by the energetic health of your parents at the time of conception. This is examined on the Energetic Therapies page.

However, this is in all likelihood a function of the toxic burden and nutritional deficiencies that a child may be born with, with impacts the child's health from birth (or perhaps before!) I do not personally believe in genetic predisposition when it comes to CFS, but in a 'genetic' personality type or types that one is born with, which if negative characteristics of the respective personality types take hold, then unhealthy emotional imbalance will result, with associated health impact. I personally believe that those who blame genetic factors for predisposition to developing CFS probably mean well but have little understanding on the biochemical factors that are involved, and in a sense, what CFS actually is. However, who is to say if we can't discount genetics completely from the equation. But seeing as you can't change your genetics, but you can influence everything else mentioned above, then it's not really worth exploring!

As discussed on the Liver Function page, current research in the body's own detoxification processes shows that enzymes that function Phase I and II liver detoxification processes vary from person to person and may include genetic or pathological reasons for reduced performance.

As stated in the section above on CFS and Children, significant levels of environmental toxins accumulating or present in the body can damage a man's sperm, thus affecting a baby's hereditary make up.


Mitochondrial disease is determined to be a genetic condition whereby one has an inherited enzymatic problem encoded into the mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA, which is located within the mitochondrial, is passed onto the child by the mother alone, as opposed to the main bulk of DNA which is located inside the cell's nucleus and which contains genetic information from both parents. This may perhaps partly explain some of the phenomena observed with mothers 'predisposed' to CFS, or rather poor mitochondrial function, (with adverse environmental, dietary and psychological inputs) may produce offspring with similar 'predispositions'. However, if mitochondrial DNA from birth is indeed a significant or major line of causation in CFS, then one would expect all siblings to show elements of mitochondrial dysfunction, and not just one. This is not always or indeed often observed. Mitochondrial function however does in general tend to decline with age on account of cumulative free radical damage, so it is possible that some of this genetic damage/mutation may be passed onto the child's Mitochondrial DNA.


Whilst this may well overlap with some CFS cases, in all likelihood, it makes up probably a small percentage of the total of CFS cases. This is not to say that those with Mitochondrial disease have no other types of mitochondrial problems, which are not of a genetic nature, and that a suitable supplementation regime and treatment programme could in all probability considerably boost their mitochondrial performance. Please see the Mitochondrial page for more information.

Another possible contributary genetic factor towards CFS may be a genetic predisposition towards Gliadin (Gluten) or Milk intolerance. This may affect all ages, and may explain why some small children suffer from fatigue and IBS symptoms from an early age, shortly after weining. Indeed, these predispositions may be one of many contributory factors, genetic or acquired. Please see the Food Allergy page for more information.

As stated on the Nitric Oxide, Superoxide, Peroxynitrite page, three genes, connected to the NO/ONOO- cycle, have been identified in 5 separate studies as being implicated in CFS development.

Johnathan Kerr of St George's University of London has conducted a research project into the genetic causes of 'M.E./C.F.S.' This was discussed at a seminar held by M.E. Research UK in Cambridge in May 2008 - as reported by The Economist on 10th May 2008.

Quoted directly from M.E. Research UK's web site:


'Dr Jonathan Kerr’s group has been one of the most active in defining the molecular basis of ME/CFS. Their initial study of gene expression in patients demonstrated marked human gene dysregulation, principally affecting the immune system. And in 2007, the latest in a series of papers was published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology outlining the identification of a putative ‘gene signature’ for the illness consisting of 88 human genes. These genes can be subdivided into categories by diseases and disorders, say, or by molecular and cellular functions. The research team says that three of the genes identified are directly linked with mitochondrial metabolism, and a further ten have indirect links with mitochondrial metabolism. As these 88 genes have been linked directly to the pathogenesis of ME/CFS, the next step is to study the inherited determinants of susceptibility by examining single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), pronounced ‘snips’, within these genes. Some SNPs have been linked with features and complications which might be associated with ME/CFS (e.g., IL10RA SNPs are associated with lymphoma, a disease which some have speculated occurs more frequently in ME/CFS).'

Dr Kerr claims to have identified 88 genes that are expressed differently in the blood of (a group of 55) patients who had been diagnosed with 'M.E.' Dr Kerr is hopeful that a blood test can be created to identify these genes and thus provide a definitive 'diagnosis' for 'M.E.' One tactic for 'dealing with M.E.' is to 'treat' its symptoms with drugs that are already used against other diseases, e.g. drugs to increase blood pressue in those with low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

The number of patients examined is extremely low in relative terms and whether these results can be applied to all sufferers of CFS or M.E. is another matter. Indeed, how many people who 'did not have CFS' were studied to determine that they did not possess any of these 88 genes? i.e. conclusive prove of a binary finding. It may also be possible that on account of the small control group that there is in fact no connection between 'M.E.' and these 88 genes. It does not bode well for scientific analysis if the terms 'M.E.' and CFS are used interchangeably as the symptoms are slightly different.

In addition, assuming that all cases of 'M.E.' have a genetic cause may be barking up the wrong tree entirely. We need to define what is a 'cause' and what is a 'trigger'. And indeed if there is just one cause or multiple interrelating causes. If indeed these SNPs are connected with 'M.E.' cases, then they may be just one of many 'predisposing' factors rather than an actual (primary) cause of the condition. In other words, whilst those with these SNPs may be more likely to develop symptoms of CFS or M.E., they are probably not the actual cause, and indeed, in order to 'trigger' these conditions, a variety of other contributary factors must be present.

In a sense, then, genetics may be completely irrelevant, as they may have no bearing on the actual treatment and eventual cure. Indeed, if people who have never had M.E. or CFS have these SNPs, does this necessarily mean anything? Unless we establish a larger experimental group and survey, then the results cannot really be conclusive. Are those that carry these genes a 'genetic timebomb' who will 'probably' or 'definitely' develop M.E.? If so, when? M.E. can be seen in young children as well as those in their 20s and 30s. It is sometimes developed in those in their 60s. It must presumably be determined with 100% certainty that every single person who never develops M.E. during their lifetime does not have any of these 88 genes. Is this a realistic thing to verify? One would presumably need to study 1000s if not 10s or 100s of thousands of people, not 50-100!

Indeed, what about those who suffer from brief periods of exhaustion or fatigue in their lives but never 'develop traditional M.E.'? Are the causes of their temporary biochemical and mitochondrial inefficiency analysed? And do they have genetic causes? How can only explain temporary M.E. like symptoms that afflict 'non-M.E.' cases compared with 'actual M.E.' cases? Is Dr Kerr suggesting that only the latter case is due to genetic causes? Presumably given enough abuse, the bodies of those in the former case will end up like the latter case (i.e. with full blown Chronic Fatigue)?

Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) is considered by most medical professionals to be distinct from M.E. or CFS, as it is a temporary condition. Yet most M.E. and CFS cases 'originate' from a viral episode. Are they so very different? Of course, in reality, one can trace the onset of a CFS debility to long before the actual trigger of a virus or bacterial infection etc., in terms of biochemistry etc. What about the many people who have had Post Viral Fatigue briefly - indeed this is said to have afflicted most people at one time or other (of course, some people more severely or more frequently than others)? A team of Australian researchers has postulated that many cases of 'M.E.' are in fact Post Viral Fatigue. Do these arbitrary classifications really mean anything? I himself had 'just' PVFS for 1-2 months after each bout of flu during his early 20s, but once recovered from this, felt 'normal'. However it was not until my 30s that I developed CFS. Were these then 'unrelated'? Please see the Factors that may contribute to Inefficient Liver Function section on the Toxicity page as to why the same processes may be operating in PVMS and CFS. It is clear that arbitrary classifications are often used to imply a diagnosis or 'measurement' or 'qualitative' analysis of a condition, when in reality there is no basic understanding of what the condition actually is and what biochemical factors have been working to bring it about over a long length of time. Unless one is going to analyse what is going on on a biochemical level in people with these different conditions, these distinct classifications are quite meaningless. To classify them as different conditions is to then give licence to ignore any possible connections between one and the other, and in short, to utterly miss the point.

Below are some arbitrary classifications of 'different types' and durations of fatigue.

If specific genes do in fact negatively affect mitochondrial function or the immune system in those afflicted, does this automatically mean that these people will develop disorders associated with poor mitochondrial function or immune function, e.g. M.E.? Clearly there are many possibilities here, and we are specifically talking about those 88 genes mentioned above. The studies by Dr Kerr seem to imply (if we assume the small number of subjects is reflective of the general population and M.E. sufferers as a whole), that assuming those who have one or more of these genes have an equivalent lifestyle to those who don't (i.e. the 'average', career oriented, modern lifestyle with a heavy reliance on processed foods, an excessive simple carbohydrate intake, a relatively low fibre intake, and an excessive exposure to harmful electromagnetic fields and excessive psychological stress), then the results would indeed be correct. However, because one has one or more of the above genes, does it necessary imply that one will develop M.E. at some seemingly random point in one's life? Presumably if one looked after one's mind and body properly, had a healthy diet, a good Omega 3 to 6 ratio, detoxified the tissues of the body, ensured plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet, low levels of psychological stress, ensured sufficient vitamin and mineral levels in the body and minimal exposure to harmful EM fields, then it is highly likely that such a person even with one or more of these 'M.E. predisposing' genes would in fact be healthier than the 'average' 'healthy' member of the population and in fact never develop M.E., CFS or any other environmentally related illness. To say that this gene was the cause of M.E. would be foolish if the other factors working on an 'average' person with these genes were more significant - they could in fact be said to be the primary causes of the condition. So naturally, if people with these genes with an 'average' lifestyle, i.e. one that is somewhat abusive to the body, may well end up in Dr Kerr's group of people with M.E. with one or more of these 88 genes! Clearly if they hadn't, then chances are they would have had M.E. and thus would not have been studied by Dr Kerr or anyone else. So whether this research actually proves anything other than genetics having a minor role is pure speculation, unless other factors are also taken into consideration.

Dr Julia Newton of Newcastle University believes that the early build up of lactic acid in M.E. patients engaging in exercise could be influenced entirely, or at least in part, by the degree to which the autonomic nervous system fails to properly maintain blood flow. Indeed this is probably what is occurring. But understanding why is another matter. Is this considering to be the lowest fundamental causative factor? Surely there are likely to be a number of causative factors behind this tendency of the autonomic nervous system to maintain blood flow properly? And indeed, depending on what these causes or factors might be, this would clearly determine the direction of treatment (i.e. a cure as opposed to 'alleviating symptoms'). It is not clear whether this nervous system problem is considered to have a (primarily) genetic cause or not (a central theme of Kerr's work). Newton believes it could mean that drugs used to improve blood flow might also be of help to some M.E. patients. However, has she considered other factors that result in early lactic acid build up? For example factors affecting mitochondrial efficiency such as availability of Krebs cycle co-factors at the mitochondrial membrane? The cell membrane fluidity? The amount of congestion and partial detoxification products on the mitochondrial membrane? The 'qi' levels of that person? And any number of other factors that may affect mitochondrial and aerobic efficiency? Indeed, such research is important, but perhaps she and others might want to consider widening the focus of their research in this area somewhat in order to find out what factors actually were in play causing the low blood flow in the first place, e.g. the historical biochemistry of the patient.

Stephen Graves of the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, said that they had found a proportion of Australian M.E. sufferers may have a genetic predisposition to developing M.E. as a result of exposure to Q Fever or Flinders Island Spotted Fever (rare bacterial diseases). If so, Dr Graves believes that occurrences of M.E. may be greatly reduced by public health measures. However, much as a bacterial or viral episode may be a trigger for CFS and M.E. in many patients, are we focussed on the very last downstream factor in our view of these conditions? And blindly ignoring all the primary causes that resulted in an inefficient immune system function and biochemistry, where the body was gradually weared down over time, with a particularly bad viral or bacterial episode resulting in the immune system being overstrained and the patient developing the stereotypical symptoms of M.E.? Are we viewing 'M.E.' too narrowly as a set of symptoms and not dealing with the actual mechanisms and causes? Presumably if we focus on a downstream trigger, then we are playing a dangerous game, kidding ourselves that those with frail immune systems and mitochondrial/endocrine issues, but who don't display too many adverse symptoms, are in fact 'healthy', and it is only when the trigger 'causes' the symptoms to appear that the person is now 'sick'. This is a rather short sighted approach. A little like trying to stop drunk drivers getting into their cars, rather than addressing the reasons why they drink and drive so they don't take a drink in the first place if they know they need to drive later on.

If the bacterial infection was not the primary cause, but just a superficial trigger, then surely one should be more focussed on why an infection or virus should be a trigger in some people and not others in developing 'M.E.'? One may arbitrarily attribute this to genetics (and assume there are no other factors), or one could look at other factors that affect the immune system health and mitochondrial efficiency - in those that develop 'M.E.' after these bacterial episodes, and those that developed 'M.E.' through a different medical history, and those that do 'have M.E.'; and perhaps even those that 'just' have Post Viral Fatigue (PVFS) occasionally. Compare these people's lifestyles (stress, diet etc. over many years), endocrine systems, mitochondrial efficiency, the presence and levels of mitochondrial co-factors, mineral and B-vitamin levels, appearance of their red and white blood cells, any signs of oxidative damage, the cell membrane fluidity, the amount of partial detoxification products blocking the mitochondrial membranes, the level of toxins in the blood and tissues etc. Perhaps even compare these factors before and after the bacterial infection, in those who did and didn't develop 'full blown M.E.' and also those somewhere in between (i.e. PVFS). Ideally one would monitor these factors over a period of many years.

Clearly there are many factors to consider, and assuming that genes predispose one to 'CFS' or 'M.E.' would probably be foolish and stop one examining environmental, toxicological, psychological and dietary factors that may actually be the primary cause. Of course, scientists and researchers do not like 'messy' problems and like to indentify a single 'cause', and assume they are working with control groups when in fact they are not as there are so many other factors in play that they are not considering. They do not also like to consider the magnitude of health problems amongst the majority of the population and what indeed constitutes a 'healthy body'. Attitributing genetics to the cause of CFS is a little like saying that because you are short sighted you will invariably have a car accident; or because you are skinny, you will invariably drown. There are many layers of potentially incorrect assumptions here. I am all for genetic research into 'M.E.', but as long as it is done in a scientific manner, and taking many other factors into consideration, and done with some basic understanding of cellular health and biochemistry. To not do so is to waste money and the opportunity for actually usable research.

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