Dr. Doni explains the connections between the nervous system, hormones, digestion, and the immune system, and how they can cause chronic fatigue and oxidative stress.
Part 6 of Dr. Doni’s Series on Oxidative Stress
Twenty years ago when I was a naturopathic medical student at Bastyr University, I had a particular interest in patients who had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I found it very interesting that, often at a young age, these patients were so fatigued and unwell that they were not able to work and could barely get through a day of usual activities. It was this interest that prompted me to conduct a study into how chronic fatigue symptoms relate to cortisol levels (our main stress hormone).
That was my early interest in what I refer to now as ‘neuro-endocrine-immuno-gastroentero-logy’. In other words, the study of the connections between our nervous system, hormones, immune system, and gut.1-7 In my book, The Stress Remedy, I refer to this quad as HDIN or the 4 Core Systems in the body.
Today, fatigue is the most common concern among patients who visit my office (it was also the most common complaint in the stress study I completed in 2012) and it is one of the first signs of the inflammation and neuro-degeneration that are commonly referred to as ‘aging’.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is diagnosed for patients who experience fatigue every day, without another known cause, and who have memory issues, trouble sleeping, digestive upset, headaches, and/or muscle tightness.8
In the conventional approach to medicine and the human body—and in medical specialties—instead of looking at how various systems of the body connect and communicate, it tends to be about separating the specific areas of the body and looking at just one area at a time. While it is important to have practitioners who specialize in certain areas, it is a risk to limit it to only one perspective. The risk is that you lose sight of the whole and the power of the interactions within the body—to both cause disease and to heal itself.
By looking at the body from this broader perspective, with awareness of the interconnections and influences from within, we have a much better chance of understanding the core issues and the root causes. Then we can identify the steps that are more likely to allow the body to heal and prevent un-wellness.
The 4 Core Systems and How They Relate to Chronic Fatigue and Oxidative Stress
Even twenty years ago, we knew that CFS was not simple. It did not have one single cause or one simple solution. It was, and still is, a complex condition involving multiple systems (and definitely all four of the core systems) with many possible and overlapping causes.
And now, even in research that has occurred in the past year, scientists are not only confirming our suspicions, but actually finding the imbalances in minute neuro-endocrine-immuno-gastroentero-logical messengers in the body and the substances that have disrupted them in the first place.
It turns out that it comes down to inflammation and oxidative stress. And what is the cause of inflammation and oxidative stress? None other than our old friend stress—both psychological (emotional and mental) stresses as well as physical stresses like injuries, infections, foods (such as sugar and gluten), overuse of medications, and toxic exposures. So put that together with our individual genetic susceptibilities to stress, and you have a sense of why one person comes down with CFS and another doesn’t. If one person has genetics that allow them to process stress (in any form) more easily, then they are less likely to develop CFS—compared to someone whose body is less able to metabolize toxins, recover from high adrenaline, and/or moderate inflammatory mediators–the ‘stuff’ that communicates inflammation throughout the body. People who struggle to process the effects of stress are less able to decrease this inflammation naturally, which means it sticks around longer, giving it more time to cause problems (if you are interested in genetics, you can read more here).
Stresses trigger inflammation (cytokines) and oxidative stress (free radicals) which overwhelm the body and cause damage to healthy cells and the mitochondria inside the cells that are essential for energy production, leading to fatigue (in the case of CFS) or other health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease which we discussed in my three prior articles.
Now, you might not be diagnosed with CFS, but perhaps like many of my patients, you are experiencing fatigue, brain fog, decreased memory, low mood, digestive issues, and/or difficulty sleeping. These symptoms are not just a sign that you are getting older but an indication that your body needs more help managing inflammation and oxidative stress—BEFORE it gets any worse.
You don’t have to understand all the details of neuro-endocrine-immuno-gastroentero-logy to feel better. You just need to know that the systems in the body are connected to one another, and that what you eat and drink, the amount of exercise you do, and the degree of toxic exposure you encounter does have an effect on how you feel.9
You can choose to eat well, move daily, and avoid toxins—in which case your body will have a better chance of keeping up with the stresses you are exposed to (and can’t easily control) in your daily life.10 I’ll be writing more about specific supplements for CFS, but in the meantime, I’m excited to announce my new Stress Remedy 7-day and 21-day Programs, which I’ll be launching in a few weeks (as soon as we have everything you’ll need). This is an updated version of my Hamptons Cleanse program that I have refined and reworked to give it a greater emphasis on healing the effects of stress.
During the Stress Remedy program, I will guide you through the process of reversing the vicious cycles that lead to disruptions in not one, but all of the 4 core systems—the nervous system, immune system, digestion, and hormones. The program will help you decrease oxidative stress and help your mitochondria start working optimally again. As a result, you’ll experience an increase in energy, improved mood, easy digestion, and better immune function—not to mention loss of unwanted pounds, bloating, and pain.
In the meantime, to help you start down the path to stress recovery, I have created a 7-day Burnout Reset Support email series, which you can start now for free by signing up here. Once you’ve signed up, I’ll be sure to let you know when the Stress Remedy Programs are available.
One more thing: I just launched my new Oxidative Stress Consultation Package, which I’ve been working on for a while. I’m really excited to have it live and available now!
Let’s reverse oxidative stress in your body and prevent, or address, CFS in 2016! Join me for these new programs I have created just for you.
8th January 2016
- Morris G, Carvalho A, Anderson G, Galecki P, Maes M. The many neuroprogressive actions of tryptophan catabolites (TRYCATs) that may be associated with the pathophysiology of neuro-immune disorders. Curr Pharm Des. 2015 Dec 14.
- Morris G, Walder K, Puri BK, Berk M, Maes M. The Deleterious Effects of Oxidative and Nitrosative Stress on Palmitoylation, Membrane Lipid Rafts and Lipid-Based Cellular Signalling: New Drug Targets in Neuroimmune Disorders. Mol Neurobiol. 2015 Aug 27.
- Morris G, Berk M. The many roads to mitochondrial dysfunction in neuroimmune and neuropsychiatric disorders. BMC Med. 2015 Apr 1;13:68.
- Morris G, Berk M, Walder K, Maes M. Central pathways causing fatigue in neuro-inflammatory and autoimmune illnesses. BMC Med. 2015 Feb 6;13:28.
- Morris G, Berk M, Galecki P, Walder K, Maes M. The Neuro-Immune Pathophysiology of Central and Peripheral Fatigue in Systemic Immune-Inflammatory and Neuro-Immune Diseases. Mol Neurobiol. 2015 Jan 20.
- Romano GF, Tomassi S, Russell A, Mondelli V, Pariante CM. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue: the underlying biology and related theoretical issues. Adv Psychosom Med. 2015;34:61-77
- Lengert N, Drossel B. In silico analysis of exercise intolerance in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Biophys Chem. 2015 Jul;202:21-31.
- Maes M. A new case definition of Neuro-Inflammatory and Oxidative Fatigue (NIOF), a neuroprogressive disorder, formerly known as chronic fatigue syndrome or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: results of multivariate pattern recognition methods and external validation by neuro-immune biomarkers. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2015 Sep 12;36(4):320-329.
- Kumar SB, Yadav R, Yadav RK, Tolahunase M, Dada R. Telomerase activity and cellular aging might be positively modified by a yoga-based lifestyle intervention. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jun;21(6):370-2.
- Castro-Marrero J, Cordero MD, Segundo MJ, Sáez-Francàs N, Calvo N, Román-Malo L, Aliste L, Fernández de Sevilla T, Alegre J. Does oral coenzyme Q10 plus NADH supplementation improve fatigue and biochemical parameters in chronic fatigue syndrome? Antioxid Redox Signal. 2015 Mar 10;22(8):679-85.