As Western Medicine becomes more reductionist and test-based, so many chronic diseases seem to be falling through the gaps. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease typified by multiple sites of pain throughout the body, fatigue, depression and insomnia. It’s difficult to treat. Who is the best specialist to refer to for the fibromyalgia patient? A neurologist for the pain, an endocrinologist for hormones, a psychologist for sleep disturbances and potential depression?
The main way of classifying disease is looking for signs – objective evidence such as low thyroid level, or symptoms – subjective descriptions from the patient such as pain. From this information signs and symptoms are amalgamated and approximated to a widely identified and understood disease. You’ve now got a fairly good idea of “what” the disease is, or what it comprises of. However, just because the disease is known by the sum of its “whats” doesn’t mean it can be treated effectively.
So if the “what’s” don’t help many chronic diseases get better how can they be approached more effectively? I’d argue it may be a far richer endeavour to focus on the “why” with chronic, difficult diseases. “Why” has some-one ended up with this disease? In some cases, the answer is simple – for example Lyme disease is contracted from an infected tick. Others are not so straight forward.
The Epstein Barr virus is implicated in Chronic Fatigue. While studies have shown that up to 50% of chronic fatigue sufferers have the Epstein Barr virus, so do 17% of apparently healthy subjects. So why don’t this 17% suffer from chronic fatigue? And why do only 50% of Chronic Fatigue sufferers have Epstein Barr? Well I would argue that the “why’s” may need investigating more thoroughly for these people.
Because frequently there are factors that pre-dispose the sufferer to the chronic disease and may also enable them to escape the clutches of chronic disease.
These factors include sleep, stress and its impact on cortisol levels, exercise – not too much, not too little, exposure to daylight, exposure to environmen-tal toxins, mitochondria and diet. I’ll be looking into all these factors in more depth next month.
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