When a person becomes extraordinarily tired to the point where he or she can’t get through the day, doctors should do an extensive evaluation to try to find the cause. They check for an infection, a hidden cancer, impaired immunity, poisons, an autoimmune disease, lack of minerals, hormone imbalance, and so forth. When they have tested for just about every known disease and can’t find a cause, they tell their patients, “You have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” That means the doctor does not have the foggiest idea what is causing the person’s fatigue. This is unfortunate because chronic fatigue syndrome is a real clinical syndrome that even today has no known cause and no specific diagnostic test, and can lead to depression, isolation, and inability to work.
In 1880, Contagious Muscle Fatigue
In the 1880’s, an Italian physiologist named Angelo Mosso drew blood from a dog that had just been forced to exercise to exhaustion. Then he injected that blood into a rested dog and he reported that the rested dog immediately became exhausted. However, other researchers could not reproduce his results.
In 1904, a Toxin
In 1904, a German physiologist named Wilhelm Weichardt announced that he had discovered a vaccine against fatigue. He thought that tiredness was caused by a toxin in the bloodstream and that he could inject that toxin into animals to produce an antitoxin that would get rid of the toxin. He thought that fatigue is like an infection. When a germ gets into your body, you make specific proteins called antibodies that attach to that germ and kill it. He thought that the blood of exhausted rats contained a toxin that made them tired. He also thought that, in the same way that antibodies can cure infections, antibodies against the toxin causing fatigue would disable the toxin and cure fatigue. He forced rats to exercise until they were exhausted and then drew blood from their veins. Then he injected the rats’ blood into horses, which he thought would produce an antitoxin. Then he withdrew blood from the horses and injected small amounts of this fictional antitoxin into humans and reported that the subjects regained their vigor. Over the next ten years, he reported that he could abolish fatigue by spraying the antitoxin into children’s classrooms, pumping antitoxin as a gas into worker’s offices and injecting it into soldiers. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could get such fantastic results; nobody else could reproduce his experiments.
From 1934 Onward: Infections
In 1934, the polio virus was blamed for causing most of the doctors and nurses in the Los Angeles County Hospital to become too tired to work. In the 1960s, brucellosis, an infection acquired from sheep, cattle, goats, pigs or dogs, was felt to be a cause of chronic fatigue. In the 1980s, some researchers incorrectly called the condition Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus disease. In the 1990s, researchers blamed HTLV-II, the retrovirus that causes AIDS. In 2009, researchers blamed a retrovirus, xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), but the paper was retracted.
Not Depression or Hysteria
In the 1970s, some psychiatrists blamed depression or hysteria for chronic fatigue, but research showed that these were more likely to be the result of the condition rather than the cause.
What’s In a Name?
In 1955, Dr. Melvin Ramsay first used the term “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” when more than 300 doctors and nurses at the Royal Free Hospital in London came down with this syndrome. In 1966, the Royal Medical Colleges decided to call the condition “chronic fatigue syndrome,” and in 1978, the Royal Society of Medicine in England called it “epidemic myalgic encephalomyelitis, a distinct disease entity with a clear organic basis.”
21st Century Theories
Today, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is still around, doctors still don’t know the cause and there is no consistently effective treatment. People who were previously healthy suddenly become so tired that they can’t function effectively. Some cases may be caused by a virus that scientists cannot find, while others may be linked to emotional illness such as depression. The tragedy today is that many of these people spend their last dollars for treatments that have not been shown to be of any benefit. There is no evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome can be cured by avoiding sugar or any other food, by cleansing with enemas, by taking anti-fungal medicines to kill yeast, by receiving allergy injections for non-existent allergies, or by taking any combination of vitamins, minerals or supplements.
If you have overwhelming fatigue, go to your doctor and ask for a complete medical work up for hidden tumors, hidden infections, muscle diseases and so forth. Your doctor may find a treatable explanation for your tiredness, but do not be surprised if he or she can find no cause and tells you that you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which you already knew. You will probably want to get a second opinion, and perhaps a third opinion, but try to avoid falling prey to costly treatments that will not help you.