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Gut Reactions: The Root of CFS/FM May Be a Compromised GI Tract
by Dr. Carrie Louise Daenell

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (FM) have long been frustrating and mysterious thorns in the side of conventional medicine. Many of the respective symptoms characterizing these two conditions overlap: widespread musculoskeletal and joint pain, sleep disturbance, and sometimes debilitating fatigue. Other CFS symptoms may include chronic sore throats and difficulty reading. FM sufferers also tend to deal with multiple "tender points" (which occur in precise, localized areas, particularly in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips), anxiety, and other symptoms. To date, conventional medicine has yet to have any substantive success in treating either condition.

With symptoms as their guide, many physicians haven't logically thought to consider the health of a patient's digestive system or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, new research shows that strict focus on symptoms and logic to be shortsighted.

The GI tract—a hollow tube measuring 25 to 30 feet in an average adult—is open to the world from the mouth to the anus. It is also home to 70% of our immune system's cells and the primary reason that most health syndromes and degenerative diseases are directly related to the function of our digestive tract. If your digestive system is compromised, your immune system is compromised. GI "dysfunction" may lead to the following problems:
  • Malabsorption
  • Malnutrition
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Auto-immune problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Systemic toxicity challenges
Research repeatedly shows that if the immune cells in the GI tract are compromised, we are at higher risk for developing serious GI illnesses, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and chronic skin conditions, including psoriasis and eczema. Poor digestive health can also cause inflammatory diseases intrinsically linked to the GI tract, including CFS and FM.

Recent studies have shown that CFS/FM often start when inflammation is triggered falsely, i.e., by undigested foods or intestinal parasites. Our body's natural inflammatory fighters become overwhelmed, causing leaky gut syndrome (dangerous permeability of our GI tract) and CFS/FM. Once the gut becomes leaky, our intestinal lining is no longer able to keep those undigested foods out of the blood stream. When undigested foods enter the blood stream, they interact with our systemic immune system, which was not designed to recognize or accommodate their presence. Once the intestinal barrier is broken down, such as it is in a leaky gut scenario, it becomes a free-for-all. Undigested food is seen as an invading toxin or pathogen ("bug"), thus triggering the systemic immune system to mount a battle against the undigested protein. This begins a cascade of immune problems which fuels systemic inflammation and crossover auto-immune challenges. Once this cascade begins, there is no quick fix or bandaid solution to this scenario.

As a physician, I have heard that CFS/FM are incurable. In my experience, this is a sad underestimation of what is possible in natural medicine. I know that using "the digestion approach" to treating and preventing CFS/FM works well in many cases! Why? Because we've focused on the source of the digestive tract's imbalance to restore this and the body's immune system to normal.

To reverse the cascade of GI tract inflammation, I rely on the following:

Permeability Nutrients—A blend of key nutrients and botanical synergists designed to keep our intestinal mucosa healthy. Amino acids, phospholipids, and essential fatty acids all provide nutritional support of GI health and normal barrier function of the intestinal mucosa. When used over time, in concert with the other ingredients listed below, these nutrients will permanently repair a leaky gut.

Comprehensive Digestive Enzyme Support—High potency plant enzymes can digest every category of food across wide-ranging pH conditions. Regardless of digestive pH, a blend of acid-stable plant enzymes will work.

Soothing Herbs—Provide gentle support for the digestive tract when an ulcer is present. A combination of plant enzymes (free of the protein-digesting enzyme that could aggravate an ulcer), demulcent herbs, marshmallow, slippery elm, gamma-oryzanol, and licorice root will keep the intestinal lining healthy and strong, while protecting and healing the ulcer.

Antioxidant Support—High-potency natural antioxidants, including quercetin and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), supply essential nutrients and antioxidants for targeted nutritional support of the intestinal mucosa. Quercetin serves as an anti-inflammatory that targets sinus and digestive mucous membranes without the harmful side effects often associated with antiinflammatory drugs. NAC can neutralize toxins on contact without throwing the digestive system into a systemic detox—a situation where reducing the toxic load locally in the gut is an important step toward healing, a serious issue to consider for those suffering with a leaky gut.

Fiber—Safely absorbs and eliminates toxins from the GI tract, improving function. This supplement supports the reduction of toxins locally in the digestive tract that facilitates healing without stimulating a systemic detox. Stable Probiotics—Help the body return intestinal flora to a healthy balance, boosting its natural defense capabilities and long-term colon health.

All of these nutritional strategies play a significant role in restoring balance and health to the digestive tract. However, even beginning with one or two of your "favorites" will certainly improve the situation. Using them all together over time could result in the permanent repair of the system and the restoration of both GI and wholebody health.

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Permeability Factors