Scientists have found what may be part of the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome–and it lies in the gut. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyeletis as it is known in some parts of the world, has long baffled healthcare professionals. With its vague symptoms and its sufferers struggling with extreme fatigue, some doctors have dismissed it as being a psychological ailment.

However, new research, published in the journal Microbiome, has found that the key to chronic fatigue syndrome may actually be in the gut and not the sufferer’s head at all.

The researchers  at Cornell University have found that those with chronic fatigue syndrome have biological markers for the disease in their gut bacteria. They can also see whether or not they have CFS/ME in their blood samples, as it has been confirmed that those with the syndrome carry an inflammatory microbial agent in their blood.

After discovering these two factors, the team was able to correctly diagnose 83% of patients who participated in the study with CFS/ME using stool and blood samples.

Researchers found that there were fewer bacteria species that were anti-inflammatory in the stools of people with CFS/ME, which is also similar to that found in people with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory markers within the blood are results of the a leaky gut that is allowing bacteria to enter the blood.

When bacteria enters the blood, it can make the immune response even worse.

For the study, Dr. Susan Levine, a CFS/ME specialist organized 48 people who had been diagnosed with CFS/ME to give blood and stool samples. 39 health people served as the controls.

Maureen Hanson, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell and senior author of the paper stated:

“Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease. Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”

Researchers, however, are unsure if these markers are a consequence of the disease or are a cause of the disease. However, it provides fascinating insight into a syndrome that has been incredibly mystifying to medical professionals.


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