CFS & Inflammation
A recent study out of Japan has found some interesting findings around inflammation and CFS patients. Brain scans picked up inflammation in several areas of the brain in some CFS patients. This points to a possible ‘bio-marker’ test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The search for a bio-marker would be an important breakthrough for diagnosis however it is important to remember that finding a bio-marker is not finding a cause. It is just an objective sign that can be tested for. We then need to ask why is there inflammation. Diagnosis for ME/CFS is often a long and frustrating process and unfortunately the lack of a test has given weight to the argument that CFS is all ‘in the head’ but this points to physiological changes.
Those with CFS will tell you there is lot’s more going on than just inflammation but it could be a useful test.
So this may improve the ability to get a CFS diagnosis. Hopefully the focus will still be on what is causing the inflammation. Otherwise we will end up still treating symptoms.
A key thing to remember with inflammation is that it is a response. When we have an inflammatory response to a pathogen – the pain, swelling, redness etc – is ‘us’ not the pathogen. When damaged cells, irritants or a pathogen is detected, the brain sends an inflammatory ‘soup’ to the region to work its magic. It is a sign that the body has detected a problem.
However it is not always that straight forward.
Sometimes inflammation is created without an injury, pathogen or irritant. Sometimes the inflammatory response is mistakenly triggered by harmless stimulus (allergies/asthma), other times the body mistakenly sees its own cells as a problem and starts attacking itself (auto-immune conditions) and we now know that even how and what we think can trigger an inflammatory response.
For example dwelling on a problem will create a rise in inflammation to the point it is detected in a blood test (C reactive protein count). STRESS & ILLNESS
Another study showed how people’s thoughts and beliefs can trigger an allergic inflammatory response or stop one where there is a known allergy. ALLERGIES & BELIEFS
So our immune response is highly susceptible to being influenced by our thoughts and actions. Optimists tend get fewer colds than pessimists and tend to get over colds faster. Exercise tends to boost immune response as does social engagement. Emotions like happiness and purpose alter the immune system as can loneliness and sadness.
One of the key things that has a known impact on immunity and the inflammation process is stress. Chronic stress creates chronic inflammation, and is a key focus of my work with CFS.
These studies all point to a level of influence over our immune system that most people are unaware of. A timely study this week in the the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that people can be trained to modulate their immune responses.
My work looks at showing people practical ways we can intervene and influence what is going on in our bodies and our brains. Turn off a chronic stress response first and retrain the brain and the body back into health.
Fascinating and rewarding.