Tags: chronic fatigue

About Chronic Fatigue - Part 1

How is Chronic Fatigue (CF) different from being tired?

When you are tired you recover by resting and sleeping and replenishing your bodies resources. Fatigue does not improve with rest and sleep.

So why is CF different?

Well the cause is different, CF is when there is an imbalance in the actions of the nervous system and the brain.

In both CF and Post Traumatic Stress disorder, it has been found by neuro-feedback specialists that certain parts of the brain are turned on and can’t be turned off without intervention.

In the case of CF the main perpetrator of the condition is the over stimulated Amygdala. Amongst other things the Amygdala is responsible for our negative emotions, and the fight/flight (FF) response.

The way the Amygdala works is simplistically as follows;

The Amygdala responds to danger either real or perceived. Say a car is coming at you. You take in this information via the five senses. There isn’t enough time to consciously make a decision, so this information is passed to the Amygdala via the Thalamus. The Amygdala interprets this information as danger and triggers the hormonal/neural cascade known as the fight/flight response. You jump out of the way of the car, your body calms down and all is well.

The only problem is that in a stressed individual the Amygdala becomes faulty... Say you have two digital thermometers. One works fine, but the other has some strange fault. You put both in a beaker of water with a temp of say 10 degrees. You take them out and press reset.
The ‘working’ one goes back to zero but unknown to you the faulty one is still at 10. You then measure the same beaker again. The working thermometer reads 10 degrees again but the faulty one reads 20 degrees (it measures the temp as being warmer). If you repeated this experiment a few times your faulty thermometer would eventually read 100 degrees in a 10 degrees situation.

This is what happens to the Amygdala, it stops reseting itself and it starts to read cool situations as hot or life threatening.

Let’s come back to the car incident. For a while after your near accident, you are naturally nervous around cars, but after a while you notice that nothing bad is happening, and so the reasoning part of your brain interrupts your Amygdala and says “hey nothing bads happening, you can stop being such a stress bunny around cars”. The Amygdala then says “Oh, thanks for letting me know that cars are ok, i’ll go relax for a bit” ie it resets back to 0 or neutral.

The problem we have in the modern world is that most of the stress we experience today is not suited to the ancient brain structures. Say your boss is being an Ass and yelling at you. Your Amygdala will respond to this in the same way that is would to a Sabertooth Tiger ie with the FF response.
Or, say you have a project due (self created stress), and you just "have" to get it done. Again you trigger the Amygdala which perceives some kind of threat and the FF response is triggered. It doesn’t matter to the ancient brain structures that your not in real physical danger.

Now because these stresses are so everyday, you stop noticing that your body is reacting to the boss or projects with the FF response. You no longer consciously tell the Amygdala that is has nothing to worry about, and so the Amygdala becomes faulty and is no-longer able to switch off.

This means that you body is in permanent FF response.

At this point i should mention that to the body stress is stress. It doesn’t distinguish between a tiger, your boss, a food intolerance, late nights, the flu or deadline etc

On a permanent basis the FF response is very damaging, you start to get all sorts of strange symptoms, head pains, heart palpitations, sweats etc (the list is really long).

When the FF response is on the hormones cortisol and adrenaline;
-stop your digestion = fewer nutrients for your body
-suppress your immune response = your a happy meal for any bacteria/virus
-try to keep you alert = inability to rest/sleep
-stop your heart beating coherently (more about this later)
err theres more but i can’t remember off the top of my head

Now heres the reason its so difficult to cure CF/ME. Your Amygdala reads the symptoms above as a danger to you, and therefore stressful, and so it trigers even more of the FF response. You get even worse, which trigers EVEN more FF.

Ok the good news is that you can reset your Amygdala using a breathing technique known as ‘Heart centered breathing’ more about this in the next installment but you also have to deal with the stress or it is only partially successful. More about this later aswell.

Does this all make sense to you so far??