For years, chronic fatigue has aroused almost as much controversy in the medical community as cannabis has. In fact, going back to the 1980s, when it was nicknamed “the yuppie flu”, gives you an insight into just how little it was taken seriously by everybody – except, of course, those who actually suffered from it.
Thankfully, over the years, medical professionals and researchers have begun to accept the existence of chronic fatigue and have been doing more and more research into the condition. However, the cause of the condition is still unknown, but it’s possible that genetics and environmental factors play a crucial part.
Today, there are at least one million Americans suffering from chronic fatigue and an estimated 15 – 30 million around the world. An estimated 75-85% of these people are women, and a staggering 80-90% are thought to be undiagnosed. While fatigue is a typical symptom in many illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome is comparatively rare.
Currently, there is no known cure or approved treatment for this disease, but some symptoms can be treated with the aid of CBD oil. For the purpose of this article, we will be looking at what exactly chronic fatigue is and how CBD oil can help to treat it.
What is chronic fatigue?
Chronic fatigue, often referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a complicated condition characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be defined by any underlying medical disorder. The scientific term is Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), and essentially, it’s a condition in which you suffer from long-term, disabling tiredness or fatigue.
Most of the people who suffer from this condition also have one or two other symptoms like joint pain, poor concentration and headaches, muscular pains, and disturbed sleeping patterns. The most frustrating part is that the cause is unknown. The fatigue could worsen with mental or physical activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.
Although the cause of chronic fatigue is unknown, there are many theories, ranging from psychological stress to viral infections. It is also thought that neuroendocrine dysfunction and environmental toxins could cause complications. Many experts believe that chronic fatigue could be brought on by a combination of these factors.
There isn’t a specific medical test that can be done to determine if you have CFS. You might need a variety of tests to be done to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Typically, CFS sufferers seem to have an inflamed spinal cord and brain. Since chronic fatigue is a widely misunderstood ailment, with limited treatment options, treatment focuses on symptom relief rather than an overall cure. Here are some of the most common symptoms of CFS:
- Sore throat
- Unexplained muscle or joint pain
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Extreme exhaustion that lasts longer than 24 hours after mental or physical exercise
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unrefreshing sleep
These symptoms usually last over an elongated period of time, typically six months or more. The onset of the condition is usually gradual, although critical life events and consistent physical stress could exacerbate the likelihood of CFS developing. At the end of the day, living with chronic fatigue is not easy. It’s a relatively misunderstood ailment and difficult to treat. But, the good news is that this is another condition in which cannabis has demonstrated its true power.
The endocannabinoid system and chronic fatigue
A few studies have been done on the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the development and progression of chronic fatigue syndrome. A great deal more research has been done on its role in stress and generalized fatigue, and post-viral fatigue conditions. Additionally, there have been multiple studies done on the ECS and related conditions such as chronic stress, FMS, and multiple sclerosis (MS), which list chronic fatigue as one of their primary symptoms and are in many ways similar to CFS itself.
The common thread underlying chronic fatigue and chronic stress is inflammation within the brain and the tissues that make up the peripheral and central nervous system. It has been widely established that the ECS has a key role to play in the occurrence and management of inflammation.
The ECS is the system found in the human body that is responsible for a variety of biological processes like appetite, sleeping, relaxation, and inflammation responses. The cannabinoids found in CBD oil interact with the ECS by linking to the two main types of cannabinoid receptors; CB1 and CB2. These are the receptors that are commonly found in the immune and brain cells throughout the body.
The use of CBD oil helps to maintain the body’s natural state of balance (homeostasis). Also, the neural control of energy balance and emotional behaviors are controlled by the brain structures and neurotransmitter systems, allowing to CBD increase the amount of anandamide which in return regulates the performance of the two most important chemicals in the brain – serotonin and dopamine. These naturally occurring chemicals are what helps your body to move fluidly, keep your mind calm, keep energy levels intact, and keep you focused on a task. They also help to combat mood disorder which often leads to depression.
Does CBD oil improve symptoms of chronic fatigue?
Although there doesn’t seem to be any clinical trials or empirical studies that have been done on the ability of cannabis to treat chronic fatigue specifically, there are many patients who have reported experiencing significant relief from various CFS symptoms. Typically, patients report that CBD oil is effective in treating joint and muscle pain, inflammation, disturbed or unrefreshing sleep, emotional instability, and depression.
One of the most widely documented successes of CBD oil in the treatment of chronic fatigue is the story of Tom Bethell. As reported in the Daily Mail*, he was a suicidal teenager from Norfolk, in the United Kingdom, who “didn’t want to live anymore” because of his chronic fatigue syndrome, but made an incredible recovery after taking CBD oil.
Tom hadn’t been to school for eight years because of his condition. According to his mother, he was bed-bound, had stopped growing, and was so weak that even his eye muscles weren’t functioning properly, leaving him with blurred vision. He would fall over 20 to 30 times a day, his memory was poor, and he couldn’t breathe properly.
Doctors had prescribed the antidepressant amitriptyline, but it didn’t work. He reached the point where he told his mother that he would rather die than continue living with CFS. In desperation, his carer suggested that he give CBD oil a try, after her mother praised the remarkable effects that it had on her Chron’s disease.
The CBD oil has had a miraculous effect on his life and worked to alleviate his symptoms drastically. He’s started growing again, his memory has improved, and he’s able to retain information again. He went from relearning his 3x tables to being able to attempt five GCSE exams in one year. Before the CBD oil, he couldn’t even find the words to have a conversation.
While he will most likely always have chronic fatigue, his mother says that he is now a much happier child and no longer has reactive depression. CBD oil has significantly helped him to live a normal life.
Again, while there is no specific research into the ability of CBD oil to improve the condition of chronic fatigue, there have been many studies done that have investigated symptoms common in but not limited to the condition, like chronic pain, immune function, inflammation, disturbed sleep, and emotional disturbances.
Which chronic fatigue symptoms are most improved by CBD oil?
Chronic pain is one of the most well-known conditions that CBD oil is known to treat. Through various studies, it has shown to work for both neuropathic and nociceptive pain. Neuropathic pain is caused by dysfunction or injury of the nerve itself, while nociceptive pain is caused by a factor other than injury to the nerve itself, such as inflammation or a wound in neighboring tissue. Inflammation is, of course, thought to be one of the primary effects of chronic fatigue.
The potential of CBD oil to improve poor sleep is also relatively well-established, and disturbed sleep is one of the main symptoms associated with chronic fatigue. Various studies have shown that even with reduced REM sleep, CBD oil increases deep sleep, which leads to greater levels of refreshment overall.
CBD oil is also a popular choice for people who suffer from memory loss, which is also a common symptom of chronic fatigue. In fact, CBD has proven to help people who suffer from degenerative memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Lastly, CBD oil is thought to be a great energy booster. CBD oil helps in regulating normal energy levels by promoting wakefulness and ensuring that the body’s cells are in good condition throughout the day. A report* released by the Autonomous University of Campeche, Mexico found that cannabis is a wake-inducing agent. They found that, when administering 10 or 20 micrograms to wake-inducing brain areas, CBD decreased slow wave sleep and REM sleep and enhanced wakefulness.
Final thoughts on CBD oil for chronic fatigue
Currently, there is no cure for chronic fatigue. However, although CBD oil won’t cure chronic fatigue syndrome as a whole, it can be used to treat various symptoms associated with the disease, such as memory loss, disturbance in sleep, and low energy levels.
If you think that you suffer from chronic fatigue, it’s important that you have a careful medical checkup to confirm the diagnosis. It’s essential that you exclude other possible conditions like underactive thyroid, low iron stores, bacterial or fungal infections, autoimmunity, or gastrointestinal disorders. While chronic fatigue is not easy to diagnose, CBD oil could help you significantly.
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