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Case Study Issue 107: Recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or ME

by Mary O\' Dowd(more info)

listed in case studies, originally published in issue 107 - January 2005

I have had CFS for more than ten years, and during the past three years I have been too ill to work. However, I am now at the stage of recovery where I am looking at getting back to work.

I refer to CFS as an umbrella term covering many debilitating symptoms. My symptoms, listed as follows, gradually worsened over the years to the point that I was barely able to function:

  • I was continually exhausted to the point that I was in bed up to 18 hours a day. Some days just walking to the shops around the corner from where I live would render me incapable of doing anything else for the day. I just about managed to make sure I ate regularly and had food in the house. Even any mental activity was exhausting, like watching television, reading, even having a conversation.
  • I was also very sensitive to noise and to a lesser extent light, so on the rare occasion when I visited people I always had to explain that I needed a quiet environment.
  • I suffered from migraine on average once a week and, in between, my head was in constant pain, as once I got over one migraine another would start. I was referred to a neurologist for treatment but none of the medications worked.
  • I also had severe digestive problems with the result that I wasn't absorbing much of my food. My GP put that down to irritable bowel syndrome, and gave me some beta blockers which helped slightly, but not really enough to relieve the problem.
  • I also had fybromyalgia and joint pains. I had lost a lot of weight which fluctuated between 105 lbs and 112 lbs and I am 5.6 ft in height so I was severely underweight. And no matter how much I ate I was not able to regain my weight. And not surprisingly I was also depressed, although I did make a choice to do everything possible to maintain a positive outlook (more on that later).

At this stage I still had some good days, and I decided to devote myself to getting the help I needed. I wasn't able to get much help from the medical profession so investigated, in more depth, complementary therapies which I had used for many years in order to keep myself going.

Here are the key interventions which made a big difference:

Under the guidance of a nutritionist I changed my diet to include eating meat, particularly chicken and fish, and on occasions red meat. My diet previously was mainly vegetarian which I don't think suited me, as I had a great deal of difficulty digesting pulses and dairy produce, which left me deficient in many nutrients. And I loosely followed the blood type diet. These changes made a huge difference and I started to build up my body and put on some weight.

Because I also had osteoporosis I increased my intake of calcium and magnesium and I started by taking two grams of calcium orotate and magnesium orotate per day, which made a big difference to the chronic head pain and the general muscle soreness within a few weeks.

The other key thing was my teeth. I underwent treatment with Mr Amir, a Holistic Dentist with a practice in London. He works with many CFS patients. I found that his treatment improved the symmetry and balance of my jaw, relieved the irritable bowel and migraine symptoms quite dramatically as well as improved my posture and helped build overall confidence. Due to an accident when I was young my jaw was severely out of alignment. I also had quite a lot of decay in my old mercury fillings, which had to be removed and replaced with porcelain fillings. As a result there was a significant improvement in my general health. It also improved the balance of my face which I was very pleased with.

By this stage I was putting on weight, I was able to eat better and digest my food more. My quality of life had certainly improved, which included a better social life. However, even though I was getting far fewer migraines, they were still there. I still had the muscle and joint pain and I felt as if I was constantly walking around with flu, and the exhaustion had not completely lifted.

I was finally recommended to see Dr Julian Kenyon at the Dove Clinic who trained as a doctor in conventional medicine which he combines with a complementary approach, and he understood CFS, an area he has done much research. He did a thorough diagnosis and found that I had a high chronic high viral load in my system which was probably the main cause of my illness. This is the first time that a cause for my illness was identified. He also identified a depleted immune system, with a resulting toxic overload in my body. This diagnosis also restored my sense of reality – I was ill and that was now objectively confirmed and we could do something about it. Dr Kenyon has worked on giving me supplements and nutritional support to build up a depleted immune system and, because my viral load was quite high, I had intravenous Vitamin C and glutathione to detoxify my body and get rid of the virus. I am awaiting the results of the treatment, but I feel so much better and am now looking at getting back to work.

I feel for me all of the above interventions were necessary in my journey from where I was three years ago to where I am now. I have also needed to change my outlook on life. Even though I was always a fairly positive person I really concentrated on maintaining a positive attitude. I have also felt the need to give space to the not so good days and really engage with those negative and depressing thoughts and feelings, listen to what they have to say but then move on.

CFS has taught me a lot of patience, about taking things a step at a time and really dwelling on the small victories. I no longer take anything for granted and I am so grateful for each small step in my recovery. Having learned to take the smaller steps I can now take bigger ones. It has also taught me compassion and self-acceptance.

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About Mary O\' Dowd

Mary O' Dowd lives in London and can be reached on Tel: 020-8341 1989; modowd@blueyonder.co.uk

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