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Ask a Doc: What can you tell me about chronic fatigue syndrome?

AAD DickeyOur answer comes from Dr. Jefferson Dickey of Chicopee Medical Center.

Question: I am in the 60-70 age group, male, and pretty much healthy.  What can you tell me about chronic fatigue syndrome?  Is it related to leavened wheat bread, as opposed to flat tortillas?  Does sugar activate it?

Answer: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is an area of active research; the cause of CFS is unknown.  People may be extremely tired all or most of the time for six month or more. CFS interferes with a person's ability to complete normal daily tasks, but it may be due to a combination of many factors. CFS in some cases seems to have been triggered by other illnesses, such as a viral illness, but research has not proven a link. Many other illness, some quite common such as iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, and sleep apnea, and some quite rare, like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, may resemble chronic fatigue syndrome.

Certainly persons with wheat intolerance, like celiac sprue and other conditions, can have fatigue as a prominent symptom.  Quite a few yeast syndromes exist, several of which can be associated with profound fatigue.  Sugar and refined flours can contribute to yeast infections and fatigue in susceptible persons, for example those with insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance.  Multiple autoimmune endocrinopathy type 1, chronic steroid use, and HIV can all be associated with adrenal insufficiency, yeast syndromes and fatigue.  

Chronic fatigue is a very complex problem, I think the best approach to the differential diagnosis and management of chronic fatigue is to work closely with a primary care clinician. 

Dr. Jefferson Dickey is a primary care doctor located in our Chicopee Medical Center. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dickey, call the office at (413) 552-3250.

‘Ask a Doc’ is a regular post by Holyoke Medical Center. To ask a question, please feel free to submit to and we will do our best to answer it.