Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Obesity Linked

A Cause for Concern

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and obesity are both on the rise. It is estimated that by 2015, nearly 700 million people worldwide will be diagnosed as obese. Over a million Americans have CFS, and the figure continues to rise as more cases are being properly diagnosed. Both illnesses affect all ages, ethnic and racial groups, and remain a cause of concern as we examine the quality of our lifestyles, and what we can do to improve our overall health.

What are the Affects of an Inactive Lifestyle?

Research indicates that an inactive lifestyle diminishes the biomedical makeup of the body, altering gene expression which ultimately leads to chronic diseases. This research has to do with proper metabolism, inherited from our ancestors, hunter-gatherer lifestyle, being replaced with a slower, less functional system stemming from a sedentary lifestyle. The consequences of this replacement have been linked to cancers of the breast, skin, colon and pancreas. It has also been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and finally, obesity. A more active lifestyle is recommended, but this may be complicated when addressing chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Problem with Recommending Exercise

Unlike depression, those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may be motivated to exercise, but simply do not have the energy required. This is one of the major symptoms of the illness, where the person becomes extremely fatigued after exerting physical energy, and can not recuperate for up to 24 hours. If a goal for reversing obesity and fatigue is to exercise daily, but a person is limited physically, the recommendation may seem hopeless or futile. However, gradual exercise in an effort to regain muscle mass lost by inactivity remains essential for physical and mental health. Working with a physical therapist may be recommended by your doctor.

Sleeping Disorders Associated with CFS and Obesity

Quality, restful, refreshing sleep is needed in order to give the body a chance to recharge and function optimally; illnesses are also deterred. Unfortunately, the following disorders prevent those with CFS and obesity from obtaining good sleep:

  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea can be dangerous, as it interrupts the normal breathing process. Obese people can stop breathing in deep sleep, and when they recover suddenly, the sleep that follows is usually lighter, and fragmented. This leads to tiredness throughout the day, and promotes cognitive difficulties. Similarly, those affected with CFS experience deep-sleep dysfunction and consequent problems with short-term memory and the ability to make decisions.
  • Restless legs syndrome: Leg pain is often curbed by shifting and moving the legs throughout the night. The inactivity and stress prevalent in those who suffer from CFS and obesity may lead to the development of this syndrome, which further promotes inadequate sleep.
  • Insomnia: The hypocretin/orexin cells in the brain have been linked to insomnia in obese persons. They are easily excited and stressed, and may make it difficult, if not impossible, to fall asleep or stay asleep. People with CFS usually note stress and unrefreshing sleep as major symptoms. Mutations in genes that regulate stress have been noted in those who suffer from CFS.

Looking forward

Chronic fatigue syndrome and obesity are linked in proving problematic when considering prevention and treatment. More research is needed in order to provide people with practical resources, and effective means of dealing with their illness. If you suffer from either or both of these conditions, discuss your options with a health care provider.


Photo Credit: leeroy09841

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