Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Microbiome

A few days ago, I got a great email from a woman suffering from ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) with 5 links to information on the relationship of the gut bacteria to the illness.  For those unfamiliar with the term “myalgic encephalomyelitis: it is synonymous with chronic fatigue syndrome, with ME being preferred by those in the medical community.  Common symptoms are profound fatigue, weakness, sleep issues, body pain, brain fog and sometimes, digestive problems (IBS).

I remember only too well when those suffering from ME/CFS were simply sent to a psychologist, as their symptoms were supposedly “in their minds.”  Not modern medicine’s finest moment.  (As I always say, just because we can’t yet measure things doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I mean – until we had microscopes, we couldn’t see bacteria.  Did that mean they only popped into existence the day the microscope was invented?)  🙂

Anyway, back to CFS…

The links in that email concerned recent research[i] done at Cornell University, in collaboration with Dr. Susan Levine, a CFS doctor in New York City.  Blood and stool samples were collected from 48 people with CFS and 39  healthy controls.   “The team describes how they correctly diagnosed myalgic encephalomyeletis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in 83 percent of patients through stool samples and blood work, offering a noninvasive diagnosis and a step toward understanding the cause of the disease.”[ii]

The first author of the study, Dr. Ludovic Giloteaux, is quoted as saying, “In the future, we could see this technique as a complement to other noninvasive diagnoses, but if we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets, using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to help treat the disease.”

(Hmmm.  That sounds familiar!)

I did a quick search to see if there was any new news on this subject, and found that another study[iii] was just published a few weeks ago in the same journal with some of the same authors.  This time, 50 affected patients’ fecal and blood samples were compared to 50 controls across 4 research centers.  They found that were distinct species of bacteria that were highly associated with ME/CFE and what was really interesting is that “…symptom severity measures, including pain and fatigue, correlated with the abundance of distinct bacterial types and metabolic pathways.”[iv]

Whether or not the changes are the cause or an effect of the illness is currently unknown, and naturally, the researchers all caution that these results do not indicate a treatment plan.  Certainly, it is not yet known how the virome and mycobiome are involved but these researchers do intend to look into this further.  In the meantime, why not give biome restoration a try?  It couldn’t hurt.


[i] Giloteaux, L, Goodrich, JK, Walters, WA, Levine, SM, Ley, RE, Hanson, MR.  Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic enceophalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.  Microbiome. 2016; 4:30.


[iii] Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, Brent L. Williams, Nischay Mishra, Xiaoyu Che, Bohyun Lee, Lucinda Bateman, Nancy G. Klimas, Anthony L. Komaroff, Susan Levine, Jose G. Montoya, Daniel L. Peterson, Devi Ramanan, Komal Jain, Meredith L. Eddy, Mady Hornig, W. Ian Lipkin. Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 2017; 5 (1)


2 Comments on “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Microbiome

  1. Pingback: Chronic Fatigue and Inflammation – THE BIOME BUZZ

  2. Pingback: Dysbiosis, Fibromylagia (and Chronic Fatigue)…and Me – THE BIOME BUZZ

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