Chronic Fatigue and Inflammation

I’ve written before about the times years back when people with chronic fatigue syndrome were vilified as “lazy.” In that post, I talked about recent research looking at alterations in the gut bacteria as being associated with the disease.

Yesterday, the big health news [i]  came out of Stanford University School of Medicine identifying 17 cytokines (13 of which are inflammatory in nature) whose levels in the blood correlate with the disease severity.  What’s really great about this is that it not only provides a potential easy blood test to identify the illness, but it also proves that the disease itself is the result of high levels of inflammation.

Great quote from one of the researchers: “’I have seen the horrors of this disease, multiplied by hundreds of patients…It’s been observed and talked about for 35 years now, sometimes with the onus of being described as a psychological condition. But chronic fatigue syndrome is by no means a figment of the imagination. This is real.”

One thing I thought particularly interesting about their research:

“One of the cytokines whose levels corresponded to disease severity, leptin, is secreted by fat tissue. Best known as a satiety reporter that tells the brain when somebody’s stomach is full, leptin is also an active pro-inflammatory substance. Generally, leptin is more abundant in women’s blood than in men’s, which could throw light on why more women than men have ME/CFS.”

Interestingly, leptin apparently has a role in regulating the bacterial microbiome.  “A new study in this issue of Endocrinology by Rajala et al (19) indicates that leptin is a key player in regulating both antimicrobial peptides and microbiota composition.”[ii]  What’s unknown yet is whether leptin regulates antimicrobial peptides, which in turn alter microbiome composition or whether it directly signals the bacteria of the gut.

It all kind of ties in together:  the bacterial microbiome, high levels of leptin, chronic fatigue syndrome.  Where I a gambler, I’d put my money on microbiome alterations being a the heart of the whole thing!



[ii] Sandoval, D. Old dog, new trick: a direct role for leptin in regulating microbiota composition. Endocrinology. 2014;155(3):653-655.

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