Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an illness characterized by prolonged, debilitating fatigue and multiple nonspecific symptoms such as headaches, recurrent sore throats, muscle and joint pains, and cognitive complaints. Profound fatigue, the hallmark of the disorder, can come on suddenly or gradually and persists or recurs throughout the period of illness. Unlike the short-term disability of an acute infection, CFS symptoms by definition linger for at least 6 months and often for years.
An estimated one-quarter of all patients seeing general practitioners complain of prolonged fatigue, a symptom common to many illnesses. Several studies indicate that only a small fraction of these patients meet the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Despite multidisciplinary investigations into the cause of CFS, its etiology remains unknown. Similarly, no specific diagnostic tests or therapies for CFS exist. A supportive program of patient management -- including symptom-based treatment, education about the disease, and regular follow-up visits to rule out alternative diagnoses -- can offer reassurance, dispel unfounded beliefs about CFS or its treatment, and help patients and their families adjust to living with this chronic illness.
Clinical portraits of diseases similar to CFS have been reported under different medical guises for more than a century. In the l860s, Dr. George Beard named the syndrome neurasthenia, believing it to be a neurosis characterized by weakness and fatigue. Succeeding generations have favored but not proved different explanations --iron-poor blood (anemia), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), environmental allergy, or a bodywide yeast infection (candidiasis) -- for this baffling malaise. In the mid-1980s, the illness became labeled "chronic EBV" when laboratory clues led scientists to speculate that this cluster of symptoms might be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). But new evidence casts doubt on the theory that EBV could be the sole agent causing CFS. Elevated levels of EBV antibodies have now been found in some healthy people as well as in some people with CFS. Likewise, some people who lack EBV antibodies, and who thus have never been infected with the virus, can display CFS symptoms. Instead of a discrete disease, many researchers believe CFS represents a common set of symptoms triggered by different combinations of various infectious and noninfectious factors.
Thus, the cause of CFS is unknown. From a medical perspective, no specific treatment has proved effective for CFS. Symptomatic treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to address the body aches or fever associated with the illness, and nonsedating antihistamines are sometimes prescribed to relieve any prominent allergic symptoms. Helping patients to manage the illness is important as this enables people with CFS to improve their level of functioning and quality of life despite their symptoms. Rehabilitation medicine focuses on teaching patients how to plan activities to take advantage of times when they usually feel better. Experts recommend that people with CFS try to maintain good health by eating a balanced diet and getting adequate rest. Physical conditioning should be preserved by exercising regularly but without causing more fatigue. It is important that people with CFS learn to pace themselves -- physically, emotionally, and intellectually -- since too much stress can aggravate symptoms.
The course of CFS varies from patient to patient. For most people, CFS symptoms plateau early in the course of the illness and thereafter wax and wane. Some people get better but not completely. Others spontaneously recover. Emotional support and counseling can help patients and their loved ones cope with the uncertain prognosis and ups and downs of the illness.
EDGAR CAYCE’S PERSPECTIVE ON CHRONIC FATIGUE
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was not used as a diagnostic category during Edgar Cayce’s lifetime. However, many individuals suffering from the symptoms associated with this illness did receive readings from him. Some carried the medical diagnosis of "neurasthenia" which roughly translates as "nerve exhaustion." Because traditional medical descriptions of neurasthenia closely resemble CFS, some medical historians consider it to be the same condition.
Other people coming to Edgar Cayce did not have a medical diagnosis, yet they complained of chronic fatigue with all its attendant symptoms (i.e., disturbed sleep, muscle pains, headaches, depression, etc.). Although the Cayce readings addressed each person as an individual, certain patterns of causation and treatment were common in these cases.
TYPICAL CAUSES OF CFS IN THE CAYCE READINGS
The most common cause of fatigue cited in the Cayce readings was poor eliminations which caused the body to become toxic. Toxicity was also linked to most of the other common symptoms of CFS, such as headaches, depression, and muscular aches and pains. Poor eliminations can result from a variety of conditions such as poor assimilations, glandular dysfunction, and pressure on spinal nerves. Accumulations of poisons in the system tends to produce excess acidity (sometimes even "superacidity") which Cayce linked to chronic fatigue.
Anatomically, the readings given for persons who complained of excessive or chronic fatigue, often mentioned the organs of the "hepatic system." The primary organs of the hepatic system are the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. The liver and kidneys are particularly significant as they were called the "battery of the body." Edgar Cayce said that the liver is the positive pole of the body’s battery and the kidneys are the negative pole. In some cases of fatigue and nerve exhaustion, Cayce said the "batteries of the body have run down." When the heart and circulatory system were affected, people often experienced poor circulation with abnormal blood pressure. Respiratory problems and sore throat were associated with problems in the hepatic system.
In some cases of chronic fatigue, infectious factors were cited as a primary cause. Impaired immune response was usually noted in these instances.
Advocating a holistic perspective, the Cayce readings on fatigue sometimes noted the mental and spiritual aspects of the condition. Negative attitudes and lack of spiritual focus contributed to the weariness and depression associated with chronic fatigue.
TYPICAL TREATMENTS FOR CHRONIC FATIGUE IN THE CAYCE READINGS
Cayce’s approach to treating chronic fatigue typically consisted of a group of therapies which addressed the systemic features of the condition. Harold Reilly, a physiotherapist to whom Edgar Cayce made frequent referrals, created the term C.A.R.E. to describe the treatment pattern frequently recommended by Cayce. The letters of C.A.R.E. stand for "circulation," "assimilation," "relaxation" and "elimination." Assisting the body to become more normal in these key aspects of its functioning helps the body to increase its vitality and to heal itself.
Reilly’s C.A.R.E. model includes several basic therapeutic modalities frequently recommended by Edgar Cayce, such as hydrotherapy, diet, spinal manipulation, exercise, electrotherapy (such as the radial appliance), and castor oil packs. The mental and spiritual aspects of healing are also important.
Treatment Recommendations Based on the Edgar Cayce Approach
Because most cases of CFS have broad systemic involvement, the Cayce approach utilizes a variety of diverse therapies to improve digestion, assimilation, elimination, relaxation, and circulation. Here are some general therapeutic guidelines for persons suffering from CFS:
- DIET: The Basic Cayce Diet is intended to improve assimilation and elimination. The diet focuses heavily on keeping a proper alkaline/acid balance while avoiding foods which produce toxicity and drain the system. Essentially, the diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried foods and refined carbohydrates ("junk food"). Certain food combinations are emphasized.
- INTERNAL CLEANSING: Hydrotherapy includes drinking six to eight glasses of pure water daily, using castor oil packs, taking mild steam baths, and obtaining colonic irrigation to cleanse the bowel. Following the diet should also assist with internal cleansing. Mild laxatives may be taken (if needed).
- SPINAL MANIPULATION AND MASSAGE: Osteopathic or chiropractic treatment is recommended to relieve any pressures on nerves that may be affecting assimilations, eliminations, and circulation. If osteopathic or chiropractic treatment is not available, the use of an electric vibrator along the spine may be helpful. Massage may also be helpful in improving circulation and producing relaxation.
- MEDICINE: Atomidine is a medicinal product containing 1% iodine trichloride. Small doses of Atomidine may be helpful in stimulating and purifying the glandular system. CAUTION: ATOMIDINE CONTAINS IODINE AND SHOULD ONLY BE TAKEN UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A PHYSICIAN.
- ELECTROTHERAPY: Regular use of the Radial Appliance may be helpful in balancing circulation, increasing relaxation, and improving sleep.
- ATTITUDES AND EMOTIONS: The mental and spiritual aspects of healing are frequently discussed in the Cayce readings. Particularly, an attitude of desiring and expecting to be healed is important. A positive mental and emotional attitude and can be created and maintained by focusing on a high purpose (spiritual ideal) for being healed.