It’s all in the gut or that is what medical science is starting to realize. Every person on this planet hosts a unique and diverse community of microbes known as the gut microbiota. One of the most important discoveries made in medical science is how critical the gut microbiota is to health. That understanding has revolutionized how scientists see disease progression and outcomes.
What you don’t have in your gut is just as important as what you do. Recent studies suggest that lack of diversity may impact everything from weight to your risk of chronic illness. It’s still unclear how critical the microbiome is but researchers are uncovering more evidence each year to support its importance. Now, you can add chronic fatigue syndrome to the list as scientists from Cornell University think they have found a connection between this mysterious disease and gut diversity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, a debilitating disorder that leads to profound fatigue that does not get better with rest. That lack of energy has no proven underlying cause, although there are many theories including viral infection and stress.
There is no test to identify this illness. Instead, doctors look for eight specific signs in order to make a diagnosis:
These symptoms, combined with a pattern of overwhelming lethargy, generally lead to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome if no other cause is found.
The researchers at Cornell University are reporting the identification of a biological marker that may help pinpoint people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Biological markers are characteristics that distinguish an individual in some way. It might be a gene, a physiological abnormality or even psychological condition. It is something they can look for to learn if a person is prone to or has a specific disease.
The crew at Cornell University investigated the microbiota of their study participants looking for something that might indicate they suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. During the study, they were able to spot the illness in 83 percent of the patients by testing stool and blood samples. The research demonstrates that something in the gut of these patients isn’t normal; according to the study’s senior author Maureen Hanson, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell. This effectively provides a non-invasive way for physicians to diagnosis chronic fatigue syndrome in their patients and gives scientists some insight into this elusive illness.
The researchers investigated the gut microbiota because so many patients who suffer from this illness experience gastrointestinal disturbances. While chronic cramping, gas, and diarrhea are not on the list of symptoms for CFS, they are problems common among CFS patients. That seemed to indicate an involvement with the gut microbiota, but the connection remained uncertain.
The researchers decided to profile the gut microbial diversity of their study participants looking for clues. They sequenced rRNA genes in stool samples as well as inflammatory markers in blood serum looking for similarities. What they found was a difference between patients diagnosed with CFS and healthy individuals with normal gut diversity.
The bacterial diversity was limited in the people with chronic fatigue syndrome. In other words, they had a different mix of microbes in their gut – one that was less complex. That lack of diversity may be a factor in the disease.
This new finding is potentially significant, but it is not necessarily the final answer to what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. The study authors are calling their findings just one more biological anomaly related to this illness.
For between one to four million people potentially suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, it may lead to a definitive diagnosis, though. The CDC states that only around 20 percent of patients ever get a true diagnosis of CFS. It also once again pinpoints the importance of gut bacteria to overall health.
When it comes to your gut microbiota, much of the latest research agrees on one thing, a more diverse gut microbiota is better for overall health in adults; interestingly the opposite appears to be true in infants were a few specific gut microbes are associated with overall health. There is not enough research to prove that taking probiotics will cure or even treat CFS or any other condition, but introducing good bacteria into your gut does improve its diversity and that may be a good thing for most people.