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What is ME and CFS ?

Free ME/CFS report and video information pack - click here


Definitions, symptoms and diagnosis of ME and CFS 

The most commonly used definition of these conditions in research is the Fukuda definition (1994), which states:

A case of chronic fatigue syndrome is defined by the presence of the following:

  • Clinically evaluated, unexplained, persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue [exhaustion] that is of new or definite onset [has not been lifelong]; is not the result of ongoing exertion; is not substantially alleviated by rest; and results in substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities, and  
  • The concurrent occurrence of four or more of the following symptoms, all of which must have persisted or recurred during 6 or more consecutive months of illness and must not have predated the fatigue. 
  1. Self-reported impairment in short-term memory or concentration severe enough to cause substantial reduction in previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities.
  2. Sore throat
  3. Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
  4. Muscle pain
  5. Multijoint pain without joint swelling or redness
  6. Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
  7. Unrefreshing sleep
  8. Post exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours  

These conditions are often a diagnosis of exclusion, after ruling out other causes. You will have most likely had blood tests through your GP to exclude other physical causes such as diabetes, thyroid disease, anaemia, vitamin deficiencies and absorption problems including celiac disease. Those often recommended tend to include; FBC, TFT, Blood Sugar, Vitamin B12, Fernitin, Vitamin D level if appropriate, TTG antibodies (celiac disease).

Receiving a diagnosis can offer both a sense of relief - finally having confirmation and reason for why you feel the way you do - and/or a range of difficult emotions about recovery and the future.

To explore suggestions for recovery and our ME and CFS approaches please read:

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The controversy and on-going debate

What is ME - Physical or Psychological?

Are ME, CFS and related conditions physical or psychological disorders? This question in itself seems to suggest that our bodies function like machines with different parts and components; different systems or components that contribute to the functioning of the whole mechanism. Further-more, the suggestion that the conditions are psychologically based has been a great source of anguish for sufferers who are all too aware of the physical nature of the condition. Feeling misunderstood by healthcare professionals, family and friends proves to be isolating and traumatic in itself; a situation which proves to exacerbate the condition.

When we view our bodies from a Newtonian perspective of being a series of independent organs or parts, the response to feeling unwell (or our 'machines' not working properly) is to first find the 'faulty component' - then comes the naming or labelling of the problem followed by the appropriate remedy, often drug related, in the hope that we will restore the body to full working order. However, what happens if we are unable to find the faulty component and, even if we do, what if it doesn't respond to traditional scientific remedies?

ME, CFS and related conditions have truly challenged the way we view health and disease. We've had to start looking outside of the 'part' concept and start seeing the body as a whole; an intricate interplay between organs, systems and processes - mind and body.

It is clear beyond question that those with ME, CFS, PVFS or Fibromyalgia are dealing with an illness with very real physical symptoms and very often a debilitating lack of physical energy. So if they appear so physical in nature why would we suggest working with mind-body approaches? And, how does our concept of working with the mind differ from the implied meaning when people coin these conditions as psychological?

Decades of discussion, research, varying hypotheses and copious amounts of ME and CFS information has resulted in a number of different understandings about what these debilitating conditions actually are, mostly with much controversy and little agreement. These hypotheses range from the conditions being psychological or neurological disorders through to them being a result of low grade viral or bacterial infections residing in the body. Some have attributed the conditions to Candida overgrowth, whilst others have focused on the hormonal system. Still others have suggested depression as being the cause.

The differing viewpoints available often lead those suffering to research their condition endlessly and to try a range of different appraoches, which can be hit and miss. Understandably, the continual research and unsucessful attempts in themselves can contribute significantly to the chronic status of this condition.

Given that there are so many differing opinions it seems there are multiple factors at play in these conditions; it is not just one thing - if only. People can experience so many varying inconsistent symptoms with different 'sub-groups' becoming evident - however all being classified under the same generalised illness labels. As a result, diagnosis has evolved from a process of exclusion, leaving sufferers with a list of what their condition is not - and with little idea of how to approach recovery.

So, it would seem to make sense that rather than focusing on specific symptoms or bodily systems directly, and in effect "naming, blaming and taming”, it becomes obvious we need to identify what is actually causing the system(s) to malfunction in this way and start to look at good health from the roots upwards.

Our strength at You Wellbeing is our clear understanding of the contributing factors of the illnesses, the sub-groups of sufferers, and our understanding of the different stages involved in a holistic approach. We respect the body as an intricate interplay of physical bodily systems, thoughts and emotions, as well as spirit or consciousness.

To explore further information and our recovery insights please read:

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The You Wellbeing hypothesis

What is ME and CFS? At this point we'd like to be very clear - this is what we believe having experienced the illness and recovery.

We believe there is no one definitive cause that leads to ME, CFS, Fibromyalgia and related conditions. Rather, it is an interplay of a number of different factors which results in multi-systemic dysfunction. These factors are diverse and differ for each individual; they encompass physical, viral, psychological, emotional, environmental, lifestyle and spiritual factors.

In our experience, each factor in itself does not lead to the onset of these conditions; rather it’s the coming together of a sufficient number of these factors, different for each person, with in most cases an identifiable trigger. The presence of a combination of these factors puts significant demand on the bodily systems, activating the sympathetic nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system) and what is commonly known as the 'Fight or Flight' response. This response moves the body into a state of survival (also refered to as the stress state). It is believed that prolonged or chronic stress suppresses the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to heal.

The stress state, in this context is described when an external or internal factor places a demand on the body - stress factors can include cognitive external factors such as divorce or a death of a close family member and non-cognitive factors such as bacterial infections. Homeostasis is affected when the demand surpasses the body’s ability to adapt to such stressors, which then renders the body becoming stuck in what is known as the maladaptive stress response. Excessive stress suppresses the immune system leaving the body susceptible to certain diseases.

An important point to note is that cognitive/emotional stress is subjective and dependent upon the perception of each individual. The adverse impact of stressors on the immune system may greatly differ depending on the effectiveness of the individual’s ability (such as the level of their coping skills) to adapt to the perceived stress. Behavioural and personality tendencies have also been suggested as additional determining factors contributing to what degree the immune system is adversely affected.

This has formed a new view, which can be presented as stress being the basis of disease with psychological as well as physical aspects.

Research by Dr Bruce Lipton PhD suggests that “95% of illness is caused by stress”

In a research report published in 1998 by Dr. Bruce Lipton at Stanford University School of Medicine, suggests that ‘over 95% of all illnesses occur because of stress in the body’s autonomic nervous system’. The last 5% are inherited from our ancestors who experienced stress in their lives and transmitted diseases and imbalances to their children through genes. If we are to heal illness and imbalance we must go to the core of the problem that create stress. Articles by Dr Bruce Lipton may be found here:

To find out more about our hypothesis including our theories about overload, burnout, ME/ CFS mechanisms and the common stages of illness, please request our free ME and CFS report - a new approach

 To explore further information and our insights please read:

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