One of the most unreported aspects of ME/CFS is the dysfunction of the immune system. 80% of those diagnosed with the illness initially reported a viral infection prior to becoming chronically unwell; suggesting the immune system plays some part in the cause or the stimulus of the disease. ME/CFS is actually named Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) by the American equivalent to the ME Association.
Many studies have found abnormalities within the immune system of those affected by ME/CFS. Including states of low grade immune up-regulation, poor functioning natural killer cells (white blood cells involved in fighting viral infections). There are reports of increased levels of cytokines in ME/CFS. Cytokines are the signalling molecules of the immune system, the process of sending biological messages. Cytokines tell immune cells to activate, grow or die they are the immune regulators. Increased cytokine activation is also related to stimulating and maintaining inflammation within the body, systemically and specifically.
In regard to treatment potentials, there are no currently licensed drugs to positively affect the immune system for ME/CFS patients at present. However a number of small scale trials for the anti cancer drug Rituximab are currently in effect. The drug targets and eradicates over active and dysfunctional B cells. There have been reports of some benefit for those with ME/CFS. 10/15 reporting moderate or major improvements in their symptoms. Like any licensed drug side effects are a serious consideration, Rituximab is no different in this respect. Also many of those who found benefit from the treatment were disappointed to find their symptoms returned when the drug ran its course. Find out more on Rituximab and ME/CFS.
It’s an exciting time for research and ME/CFS lets hope the above trials and future trials will shed some light on the immune system dysfunctions prevalent in ME/CFS and eventually offer a cure or respite from the disease.
Alternative treatments for the immune system and ME/CFS include:
Standing in water that is 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit (sightedly cooler than core body temperature) stimulates the lymphatic system and helps regulate cytokine activity.
Eliminate those foods which may cause an auto immune response such as wheat, yeast, milk, sugar, peanuts, corn, eggs, citrus, alcohol, caffeine and soy.
Some of the most common supplements to help the immune system include Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, Vitamins B, C, E, and K. Glutathione an important molecule for detoxification and a very powerful antioxidant. Dietary supplements such as nettle leaf, cat’s claw, boswellia, and turmeric.
The key for treatment in this area is to be aware of ME/CFS immune system abnormalities when trying to address ME/CFS symptoms and seeking treatment for your condition. Take recent research studies on ME/CFS and the immune system to your doctors’ appointments. Doctors and other medical practitioners should be keeping up to date with the latest research, so you will be doing them a favour.