Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Causes

In writing this article on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes, I wish to state that I am not a medical practitioner. I am simply someone who has lived with CFS/ME for 23 years. 'Simply' doesn't seem quite the right word!

I hope this CFS article will help you give some ideas on how to answer when someone asks you the question: What is the cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

You can answer by saying,
"The cause isn't known at this time, but the theory that rings true for me is..." or
"There is a lot of research showing biological abnormalities but
no clear single cause as yet. Many people with the illness have a history of .... so it could be due to...." Fill in the blanks!


Contents for article
on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes

Further articles relevant to the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are listed at the bottom of this article.

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Possible Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes

In the following paragraphs I put forward 9 commonly suggested Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes.
I repeat again that I am not a medical expert.
In some cases, rather than causes, the items on this list could be CONSEQUENCES  of living with CFS/ME.

There is no way to know at this time if Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes are multiple and cumulative or if one single factor is responsible. What we do know, sadly, is that this a serious and disabling condition.

  1. Epstein Barr Virus
  2. Magnesium deficiency
  3. Mitochondrial Dysfunction in CFS
  4. Mercury Toxicity
  5. Over-working
  6. Tick bite (undiagnosed Lyme disease)
  7. Chemical exposure
  8. Mold exposure
  9. Emotional Trauma

1. Epstein Barr Virus

The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) causes Infectious Mononucleosis. This is often referred to in the USA as the illness Mono and in the UK as Glandular Fever.

Epstein Barr Virus has been put forward as a possible CFS cause as many people develop CFS following an outbreak of EBV. Yet many patients have not had EBV.

2. Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is common in those with CFS. It is likely that magnesium deficiency is not a CFS cause so much as a result of whatever is happening within the body to cause the illness.

For myself, I consistently tested for low magnesium throughout the years of severe illness. I suspect I would continue to do so, though I no longer pay to have the test done.

The blood test you need for low magnesium is the red blood cell magnesium test.

If you are in the UK, the test for magnesium is not the one available on the NHS which will often show up as normal. The blood testing clinic I used was Biolab in London, UK. With your GP's agreement, it is possible to have blood samples collected and sent there for testing.

3. Mitochondrial Dysfunction in CFS

Dr Sarah Myhill, UK, published a paper in 2009, showing that many patients with M.E. have mitochondrial dysfunction.

In 2014 the Optimum Health Clinic in London, UK funded research into mitochondrial function.

4. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Mercury Toxicity

Symptoms of mercury toxicity

"Early signs of mercury toxicity include:

  • decreased sense of touch, hearing, vision and taste,
  • metallic taste in the mouth,
  • fatigue or lack of physical endurance,
  • increased salivation.

More progressed symptoms of mercury toxicity include:

anxiety, depression, anorexia, numbness and parestesias, headaches, hypertension, irritability and excitability, and immune suppression, possibly immune dysregulation.

Advanced disease processes from mercury toxicity include:
tremors and incoordination, anemia, psychoses, manic behaviours, possibly autoimmune disorders, renal dysfunction or failure."

Source of the above: Doctor's Data Inc.

As a result of writing this article I now feel even more strongly that mercury toxicity should be included in investigating possible Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes.

Research into mercury toxicity

  • "Based on recent epidemiological findings, it can be claimed that the safety of mercury released from dental amalgam fillings is questionable."
    Click through to read research results on the adverse effects of mercury amalgams.
  • 2008 April. A study showed that mercury is released from dental amalgam fillings when individuals use their mobile phones or undergo MRI scans.
  • 2014 April. A further study assessed and confirmed that high-field MRI scans increase the mercury release from dental amalgam fillings.

5. ME / CFS and over-working

Working hard and pushing the body in times of illness may give the body less chance to recover and increase the chance that acute symptoms of a passing illness become chronic symptoms of a chronic illness such as CFS/ME.

ME and CFS are often experienced in isolation but occasionally there have been outbreaks. One of the first was in 1955 at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, UK where the hospital had to be shut down as so many doctors and nurses became ill with a polio type illness. Some never recovered.

The illness is common among the medical community, leading some people to suggest that exposure to viruses combined with pushing through symptoms to continue working leads to the illness taking hold.

6. ME / CFS and Lyme Disease

In some cases, such as that of Katina Makris, a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is changed to one of Lyme Disease when it is discovered that a tick bite has led to the symptoms.

7. CFS and Toxic overload or Chemical overload

We live in a  world which has placed huge demands on ourselves in terms of adapting to an increasing number of, often untested, chemicals in our daily environment.

Toxic overload can lead someone to become sick.

Did you have your house treated with chemicals?

Did you get ill after your accommodation was painted?

Do you now find that you are sensitive to some every day chemicals, including such things as fabric conditioner and perfume?
If so you may now have multiple chemical sensitivity. This could be the cause of your CFS symptoms or a separate condition.

8. ME / CFS and mould /mold exposure

Can mold make you sick?

Yes according to many people.

The connection for many people between CFS/ME symptoms and mold exposure is new to me at the time of writing.

It is particularly worth consideration if more than one member of your household experiences symptoms, or if you feel far better when out in fresh, clean air.

Please search online, until I come back here and place a link!

9. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma is a factor that precedes the occurrence of much chronic illness. In the case of cancer, for example, studies have suggested a correlation between emotional trauma and the subsequent onset of cancer within the following six months.

Having said that, it is important, when living with ME or CFS to accept that you are living with a physical illness so that you can take appropriate steps to manage and limit the illness.

As well as being viewed as possible Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes the above list can be regarded as subgroups of people with CFS.
Click here to read about how my own medical history fits into these Chronic Fatigue Syndrome subgroups.


Reduced symptoms from drugs for other conditions
may indicate Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes

At least two drugs have led to the alleviation of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms. The effectiveness of these drugs provides potential clues to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes.

Click to read more about Low Dose Naltrexone and Rituximab given to patients with both cancer and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.


The need for a diagnostic marker for CFS

What is a diagnostic marker?

If there was a clear diagnostic marker or biomarker, you could go to your doctor, have a test and you would be given a diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or CFS as a result. 

The use of the name 'syndrome' as in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a result of the absence of a diagnostic marker. A syndrome is determined instead by a collection of symptoms.

Consistent abnormalities of brainstem and cortical perfusion have been demonstrated in adult patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis using PET scans. Unfortunately PET scans are expensive and not widely available, or they would constitute a possible diagnostic marker. (Research by Work by Costa in London, UK)

Mitochondrial abnormalities have also been shown in a significant proportion of the CFS population.

With a clear diagnostic marker researchers could be sure that they were studying a group of people with the same illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes could be more easily identified.


Articles relevant to Chronic fatigue syndrome causes

  • Read about medical tests which you might like to ask for or get done privately if you live with CFS/ME or Fibromyalgia.
  • Without a clear cause you may suffer disbelief in your own symptoms or encounter disbelief from others. Click through for tips on how to deal with disbelief.
  • Move to read a lengthy list of articles on M.E. and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome research that has been done in recent years. Much of the research suggests additional Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes.
  • If you have other ideas on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes, you are welcome to share them via the Healing Forum.
  • Move to an article which discusses how the causes of chronic pain may not be what we think.

Check that you haven't been misdiagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Click through to learn about other chronic illnesses with overlapping symptoms.

Move to read more of my approach to Alternative Healing Therapy.

© Katherine T Owen. All articles on this website are copyrighted. I am delighted if you choose to click above to share this page on social media, but please do not copy, print or otherwise use without my permission. Thank you.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. The articles on this website are not to be taken as medical advice. Please consult a medical practitioner as necessary.