What Is MECFS?

What is it?

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a multi-system illness, caused by a breakdown of homeostasis. Homeostasis is a fundamental physiological principle that ensures balance, safety and stability within the body. A breakdown in homeostasis produces a state of disease by causing changes in many different aspects of the body’s physiology. MECFS is classified as a neuro-immune illness, which means there is a dysregulation of both the nervous system and the immune system, causing widespread issues, and resulting in debilitating symptoms such as:

Why is it?

Every person carries a bio-individual allostatic load (the capacity for wear and tear on the body), which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic environmental, physical, emotional or mental stress throughout their lives. A condition called “Limbic Kindling” primes the brain/body for MECFS through one of three pathways:

Where is it?

The body uses three biological systems for the maintenance of homeostasis: the nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system. The three systems communicate using electrical and chemical signals.

Let’s take a closer look at these systems:

THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) has two main divisions: Sympathetic “fight or flight” and Parasympathetic “rest and digest”, which have opposing effects on the body. The ANS is key in automatically and rapidly responding to life’s demands, maintaining homeostasis by regulating bodily processes such as:

Sympathetic dominance is often common in MECFS, and the inability for the Parasympathetic branch to come “online” after a stressor perpetually exhausts the body. Hyper-arousability of the brain through limbic kindling, means that the stress response is also more also easily activated; eventually by almost nothing at all. The effects of an exaggerated stress response are far-reaching. 

THE HPA AXIS

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis) is one part of the Neuroendocrine system where parts of the nervous system and parts of the endocrine system operate together to regulate bodily processes and maintain homeostasis. It tends to work more slowly and has a longer impact than the immediate ANS response.

Factors which influence hypothalamic function include:

The HPA axis is responsible for regulating many systems including:

THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM

The Central Nervous System (CNS) performs an important role in homeostasis, processing and integrating information coming from all the different systems in the body, and sending information back to the body, so these systems can adjust their behavior, to try to cope with different stressors. 

The CNS is involved in sensory processing.

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The immune system is a network of structures, cells and processes whose primary role is to protect the body against attack in order to maintain homeostasis. The immune system has a Th1 and Th2 system, and together they have a role to play in our healing, growth, cancer prevention and reproduction.

Immune system:

METABOLISM

Homeostasis is further maintained through the chemical processes of metabolism which serves 3 functions:

Metabolic reactions can be either anabolic (building up) reactions or catabolic (breaking down) processes. One of the main metabolic pathways is the creation of ATP, the chemical currency of energy. ATP can be made with (aerobic) or without (anaerobic) oxygen. Mitochondria in a healthy person are constantly adapting and communicate with other structures to produce the appropriate amounts of ATP for the demands of the body. For those with MECFS, the body metabolic processes are malfunctioning, and those sick with the illness will reach an anaerobic zone extremely quickly. 

How is it?

These systems interact with each other through something I call “The Mangled Ball Of Yarn”.

The ANS (autonomic nervous system)

The Immune System (in reverse...)

The HPA Axis...

And again the Immune System (in reverse...)

But that's not all! There are many more connections such as...


ALL of these systems are interconnected. This is why MECFS recovery must be understood and approached as a homeostasis reset.