CFS/ME, Fibro and Your Immune System?

intestinesThe immune system is an incredibly complex organism.  We actually only know about 1 to 2 percent of how it actually functions.  There are glands, hormones, types of cells and fluids with a variety of different roles within the immune system.  Mainly, the sole function of the immune system is to prevent infection or capture and destroy pathogens that pass through the natural barriers like the skin and mucous membranes.

It’s the white blood cells that are primarily responsible for immunity.  They patrol the body, looking for invading organisms and move in to attack them to make sure they do not cause injury.  Antibodies are the proteins that are formed after a pathogen enters the body so that we can resist repeated infections.

Additionally, the lymphatic system is a circulatory system that regulates lymph fluid, which consists of water, dissolved protein, waste fluid that come in through the capillaries.  This fluid is moved and re-routed through the lymph nodes, which are the small pea-sized nodules located throughout the body, just under the skin that contain an immense number of immune cells.  When the body is fighting infection, these nodes become enlarged.

Research reveals that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/ME have a significantly lower functioning immune system. 

They are more susceptible to infections like Ebstein Barr, cytomegalovirus, and herpes viruses.  People with CFS find that their lymph nodes, mainly the ones located in the neck and armpit areas, are always swollen.  Pathogens are constantly invading the immune system, creating the inflammatory response in the nodes from “overworking.”

By boosting the immune system, however, research has found that patients with CFS improve significantly.  Instead of talking about what you can use to boost immunity here, however, I’m going to talk a little bit about what is depleting your white blood cells, antibodies, and other cells that are used to keep the immune system working properly.

Sugars and other simple carbohydrates result in a 50% reduction of white blood cell activity for up to five hours.

Sugar is the worst of the immune zappers.  This is referring to any form of sugar – white, brown, honey, and even fruit juice.  Fruit juice is a big one.  You wouldn’t eat 10 apples in 15 minutes, and that’s about how many it would take to make a glass of apple juice.

Too much sugar not only destroys insulin  levels, but it depletes the body of its B vitamins, magnesium, and calcium.  Occasional use of sugar is okay, but on average Americans consume 150 ounces of sugar every day, and that is way too much!

There are a significant number of health risks to taking in too much sugar on a daily basis. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Suppressed immune function
  • Mood disorders, anxiety, and depressionFood 128
  • Difficulty with concentration, especially in children
  • High triglycerides
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Increased risk of coronary artery disease
  • Chromium deficiency
  • Tooth decay
  • Increased adrenaline levels in children
  • Speeds the aging process by causing grey hair and wrinkles
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Creates a cholesterol imbalance, raising the bad and decreasing the good
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Depletion of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Hyperactivity, especially in children


So, you get the point.  Too much sugar is detrimental to your health.

But what about sugar substitutes?  Well, Stevia is your best bet.  This South American herb has been used for hundreds of years without negative effects.  It’s 30 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. It will not deplete your good bacteria like Splenda does, it will not increase your risk of cancer like Sweet N’ Low does, and it doesn’t cause neurotoxicity like NutriSweet/Equal does.

Adrenal dysfunction is another immune system zapper that affects stress-coping abilities and lowers immune resistance.  This is usually caused by chronic stress and is a primary concern for both CFS/ME and fibromyalgia patients.

Food allergies causes the immune system to ramp up and be overstimulated.  Chronic food allergies or sensitivities can deplete sIgA reservers.  Secretory IgA (sIgA) releases chemicals that bind to pathogens and keep them from passing through the skin and mucous membranes.

Food allergies have been shown to cause a 50% drop in white blood cell count and inflame the intestinal walls, which kills white blood cells and releases digestive enzymes into surrounding tissue.  These enzymes then begin to damage the intestinal lining which can cause intestinal permeability and lead to autoimmune diseases.

Hypothyroidism reduces the release and effectiveness of immune system enzymes.  This is a common problem in CFS patients, which is why it’s imperative to make treating this condition a priority.

Other conditions and behaviors that create lowered immunity include:


  • Obesity
  • Heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium
  • Pesticides and environmental toxins
  • Some medications such as acetaminophen , aspirin, ibuprofen, and corticosteroids
  • Inadequate rest
  • Candida overgrowth/yeast overgrowth
  • Severe trauma like accidents, burns, and surgeries.  They cause a depletion of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients in order to heal
  • Chronic antibiotic use kills off healthy bacteria, especially within the gut.  They cause immune system resistance as well.


For more information about how the immune system and ways to boost immunity please see my book Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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