Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Far Infrared Sauna

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been debilitating patients and baffling medical professionals for years. Also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), CFS was once commonly referred to as the “yuppie flu” after about 200 people, most of whom were white, wealthy, young females, fell ill with a mysterious malady in Nevada in 1984. Although more women reportedly suffer from it than men, chronic fatigue syndrome is now understood to be a disease that crosses all economic, social, ethnic and age barriers.

Unfortunately, much still remains to be understood about chronic fatigue syndrome, as what causes it, what might effectively treat it, and how many people actually suffer from it have all been subjects of debate for the past several years.

As for what specifically characterizes chronic fatigue syndrome, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, in order to be diagnosed with CFS, a person has to be suffering from: new, unexplained, persistent or relapsing chronic fatigue that is not a consequence of exertion, not resolved by bed rest, and severe enough to significantly reduce previous daily activity; as well as at least four of the following symptoms for at least six months: unexplained or new headaches; short-term memory or concentration impairment; muscle pain; pain in multiple joints unaccompanied by redness or swelling; unrefreshing sleep; post-exertion malaise that lasts for more than 24 hours; sore throat, and tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits. According to the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America, however, the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome are highly variable and fluctuate in severity, often complicating treatment and the sufferer’s ability to cope with the illness.

Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health claims that, for some people, chronic fatigue syndrome can begin after a bout with a cold, bronchitis, hepatitis, or an intestinal bug, and for others, it can follow a bout of infectious mononucleosis. And while high stress has long been believed to be a potential trigger of CFS, the U.S. CDC and CFIDS Association of America announced in 2001 that stress may exacerbate but most likely does not cause the syndrome.

On the controversial subject of CFS prevalence, Dr. Jesse Stoff estimates in his book Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Hidden Epidemic that more than 4 million people in North America are afflicted with the disease.

Many theorists argue that a strong connection exists between chronic fatigue syndrome and toxin exposure. In an article entitled “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Chemical Overload,” Dr. R. A. Buist asserts that toxins can disrupt muscle metabolism, accounting for the pain and fatigability of muscles experienced by many fatigued people.

Addressing the Well Mind Association in Seattle, WA, Dr. David S. Bushcer said, “My personal theory on chronic fatigue is that the increased load of pollutants in our environment, such as pesticides, is causing people to have a breakdown of their immune systems.”

Bushcer further contended that “70 percent of my patients with chronic fatigue had a chemical trigger; they moved into a new home, there was remodeling at the office, or a pesticide application, and now they have chronic fatigue. I think the mechanism is some kind of cellular poisoning from these chemicals. The affected person’s detoxification system is clogged up or destroyed, they get a backlog of chemicals, and their immune system goes down.”

Dr. Stephen B. Edelson and Deborah Mitchell, authors of the book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Autoimmune Disorders, phrase it this way: “The hallmark of CFIDS is overwhelming, persistent, incapacitating fatigue that leaves those afflicted unable to carry on their normal physical functions. The source of this fatigue is mitochondrial dysfunction – the result of damage from chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins to the mitochondria, which are the energy sources of cells.”

In his book Tired of Being Tired: Overcoming Chronic Fatigue and Low Energy, Dr. Michael A. Schmidt writes, “Researchers at Uppsala University Medical School in Sweden reported that patients with chronic fatigue contain abnormal levels of mercury within their cells. Another group tested sensitivity to metals such as lead and mercury. Of patients with chronic fatigue, 45 percent showed mercury hypersensitivity and 49 percent showed lead hypersensitivity. When the metal burden was removed from the body (in many cases, by removing mercury-containing silver dental fillings), 77 percent of patients reported improved health.”

If this consensus of research-supported opinion is accurate, what then can sufferers do in retaliation once the damage of toxic build-up has manifested itself as chronic fatigue syndrome? Authorities like Dr. Michael R. Lyon of the Cline Medical Center recommend far infrared sauna therapy.

“For the chronic fatigue patient, a consistent program of infrared sauna therapy will assist the problem of autonomic dysregulation, which is common to the condition,” Dr. Lyon states. “Symptoms of autonomic dysregulation are muscle pain, digestive problems, visual disturbances, and dizziness. These symptoms are reduced, as regular sauna therapy induces normal autonomic functioning.

“Through extensive research, it has been shown that saunas greatly assist in the elimination of accumulated toxins,” Lyon adds. “Toxic metals including mercury, as well as organic toxins such as PCBs and pesticide residues, are excreted in high quantities in the sweat during properly conducted sauna therapy sessions.”

A main objective of a far infrared sauna bath is to make the bather sweat, and sweating is a natural, necessary function of the human body. As Dr. Sherry A. Rogers writes in her book Detoxify or Die, “The bottom line is that sweat is the only proven method for getting the most dangerous toxins out of the body.”

In their studies of far infrared saunas, Japanese researchers have concluded that perspiration induced by far infrared sauna use contains as much as 300 percent more toxins than sweat expelled during exercise. Included among these toxins are aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury.

Given all the theories on the subject, anyone who suffers from the debilitating symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome would be wise to further investigate and give serious consideration to the many merits of the far infrared sauna.