Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have found changes in brain chemistry 24 hours after riding a stationary bike for 25 minutes that they consider a molecular signature for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Chronic fatigue syndrome was dubbed “psychosomatic” by many until a couple of years ago and sometimes considered a reaction to early trauma.
The turning point came after an Institute of Medicine review of 9,000 articles over 64 years of research. That review debunked the trauma idea (though people with the illness may very well have trauma, it’s not clearly a cause.) The bottom line is that no one knows the causes of this illness, which may affect up to 2.5 million Americans.
The most notable symptom is crashing after a mental or physical stress. You might feel wiped out for hours, days, or weeks, no matter how much you rest — an uncommon symptom in other illnesses.
For years patients were told to exercise their way out of the problem, building up slowly (“graded exercise”), perhaps with the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist. The theory, dating back to the 1980s, was that they fell out of shape and then became irrationally afraid of exercise, in a bad feedback loop. We all know it can be hard and discouraging when you try to get moving again.
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