Find out about the parasite we all need

  • Don’t let your health end up in a bucket
  • Why you should demand answers from your GP
  • 5 ways to increase your energy levels

As a kid I used to love comics, the Beano, Dandy and Beezer were required reading in my early years – and I have to admit well beyond!

I even think the Numbskulls in The Beezer may have sparked my interest in health matters. These were a bunch of little men who lived inside the head of Edd Case and were responsible for his movements, thoughts and actions.

No, I haven’t gone gaga today….. it’s that something just happened which reminded me of those innocent days – I had one of those light bulb moments, you know when a comic character has a bright idea.

It has a lot to do with the concept of little creatures living inside us…

…Let me explain.

I was researching conditions which have very complex symptoms, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). In particular I wanted to understand them from a patient’s point of view.

So often a patient who is given a diagnosis for one of these conditions, then gets no further help with any other problems they have any other symptom that they present with is put down to the syndrome, rather than considered on its own merits.

In this way it becomes ‘bucket’ diagnosis, a handy place for the medical profession to dump patient’s problems into; and one that they can then treat with another bucket of prescription drugs.

It is not just these complex syndromes where this happens either, as soon as you get a diagnosis for anything at your GP, have you noticed how quick they are to refer back to it at any other visit?

Why GP’s are so quick to pigeon hole our health

To be fair to our overworked doctors, they need to decide on a diagnosis and treatment for you in minutes, and often have no time to consider further investigations.

So, if you are suffering from the symptoms that tick the box for CFS, that’s what you have – you might get a referral for tests, but that’s it.

I have a real problem with this, our care should not end at a diagnosis. We should be able to revisit the way we are treated – have the opportunity for continued review and research.  If this is not the case, how can we take advantage of new evidence – or consider new symptoms in the light of new knowledge?

The problem with CFS (and fibromyalgia for that matter) is that no-one really understands why it occurs, there seems to be no single cause. This makes it difficult to diagnose, but even harder to treat – typically sufferers are given drugs to reduce pain, control anxiety and manage depression. That’s about it.

There are theories that a virus could be responsible, or that the body’s own immune response to infection may be at fault, by causing inflammation of the pathways in the nervous system.

Both of these theories, however, share a common root – because they involve specific bodily functions then they involve a process which can be modified by modern drug intervention, so that is where most of the big money is going in medical research.

On the other hand, I would like to return to the Numbskulls.

Little independent creatures that operate the body and its functions, working to provide energy and resources for the body to use…….. I know this all seems a fantasy, but it is TRUE!

Look, I know there are no little men inside my head – even I’m not that mad – but there are microscopic organisms that are inside every cell in our body, known as mitochondria.

They are responsible for producing the energy that our bodies need, and they have a fascinating story to tell. Not least of which is the fact they are PARASITES.

Mitochondria are completely separate organisms from us, they have their own genetic makeup, and we inherit them in the womb from our mums.

Don’t you find this amazing?

I did, and now I needed to know more.

5 ways to better energy

The incidence of CFS in the UK is much higher in women aged between 30 and 50, and often follows a previous period of illness or stress when energy levels were low; which made me think about how this might link to the activity of mitochondria.

In my research I uncovered a 2009 paper written by Sarah Myhill and colleagues at Oxford University, which had shown that the failure of mitochondria to produce energy was directly linked to two of the key symptoms in CFS.

The research team identified that low stamina levels and a very slow recovery from any level of exertion was due to fatigue as a result of a lack of energy, which implicated mitochondrial activity.

Until this paper had been published it had been assumed that the metabolism of individual sufferers was normal, and that either a physical or psychological reason existed for the symptoms. What Ms Myhill was able to show, however, was that only 1 person of the 71 patients in the study had anything like normal metabolism.

So, if these ‘Numbskulls’ do have a part to play in the development and progression of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, what can we do to help prevent it, and limit the effects?

A natural approach to improving our energy levels would benefit all of us, but has particular relevance for CFS sufferers, here’s some of the ways you can build energy;

  • Increase the amount of vitamin B3 in the diet – this vitamin allows the mitochondria to work optimally. Good sources of vitamin B3 are; mushrooms, tuna, halibut, asparagus, salmon, beef liver and Marmite.
  • Take L-Carnitine supplement – available at good health food stores, this supplement helps to transport fatty acids into the mitochondria, a powerful energy source.
  • Take Co-Enzyme Q10 supplement – this naturally compound is responsible for controlling energy production in the mitochondria.
  • Use Ginseng – enjoy a refreshing cup of ginseng tea each day to increase energy levels naturally.
  • Get more essential fatty acids in the diet – These fats and oils represent those that the body cannot make for itself, and are therefore only available from what we eat. Oily fish, like mackerel, are rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9 oils, along with other good sources such as and evening primrose, flaxseed, olives & nuts.

Dealing with any ongoing health problem is always a challenge, but I would like to think that the least we can expect from our doctors is that they keep an open mind, and don’t chuck us in a bucket.

When it comes to complex conditions like CFS, there should be continual review – and the evidence is there that improving energy levels has an impact.

So, it might be as simple as giving those Numbskulls a helping hand.