Fibromyalgia-Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (FM-CFS) directly affects more than one million Americans. And for years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) imaginatively recommended men and women cope with this syndrome by gradually increasing their exercise regimen. (What else?) They also recommended cognitive behavioral therapy. Over time, these two treatments even became “standard” care for FM-CFS in mainstream medicine.
The problem is — no evidence actually supports the use of these treatments.
Of course, as you might suspect, the CDC regularly hands out bad advice regarding chronic diseases. For example, they doled out false information about salt and high blood pressure, diet and heart disease, and diet and Type II diabetes for decades. They even recommended everyone take iron supplements, which we now know increase cancer risk.
You may wonder why the CDC even comments on chronic medical diseases when it’s supposed to focus on infectious disease control?
The shift started during the 1970s, when I had an insider’s view of government medicine.
At that time, modern medicine had supposedly “conquered” infectious diseases. And the CDC didn’t want to take a backseat to the “darling” of the federal government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (Of course, these days, getting care at NIH may even be hazardous to your health.)
Lacking any competence or track record, the CDC suddenly asserted itself as a leading expert source on chronic diseases. This self-promotion turned out to be a disaster for patients and medical practice by the 1980s, when infectious diseases began to make a comeback.
HIV/AIDS and antibiotic-resistant superbugs suddenly became a major problem. And then Ebola, West Nile and Zika followed suit, among others.
But at that point, the CDC was spread so thin, it had trouble dealing with its very own supposed area of expertise.
Is it any wonder government health agencies fail to help us achieve optimal health?
The real root of FM-CFS
Ultimately, FM-CFS stems from “too much” of everything.
And it turns out, too much exercise actually exacerbates FM-CFS symptoms, not improve them.
In fact, a landmark 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) shows that excessive exercise and overexertion triggers relapses of FM-CFS, leaving patients much sicker. And even the incremental increases in physical exercise once recommended by the CDC typically cause further harm, rather than improvements.
Following this report and pressure from doctors and patients alike, the CDC quietly removed its exercise recommendation from its website last summer.
Moderation is key
If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know moderation is the key to good health. So — why can’t some experts seem to understand that something like exercise can be good in moderation…but harmful in excessive amounts?
According to the laws of physics and physiology, excessive physical activity stresses the body. It leads to more wear-and-tear on the joints. And it puts extra strain on the heart, kidneys and GI tract.
Furthermore, you expose yourself to more germs and dangers by working out in dank, dirty gyms.
If you have FM-CFS, don’t undertake excessive exercise regimens with increasing levels of exertion, as the CDC used to recommend. Some ill-informed MDs probably still recommend it, despite the new science.
As for exercise recommendations, you should opt for regular, moderate physical activity, preferably out in Nature, even during the late fall and winter. Lower-impact activity, such as walking and swimming, works best. Your acute symptoms of joint/muscle pain and discomfort should improve with this kind of moderate activity and exercise. (Of course, modern medicine doesn’t recognize the concept that pain can improve with the light-to-moderate use of the painful joint/muscle either. But homeopathic medicine — which combines mind, body, and personality into a holistic diagnosis — certainly recognizes this common condition.)
Actually, I’m convinced everyone should undertake moderate exercise and avoid excessive exercise — not just FM-CFS patients. It’s just that FM-CFS patients are highly sensitive and attuned to their bodies, so the effects of excessive exercise show themselves much sooner than with others.
Too much exercise simply doesn’t benefit anyone. The Institute of Medicine’s report may eventually show that we can suffer from too much of a “good” thing.
I also recommend you aim to improve your cellular hydration to keep your cells’ energy factories firing. You can boost hydration on the cellular level by consuming beverages or supplements made with aspal — also known as red bush or rooibos. (Learn more about aspal by searching my archives at DrMicozzi.com.)
Lastly, you can learn about the many other effective approaches for managing FM-CFS in my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type. As it turns out, your “emotional type” influences whether you will manifest overwhelming chronic stress more as fatigue or as fibromyalgia, which exists along a spectrum. Your “emotional type” also determines which natural approaches will work best for you.
“For People With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, More Exercise Isn’t Better,” National Public Radio (www.npr.org) 10/2/2017