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Childhood Stress Induced by Trauma Increases Risk of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Monday, February 16, 2009 by: Bahrain Samah, RH (AHG)
Tags: trauma, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition marked by persistent cycles of fatigue and recovery accompanied by diverse symptoms affecting multiple organ systems. It causes long-term tiredness which cannot be relieved by rest or sleep.

There are a wide range of factors involved in the development of CFS which may include chronic viral infection, low blood pressure, immune system damage, malnutrition, intestinal permeability, impaired detoxification, immune system damage, food allergies, neurological malfunction, hypoglycemia, poor adrenal function and hypothyroidism, among others.

Childhood trauma is another risk factor as indicated by a study published in the journal, Archives of General Psychiatry. The study, which was headed by Dr. Christine Heim, concluded that exposure to childhood trauma was associated with a six-fold increased risk of CFS.

They also discovered that participants with CFS had very low levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex in higher levels during the body`s "fight or flight" response to stress. It is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body including blood pressure increase, insulin release, and glucose metabolism. Childhood trauma may elevate the production of stress hormones, including cortisol, to higher levels.

The authors conducted the study by recruiting 113 people with CFS and 124 other people without CFS as a control group from a general population of 19,381 adult residents living in Georgia, the United States. Participants completed a questionnaire on five different types of childhood trauma including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and also emotional and physical neglect. Their saliva was collected upon awakening to determine cortisol levels. Normally, cortisol levels are lowest at night and higher in the morning.

The study found that only participants with CFS and a history of childhood trauma had lower cortisol levels than those with CFS but were not exposed to childhood trauma. It was also concluded that low cortisol levels may actually point to a risk of developing CFS rather than being a sign of the syndrome itself.

People who experience prolonged stress are usually found to have higher cortisol levels. At one point, the adrenal cortex which secretes cortisol becomes exhausted and produces lower levels of cortisol. This, in turn, results in multiple symptoms that characterize CFS. Adult participants in the study with CFS who were exposed to childhood trauma may have experienced low cortisol levels sometime or long before the study was conducted.

The study also found that participants who were exposed to emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional neglect were the most effective subscales in differentiating CFS cases from controls. It also found that the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms increases the risk of CFS.

The results of the study can be used as a guide for parents in raising their children. As low levels of cortisol has been implicated in the development of CFS, parents should try as much as possible to avoid the five forms of childhood trauma from their children as they induce prolonged stress and subsequently reduce the secretion of cortisol.

Further Readings:

Heim C., et al., "Childhood Trauma and Risk for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Association With Neuroendocrine Dysfunction." Arch Gen Psychiatry 2009;66(1):72-80.

Heim C., et al., "Early Adverse Experience and Risk for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Results From a Population-Based Study." Arch Gen Psychiatry 2006;63:1258-1266.

"Stress Hormone `A Marker for ME`." BBC News Health Jan 6, 2009.

About the author

Bahrain Samah, RH (AHG) is a professional researched oriented herbalist working as holistic nutrition consultant. He has been passionately disseminating tips and knowledge on herbalism and holistic health/healings by writing books and articles. His analytical mind and attention to details has helped him to become a world class holistic healer and writer. All are welcomed to read his blog posts at HOLISTIC HEALTH AVENUNE at www.holistic-avenue.blogspot.com.

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