Nowadays, 17 to 24 million people globally are estimated to suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Although researchers are beginning to reveal the underlying causes and biology of the illness, there are no official treatments specific to CFS/ME prescribed by medical experts. However, evidence suggests that CFS/ME symptoms may be relieved, treated and managed through CBD-based products. Keep on reading to find out more about how CBD oil might act as a therapeutic agent for CFS/ME!
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?
CFS/ME is a debilitating long-term neurological health condition with a wide range of symptoms that affects multiple body systems. As the name suggests, CFS/ME is characterised by extreme fatigue; however, many other symptoms are also attributed to CFS/ME, such as issues with sleep, pains in muscles and joints, post-exertional malaise, headaches, flu-like symptoms, heart palpitations, sore throats and swollen lymph nodes.
A study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that the minimum prevalence rate of CFS/ME within the UK is an estimated 0.2 to 0.4% of the population, with a greater number being predicted from patients that do not meet the specific testing criteria. Significantly, CFS/ME is reported to predominantly affect women over men and sex-differences have also been documented in the age of diagnosis, mode of CFS/ME onset (post-viral, stress-related, combined)and incidence of conditions alongside CFS/ME, such as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Whilst CFS/ME can affect all ethnicities as well as all ages, CFS/ME is most commonly found in people aged in their forties and fifties.
Diagnosis of CFS/ME is complex and time-consuming, as symptoms vary greatly between individuals and are also common to many other diseases. Unfortunately, there are currently no specific tests to diagnose CFS/ME, and therefore patients can often wait many months until a positive CFS/ME diagnosis is confirmed. Although CFS/ME is currently recognised in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), many doctors and health officials had and continue to dismiss CFS/ME as a somatic symptom disorder, arguing that symptoms experienced are manifested and signal an underlying psychiatric problem, rather than having a biological cause.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD) is an active compound derived from the cannabis plant. Wait cannabis…cannabis gets you high, no?… Will CBD make me high? These are common responses and questions that pop up regarding CBD. Although CBD comes from the cannabis plant, CBD is a non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive cannabinoid and is considered generally safe. The compound in cannabis plants that might get you ‘high’ is called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Now you may have seen, whilst walking around towns and cities across the UK, CBD capsules or gummies advertised or on sale at health and food shops and maybe have heard your pals or family talking about CBD oil or cream. Why all the fuss? Well, CBD products have been increasing in popularity largely because cannabidiol has been found to help relieve and treat a wide range of health issues common to the modern lady or gentleman, such as anxiety, stress, depression, pains, inflammation and insomnia to list but a few. Under the NHS, there is also a treatment that contains CBD for severe epilepsy forms, called Epidyolex.
CBD and CFS/ME
Unfortunately, there is no specific research investigating the effects of CBD on CFS/ME patients. This is primarily due to legal restrictions that have historically prohibited the study of cannabis and its components – CBD. Despite this, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence available that shows CBD working as a therapeutic agent for CFS/ME sufferers. Papers researching the effects of CBD on health conditions with symptoms similar to CFS/ME also report patients experiencing relief from symptoms.
How can CBD help my CFS/ME?
CBD can be an effective therapeutic agent to relieve, treat and manage symptoms experienced by CFS/ME patients, below outlines a number of these.
There are many studies on the effects of CBD on inflammation. As CFS/ME is increasingly recognised as a hyper-inflammatory response of the immune system, regular use of CBD might be highly effective. CBD is thought to possess anti-inflammatory properties and can help to diminish inflammation throughout the body.
Pain is one of the main CFS/ME symptoms that is said to be connected to the hyper-inflammatory response. Although inflammation is an essential bodily response in a well-functioning immune system, when the immune system is impaired by chronic illnesses like CFS/ME, the immune system can be over active, sending nasty chemicals to sites of inflammation, that, rather than attack foreign entities like an infection, cause chronic enduring pain.
However, help is at hand! Various studies have looked into the effect of CBD on pain relief. A recent 2018 study conducted by scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and McGill University in Canada, investigated the exact dose of CBD needed to achieve chronic pain relief. The study is highly beneficial as it will help producers of CBD to manufacture CBD doses tailored to relieve pains connected to CFS/ME.
Although to a bystander Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may sound like CFS/ME patients are extremely sleepy all the time, people with CFS/ME commonly experience poor and un-nourishing sleep that can make them feel lethargic throughout the day. Importantly, a review published in 2017 on CBD and sleep states that CBD is likely to offer therapeutic effects for patients experiencing insomnia and may act to reduce daytime sleepiness. For CFS/ME patients, a range of CBD-based products may be an effective treatment for CFS/ME patients wanting to improve sleep quality.
Comorbidities of CFS/ME
As we know, many CFS/ME patients also suffer from comorbidities such as fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. Significantly, research from a 2016 paper suggests that CBD can be effective in treating both respective co-morbidities.
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