M.E.: It's not all in the mind, it's in the gut
September 14th 2007, 12:16
Spare a thought for the M.E.(myalgic encephalitis) sufferer. For years he and she has been scorned by a medical establishment that has seen the problem as being all in the mind. As such, the M.E. sufferer has been labelled an hysteric who is merely attention seeking.
This attitude has become so bad that medical associations - and even the World Health Organization - have urged doctors to take the condition seriously, and to treat it as they would any other health problem.
Now they really might have to. A new study has discovered that M.E., or chronic fatigue, isn't in the mind at all - it's in the gut.
Most M.E. sufferers also complain about a long-standing stomach problem, such as indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - but doctors had assumed these were merely symptoms of a larger problem, real or imagined.
But researchers in the USA believe that the stomach problems may well point to the real cause of the M.E. - an enterovirus. An enterovirus infects the bowel, and can cause severe respiratory and gut infections. There are more than 70 different types of enterovirus, and they can affect the central nervous system, the heart and muscles - producing M.E.-like symptoms.
Following up their theory, the researchers examined the records of 165 M.E. patients, and discovered that the vast majority had suffered an enteroviral infection many years earlier.
If this is indeed the primary cause, M.E. could be easily and successfully treated with a simple anti-viral drug.