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Study: Gut Bacteria Might Cause Chronic Fatigue

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Is chronic fatigue just in your head? Not according to a recent study. Researchers at Cornell University report that your gut health may have a large role in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Over a million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. This mystery condition causes debilitating fatigue and lethargy that does not improve with rest. It's hard to diagnose and can affect anyone, but it's more likely to appear in women and people in their 40s and 50s. Researchers have been working to find a definitive cause, but some have suggested the syndrome is actually a mental illness. Not so, says a recent study. Our gut bacterial microbiome just might be the culprit.

The study, conducted by Cornell University and published in Microbiome, has identified biological markers of chronic fatigue syndrome in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood. The research team was able to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome in 83 percent of patients with stool samples and blood tests alone. This non-invasive way to diagnose and further understand the illness may help improve diagnoses in the future.

"Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn't normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease," said senior author and Cornell professor, Maureen Hanson to ScienceDaily. "Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin."

Ludovic Giloteaux, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the study, said that this research may influence doctors to use different diets, prebiotics, or probiotics to help treat the disease.

While the study is promising, the researchers are not certain whether the altered gut bacteria is a cause for or just a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome. Next, they plan to study gut viruses and fungi to see if there is also a correlation between these and the disease.

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