The Fit Student—A Controversial Cure

One year, you might contract not just one disease, but more than five: “Just one in 20 people worldwide … had no health problems in 2013, with a third of the world’s population (2-3 billion  individuals) experiencing more than five ailments, according to a major new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2013” (The Lancet as cited in Science News, June 8, 2015).

If you eat the standard Western diet you may be at risk: “The Western diet is made up of food that’s loaded with saturated fats and refined sugars and contains little fiber and healthy fats (like omega-3 fatty acids), says Ian Myles, MD, MPH … at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Thrasybule, January 17, 2018).  Further to that, according to the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Report, “About half of American adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers” (Thrasybule, January 17, 2018).  But many diseases are stoppable: “What your doctor won’t tell you is that autoimmune disease can be prevented and reversed through diet and lifestyle” (Myers, 2019).  We can learn from those who cure themselves of disease.

What I’m about to suggest may not be scientifically supported.  I propose that a cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) may be found in graded exercise therapy leading up to a weightlifting regime.*  In my mind, graded exercise begins with, say, walking, and works up to a workout worthy of a pro weightlifter.  That, coupled with a healthy diet, surely cured me.

But, of a different mind, Dr. Sarah Myhill suggests graded exercise may be dangerous, especially if started too soon (2017).  In support of Dr. Myhill’s position, the Lancet reports that “a review of eight surveys (n=4338) found 51% of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis reported being harmed by graded exercise therapy (GET)” (Kindlon as cited in Wood, Anna, March 24, 2018).

Still, some doctors use graded exercise to treat CFS: “according to a … Therapist Manual ‘a central concept of GET [graded exercise therapy] and GES [graded exercise self-help] is to maintain exercise as much as possible during a CFS/ME [chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis] setback’” (Wood, Anna, March 24, 2018).  In my view, the type of exercise (weights versus cardio versus stretching) may play a role in people harmed versus helped.

The following represents how I came up with my proposal that graded exercise leading up to a weightlifting regime may help cure people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. *

This past month, I’ve scrambled to figure out ways to help people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and other diseases, like fibromyalgia.  I’ve started writing a book about how I cured myself of undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).  For research, I read books on CFS, but I fear reading such books might psychologically cause me to relapse.  My body tightens and screams, “Stop reading!”  But my desire to help lures me to read on.

I also research videos on CFS.  To my delight, one video showed an interviewee with CFS who found relief from pills that increased her blood pressure.  When I cured myself from undiagnosed CFS, I spiked my blood pressure during weightlifting sessions.  Yes, weightlifting spikes blood pressure in the short-term: researchers found in one study on weightlifting that “extremely high blood pressure elevations of up to 345/245 mmHG were observed during the lifts” (Palatani et al., 1989, Dec.).

I believe higher blood pressure may play a role in healing people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Further to this, Dr. Sarah Myhill lists two common “mechanisms” in CFS: “poor fuel supply (low blood sugar …) and low blood pressure [my italics] (because energy delivery to the heart is poor so that it cannot beat powerfully as a pump)” (location 817 of 6918, 12%).   As weightlifting spikes blood pressure in the short-term (but lowers blood-pressure in the long-term), I believe graded exercise leading up to a weightlifting regime may help cure people with CFS.

I recommend that graded exercise therapy begin with either bed exercises (with weights) or chair exercises (with weights) or walking.   I was well enough to start with walking stints.  Over a year and seven months, I upped the ante to an athletic workout, consisting mostly of weightlifting.  Now that I’ve cured myself, I focus on a high-intensity martial arts routine, done six or more hours a week.

But Dr. Sarah Myhill thinks graded exercise started too soon can do serious harm: “CFS patients have poor stamina.  They fatigue very quickly, some within seconds of any exercise.  This arises because of poor energy delivery to muscles.  If they push themselves through they develop post-exertional malaise—often this is delayed by 12-24 hours.  This is the one symptom that is common to all CFS sufferers and it is the one symptom that makes ‘graded exercise therapy’ an oxymoron.  Graded exercise is extremely dangerous since it risks major relapse …” (Myhill, location 793 of 6918, 11%).

In other words, wait until you feel well most of the time before doing graded exercise therapy: “You get to a stage where you feel well all the time and activity levels are acceptable, then you can start to do exercises to increase the numbers of mitochondria and to improve cardiovascular fitness” (Myhill, location 3384 of 6918, 49%).

But I didn’t wait until I felt well all the time.  If I had waited, that day may never have come.  Instead, I walked a block each day for a month and thereafter began heavy weightlifting, pushing through nausea, headaches, and extreme exhaustion.

Be warned: “Do things in short bursts.  You will be more efficient if you do things for 10-40 minutes (whatever your window of time is), then rest for the same length of time.  I had one patient who could only walk 30 metres, but by walking 15 metres and resting, then going on again, she got up to walking a mile a day without delayed fatigue” (Myhill, location 3333of 6918, 48%).

Whether you have chronic fatigue syndrome or another disease—or even good health—make exercise a routine: “We are creatures of habit and the physical body likes things to happen on a regular basis; ask any farmer who keeps animals – they thrive on routine.  Sleep and eat at regular times and pace activities so you do about the same every day and during the same time slots” (Myhill, location 3333 of 6918, 48%).

After all, you don’t want to end up, like billions of others, with more than five ailments.

* Always check with your physician before starting any course of treatment.

References
Myers, Amy, MD.  (2019).  What to Eat (and Not Eat) to Reverse Autoimmune Disease.  TX.  Retrieved January 17, 2018 from https://www.amymyersmd.com/2018/04/eat-not-eat-reverse-autoimmune-disease/.
Myhill, Sarah.  (2017).  Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalitis: It’s Mitochondria, Not Hypochondria.  (Ed.  Craig Robinson].  Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.
Palatini P, Mos L, Munari L, Valle F, Del Torre M, Rossi A, Varotto L, Macor F, Martina S, Pessina AC, et al.  (Dec.  1989).  “Blood pressure changes during heavy-resistance exercise”.  Journal of Hypertension: Volume 7, Issue 6, Series 72-3.  Retrieved January 20, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2632751.
Science News.  (June 8, 2015).  “Over 95% of the world’s population has health problems, with over a third having more than five ailments”.  Retrieved January 20, 2018 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150608081753.htm.
Thrasybule, Linda.  (Medically Reviewed by Kareem Sassi, MD). (Last Updated January 17, 2018) Everyday Health.  Retrieved January 23, 2019 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/crohns-disease/diet/why-western-diet-making-us-sick/
Wood, Anna.  (March 24, 2018).  “Graded Exercise Self-Help for Chronic Fatigue Syndrom in GETSET”.  The Lancet: Vol.  391, Issue 10126, P1161-1162.  Retrieved January 20, 2019 from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30619-6/fulltext
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