The Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association, a 501(c)3 founded in 1985, exists to meet the needs of patients with CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or FM (Fibromyalgia), their families and loved ones. The Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association works to educate health-care providers and the general public regarding these severely-disabling physical illnesses. We also support patients and their families and advocate for more effective treatment and research.
- Last Updated: 20 November 2015 20 November 2015
Allergies are frequently found in people with chronic illness. Immune dysregulation can cause a higher presence of a certain type of T helper cell, type 2 (TH-2), which are antibody related (vs. T helper cell, type 1 (TH-1), which fight infection). People with ME/CFS, FM and MCS may have dominant TH-2 cells that make antibodies to everything—food, air, chemicals etc, triggering allergic reactions. The goal of treatment is to shift TH-2 dominance to TH-l. Balance is the key.
The easiest way to test for food allergies is to totally remove the suspected food from your diet for 7-10 days. This is called an elimination and challenge diet. The most common food allergens are: wheat, dairy, soy, citrus, corn, coffee, sugar, chocolate and egg. The challenge part is to reintroduce one of the eliminated foods in its pure form, i.e., cracked wheat vs. wheat bread, once a day and watch for any reactions. Allergies trigger a very broad array of symptoms, including body pain in patients with FM, so you need to be observant.
Allergy blood tests are useful but they are not 100% accurate. They have both false positives and false negatives They look for delayed allergic reactions, which are IgG mediated, versus immediate allergic reactions which are IgE mediated, i.e., throat closing from a peanut allergy. Delayed allergic reactions are more common in ME/CFS, FM and MCS. She also measures immune complexes that can trigger reactions.
Gluten is often a culprit even if you are not directly allergic to it. Wheat, rye, oats and barley are high gluten foods. Tests for gluten include antigliadin and antireticulin. If you have lots of GI problems, you should consider eliminating gluten for one month to see if you have any improvement.
Dairy is a frequent allergen that triggers lots of mucus production. If you have respiratory problems, asthma etc., you should evaluate this. Some patients have a reaction to dairy due to lactose intolerance. They may be able to take a lactase enzyme with dairy products to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
If the patient is overweight, she looks for insulin resistance. This is a condition where individuals are producing too much insulin. This sets in motion pro-inflammatory hormones that can increase your risk of heart disease. Weight gain is common in patients with ME/CFS/FM, along with reduced exercise tolerance. This leaves them at a higher risk for insulin resistance.
Dr. Hubbuch looks at fasting glucose tests. If the tests are positive, she recommends restricting dietary carbohydrates. Additionally, she treats them with some of the following: lipoic acid (an antioxidant), vanadium (a trace mineral), chromium (helps with blood sugar regulation as well), DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) adrenal hormone, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is made from safflower oil. CLA helps with weight loss (it affects the way fats are metabolized). [Most ME/CFS clinicians are strongly against the use of DHEA because it can lead to breast cancer and prostate cancer—Ed.]
Watch for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that is triggered by eating too much sugar and caffeine stimulating the body to make too much insulin, then dropping the blood sugar too low. This in turn triggers carbohydrate cravings, which starts the cycle all over again. This is the wrong approach. The goal is to maintain a more even blood sugar. This can be done by eating more complex carbohydrates, balanced with proteins and fats. This diet doesn't stimulate a hyper-insulin response.
Yeast is another common problem. As mentioned, the overuse of antibiotics can increase yeast and bacteria in the intestine, which upsets the body's homeostasis. Dietary yeast can trigger severe reactions. Testing for yeast can be done on stool, blood and urine. If any tests are positive, you can move to a yeast-free diet. Foods to avoid include: alcohol (especially beer and wine), cheese (hard), yeasted breads, sugar, vinegar, mushrooms, all fermented mold-based foods, and simple carbohydrates.
Omega 3 fatty acid is found in fish, pumpkin, walnut and flax (1 tbs. flax oil = 8 gm omega 3 and 2gm of omega 6). She recommends 6gm/day of omega 3. Omega 6 is found in all cooking oils. She recommends 10+ gm/day.
Saturated fats are found in: meat, dairy, coconut oil etc. Limit these to 10% of your diet. Polyunsaturated fats are found in: vegetable oil, nut oil, etc. These are the healthier oils and sources of omega 6. Avoid all hydrogenated oils as they are damaging to your health.
Vitamins and minerals
Dr. Hubbuch emphasized the importance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients for an optimal level of functioning. The current recommended daily allowance (RDA listed on your vitamin bottle) for vitamins is very low and does not even meet the needs of most healthy people.
She recommends a comprehensive evaluation of the individual's biochemistry to determine deficiencies, which are more common in chronic illness.
She also noted new research that offers promise on glyconutrients—special sugars that the body makes that are essential for cell-to-cell communication and immune support. The eight essential sugars, known as saccharides, include: fructose, galactose, glucose, mannose, acetylglucosamine, acetylgalactosamine, acetylneuraminic acid and xylose.
Notice about names
The Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association would like to clarify the use of the various acronyms for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) on this site. When we generate our own articles on the illness, we will refer to it as ME/CFS, the term now generally used in the United States. When we are reporting on someone else’s report, we will use the term they use. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are currently using ME/CFS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are calling the illness CFS.
Until there is consensus on a name for the illness, the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association name will not change.