Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Chad Baker/Getty Images

Mitochondrial dysfunction is getting more and more attention as an underlying mechanism of chronic fatigue syndrome. Dr. Sarah Myhill, a UK doctor who was an early proponent of this theory and has a treatment protocol based on it, has just published a paper on mitochondrial dysfunction that even points to a possible diagnostic test.

What are Mitochondria?

Mitochondria are specialized parts of cells that, among other things, convert nutrients into energy.

That energy enables your cells to carry out their many jobs in your body -- or, if you have mitochondrial dysfunction, that energy isn't produced, thereby preventing your cells from doing their jobs properly.

Proposed Diagnostic Test

The test discussed in this paper is the "ATP profile." It's a blood test that looks at several levels, including ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the body's primary form of energy, and ADP (adenosine diphosphate), which mitochondria use to make ATP. Myhill's paper says the results were clear -- the more severe the dysfunction, the more severe the symptoms. It also says the test can differentiate between people who are fatigued because of stress/psychological factors and those who have cellular dysfunction.

That all sounds pretty exciting, but this isn't a test you can rush out and take right now (not that you probably do much rushing!) This research is in the early stages and needs to be confirmed, re-confirmed, and re-re-confirmed before it'll be accepted by the medical community.

Best-case scenario, it'll be years before this test is widely available. However, that doesn't mean we can't use the information to our benefit right now.

Treating Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Dr. Myhill's recommendations for treating mitochondrial dysfunction is a set of supplements, many of which are familiar to most of us:

Some of the dosages she recommends are outside of the normal range, so please talk to your doctor and pharmacist and know any risks associated with high dosages before you start this (or any other) treatment regimen.

Other doctors recommend vitamin B2 (riboflavin) for correcting mitochondrial problems, and physical therapy for improving range of motion and dexterity.

Continue Reading