Research has not yet been able to pin down the cause of CFS.
Amongst potential causes and contributing factors that have been proposed are:
- Immune system dysfunction
- Viral infection (e.g. Epstein-Barr virus)
- A history of allergies
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low blood sugar
- Iron-deficiency anaemia
- Low blood pressure
- Nervous system inflammation
CFS may initially develop at times of increased physical or mental stress, during or after an infection, or with no discernible triggers.
Sensitivities to foods, medicines, chemicals (e.g. pesticides, heavy metals, household cleaning products, or other environmental toxins) and alcohol are a common feature of CFS. From a naturopathic perspective, exposure to or poor detoxification of these substances may contribute to the cause, worsen the symptoms and/or delay recovery.
Other aggravating factors may include nutritional deficiencies, imbalance of the bacteria inhabiting the bowel, poor oxygenation of body tissues, and dysfunction of the immune, endocrine (hormone) or nervous systems.
CFS is most common in people aged 40-59 years old. It is diagnosed in up to four times more women than men, but this may be partially due to the fact that women are more likely than men to consult health professionals when they’re unwell. It sometimes occurs in members of the same family, suggesting that genetic factors may be involved.