M.E. stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is basically a multi-system failure, and has been classed by the World Health Organisation as a neurological condition since 1969 (reference ICD-10 G93.3). It brings with it a post exertional malaise, muscle pain and weakness, flu-like symptoms, digestive problems, exhaustion which is not alleviated by rest, as well as many other problems which can vary from person to person. It affects every system and part of the body, including the central and autonomic nervous systems, muscles, immune, endocrine and digestive systems; it can be fatal.
M.E. is sometimes known as P.V.F.S. (Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome), and in the United States is often called C.F.I.D.S. (Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome). Many people now actually refer to the illness as C.F.S. - chronic fatigue syndrome - but this is unfortunate as, firstly, C.F.S. is really an "umbrella" term covering a number of fatigue syndromes and conditions. Secondly, the term C.F.S. does tend to trivialise the illness by giving the impression that fatigue is the only problem faced by those who have it, which is certainly not the case. After all, "fatigue" is a symptom, not an illness, and M.E. is most certainly not simply the “chronic fatigue” wrongly portrayed as M.E. by much of the media and, sadly, also the medical profession.
It is important to realise that M.E. should not be confused with a post-viral debility, which normally lasts for just a few weeks after a virus, but can leave a person feeling low for two or three months.
When I first became ill in February 1991, M.E. was something I'd only vaguely heard of - I knew that it was an illness, but my knowledge of it consisted of thinking that it was "something to do with a virus"! Due to the increase in awareness of the illness over the past few years, many people now at least recognise that M.E. is a serious illness, even if they know very little about it.
The cause of M.E. is largely unknown, although there are various theories. It does seem that there are some people who are more likely to develop the illness than others - particularly those aged 20-40 working in occupations where they are regularly exposed to a variety of viral infections e.g. health workers and teachers. More often than not the illness follows a virus, however, physical stresses such as infections, injuries, over-use of broad spectrum antibiotics, a bad diet, environmental pollution, vaccinations, pesticides, etc, do seem to play a part. Lessening exposure to these things could therefore in theory help lessen the chances of a person developing M.E.
Once a person has M.E. it is possible that there are certain factors which, if dealt with, could help to improve their condition e.g. endocrine problems, candida overgrowth, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and allergies and intolerances (the most common food intolerances being to dairy and gluten containing products).