Chronic Fatigue

Can medical marijuana help with symptoms of chronic fatigue? Read on to learn more below. 

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by extreme tiredness, regardless of how much rest you get. The symptoms may worsen with physical or mental activity, and they can happen suddenly and last for years. The condition affects more females than males, but the cause is unknown.

Symptoms of CFS

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can vary, and the severity can fluctuate daily. Signs and symptoms of CFS may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory or concentration issues
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Dizziness
  • Waking up tired
  • Exhaustion after physical or mental activities

Risk Factors and Causes of CFS

Specific factors are seen more often in people with CFS. They include:

  • Gender. Women are up to four times more likely to develop CFS than men.
  • Age. Middle-aged people are typically affected, but people of any age can get CFS.

 Some people seem to be born with a predisposition for chronic fatigue triggered by various factors. Potential triggers include:

  • Viral infections. Suspicious viruses are the Epstein-Barr virus and human herpes virus 6. 
  • Immune system problems. Immune systems with chronic fatigue syndrome are slightly impaired.
  • Hormonal imbalances. People with CFS sometimes experience abnormal blood levels of hormones in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands, or adrenal glands.
  • Physical or emotional trauma. An injury, surgery, or significant emotional stress can onset symptoms of CFS. 

Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

According to the 2015 Institute of Medicine, CFS occurs in approximately 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans. 84 to 91 percent are estimated not to have a current diagnosis. There aren’t any medical tests to screen for CFS, and the symptoms are similar to other conditions. To receive a diagnosis, your doctor will rule out causes and review your medical history. Ruling out the causes of your fatigue is a vital part of the diagnosis process. 

Conditions with symptoms similar to CFS include:

  • Lyme disease
  • lupus 
  • fibromyalgia
  • major depressive disorder
  • mononucleosis
  • multiple sclerosis
  • severe obesity
  • sleep disorders

Drug side effects, such as antihistamines and alcohol, can also resemble symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

Treatment of Chronic Fatigue

Each person’s CFS symptoms vary and may require different types of treatment to manage and relieve them. Your doctor can work with you to create the best treatment plan and discuss the possible benefits and side effects. Treatment plans often include a combination of medications, diet changes, exercise, therapy, and alternative methods like yoga or acupuncture. 

Can medical cannabis help?  

Cannabinoids essentially mimic the endocannabinoid system, such as anandamide. Anandamide is a fatty acid that activates the receptors. Cannabinoids bind themselves to fat-soluble molecules to enter a cell’s lipid bilayer. Cannabinoids attach themselves to CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, CBN only interacts with CB1 receptors causing sedative properties.

CB1 receptors are found in the areas of the brain that control pain perception, movement, memory, cognition, emotion, and autonomic functions. CB2 receptors are typically found in immune system cells. When the proper connection between cannabinoid and receptor is made, the body is stimulated to have a specific response.

CBD has anti-inflammatory qualities, can reduce pain, and even fully treat pain in some patients. It is also an antioxidant and can help reduce long-term inflammation. CBD contains cannabinoid receptors that can block chronic pain signals in the brain and trigger an increased immune response.  

CBN, CBD, and other cannabinoids work by binding to CB1 cannabinoid receptors, where it’s thought to strengthen the function of anandamide. This neurotransmitter enhances pleasure and motivation, regulates appetite and sleep quality, and alleviates chronic and myofascial pain. 

Last Updated: June 14, 2024

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