Some of the comments are pretty old by now, but there are certain themes that come back, over and over again. I’ve decided to answer them once, and that’s it.
ME and FMS are not “lifestyle” diseases. Researchers have found genetic, neurological, and cardiological anomalies, so get off that blame-the-victim bullshit. We know better. We’ve done the diet and exercise dance. We’ve tried air-cleaners and removing toxins and natural cleansers and vitamins and health foods, and while some of them are nicer than the alternatives, they cannot cure chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia because they are not part of the cause.
While we’re at it, no, alien abductions don’t cause FMS, either. I know you’re laughing, but there really is a site out there that makes such claims. No, I won’t link to it. It’s bad enough that it exists!
“Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” is a totally inadequate name for a disorder whose sufferers experience far, far, more than a little tiredness. That’s why we have a new and better name for CFS, as of January 2007: ME/CFS, or myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syndrome. The disease has been known as ME all along in the rest of the world, although sometimes the acronym was used for myalgic encephalomyelitis. Personally, I preferred one of the other suggestions, chronic neuroendocrineimmune dysfunction syndrome (CNDS), but I wasn’t on the committee.
I would happily rename fibromyalgia “you don’t want to be me” or “betrayal by entire body,” but I don’t think anybody is suggesting that it be renamed. The name just doesn’t seem adequate to its impact, though it’s a little better than some of the older names, like “rheumatism.”
To others who have said, “prevention is better than cure.” Well, yes, and “a stitch in time saves 9.” Yup. I’ve got plenty of aphorisms, too. Tell me, pray, how one “prevents” disorders whose origin is unclear? As I said above, researchers have identified genetic anomalies. We have fairly good evidence that fibromyalgia, at least, has a genetic component. We’ve got brain scans showing that fibromites’ brains react differently to painful stimuli, and other tests showing that our spinal fluid has much higher levels of a neuropeptide involved in transmitting pain impulses than non-fibromites.
With that in mind, how would you go about “preventing” fibromyalgia? Advising us not to breed? Many of us have already done so by the time we’re diagnosed—and, of course, that can’t help us when we’ve already got the disease. We can use our own diagnoses as warnings that our own children may have a susceptibility to fibromyalgia, but what then? Smother them in cotton batting, to keep them from experiencing any stressors in life that might set off the FMS bomb in their genes?
Being fat doesn’t cause ME or FMS, either, although it’s common to gain weight after developing either disorder. I don’t know anyone who is able to maintain the level of activity he or she did before falling ill, and many of the drugs used to treat the symptoms of these disorders cause weight gain. Losing weight is even more difficult for us than for other people. Telling us that we’d feel better if we lost weight is not helpful in the least. I’ve never once heard of anyone who was “cured” of FMS or ME because he or she lost weight—and if it were happening, I would know it, because I pay a lot of attention to these things.
Even if I thought weight loss offered a “cure,” or even amelioration of symptoms, I see no reason to discuss drugs like Xenical at any length. Any drug or procedure promising weight loss will have an easy time getting approved because of our society’s hatred of fat people. Fen-phen, anyone? “Oh, the drug will kill some patients, or leave them with permanent heart damage? Hell, it’s worth it if there’s a chance of losing weight!” The
weight-loss self-hatred industry has more than enough money and power to lube their way past any flimsy little regulations standing in their way.
Diet and sports and their relation to weight are another thing altogether and beyond the scope of this blog. I recommend you to peruse the worlds of the delightful Sandy Szwarc over at Junkfood Science, who does cover that topic, frequently, thoroughly, and well.