Does tired not even begin to explain how exhausted you feel every day?
Are you suffering from unrelenting fatigue that interferes with your ability to get through the day?
Can a tooth infection cause you to feel tired?
Perhaps you’ve even tried seeking help from your doctor and still aren’t getting any answers.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. This is the reality for millions of people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome.
While science still doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to this disorder, research has found that chronic fatigue may, in fact, be a symptom of a more serious underlying issue. More and more research is finding that chronic fatigue syndrome may be the result of a hidden infection overworking your immune system and robbing you of your energy.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The central symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome is what gives this condition its name—persistent and unrelenting fatigue that doesn’t seem to improve no matter how much rest you get. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder that can be challenging to diagnose due to the constellation of vague symptoms.
While chronic fatigue is the primary symptom associated with this disorder, there are actually 9 official signs and symptoms, which are:1
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle pain
- Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
- Headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
- Un-refreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The term chronic fatigue syndrome is not necessarily a diagnosis in itself. Rather, it’s a label to identify a group of symptoms caused by an unidentified underlying condition.
A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is often a diagnosis of exclusion. Meaning, doctors will first rule out other potential conditions that can cause fatigue, such as hypothyroidism, sleep deprivation, or adrenal burnout, before diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome.
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is often multifactorial and different in each individual. Researchers have identified several underlying issues that can contribute to the root cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, including: 2,3,4
- Poor immune system response
- Viral infections
- Increased activity in mast cells
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Oxidative stress
- Hormonal imbalances
Nearly all of the identified potential root causes have something in common. They all share a common pathway of dysfunctional immune activation and long-term inflammation.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Your Immune System
Ever notice that when you have a cold or flu, you get really tired and even minor mental or physical activities wipe you out? You often get achy and have bad brain fog. Sometimes, you’ll get a sore throat and enlarged lymph nodes.
Any of those sound familiar?
If you scroll back up and look at the list of cardinal symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, you’ll notice that nearly all of the symptoms are the same ones we experience when we get sick. So it’s no surprise that there is a connection between chronic stimulation of the immune system and chronic fatigue syndrome. But we are all exposed to pathogens and toxins on a regular basis and catch a bug every once in a while.
Why then, do some people recover fully while others end up with a chronic disabling condition?
It appears that part of the answer lies in the genetic polymorphisms or variances in our bodies’ response to infection and inflammation.
How a Hidden Infection Can Cause Chronic Fatigue
When faced with pathogens or irritants, the body releases a number of substances known as cytokines. In simplest terms, cytokines are proteins secreted by immune cells that communicate with other cells in your body and signal them to perform a certain action.5 When certain pro-inflammatory cytokines are released, they activate and ramp up inflammation in order to target and attack the invaders.
In a normal individual, a simplified version of the process goes something like this:
- Pro-inflammatory cytokines are released.
- The inflammatory response revs up.
- The immune system rids the body of foreign invaders.
- And then the body returns to its baseline.
But due to certain genetic polymorphisms or variances, some individuals have a more profound immune response when faced with an infection.6 This creates a vicious cycle of pro-inflammatory cytokines that continue to trigger more inflammation and amplify the cycle—leading to even more damage and inflammation.
The initial infection followed by continued immune activation causes the body to be in a constant state of inflammation. This overreaction and overstimulation of the immune system require copious amounts of energy and resources, resulting in fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The Link Between Histamine and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Cytokines are not the only chemicals released during an immune response. Histamine is also released as part of the inflammatory process in response to pathogens, allergens, or wounds. When released as part of the immune response, histamine’s role is to increase capillary permeability so white blood cells can enter capillaries and target pathogens and irritants.
Histamine also plays an important role in maintaining numerous bodily functions, including:
- Blood pressure
- Mucus secretion
- Sexual function
- Smooth muscle contraction
Our bodies are designed to handle small amounts of histamine to function properly with occasional spikes when responding to foreign invaders. But when your body is in a constant state of inflammation, you end up with an overload of histamine, meaning your body has more histamine floating around than it can break down.
This overabundance of histamine in the body can contribute to many of the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. To learn more about how histamine overload can cause fatigue, head over to my post about what to do when histamine goes haywire.
Common Hidden Infections That Could Be Causing Your Fatigue
There are a number of hidden infections that can cause chronic fatigue syndrome, but some of the more common ones include:7
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6)
- Parvovirus B19 (Parvo B19)
- Mycoplasma sp.
- Borrelia Burgdorferi
- Chronic mold and mycotoxin exposure
How to Treat the Underlying Cause of Your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Outsmarting and treating these hidden infections can be challenging and often requires a lot of detective work. But regardless of what chronic hidden infection you may be harboring, the foundation of treatment is making lifestyle changes that support your immune system’s ability to fight off underlying infection while minimizing overall inflammation.
Reducing your exposure to potential sources of mold and other mycotoxins is vital. While it is impossible to entirely avoid all exposure, many people are unaware that their home or workplace could be the breeding ground of their symptoms. Click here to read more about toxic mold and how to avoid exposure.
Treat Other Issues First
In order to address an underlying chronic infection, your body will need your immune system firing on all cylinders. By first addressing things that may be suppressing your immune system, such as food sensitivities, heavy metal exposure, or an overload of environmental toxins, your immune system can then direct all resources to zap those hidden bugs.
Focus on Gut Health
Your gut health and immune system are intricately linked. If your gut is not functioning at optimal levels, it’s likely that your immune system isn’t functioning at 100% either. Focus on healing your gut by:
- Eliminating inflammatory foods, such as sugar, gluten, corn, soy, dairy, refined oils, and other processed foods
- Adding in plenty of healing foods, such as nutrient-dense veggies, fermented foods (e.g., kombucha, kimchi, or sauerkraut), bone broth, and healthy fats
- Drinking plenty of high-quality filtered water
- Establishing and maintaining a healthy elimination pattern
- Giving your gut a boost by taking gut-healing supplements, such as Intestinal Essentials, Probiotic Daily Essentials, or Gut Immune
Strengthen Your Immunity
With a chronic low-level hidden infection, your immune system is overworked and not able to do its job properly. Giving your immune system the support it needs will help it fight off underlying invaders that have made themselves at home in your body. Some of the best ways to show your immune system some love and give it the boost it needs are to:
- Get plenty of restful sleep: Sleep is vital to proper immune function, so aim for a minimum of 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Minimize stress: Chronic stress stimulates the immune system and triggers the release of histamine and other stress hormones. Find ways to minimize stress when possible. Try incorporating daily habits, such as deep breathing or meditation, to manage unavoidable stress.
- Take a high-quality supplement: Your immune system demands a lot of energy. Taking a supplement, such as Immune Booster, can give your system the extra support it needs.
Struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Talk to a Functional Medicine Practitioner
While lifestyle changes are essential to treating the root cause of any diagnosis, it is imperative to do so under the guidance of an experienced healthcare professional. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex disorder to both diagnose and treat.
If you suspect you may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, contact a doctor experienced in treating patients with the disorder. Many traditional doctors are not well-versed in treating chronic fatigue syndrome, so I recommend seeking out a functional medicine practitioner.
If you’ve never seen a functional medicine practitioner before and aren’t sure where to start, I recommend reading my article, “How to Choose a Good Integrative and Functional Medicine Doctor.”
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
Great article! Thanks for writing it. I have 4 infections I’m trying to deal with to improve my health (just not all at the same time). I also have mycotoxin illness and autoimmune disease. I’m being treated now for MARCoNS in the sinuses, but it appears it is also in the bone/tooth socket. I follow your page, and I’d love to see you write about the impact of infections in the mouth, jaw and sinuses on the rest of the body. My guess is that there are many of us with these types of infections that go undiagnosed, and if diagnosed, aren’t treated from a functional medicine perspective. I really appreciate the work you do and your willingness to share of your knowledge with us.
Great idea! I’ll work on it…
Lee, how was the MARCONS diagnosed? I have painful sinus with a big swollen painful knot in my gum right under the sinus….Nobody seems to know what I should do here in South MS
I had seen five ENT they all missed MACRONS because they do not test for it.
Got smart and had a nasal swab test with ND who had studied with shoemaker I had MARCONS RX,
BEGS Spray this is the strongest nasal spray I have ever taken it eliminated the MARCONSI
Dr Jill –
I was curious why you don’t list mononucleosis virus as a fatigue inducing latent infection. Its well known to cause extreme fatigue.
Epstein Barr is the cause of mononucleosis
Hello Dr. Jill. Very informative article. I’m wondering if you have any articles about CFS and people who’s systems are so sensitive to medications and supplements?
You will find hundred’s of articles on CFS if you search Pubmed!
I seem to be getting some relief from Kirkman’s Biofilm Defense systemic enzyme and suspect H-Pylori is/was one of my hidden infections. I have +/+ for all BHMT and other genetic issues and have had lifelong health challenges. Menopause and having a tooth removed that previously had a root canal has complicated issues. Thank-you for all you do to help. I pass it on to the best of my abilities.
This part is particularly interesting to me: “The initial infection followed by chronic inflammation of the immune system could explain the cause of fatigue in these genetically susceptible individuals.” Just today I heard another doctor describing chronic lyme as an autoimmune process – would love your thoughts on this. http://powerhealthtalk.com/lyme-disease-it-is-time-for-a-new-approach-to-this-problem.htm
Infection can certainly be a trigger to autoimmunity…
HI Dr. Jill,
Can one of these infections (or anything else you know of) cause a constant unrelenting headache? Present on waking, all day. MRI and vision test were normal. Also issues with chronic fatigue, depression, back and neck pain, pelvic pain, IBS. No one seems to know how to help me.
Thank you for your time!
Headaches can be many causes, toxic exposure, food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory disorders and other
Hello Dr. Carnahan,
I’ve been having severe debilitating fatigue. I had a positive Candida blood test. I have bloating so bad I look like I’m 6 months pregnant. Can Candida cause this or is it likely another pathogen in addition?
Best to test, don’t guess… you can do comprehensive stool testing and organic acid testing to determine the cause.
Hi, thank you for the info! Iv had debilitating fatigue and what seems to be a low dopamine depression. I feel no pleasure in anything and feel like I have the flu everyday for the past year. I was exposed to mold almost a year ago, my whole family got sick, but we moved out soon after. They got better but my symptoms are still very present. At the time I could barely make out words and had such bad confusion and soon I began to feel emotionally disconnected to anything pleasurable around me. Is it possible to still be sick after leaving the exposure? Antidepressants and TMS therapy have failed to work and I was very happy and healthy before the exposure. Is this uncommon? Thank you
Yes, you may not get well until you treat the Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS)
Do you ever come back to the Peoria area for appointments? I just learned about you from a long health consultation at Essential Wellness and wish you still lived in the area. I will be looking through your website/blog to see what applies for my health situation. Grateful for all you do to help others on their difficult health journey – I hope to meet you someday!
I do not do consulting in Peoria any longer. My practice is in Boulder, Colorado
You totally overlooked PARAthyroid Disease or HyperPARAthyroidism as a suspect with most of the symptoms you listed above.
Parathyroid and hyperparathyroid are not infections. They are endocrine disruptions that may cause fatigue but this article is on infections.
What would you recommend for my very anemic daughter who can’t swallow pills and cannot tolerate the taste of liquid iron, no matter what we put it in? She sleeps all day, her hair is falling out, and she is having difficulty breathing. She is allergic to iron shots/infusions. She had a bad allergic reaction when we tried those.
Find a functional medicine doctor to see what is going on with your daughter’s health. You can search by zip code at http://www.functionalmedicine.org.
Hi Dr. Jill!
I’m having a lot of swelling in my thighs and feet. The bottom part of my legs look normal and my ankles look normal, but my thighs are so big I look like I’m 150 and I’m 115 pounds. My thighs have never been like this. And my feet are so swollen they’re hanging off the edge of my shoes. I’m really worried! Do you know what this could be? Doctors keep dismissing it telling me to eat less salt and I don’t eat a lot of salt.
Could Mycotoxins be related to chronic ITP?
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) may lead to autoimmune diseases of all types
I’m wondering too about infection in the gum where a root canal was done in the past. The tooth/ceramic is fine but at the base of the gum is swollen and painful and dentists ignore it. Is that infection trapped in there? How is it treated? I have all the fatigue symptoms and have been to so many “healers”, wondering if I have to pull the tooth or can a needle go in and pull out a sample?
Dental infections are a very serious cause of systemic disease. Find a holistic dentist to help you evaluate and pull the tooth if necessary.
Hello Dr Jill. Thank you for your insight. Can you please tell me what are the lab tests for mold and mycotoxins?
A list can be found at http://www.survivingmold.com
Hello Dr. Jill,
I am 47 years old, going through oerimenopause and was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I feel like I haven’t been feeling well for over a year but symptoms escalated overy the last 6 months when I was diagnosed. Do you treat underlying causes of fibro and what do you recommend I test for?
This diagnosis doesn’t sit well with me as I feel thereally has to be more and I want to heal not mask symptoms with meds, which I’ve refused.
Thank you for your time.
You may need to test for bacteria, viruses and other infections… best to talk to your physician and decide based on your symptoms.
Hello Dr. i would also like to know what bacteria and virus to testbfor along with the ones mentioned on this article? I was diagnosed with hashimoto’s and also with systemic lupus. My doctors are really not interested in testing for anything or find root causes of anything. I have one doctor who maybe kind enough to test but I need to go to her with specific lists. I had a functional doctor but I can no longer afford gim because I am now unemployed. My insurance doesn’t cover functional medicine visits. If I test positive for everything on the article what are the treatment options? It is very sad that I don’t have faith in my doctors but I have no choice but to go to them because I don’t have money to go to an MD who also practices functional medicine. I am hopeful that maybe one of them would agree to test if I take the list but I may also suggest treatment option if I had some information. Thank you in advance.
Hi Mona – Unfortunately I cannot give you medical advice on the blog. Your best bet is to find a doctor that understands testing, infectious disease if necessary but a functional medicine trained doc would be best.
Hi Dr. Jill,
According to my doctor, I’m fighting some sort of viral infection–I just don’t know which one. For the past month, I’ve been struggling with fatigue and low energy. I’ve also had a swollen node in my neck that my doctor sent me to get an ultrasound for. The results indicated that it was swollen due to inflammation. I was tested for mono last week, and it came back negative. There were some things that stood out though: low wbc, low neuts, high eos, and low neuts abs. My doctor says the plan of care is just rest and time to heal. Do you have any idea what could be causing my fatigue? The only other symptoms I have are the swollen node, some night sweats (maybe once or twice a week), and achy joints (although they aren’t constant, just sporadic).
Thank you so much!
Several chronic infections may cause your symptoms, including fatigue, night sweats and lymph node swelling. I suggest testing for borrelia, Babasia, Ehrlichiosis and Bartonella
Hello Dr Jill….wonderful info you are putting out……I had a massive mold exposure which I remediated myself about 23 years ago (who knew ?)….developed gluten intolerance then food sensitivities to almost everything…water included….lost 40lbs from an only 185lbs body ….developed the deepest depression….anxiety hypersensitivity (MCS) discovered through shoemakers tests that I have an homozygous 0401-3-53 gene….have a host of viruses (HSV2) included……there is so much info from the past 23 years to list…..today after leaving 2 high paying jobs getting divorced foreclosing on the house declaring bankruptcy moving 3 times and trying every treatment under the sun ! I am still alive …..! have a wealth of medical and nutritional knowledge but no MD! and my latest path is looking at lyme disease as I know I was bitten (spiders really like the smell of me 🙁 I had the bullseye rash and this was 11 to 15 years ago……..so this could be the reason why I cannot seem to get my energy back …. is it possible to test at this late stage to see if I have the Lyme borreliosis ? and is it treatable……another anomaly with me is that I react very badly to supplements and herbs but can tolerate pharmaceuticals ? must be a mold thing I think……..on a positive note my creativity has become almost visionary and my intuition is off the charts / do you see these types of things happening ?
rereading this post it looks like the rantings of a crazyman….. probably am at this point 🙂
Thank you for the kind words… Mold exposure can really make us sick, can’t it? If you have underlying infections, the mold may weaken immune system and cause them to be symptomatic. I hope you find healing! You may want to check out docs at http://www.survivingmold.com for further help.
Hello, Dr. Jill. I have been suffering from fatigue for years. According to traditional doctors all my labs look good. I did test positive for hashimotos two years ago. My recent test for hashimotos showed antibodies normal for one and just a few points above for the other. There has been no improvement in my fatigue. I finally will be seeing a functional doctor in two months. I am wondering if you are able to uncover most causes of fatigue and whether most patients recover to a more normal life?
Yes, we look at toxins, infections and other reasons that some patients continue to have mitochondrial dysfunction and fatigue
I recently realized that I’ve had an ongoing infection around a root canal that was done several years ago, which required the recent extraction of the tooth, removal of the surrounding infected bone and bone graft for implant placement. I asked the oral surgeon what caused the root canal to fail and the response was that root canals rarely fail. In my case it wasn’t done properly from the beginning leaving a small area of infected bone in the gum was the answer.
I’m guessing that I didn’t have any significant pain because the nerves of the tooth had been removed. As I recall, the root canal treatment was initially performed by my regular dentist several years ago. After the initial root canal, I recall having continuing discomfort or soreness in the gum area above the tooth and my new dentist referred me to an endodontist. The endodontist identified that a root had apparently been missed by my former dentist when the tooth was initially treated and re-treated the tooth.
Although I didn’t have any pain or significant discomfort after the endodontist re-treated the tooth, there was a continuing mild sensitivity in the gum area above the tooth, which I’m now assuming may have been related to the small area of infected bone that remained. I went on for several years with this continuing sensitivity in the gum area above this tooth.
A couple of months ago, I scheduled an appointment with my dentist because I was having pain in the gum when chewing with that tooth. My dentist x-rayed the tooth and gum area and didn’t find anything wrong. At the time of my visit, the pain when chewing had sudsided so we both suspected that I may have caused some trauma to the tooth and that the pain from the trauma had simply subsided.
A month or so later, I noticed a protruding area on the gum just behind this tooth and it appeared to be white around the top. I wasn’t experiencing and pain in the area of the protruding bump just some soreness and then the bump went away after a couple of days. Several days later, the protruding bump reappeared in the same place so I captured a picture of it and sent it to my dentist.
My dentist was able to see me the same day. The initial normal x-ray taken from the side of the tooth and gum did not reveal anything suspicious. So my dentist had a second x-ray taken that angled down on the gum area and tooth from above. The second x-ray revealed a significant area of infection above the tooth, which was draining through the bump protruding from my gum.
After the initial root canal on this tooth and continuing over several years since, I’ve experienced cognitive issues such as short-term memory issues, anxiety, problems focusing and concentrating, etc. along with fatigue that I had never experienceced before. I discussed these symptoms with my physician and then specialists and underwent numerous medical tests that resulted in all normal results with one minor exception related to borderline rheumatoid artharitis that was dosmissed after further testing.
I’m now wondering whether these cognitive issues could have been caused by the continuing infection in the bone of my gum and whether they may subside now that the source of the continuing infection has been removed.
Dental infections are a common hidden cause of systemic illness 😫
I have heard of people who have had a tooth abscess and/or root canal getting the tooth pulled and it completely changing their life. Their brain fog goes away and they feel like a real person again!
What about an infected tooth? I’ve suffered serious fatigue for decades, and I just knew the hugely swollen lymph nodes under my jaw were the cause. Nothing could be found, not even in a ct scan.
Very long story short: I had a root canal recently. My lymphnodes/submandibular salivary glands are not sticking out like two baseballs anymore, and I am NOT tired anymore either! I have been tired for 40 years and looked like a chipmunk!
The infection must’ve been thriving, draining off into my lymph nodes. It’s a great, new life for me!
Yes, infected teeth can wreak havoc on the health
Hello Dr. Jill,
I suffer from CIRS and because of it developed MCAS. I am on binders, supplements… getting so much better. But my last blood test came back with low Leukocytes (3.3) and low platelets (130). I have been looking EVERYWHERE to understand this, can you help me connect the dots please? Last GI map showed low secretory IgA (200)
you may need to test and rule out tick-borne infections
Hi Dr Jill, I am surprised that hidden jawbone infections (cavitations) are not listed as a common cause of chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue is the main symptom of infections (whether in the jawbone or anywhere else), yet cavitations are still overlooked. Would you mind taking a look at Dr Lechner and Dr Weston Price research about cavitations and how they cause CFS, fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases etc?
Also, here is the testimony of a woman who had very debilitating symptoms because of hidden infections in her jaw: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/through-my-eyes-hidden-dental-infections?fbclid=IwAR07LMnWJW7nW6thp9lidovPiAOoVrAMQrHy0qt7bW9kD36f5YFZsJW_R5A
This issue should really get more media coverage!
I’ve had Epstein Barr Virus, resulting in chronic fatigue, for about twelve years. Colloidal Silver is the only supplement that has ever worked for me – It’s absolutely incredible. Dietary changes, other supplements, etc., were not able to handle whatever my problems were. I just don’t think they’re powerful enough. Whatever pathogens, viruses, bacteria, etc., that were the source of my problem needed to be eradicated from my system by a deep, heavy duty, internal cleansing. Colloidal Silver has done this. I’ll take it for life.