How Inflammation Causes Fatigue

March 2, 2009 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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 How Inflammation Causes Fatigue
A fascinating new animal study1 has uncovered a key mechanism that short-circuits energy production by reducing the ability of nerves to function correctly. This study has profound implications for health, as well as the prevention of disease and early death.

The researchers documented for the first time that inflammation outside of the nervous system, in particular the inflammatory messenger known as TNFa, crosses into the brain and activates glial cells within the nervous system. In response, glial cells send out a message that attracts immune cells into the brain – where they should not be. In turn, this sets off a chain reaction of events in the nervous system that results in fatigue. The researchers showed that by blocking TNFa activation of glial cells in the brain, this fatigue cascade was prevented even though the inflammation still existed.

Many people have inflammatory conditions that are depleting energy in this way. This is one mechanism that explains how too much wear and tear of any kind causes fatigue. This information would especially apply to individuals with chronic pain, nagging aches, and inflammatory health problems like arthritis, lupus, or fibromyalgia. Of course, just being overweight causes excessive production of TNFa which can set this nerve-driven fatigue process in motion.

Oftentimes we look at nutrients that help make energy when we look to help the fatigued individual, which is one valid angle to consider. It may be just as important to reduce inflammation, so as to stop processes that are turning energy production off. This data has wide-ranging application to thyroid function, weight issues, as well as overall health and longevity.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Inflammation and Fatigue  The Journal of Neuroscience  Charlotte D'Mello, Tai Le, and Mark G. Swain
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