New York Times Best-Selling Author Dr. Steven Gundry Explains: How To Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Find out the surprising cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, why it’s often misdiagnosed, and how you can treat chronic fatigue syndrome without leaving home.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Mainstream medicine defines chronic fatigue syndrome as a type of disorder characterized by extreme fatigue, tiredness, or low energy that cannot be explained by any underlying medical condition.

Additionally, mainstream medicine does not acknowledge any particular cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. Common explanations include viral infection or psychological stress.

This makes chronic fatigue syndrome difficult to diagnose and even more difficult for most practitioners to treat.

What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

The most common symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome is fatigue or tiredness so severe that it impacts your ability to complete your daily activities.

Other symptoms may include some of the following:

  • Feeling unrefreshed after sleep
  • Loss of memory
  • Muscle pain
  • Reduced concentration
  • Frequent headaches

Is chronic fatigue syndrome misdiagnosed?

In years past, the debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome was thought to be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a type of herpes virus. However, despite using different antiviral tinctures and prescription antivirals, most patients seem unable to shake the fatigue.

However, while it’s true that an active Epstein-Barr infection in the form of an illness like mononucleosis can lay you out for months of bed rest, that’s relatively uncommon. In fact, 95 percent of adults carry EBV in white blood cells, and detectable antibodies to the virus are present in most of us. In focusing on such antibodies, these well-meaning professionals were missing the much more typical cause of chronic fatigue: chronic inflammation caused by leaky gut.

What is leaky gut?

To understand exactly how leaky gut works on a scientific level, you need to first understand more about how your gut wall functions. Your intestines are lined with a single layer of mucosal cells (called enterocytes), which are locked tightly together to prevent material from entering or escaping. Though this intestinal layer is only one cell thick, its surface area is equivalent to the size of a tennis court.

The immune cells (specialized white blood cells) positioned along and interspersed within that lining play an important role in maintaining the integrity of the wall. In fact, about 70-80 percent of all your immune cells are concentrated along the lining of your gut.1 These immune cells are responsible for deciding what can leave the GI tract and what must stay contained.

Your stomach acids, enzymes, and beneficial gut bacteria break down the food you eat into individual components: amino acids, fatty acids, and sugar molecules. Your mucosal cells then bite off a single molecule of these digested amino acids, fatty acids, and sugars, pass it through the body of the cell, and release it into your portal vein or lymph system.

When all is working well, everything besides these single molecules remains outside the intestinal barrier, where it belongs.If your mucosal cells are lined up tightly side by side, your gut lining will help keep everything except single molecules of digested amino acids, fatty acids, and sugar on the other side.

However, when your gut wall gets worn down and becomes rife with microscopic holes, it will allow other compounds to “leak” through, and your health will begin to suffer. This is the definition of “leaky gut syndrome,” also known as intestinal permeability.

How does leaky gut cause chronic fatigue and low energy?

When the wrong molecules or even bacteria get across the border of your gut wall, your immune system kicks into high gear. Normally, this is really important since your immune system can call in “reinforcements” – inflammatory hormones called cytokines.

These cytokines can save your life from a bacterial infection and help you heal when you have an injury.

The problem starts when your immune system starts responding to every little thing – including environmental triggers or food allergies. Think of it like an overactive security alarm system. You’re grateful when it alerts you to the presence of a thief, but you’re annoyed when it goes off every time a fly enters your home.

That’s exactly what happens when you have a leaky gut. Your immune system begins responding to everything that gets through your porous gut wall. This leads to chronic inflammation.

This natural response to inflammation requires enormous amounts of energy. For example, when your body is fighting an infection (like the flu), you experience heavy amounts of tiredness and fatigue. It’s why most people want to just sit in front of the TV and relax while recovering from illness.

So when your body is dealing with chronic inflammation, you experience this same level of tiredness every single day. This is why most people are unable to eliminate their chronic fatigue until they’ve dealt with it at its source: a leaky gut.

Does candida cause chronic fatigue syndrome?

Candida is a normal yeast in everyone, one of many that reside in your gut. Candida is not harmful in and of itself; it becomes a problem when it outcompetes the other bacteria in your gut for food and starts growing too fast, creating a condition called candidiasis.

This imbalance can happen after a course of antibiotics that wipe out the beneficial bacteria residing in your gut or as a result of eating a high-sugar diet, as sugar essentially fuels the reproduction of candida.

However, candidiasis has become an overdiagnosed condition (and is almost never the cause of chronic fatigue). In reality, resolving a fungal overgrowth is not that complicated. According to former cardiothoracic surgeon and best-selling author Dr. Steven Gundry, resolving an overgrowth of candida is often as simple as removing from your diet the simple sugars (including the fructose in fruits), refined grains, and saturated fats that preferentially feed the less-helpful bugs in your biome.

When you take the bad things out and put the right things in, the gut will take care of rebalancing itself over time. The point is not to kill off candida completely. You don’t want that, because mysterious as their purpose may be, all the organisms in your microbiome bring something to the table.

For example, your gut naturally contains gluten-eating bacteria—bugs who feast on gluten and break down that protein for you, rendering it less harmful. When you go 100 percent gluten free, you can actually hurt yourself by starving out those helpful bugs, so that any occasional bite of gluten becomes intolerable. Your inborn defense system against the odd gluten that sneaks into

your diet is gone.

Treating chronic fatigue syndrome

If you suspect you have chronic fatigue syndrome, you may want to begin by treating your leaky gut. And there are some steps you can take at home right now.

First, eat more prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics are the food your beneficial gut bacteria love to eat. And they’re particularly good for you precisely because you can’t digest them. Prebiotics pass through your stomach and into your gut, where your “good” bacteria can digest them.

Prebiotic-rich vegetables include artichokes, leeks, okra, jicama, broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, cauliflower, radicchio, and chicory. You can also find prebiotics in mushrooms and some nuts.

Second, you may also want to cut lectin-containing foods from your diets. These include foods like oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, rye, and whole wheat – along with nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.

However, please keep in mind that nutrition is highly personalized. What’s right for one person may not be right for someone else. So while these recommendations are generalizable, following these suggestions may not solve your leaky gut.

That’s why it’s important to speak with a certified expert who can give you more personalized diet and lifestyle recommendations.

A chronic fatigue success story

Chronic fatigue is not a permanent condition. Linda, a patient of Dr. Gundry’s in her early fifties, completely transformed her energy levels after following Dr. Gundry’s protocols.

However, when Dr. Gundry first measured Linda’s sky-high markers of inflammation, fatigue wasn’t something that Linda was complaining about. But after following Dr. Gundry’s program to the letter for three months, Dr. Gundry barely recognized her. “A whole new person stood in front of me,” he says.

“Suddenly, every day feels like a great day,” Linda told him. “And I have so much more energy that I don’t even drink coffee anymore!

As they reviewed Linda’s test results, Dr. Gundry noticed her hs-CRP level – a generalized marker of inflammation that should ideally should be less than 1 and which had been a 10 for Linda before – was now a 2.

Linda is proof that when you reduce inflammation (like the inflammation measured by that CRP marker), you’ll begin to feel your energy return.

Get your own personalized chronic fatigue syndrome care and recommendations from Dr Gundry-approved care coordinators

If you’re looking for more guidance about your chronic fatigue syndrome, Dr. Gundry’s unique health program is now available to you (without needing an appointment at one of Dr. Gundry’s two, waitlist-only West Coast clinics).

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Gundry and his team at Gundry Health, care coordinators trained in Dr. Gundry’s unique holistic methods are now available to help you craft your own personalized chronic fatigue syndrome program.


The Gundry Health platform helps members improve gut health using integrated lab testing, lab reviews and disease guidance.