An Overlooked Cause of Chronic Fatigue – A Functional Medicine Approach

Woman exhausted over her computer

Throughout the last few decades, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) has become more common. Patients are told it’s an incurable disease they will have to live with for the rest of their life. It’s a condition that costs society billions.  From lost productivity to a miserable quality of life, it can cripple individuals and their families. Fatigue affects all of us from time to time; if we don’t get enough sleep or have jet lag, we expect to be tired. CFS, on the other hand, is not alleviated by sleeping or resting more.  Those suffering from CFS have often tried everything you can imagine to improve their energy.  

The battle is not only exhausting, but the diagnostic tools that are used by most doctors fail to address the root causes of the problem. One of the most common and overlooked root causes is mitochondriopathy. Guess what?  Mitochondropathy is not even tested in 99.99% of doctor offices.  Often, patients are left to their own devices, prescribed depression medications or told that they are crazy!  Sound familiar?

What is Mitochondropathy?

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms.  Energy, in this case, is extracted from our food and then turned into a usable form known as ATP.  The energy that comes from our food is measured in calories, but the body must convert it to ATP to use it.  Food is digested and absorbed by the gut. Through the coordination of several glands and hormones, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins enter into tiny little engines inside our cells called mitochondria.  You have trillions of mitochondria in your body; this includes the heart, the muscles, the gut, etc. This is the very foundation of energy production for the human body.

Understanding Mitochondropathy and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Think of the food you eat like filling up your gas tank.  Gasoline (food) is useless unless you have spark plugs (nutrients) that work.  Each depends on the other for normal function. In the absence of adequate nutrients or inappropriate macronutrients for your unique physiology, the mitochondria (engine) begins to fail.  This failure is known as mitochondriopathy. This mitochondriopathy may also result from toxin exposure or accumulation, infections, and environmental insults. The result is persistent fatigue that is caused by a failure at the cellular level.  This dysfunction affects virtually every cell and system in your body, leading to widespread symptoms.

Measuring Mitochondropathy in those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Through a specific urine test, mitochondrial function can be evaluated. Here are the results from an actual patient.   This patient presented with extreme exhaustion and was prescribed higher and higher doses of thyroid hormone medication because her primary doctor failed to order the right testing!

Imagine her frustration when she realized that she had been misdiagnosed and mistreated for almost 15 years!  When your doctor orders the right testing, the problems become apparent. Unfortunately, most doctors are not trained to order and interpret this advanced testing that evaluates mitochondriopathy, uncover the root causes and connect it with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The Functional Medicine For Life Approach to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The image above is an illustration of the Citric Acid Cycle/Kreb’s Cycle. You should note that the nutrients listed in green represent co-factors (spark plugs) that help drive the reaction forward.  These nutrients include B1, B2, B3, Lipoic Acid, Iron, Magnesium and specific amino acids.  The markers listed in red, slow down or inhibit the process.  These include heavy metals like Mercury, Arsenic, Fluoride, and Aluminum.

This evaluation gives us profound insight into what is happening at a cellular level inside your mitochondria.  When a specific step is not occurring the markers next to each step will accumulate.  These markers are then excreted in the urine, where they can be measured, as seen below.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Once evaluated, a detailed action plan can be created to correct the imbalance in the mitochondria.  The markers in red are abnormal, green is normal. This treatment includes a comprehensive approach with diet and lifestyle modification, as well as targeted supplementation based upon each individual’s status. Remember you have trillions of cells performing this function.  The above images are the before and after of the patient mentioned above. In less than three months, she was able to resolve CFS and enjoy her life once again.

Dr. Crystal Whisler, DC,RN

If you would like to learn more about working with us to heal mitochondrial issues and chronic fatigue, go to our START HERE page and book a Discovery Call.

Dr. Crystal Whisler, DC,RN - Functional Medicine For Life

Dr. Crystal Whisler is known for helping patients live their best life possible with purpose and joy.  She is one of a few certified functional medicine practitioners in the country. She listens to patients concerns and uses cutting-edge functional diagnostic testing to help patients uncover the root cause of their health issues.  She uses lifestyle and nutritional medicine as a primary method of healing.

Dr. Whisler has a unique perspective on health, as she suffered from Chronic Fatigue and several debilitating health issues.  She found functional medicine to be the solution for her own health conditions and achieves tremendous results with her patients using these same principles and a personalized health paradigm.


Oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases; a mechanistic insight

Oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and, inflammation common events in skin of patients with Fibromyalgia

Mitochondrial Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial DNA Damage and Their Role in Age-Related Vascular Dysfunction

Bisphenol A induces oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in lymphoblasts from children with autism and unaffected siblings

Heavy metals and metalloids as autophagy inducing agents: focus on cadmium and arsenic

Effects of heavy metal cations on the mitochondrial ornithine/citrulline transporter reconstituted in liposomes

Resveratrol and the mitochondria: From triggering the intrinsic apoptotic pathway to inducing mitochondrial biogenesis, a mechanistic view

Intermittent and continuous high-intensity exercise training induce similar acute but different chronic muscle adaptations

Exercise training increases sarcolemmal and mitochondrial fatty acid transport proteins in human skeletal muscle