Hey readers, this is my third time writing for Healthy Living London. I write in my personal blog but I have written on here twice on delicious vegan ready meals and relaxing yin and gin yoga. I hope you liked my other articles. This time I am super excited to have written something a little different; an interview with Dr Rajendra Sharma. He is a fully qualified doctor with a specialist interest in Integrated Medicine. I am a physiotherapist by background and enjoyed getting the opportunity to ask another health professional some questions about himself and his slightly different but modern approach to medicine, as well as the very current topic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that could affect any of us.
Hi Dr Rajendra Sharma, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, what your background is?
Thank you. I am what is currently being termed an Integrated Medical Doctor. I am a fully qualified doctor, trained in conventional medicine, with post-graduate training in Functional, Complementary and homeopathic medicine. My special interest is working with patients with chronic disease and its underlying causes particularly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), cancer and other difficult conditions that respond poorly to conventional medicine.
I focus on optimizing health but also treating conditions with nutritional and non-drug medicine. Until recently I was the Secretary to the British Society for Ecological Medicine (the largest body of conventionally trained doctors working in Integrated medicine) and was the Education Moderator – in charge of continual professional development and training doctors entering the field.
This involved teaching about diagnostic investigations into environmental causes of disease such as metal toxicity, food allergy, pollution, chronic infection and mitochondrial dysfunction – all very relevant to CFS – and non-conventional therapeutic approaches.
I was the Medical Director of The Hale Clinic in the 1990s and, until 2012, Medical Director of The Diagnostic Clinic, where we forged new care initiatives in health screening. These included the broader introduction of genomics, cancer and mitochondrial testing.
What made you go into integrated health and ecological medicine? What does this actually mean?
My father was a doctor training to become a paediatric surgeon who, in the early ‘60s, became a pioneer in what was then called ‘fringe’ medicine and was later to become Alternative Medicine. I saw him work and resolve problems not dealt with by conventional medicine.
After medical school and a short exciting stint in the NHS, I joined his General Practice. I wanted to get to the root cause of illness and specialize in prevention as much as treating chronic conditions. I realised that there were few, if any, conventional options.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
For a CFS diagnosis to be given, the patient’s symptoms must include fatigue or lethargy, and this must have been causing a 50 per cent loss of physical and social function, for at least six months.
Four of the following symptoms must also be present:
Physical: sore throat, persistent infections, swollen and/or sore lymph nodes, headaches and pain in muscles or joints.
Psychological depression: impaired memory or concentration, excessive sleep requirement, appetite loss or gain and agitation.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, has only been recognized by the medical profession in the UK since the mid-1990s. In fact, it was only in 2002 that it received official status as a condition.
Unfortunately, a considerable percentage of doctors doubt CFS has a physiological cause and consider it a psychological issue. That said, stressful events, be they physical or psychological (such as professional, personal or social issues) may lead to CFS. CFS is more common in those who over exercise (athletes), lack sleep or have poor diets.
The conventional medical world has yet to embrace scientific papers published since 2009 that identify CFS as being associated with dysfunction of mitochondria.
These are the small parts of cells, numbering in their thousands in busy cells, that produce energy from sugar and oxygen. It has been shown that energy, known as ATP, made by mitochondria, is associated in nerve pathways that transmit feelings of fatigue to the brain.
Faulty mitochondria lead to a lack of available energy for the body’s cells to work so potentially any area in the body functions below an optimum level.
Any stress/adrenaline response can cause blood vessels to constrict, and blood flow to diminish, to parts of the central nervous system. Long term poor perfusion of oxygen and nutrients leads to fatigue and other symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? How might we recognise it if we had it?
CFS is just a label. Conventional medicine rules out conventional diagnoses such as hypothyroid, common infections, etc., and doesn’t really look at many of the causes, such as environmental toxins, metal toxicity, chronic viral and other infections as well as chronic stress and other issues that interfere with mitochondrial function.
What should we do if we think we have it? Should we seek help?
If you think you fall into the category of CFS, regardless of what diagnosis you may have been given (often one of a psychological nature), you should turn to doctors or health practitioners with established qualifications in functional medicine.
With or without undergoing tests on mitochondria, options can be offered for suitable treatment.
Do you see a lot of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Is it easy to diagnose or do you find that it is under diagnosed / misdiagnosed?
Yes, I do see a lot of CFS patents …or those who have been so labelled.
The majority have mitochondrial dysfunction and also have enough symptoms to fit into the conventional guidelines, BUT, I’d say there can be missed diagnosis (as opposed to a misdiagnosis).
Patients with results placing them in the ‘normal’ range should be being told the results are in the ‘Population Range’, but the result may not be, and often isn’t, normal for them.
For example, Vitamin B12 has a ‘range’ of 150 to 1000 pmol/ml. A result of 180 may not be normal for a patient if it has dropped from a life time of their individual level being 950.
This can also be said for thyroid testing.
Many chronic infections have the ability to make chemicals that supress immunity or hide from the white blood cells, so results do not always show disease.
This means B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism or chronic infection is often overlooked.
Can Chronic Fatigue Syndrome be treated or cured? What would this involve?
Current conventional therapy is centred around graded exercise, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and anti-depressants. It can be very effective and is always a good starting point as it is available to all on the NHS. There is often a slow recovery time associated with such treatment, but if benefit is seen in the first month or so then it is worth sticking to for a while.
As there may be many underlying causes to CFS, working with a Functional health practitioner and undergoing tests to clarify the best treatments, is a good way forward.
Nutritional advice, establishing a healthy exercise program and dealing with lifestyle choices must come first.
Using natural supplements, plant and herbal extracts, one can rebalance bowel bacteria, kill off chronic infections, bacterial, viral and yeasts/fungal or mould, including a common culprit Candida. Natural therapies can ‘upregluate’ detoxification at a cellular level and increase liver activity. Specialists here in the UK and Germany have specific protocols that I adapt for each individual – with, I believe, success.
If chronic (long term) stress is an issue then natural remedies known as adaptogens help the nervous system make calming and de-stressing neurotransmitters hormones along with meditation, yoga and various types of counselling.
There is evidence of non-drug programs that deal with all or any of the underlying causes of mitochondrial dysfunction and chronic fatigue syndrome.
In severe or unremitting cases I often use intravenous (IV) therapies such as Myers’, Protokol Inject-N and Phospholipid Exchange.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the first place?
Nothing specific as there are so many underlying causes. The usual advice for most questions about prevention is …eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, then exercise some more (!), avoid being overweight, work hard at what you enjoy and be happy.
Tell us about your book “Live Longer, Live Younger”.
It is, of course, the only, quintessential, ‘healthy aging’ book anyone will ever need, ever!
The first chapters give many tips towards life style and explains, in simple terms, how to plan your nutrition and select the best exercise for you as an individual. For example, does your genetic programming make you a ‘stayer-stamina’ exercise type or a ‘sprinter-short burst’ exercise person.
The remaining chapters focus on the systems in the body, and how to keep them healthy. My belief is – you are only as old as your oldest part.
Focusing on where you might be at risk is the key. I explain how to identify risk and how to improve longevity in the following areas:
- The heart
- The nervous system
- The hormonal system
- The gut
The book has tips and for the more intensive ‘anti-ager’, and I provide both maintenance and advanced protocols of testing, life tips, supplementation and, if you are not well, treatment.
Any final words of advice?
On CFS – you do not have to be unwell. Search for answers.
On Living Longer, Living Younger – don’t be complacent. Explore answers!
Thank you Dr Sharma for this great interview. We have had the chance to learn lots more about the less traditional medical conditions and again been reminded that sleep, exercise, healthy diets and balanced mental health are all essential for a good life. So let’s keep up the good work! You can even go to the website below and subscribe to their newsletter for more tips and updates.