Also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) still has no definite cause and can last for months and sometimes years. It can affect anyone and any age, but women aged 25-50 are affected the most. Some physicians still believe that the illness is psychosomatic – “it’s all in your head” sort of thing – even though it is officially recognised by Centers For Disease Control And Prevention since 1988. Most experts think CFS is caused by chronic viral infection with Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6). Another possible cause might be inadequate immune system function, e. g. auto-immune disease. It might also be closely related to another chronic condition called Fibromyalgia (FMS) where muscle pain is more prominent.
Other CFS contributing factors include multiple food intolerances and consequent nutrient deficiency, multiple chemical sensitivity, metal sensitivity (e. g. nickel, mercury, cadmium, etc.), low levels of certain neurotransmitters (e. g. PBMC beta-endorphin), thyroid deficiency, extreme physical and mental stress, adrenal fatigue and very high oxidative stress.
Common symptoms of CFS are obviously fatigue that is not alleviated by rest and not caused by other medical conditions, recurrent sore throats and sometimes low fever, frequent or sometimes constant muscle and joint pain, lack of concentration and inability to think clearly, migraines, sleep disorders and vision problems. Consequently, emotional distress, intestinal discomfort and depression might also present. It is very difficult to diagnose CFS properly. According to British (Oxford) diagnostic criteria, a person must have severe disabling fatigue for at least 6 months (!), with at least four of the above mentioned symptoms, in order to be diagnosed with CFS.
Chronic Fatigue Management.
To date, no medication exists to treat CFS. There are medicines available on prescription to alleviate certain symptoms associated with CFS, but many of them cause further problems due to side effects. The only way to avoid this and successfully manage CFS is extensive lifestyle changes. This involves overall health and immunity optimisation, reducing susceptibility to viruses and reducing mental and oxidative stress.
A good diet of whole, unprocessed foods that are high in fibre and antioxidants is important for detoxification. The more waste is in the body, the harder it is to manage chronic fatigue. Drinking enough water and avoiding alcohol and other dehydrating drinks is also important. Lean protein, good quality fibre, plenty of greens and other vegetables and a little healthy fats should be the basis of every meal. Sugars, especially processed ones, must be avoided completely as elevated glucose interferes with energy levels. It is not as tough as it sounds and once the taste buds adjust and blood sugar level stabilises, the cravings will disappear and eating berries will be just as enjoyable as eating a cake.
Pure whey protein helps to provide the sufficient level of amino-acids necessary for the production of Glutathione – one of the most potent antioxidants that we produce. Whey protein is also the easy and clean way to get all essential amino-acids for proper body function. So incorporating protein shake into daily menu might be a good idea. Make sure that it is a pure whey protein, with no sugar and other additives. It must be white, with no smell and very mild, naturally sweet taste. It tastes just like baby formula if anyone ever tried it.
Mate tea can provide a healthy energy boost during the day. Unlike caffeine in coffee, mate’s energy boost from its caffeine become noticeable in a bout 30 minutes and it lasts longer. Chosing Mate tea instead of coffee is much better option for caffeine fix.
Avoid unusual emotional or physical stress. Modest regular exercise such as Yoga, Pilates and swimming can help to maintain adequate body mass, muscle regeneration and joint flexibility without unnecessary exertion. If possible, invest in acupuncture treatments and massage to stimulate the blood flow and promote relaxation.
Supplements for managing chronic fatigue syndrome.
Antioxidants: vitamin C, natural vitamin E* and selenium, beta carotene or vitamin A, essential fatty acids*, zinc and food based antioxidants such as green tea extract and mixed carotenoids protect against free radicals that weaken the immune system. Stronger antioxidants might also be necessary, depending on reasons for CFS. These are: glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine* and alpha-lipoic acid.*
Immune system modulators/antiviral supplements:
- Echinacea is famous during winter season as “cold and flu” herb. What it really does is increase white blood cell count and activity, that destroy viruses and bacteria. Echinacea also speeds the migration of white blood cells to areas of acute infection.
- Astragalus root is another potent herb that increase white blood cell activity and it is also a so-called “adaptogen” herb that helps to relieve stress from both mental and physical activities.
- Ginseng is another adaptogen herb with a similar activities to Astragalus. It also helps to combat extreme fatigue and stress, and helps to increase concentration. Good quality, high-grade Ginseng is expensive, but worth the investment. It can be Siberian (Eleutherococcus) or Korean (Panax). Siberian ginseng is milder than Korean and many people find it easier to take.
- Essential fatty acids or just DHA (Omega-3)
It is important not to take powerful herbs such as Astragalus and Ginseng in combination. Choose the one that suit you most.
Anti-inflammatory supplements: essential fatty acids – especially omega-3, curcumin (turmeric)*.
Energy and metabolism support: CoQ10, NADH, L-Carnitine and magnesium. CoQ10 has actually been prescribed to CFS patients for its antioxidant properties and the essential role it plays in metabolic reactions, including the production of energy molecule – ATP.
Adrenal support: licorice and tyrosine. Licorice, or rather its active component – glycyrrhizin – stimulates the production of cortisone, which is often low in CFS patients. Tyrosine together with phenylalanine are amino acid precursors to dopamine and adrenaline and their deficiency are known to cause low energy. Good quality pure whey protein should contain sufficient levels of tyrosine and phenylalanine.
Stress: glutamine*, B6, magnesium.
Those with CFS often have elevated homocysteine levels and reduced glutathione levels. These issues also need to be addressed. B vitamins together with folate and SAMe reduce levels of homocysteine. Milk Thistle (Silymarin) and whey protein increase the production of Glutathione.
To summarise the essentials:
- A good multivitamin and mineral formula*, that contains strong B-complex and all necessary antioxidants is a must, especially for those who can not follow a good, balanced diet.
- Good quality essential fatty acids* or Omega-3 (DHA) on its own, up to 6g daily.
- Milk Thistle, according to package instructions.
- Immune supporting herb of your choice (see above), taken according to package instructions.
- Extra Magnesium, taken separately from multivitamin. 500mg daily. Can be gradually built up to 3g daily if necessary.
- CoQ10 100mg 3 times daily.
- Whey protein powder for all necessary amino acids.
The rest depends on the underlying factors of CFS and other conditions. Although studies suggest that most people would never feel the same as before they acquired CFS, many patients do feel better and some recover completely after just 6 months of extensive lifestyle changes, where stress is eliminated, diet improved and appropriate supplementation is used.
Supplements marked with * are available at Of Health And Beauty Store. Please note that I never make reccomendations in my articles for the purpose of advertisement, and getting the best available information across is always my first and only priority. When I do recommend any particular brand, I do so because I take the supplement myself and I am convinced that it is of good quality. Please read my disclaimer for further information.