Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is also called myalgia encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue immunes dysfunction syndrome, post-infection chronic fatigue, chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome and chronic mononucleosis syndrome, has only recently been classified as a disease. The cause is not clearly understood. It is probably the disease called “neurasthenia” in the 1860’s, anaemia, hypoglycemia, environmental allergy or candidiasis down through the ages. Some feel it is due to an infection by the Epstein-Barr virus, a common virus to which most Americans have been exposed. The majority of these patients have been observed to have allergies, which suggests the possibility that it could be a hypersensitive immune system reaction. Other researchers feel that Herpesvirus Type 6 may be the causative agent. Chronic fatigue syndrome may also be another manifestation of fibrositis syndrome. A California researcher suggests an association with rubella immunizations and calls for further research in this area.
The true incidence is not known, but chronic fatigue is said to be the seventh most common complaint heard by family physicians.
Chronic fatigue syndrome came to the attention of the public in 1985, with the outbreak of a strange fatigue-associated cluster of symptoms that occurred in the Lake Tahoe, Nevada region. A group of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, and Harvard University, went to the area to try to determine the cause. By 1987 more than 200 cases had been identified in the area. Most of the patients were young, female, and highly educated.
Overwhelming fatigue is often the primary symptom. Sufferers wake up exhausted despite a long night of sleep, and can hardly stay awake during the day.
The person may have swollen, tender lymph glands, achiness, sleep disturbances, memory and concentration disruptions, depression, headache, low-grade fever, sore throat, weakness, joint and muscle pains.
Some complaints of bladder problems, numbness, enlarged spleen or liver, eyelid swelling, nausea, diarrhoea, neck pain, coldness of extremities, ringing in the ears, muscle twitches, clumsiness, shivering, shortness of breath, abdominal cramping, weight loss or gain, skin rash, fast heart rate, chest pain, light sensitivity, irritability, cough, dizziness, blurred vision, and night sweats.
Symptoms vary in intensity from day to day, and throughout the day. Onset is often with flu-like diseases such as flu or mononucleosis, or viral diseases such as bronchitis, hepatitis, or gastrointestinal disease. These symptoms persist even after the associated disease would be expected to be gone.
Diagnosis is elusive as there is no definitive test available. Diagnosis is made primarily by eliminating other causes of fatigue. Medical science currently has no recognized treatment, but there are effective home remedies and lifestyle changes that many have found beneficial or curative. The patient must take primary responsibility for his health care. Rest must be balanced by exercise, the diet must be carefully regulated, and excessive and prolonged stress should be avoided. Symptoms sometimes remit or may wax and wane over the course of a year. Recovery may occur over a period of years, with setbacks from infections or over-exertion.
Diet & Nutrition
- The diet should be low in fat, and high in unrefined carbohydrates. Physical endurance has been shown to be decreased on a high-fat diet.
- Eliminate all free fats (fats added to foods in preparation, or at the table).
- The nutrition rule to follow is to eat freely of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Anything else would be added sparingly, if at all. That would call for the sparing use of salt, sugar, honey, nutritional supplements of all kinds, nutritional yeast, etc.
- We recommend the complete elimination of all free fats (margarine, mayonnaise, cheese, fried foods, cooking fats, salad oils and butter made from nuts and seeds (peanut butter, tahini, etc.), spices, (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black and red pepper, allspice), baking soda and powder.
- Food should be taken only at mealtimes; eating between meals forces the digestive system to work when it should have the opportunity to rest. Suppers taken late in the day force the digestive system to work during the night hours. Breakfast should be hearty, lunch substantial, and supper, if eaten, light and early.
- Meals should be eaten slowly, and thoroughly chewed. Unchewed food particles place an additional burden on the digestive system.
- Fasting one day a week, with the intake of plenty of pure, fresh water, may be helpful.
- Vitamin supplements are often recommended, but these place an additional burden on the body as it must eliminate the excess. Most nutrients have a see-saw relationship with each other. By taking one essential nutrient as a supplement you may depress another equally essential nutrient.
- Sugar, which is stimulating, should be avoided. A study comparing the effectiveness of a sugar snack and a brisk 10 minute walk in the treatment of fatigue demonstrated greater fatigue relief from the walk! Those who took the sugar snack initially had increased energy, but one hour later had increased fatigue and lowered energy levels.
- Elimination of toxins (alcohol, tobacco, medications, allergens) is essential.
Water and fluids
Adequate fluid intake is essential to the elimination of fatigue.
Thirst is not an adequate guide to water requirements. Fluid intake should be adequate to replace fluids lost.
Water is the beverage of choice. Fluid intake should be sufficient to keep the urine pale in colour at all times.
Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome have associated allergies. Those who suffer from food allergies will be benefited by a diet free of the foods they are sensitive to. The most common food allergens reported by chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers include milk, eggs, chocolate, coffee, red wine, and cereal grains (wheat, corn, barley, rye, and oats. Rice and millet may be tolerated).
Elimination of the food for four to six weeks may produce improvement in symptoms. People with food allergies often crave the very foods they are sensitive to.
Other allergens known to induce fatigue include cosmetics, perfumes, hair sprays, soaps, bubble baths, toothpaste, nicotine, and gas fumes.
Foods should be eaten in as near a natural state as possible, with minimal preparation. A good variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is the diet of choice. Fried and rich foods, spices, chocolate, tobacco, and alcohol should be eliminated. Many benefit from a dairy-free diet.
Some with chronic fatigue syndrome also have Candida infection. A two week trial of yeast-free foods may result in improvement. Avoid baked goods made with yeast, juices, mushrooms, vitamin B supplements, dried fruits and aged or fermented foods such as vinegar, cheese, malted foods, liquor, beer, or wine.
Regularity in bedtime and rising times assist the body in learning to sleep on schedule. If extra rest is needed the person should rise at the regular time, then return to bed later in the day, but never after meals as that can cause fat plugging of tiny arteries in the heart.
An irregular schedule is known to induce fatigue, as manifested by jet lag. Afternoon naps may interfere with night sleep.
Sleep before midnight is more likely to result in production of growth hormone which gives ambition and energy to adults. Try a 9:00 P.M. bedtime.
Alcohol and sleeping pills disrupt the normal sleep cycles and should be avoided. Immunizations should be avoided. As a general rule all drugs encourage fatigue.
Caffeine, found in many beverages, medications, and chocolate, should be eliminated as it may interfere with sleep. Caffeine and other naturally occurring chemicals in coffee, tea, and colas are often in themselves a cause of fatigue.
Steps should be taken to strengthen the immune system. Out-of-doors exercise and sun exposure are advisable. Sun early or late in the day.
Exercise should be done to tolerance on a regular schedule. Exercise helps depression and improves oxygenation of the blood, which is essential to energy.
The exercise should be something you really enjoy doing, as enthusiasm will permit one to exercise for longer periods.
Avoid competitive activities, as they are stressful.
Exercise stimulates the body to produce endorphins which fight fatigue and elevate the mood. It will also promote better sleep.
Give attention to proper breathing habits. Good posture and respirations from the abdomen rather than the chest are essential to proper ventilation. Do deep breathing exercises two or three times a day, and during periods of stress. Consider taking lessons in singing or speech to develop the diaphragm.
Overweight fatigue sufferers should reduce their weight to normal or slightly below. The heart must pump blood through three-fourths of a mile of extra blood vessels for every pound the body is overweight.
Constipation should be carefully guarded against by the intake of adequate fluids and fibre.
Many chronic fatigue syndrome patients report that standing in one position is more tiring than walking. When standing, shift the weight frequently, and sing, whistle or sigh deeply through pursed lips to encourage deep breathing. If the legs are tired after activities, attention should be directed toward activities involving arm movement.
Gargling with warm salt water and a heating compress to the throat may bring relief to sore throats. Chronic sore throat is a good sign of food sensitivity. Try to discover what the food is by selective elimination of a group of foods. If the sore throat goes away, add back one food at a time every five days.
Fever is the body’s method of fighting infection. Hot baths (101-102 degrees F.) may be used for 20-30 minutes once daily to produce an artificial fever, which will stimulate the immune system. Apply cold cloths wrung from ice water to the face or head to keep the head cool when the mouth temperature goes above 100 degrees.
Joint pains (also a sign of food sensitivity) can often be relieved with the use of either hot or cold applications. Use whichever produces the most benefit.
For more information contact:
Amazing Natural Medicine
Phone: 44- 756 2425 749
Silvia Rojas Reyes
N.D., Health & Life Couch
(Specialist in Lifestyle Medicine, Harvard)
“Healthy Lifestyle Matters in Prevention of Diseases”