Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disorder that affects both the body, and the brain, and results in a wide range of debilitating symptoms. The disorder was only officially recognized by the Centers for Disease Control in the late 1980′s, though anecdotal reports from sufferers acknowledge that CFS has been with us for many years. Prior to the CDC’s confirmation of the disorder, many patients went undiagnosed, with their symptoms put down to either other maladies, or to hypochondria. Today, doctors and clinicians recognize chronic fatigue syndrome as a very real condition that demands proactive treatment. But where conventional medicine chooses to treat CFS patients with potentially toxic drug regimens, the holistic path offers a natural way to support and encourage the body to heal itself.
Causes and Symptoms of CFS
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome typically manifests in patients who are in the early to mid thirties. The disorder affects women more often than men, and presents with a variety of symptoms. Patients who suffer from CFS are subject to loss of concentration, short term memory loss, chronic headaches, and muscle and joint pain. CFS sufferers also report long periods of unproductive sleep cycles, as well as occurrences of a general, and unaccountable, malaise.
The direct causes of CFS remain unclear, though the disorder has been linked to viral infections, hormone imbalances, poor nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins and high levels of physical and emotional stress. Viruses, such as Epstein-Barr and some forms of the human herpes virus, appear to be closely linked to the development of chronic fatigue syndrome in some patients. Women suffering with thyroid disorders also appear to more prone to CFS than otherwise healthy patients. With CFS five systems of the body are almost always out of balance which opens the door to the disease. These systems are:
- Nervous system
- Immune system
- Hormonal system
- Digestive system
- Elimination system
Chronic Fatigue and Nutrition
Poor nutrition is one of the most significant triggers for chronic fatigue syndrome. A healthy diet is the first defense against CFS, and the best therapy for current sufferers. Begin by eliminating any foods that may be triggering CFS symptoms. It can be helpful for patients to keep a food diary, making a record of what they eat, and what symptoms they are experiencing. In this way it becomes possible to recognize, and eliminate, foods that seem to be linked to a worsening of symptoms. Often, patients may find that they have a mild allergic reaction to certain foods, and it is this which is triggering their CFS. Some common foods that tend to exacerbate CFS symptoms are dairy products, gluten containing foods, eggs, soy and corn. Fried foods, refined sugar, aspartame, and foods high in saturated fats along with caffeine and tobacco use can also trigger the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Good nutritional habits should be at the heart of everyone’s healthy lifestyle. Seeds, nuts, heart healthy proteins and fresh, preferably organic, fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of any diet, particularly for those suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome. Foods rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and spinach help to reduce cholesterol, fight disease, and bolster the immune system. For those with CFS, the addition of these nutrient rich foods will help their bodies to recover more quickly from symptoms, and may help to reduce the overall occurrence of those symptoms.
CFS and Blood Sugar
Chronic fatigue syndrome compromises the body’s ability to produce energy. For CFS patients it is important to stabilize their blood sugar and insulin production. Again, this is best done through diet. Foods with a low glycemic index, such as green vegetables, seeds, nuts and avocados, should be added to the diet. Foods with a low glycemic index also cause a smaller spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, helping the body to maintain a more constant energy level. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as refined snacks, starches, breads, rice and potatoes should be avoided, as they cause a spike in insulin levels and sabotage energy levels in an already compromised system.
Nutritional Supplements for CFS
In addition to a healthy diet, a regular regimen of vitamin supplements can help patients with chronic fatigue syndrome manage their symptoms. Vitamin B Complex is vital to the body’s metabolic functions, and helps to regulate the metabolizing of glucose, and the stabilization of brain chemistry. Regular doses of food source vitamin B complex can help CFS sufferers regain their energy levels, and improve memory and concentration. Regular doses of vitamin C can be taken to help boost the immune system, helping the body prevent, and fight, infections associated with CFS. Likewise, CoQ10 is very important as an antioxidant and as a critical supplement for energy production and also helps the body repair itself at the cellular level.
For years, chronic fatigue syndrome was dismissed by traditional medicine as a figment of their patient’s imagination. Time has shown that the patients understood what was happening to their bodies even when conventional doctors did not. Today, CFS is recognized as a serious condition that causes distress and discomfort to those that suffer with it. But through diet and nutrition, and the application of natural healing techniques, CFS sufferers can take back control of their lives and their bodies.