Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex condition characterised by overwhelming tiredness over an extended period of time, lowered resistance to infection and a wide range of other symptoms. CFS is not a fatal disease, although it is very debilitating and can last for a long time.
The major feature of the condition is extreme fatigue which does not result from any type of exertion and is not relieved with rest or sleep. Many of the other symptoms are similar to flu symptoms but differ by being present over a longer period (generally six months or more). These can include:
Sleep disorders (insomnia or oversleeping)
Recurrent infection due to decreased immunity
Extremely sore muscles, with long-lasting discomfort following even mild physical exertion
Swollen lymph glands
Forgetfulness, confusion, inability to concentrate, depression
Recurrent sore throat and headaches
Research has not yet been able to pin down the cause of CFS, however current thinking is that it may develop when a virus invades the body at a time when the immune system is compromised. This may occur at times of increased physical or mental stress, during infection, or due to environmental factors such as exposure to industrial pollutants.
Sensitivity to a food, chemical, pesticide, household cleaning product, or other environmental toxin may also be contributing to CFS. Elimination of suspected items may be necessary, followed by reintroducing them one by one, to pinpoint what may be aggravating the symptoms.
Your healthcare professional will take a full history, perform a physical exam, and do a complete blood count to rule out other disorders that share symptoms with CFS, before diagnosing you with the condition. Additionally, symptoms need to have been present for at least six months before a diagnosis of CFS is made.
The natural approach to the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome involves a long and gentle process to help re-build the immune system and help the body to detoxify itself. Consult your healthcare professional for more information.
In times of ill-health, your nutrient requirements increase. A multi-vitamin and mineral formula should be added to your diet, even if it is healthy and well-balanced
Magnesium is important for proper muscle function and may help to relieve muscle pain and stiffness
Vitamin C A low-acid formula is recommended for those with a sensitive stomach; other antioxidant nutrients such as selenium and vitamin E are also recommended
Co-enzyme Q10 is involved with the production of energy in cells
Echinacea is a herb with a proven ability to improve immunity and improve resistance to infection
Herbs which support kidney and liver function are milk thistle, dandelion, cleavers and nettle. They may be prescribed for those patients in need of detoxification.
A well-balanced diet with plenty of rest and avoidance of stress is always advised. If you are able to tolerate exercise without aggravating your condition, regular gentle exercise should also be undertaken. It is important to listen to your body, and take rest when needed. Pushing yourself to do more than you are capable of is likely to make you feel worse. Keeping a symptom diary that records foods eaten, chemicals exposed to (everything from liquid paper to house paint can cause an aggravation), and how you feel can help you to understand your condition better. Smoking will further deplete your immune system and reduce your resistance to infection.
Always listen to your body and take rest when you need it. Pushing yourself too hard over an extended period will weaken your immune system.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex and debilitating condition that requires expert professional treatment. Every patient experiences different symptoms and will require individual treatment. Always consult your healthcare professional before starting a new course of treatment.