Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex acquired long-standing illness that exists for at least 6 months and is severe enough to reduce or impair daily activity by at least 50% of normal.
Symptoms are numerous and relate mainly to the dysfunction of the brain, gastro-intestinal, immune, endocrine and cardiac systems. Symptoms include:
- overwhelming post-exertional fatigue from mental or physical activity;
- dysfunctional sleep;
- muscle pain;
- problems with memory;
- sensitivity to light, touch and sound;
- problems with balance and standing;
- problems with body temperature and weight;
- recurrent flu-like symptoms;
- headaches; and
- enlarged, painful lymph nodes.
Generally there are no signs of muscle weakness, arthritis, neuropathy or enlarged organs (such as liver and spleen).
The symptoms are worsened by physical or mental exertion and are not improved by bed rest.
The cause(s) of chronic fatigue syndrome are very controversial and there has been much debate about whether the basis for the conditon is psychological or physical.
Proposed causes include the following:
- Psychological factors: may play a role in some/many cases, however chronic fatigue syndrome appears to be different to typical depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.
- Chronic viral infection: has been implicated in chronic fatigue syndrome, including Epstein-Barr, enteroviruses (a virus that enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract and thrives, to then move on to attack the nervous system), human herpes virus type 6, and others.
- Allergic reactions: a significant number of chronic fatigue syndrome patients complain of previous allergies.
- Exposure to chemicals, environmental pollutants or heavy metals.
- Severe physical trauma such as a major surgery or serious accident.
Many chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers report that symptoms started in relation to a viral-like episode that included swollen glands, extreme fatigue, fever and upper respiratory symptoms.
Diet and Lifestyle
Increase consumption of:
- nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds;
- high-fibre foods such as fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans and whole grains, as well as psyllium husks, slippery elm, oat bran, LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond meal);
- foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as flax seed oil and hemp oil;
- foods high in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pecans, legumes, buckwheat and oats;
- foods high in selenium, such as Brazil nuts; and
- possible supplements that may help include acidophilus and bifidus, digestive enzymes, B complex vitamins and coenzyme Q10.
Decrease or avoid consumption of:
- high fat foods, dairy, meat and processed foods, refined and convenience foods;
- alcohol and soft drinks; and
- Ensure adequate rest.
- Assess for allergies.
- Drink an adequate amount of water each day.
- Assess and reduce stress.