What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is defined by overwhelming fatigue, not relieved by rest, and at least four of the following symptoms for at least six months:
- Impaired short-term memory of concentration which significantly affects normal activities
- Sore throat
- Tender lymph nodes in the neck or underarms
- Muscle pain or pain in multiple joints with no joint swelling or redness
- New onset of headache
- A good nights sleep
- General malaise following physical exertion that lasts more than 24 hours
The Centers for Disease Control officially recognized this condition in 1988. Chronic fatigue syndrome is more common in women than men, and the majority of patients are in their thirties.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown and there are no specific lab tests to diagnose this condition. Some holistic practitioners believe that the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is infectious. Others believe that multiple factors promote the development of chronic fatigue, including:
- Nutritional deficiency
- Toxicity from the environment, food, and drugs
- Hormone imbalance, especially thyroid and adrenal
- Lowered immune function
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
Many people with chronic fatigue syndrome have had a history of exhausted adrenal glands and produce low amounts of cortisol and other adrenal hormones. Some holistic experts also find a high incidence of Candida yeast infection, leaky gut syndrome, food and environmental sensitivities and liver toxicity.
Chronic fatigue is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that it is only considered after other medical conditions have been ruled out.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can sometimes be confused with the following conditions that also result in fatigue. This includes:
- Adrenal Insufficiency
- Sleep Apnea
- Hepatitis B And C
- Orthostatic Hypotension
- Severe Obesity
- Cushing Syndrome
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Substance Abuse
- Generalized Anxiety
There is no known conventional treatment for the fatigue. Successful holistic treatment of chronic fatigue draws upon a range of therapies.
In order to help determine the underlying factors contributing to CFS, a number of tests are often conducted, including: darkfield blood microscopy, electrodermal screening, stool analysis, unrinalysis, blood test, hair analysis, liver detoxification profile, adrenal stress test, nutritional analysis, antioxidant profile.
Lifestyle and Environmental
Develop healthy sleep habits. Try to get to establish a regular bedtime. Gentle restorative exercise such as tai chi, swimming, yoga, and walking is important, even though many people may not feel like it. Research has shown that two-thirds of people with chronic fatigue syndrome benefit from exercise, although it’s critical not to overdo it.
Detox and cleansing diet for one to three weeks. Avoid all foods and chemicals that may be worsening symptoms. Wheat, dairy, corn, gluten-containing products (rye, oats, etc), sugar, and fermented foods are some of the most common food sensitivities. After the cleansing diet, the excluded foods are often re-introduced into the diet systematically to identify any aggravating foods. For CFS patients with candidiasis, all types of sugar, including milk products and fruit, should be avoided. Caffeine, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates such as white flour and white rice should be avoided.
Chronic fatigue syndrome may be related to the following syndromes in Chinese medicine:
- spleen deficiency
- kidney deficiency
- essence deficiency
- qi deficiency
- kidney yang deficiency
A typical Ayurvedic approach may be to improve digestion, eliminate toxins. A detox and cleansing program to purge toxins. Ayurvedic herbs include ashwagandha, amla, bala, triphala, and lomatium, which are combined according to the patient’s dosha, or constitutional type. The vata dosha is susceptible to chronic fatigue.
Nutritional Supplements and Vitamins
Beneficial bacteria can greatly improve digestion and reestablish a healthy microbial balance in the intestines. A typical dose is one to two capsules two to three times per day, taken on an empty stomach.
Pancreatic or vegetable-derived enzymes can supply your body with additional enzymes to digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Products differ greatly – some contain lactase to digest milk, others contain hydrochloric acid to assist the stomach, and still others contain ox bile to help with the emulsification and digestion of fats. A typical dosage is one to two capsules with meals.
Vitamin C helps with the immune system, is required for healthy adrenal gland function, and helps liver detoxification pathways.
Magnesium is involved in more than three hundred enzyme reactions in the body. It is found in green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Magnesium is essential for energy production, muscle function, nerve conduction, and bone health. People with chronic fatigue syndrome often have a deficiency in magnesium. Some people find that it improves energy, emotional states, and decreases pain.
Coenzyme Q10 is necessary for energy production and cell function. It also helps with the repair and maintenance of tissues. A typical dose is 60 to 100 milligrams daily.
NADH is a naturally occurring chemical that plays a significant role in cellular energy production. In supplement form, NADH has been used to improve energy in athletes and in individuals with chronic fatigue. In one preliminary study, 26 people were given 10 mg of NADH for a four week period and showed some improvement in symptoms during NADH treatment compared to placebo.
Carnitine is used by the body to convert fatty acids into energy. Some studies have found decreased carnitine levels in people with CFS. However, more research is needed in this area.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome often have adrenal fatigue or weakness. Supplements that tonify the adrenal glands are:
- licorice herbal supplement. DGL is a form of licorice that will not affect aldosterone levels in the body, used for people with high blood pressure
- Siberian ginseng
- adrenal glandular supplements
- vitamin C
- pantothenic acid (B5)