In this article, you’ll learn and discover how to fight chronic fatigue syndrome with an all-natural energy diet.
Eating a healthy diet and getting the best nutrition can help you manage many illnesses, and that doesn’t exclude the persistent tiredness and mental strain of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
“As with any chronic illness, nutrition always plays an important role in keeping the energy up and allowing bodies to heal themselves,” says Morris Papiernik, MD, a specialist in chronic fatigue syndrome at the ProHealth Physicians Group in Glastonbury, Conn. “You want to avoid those foods that will rob you of energy or that will only give short bursts of energy. You are looking for nutrition that will be there for your cells, muscles, and brain for the long haul.”
By eating the right foods — the types of foods that everyone, not just those with CFS, should strive to eat — we all can give ourselves more natural energy and eliminate tiredness and fatigue. And for those with CFS, following that advice as closely as possible is even more important to get the chronic fatigue to help you need.
Foods to Avoid When You Have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
For chronic fatigue patients, the No. 1 piece of advice is to avoid processed, refined carbohydrates, such as the sugar or white flour found in foods such as white bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, and soda.“Sugar has multiple detrimental effects on CFS patients. It suppresses the immune system, increases inflammation, and stimulates yeast overgrowth in the intestines,” says Kent Holtorf, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist and founder of the Holtorf Medical Group in Torrance, Calif. “It also causes a rapid rise in blood sugar, followed by hypoglycemia [not enough sugar, which is needed for energy conversion, in the blood]. This hypoglycemia causes fatigue, anxiety, and sugar cravings, [creating] a vicious cycle.”
Dr. Holtorf also recommends avoiding the artificial sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet) and the additive MSG, which can cause adverse reactions in some CFS patients. “Avoiding aspartame can dramatically reduce pain and improve cognitive function in many patients,” Holtorf says. “MSG is also a common trigger of hypersensitivity reactions in these patients. It is not a true allergy, but it can exacerbate almost any symptom.”
Eating for Natural Energy
The list of what you can eat to help restore natural energy is much larger — and much better than what you have to avoid. And here again, these are foods most people should be eating anyway.
“I highly recommend a low-carb diet of unprocessed and organic foods to improve CFS symptoms,” says John Salerno, MD, a specialist in chronic fatigue syndrome with Patients Medical in New York City. “Focus on wild-caught fish, organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, organic eggs, and full-fat cheeses, which are all well-tolerated by CFS patients. Add dark-colored fruits, including berries, which are also recommended.”
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, also recommends increasing water, salt, and your overall protein intake. “Because of the adrenal hormone levels being inadequate [in some patients with CFS], people become dehydrated and need increased salt and water. The exception would be for patients with high blood pressure or heart failure,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Also, increasing protein intake tends to help maintain stable blood sugar.”
Another important recommendation that Teitelbaum makes is to eat frequent, smaller meals rather than three large ones. This helps you avoid gorging yourself and feeling awful later on.
However, Teitelbaum also emphasizes that different approaches help different people, so it may be best to work with a doctor and a nutritionist to come up with a good solution for you. “Overall, instead of a very defined recommendation, remember that each person is different, and one should eat what overall leaves them feeling the best,” says Teitelbaum. “Sugars may leave you feeling better immediately, but then leave you feeling horrible hours later. Take some time to see how foods affect your overall well-being.”