Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) currently affects more than one million Americans, striking more people than multiple sclerosis & many forms of cancer (1). This condition is characterized by persistent fatigue, which can last for more than six months and does not heal with rest nor stem from any underlying condition (2). The onset is usually very sudden, but symptoms can last a lifetime.
CFS is generally treated by mainstream practitioners with antidepressants and painkillers. These may provide short-term relief, however will rarely result in long term remission of symptoms as they are simply a ‘band aid’ solution. To reverse chronic fatigue, you must understand and treat the root cause of the issue. For most, this will be adrenal fatigue or an underlying inflammatory or autoimmune condition.
CFS is a debilitating condition and those who suffer it often require long periods of time off work; which places huge strains on relationships and brings general feelings of unhappiness or helplessness. The flow-on effect from this may be financial stress, depression or relationship breakdown. Natural therapies can provide a successful way to reverse chronic fatigue naturally by healing the body one step at a time. We have seen the best results by focusing on boosting the immune, adrenal & liver function. Focusing on these systems will enhance the body’s immune defences, reduce systemic inflammation and restore the adrenal glands.
A word on adrenal fatigue:
Our bodies are simply not designed to keep up with the constant bombardment of stress triggers that we are exposed to on a daily basis, whether that be a work email, an overdue bill or an argument. This poses an issue as the body struggles to differentiate between the various forms of stress. Consequently, it produces the same response each time, regardless of whether you are in a life-threatening situation or just struggling to meet a looming work deadline. While the body's stress response is incredibly valuable in survival situations where it provides quick energy & focus, it is not designed to be consistently triggered. You can now see why the chronic stress we experience today is having such a large burden on our health, and can often result in CFS.
When we perceive a situation as stressful, the body triggers its stress response and goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. When this is triggered, the adrenals glands release adrenaline & various other stress hormones such as cortisol. This then triggers the release of stored glucose back into the bloodstream to give us a quick burst of energy. It also dilates our pupils to broaden vision and increases heart rate and blood pressure to pump blood to our muscles allowing for a fast escape. At the same time, our non-essential functions like digestion, immunity and reproduction are suppressed. While this response is incredibly helpful when in real physical danger, prolonged stress is detrimental to our health. Long term, chronic stress places a huge burden on the adrenal glands, which leads to adrenal fatigue. If not addressed, this acts as a stepping stone to CFS.
CFS is generally a result of an underlying adrenal or immune issue. A number of factors can contribute to this including chronic stress, viruses or infections, genetic dispositions, autoimmune conditions or hormonal imbalances (3).
- Sudden onset and persistent fatigue
- Sore throat
- Sleep disturbances
- Low-grade fever and chills
- Poor concentration
- Impaired memory
- General muscle weakness
- Tender lymph nodes
- Digestive disturbances
Nutritional Guidelines for Healing
- Start with a gentle cleanse - Do our 7 Day Food Matters Juice Detox. This is a great way to quickly reboot your system & release stored toxins. This is incredibly important if you have maintained a poor diet & lifestyle for a long period of time. This cleanse is filled with nourishing juices, soups & smoothies that will keep you feeling full and satiated.
- Go back to basics - Ensure half of your plate at every meal is filled with either fruits or vegetables as these superfoods are filled with nutrients that your body requires to heal. In general, consume a wholefood diet filled with vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, quality protein and nourishing fats. Avoid all processed foods, alcohol, caffeine and refined carbohydrates. If this seems a bit overwhelming and you’re unsure how to get started, let us guide you with our 21-Day Food Matters Clean Eating Program.
- Avoid stimulants - Take a break from coffee, black tea & soda. Caffeine triggers adrenaline to be released into the body, eliciting a ‘fight or flight’ response. Excessive caffeine intake places a huge burden on the adrenals and also reduces the absorption of key nutrients including calcium, magnesium and iron. This is a restorative time in which to slow down and listen to your body. Dandelion lattes are an excellent alternative, with a similar taste and the added benefit of supporting healthy liver function (4).
- Juice Daily - Have a fresh vegetable juice daily, choosing organic and cold-pressed where possible. We recommend juicing 4 stems kale, 1 lemon, ½ beetroot, 1 cucumber & 1 apple (if needed). If you are short on time, simply have 1 tsp of Food Matters Recommended Superfood Greens in water. These super drinks are full of phytochemicals, antioxidants and nutrients that help support the liver to eliminate toxins. They also help to alkalize the body.
- Essential Fatty Acids - Consume one of the following omega-3 rich foods daily; wild-caught oily fish (salmon, trout and tuna), hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds or walnuts. These foods help to regulating moods and minimize stress (5). They also have an adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory effect, both of which help the body to heal from CFS (6).
- Boost your B’s - Consume one of the following foods daily: eggs, organic poultry, brown rice and leafy greens. These foods are all high in B vitamins, which are crucial in CFS sufferers as long-term stress depletes the body's store of these vitamins, particularly B5, B6, and B12. These vitamins are essential for immune function, energy metabolism & blood cell production (7,8,9).
- Take a break from alcohol - Avoid all alcoholic beverages. Alcohol places a huge burden on the liver, brain, and glucose regulation. It also interferes with normal sleep cycles, something which you can not afford when suffering CFS (10).
- Vitamin C - Consume foods rich in vitamin C daily or use a wholefood supplement (4 g daily). Try adding oranges, capsicum, kale, berries, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. These foods contain powerful antioxidants that have the ability to improve immunity and aid detoxification in the body (11).
Herbal, Superfood and Supplement Therapy
- Magnesium - Take 500 mg of magnesium chelate before bed each night. Magnesium is involved in over 300 processes in the body, many of which relate to the brain. As such, deficiencies are associated with mental disorders such as fatigue, loss of concentration, headaches, depression, insomnia and irritability (12). As it is often deficient from our food supply, it is good to utilize a good quality supplement (13,14,15).
- Adaptogenic Herbs - With the guidance of a herbalist, take some adrenal support herbs like Withania, Rhodiola, Korean Ginseng and Siberian Ginseng. These herbs are unique healing plants which provide support and nourishment to the adrenals when the body is under stress. (16)
- CoQ10 - Take 400 mg of CoQ10 daily. CoQ10 contains powerful antioxidants which facilitate cellular respiration within the body (17). Supplementation has been found to reduce symptoms of fatigue in CFS patients as it helps to restore cellular function and reduce oxidation, which is often heightened during times of stress (18, 19).
- Probiotics - Take 50 billion units daily. Probiotics recolonize the gut with healthy bacteria which is crucial in CFS as one of the main contributing factors to the onset of this condition is altered gut microbiota (20). Additionally, it can improve mucosal barrier function which important as many people suffer Leaky Gut Syndrome at the same time. Lastly, it may positively influence mood in patients where both emotional symptoms and inflammatory immune signals are elevated. (21)
- Essential Fatty Acids - Take 1,000 mg of DHA in a combined formula daily. Omega-3 fatty acids have adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. This is crucial to restore adrenal health and reduce systemic inflammation (22)
- Restorative Practices - Practice gentle yoga, meditation or deep breathing for at least 30 minutes each day.It is important that we consciously slow down on a daily basis and allow our body the chance to switch to ‘rest & digest’ mode, which has the exact opposite effect within the body to the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is when the body focuses on restorative functions like sleep, immunity, digestion & reproduction. These practices also reduce the feelings of anxiety and fatigue associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (23)
- Take an epsom salt bath - Enjoy a warm bath with two cups of epsom salts before bed each night. This reduces stress & draws toxins out through the skin. Add some lavender essential oil to enhance relaxation & sleep (24).
- Keep a gratitude journal - Each morning, sit down and write five things you are grateful for that day. Either keep them in a beautiful journal or fold them up & place them in a jar. This helps us refocus on the things that really matter and prevents us from stepping onto the treadmill of stress from the moment we awake.
- Finish on a positive note - Using your bedside journal or notebook, at the end of each day write down the best part of your day. This helps you reflect on the day and reflect on the positive moments.
- Therapeutic workout - Choose a therapeutic or gentle workout over a high intensity option. This way you will still receive the healing benefits of physical activity yet without putting excessive stress on your already stressed body. For example, enjoy whole body activities like tai chi, walking, hiking, yoga or pilates. Take a break from activities that spike your heart rate, like spin, HIIT and CrossFit. Or simply slow down during these types of workouts to keep your heart rate lower.
- Take a sunbath - Spend 15 minutes in the sun daily during the early morning and late afternoon to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. This vitamin has been shown to improve fatigue-related symptoms (25)
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At Food Matters we believe that education is an essential aspect to any healing process. The more we know, the more we are empowered to make change and understand how to decode the messages our bodies are telling us. Here are some suggested resources for you to check out to support you on this journey.
You Are What You Eat
Food Matters is a hard-hitting, fast-paced look at our current state of health. Despite the billions of dollars of funding and research into new, so-called cures, we continue to suffer from a raft of chronic ills and everyday maladies. Patching up an over-toxic and over-indulgent population with a host of toxic therapies and nutrient-sparse foods is definitely not helping the situation.Read More
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25. Vitamin D Council. 2017.
This article is provided for your general information only and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional advice, particularly medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek medical advice from a qualified health practitioner which takes into account your personal circumstances, general health and medical conditions.