When you just wake up in the morning, you’re tired. When you’re going about your daily activities, you’re tired. Even after having JUST taken a nap, you wake up feeling tired! Can you relate?
I remember this was pretty much my norm for a whole year before I found out I had chronic fatigue. I thought I must have been pushing myself too hard, so I started resting a lot more. I would go to bed at 9pm just so I could have 8-10 hours of sleep before waking up again, and even take day naps on top of this to help keep me going throughout the day.
When I realised sleep wasn’t helping improve matters, I thought I must be deficient in certain nutrients, like iron or B12, so I started upping the dosage of both these supplements as well as eating a lot more plant foods rich in iron and pairing them with a vitamin C source like lemon juice to help my body absorb more of the iron contained in these foods.
These actions helped a little, but just a little. I was still exhausted and didn’t know why?
I turned to my naturopath and we found out that the Epstein-Barr virus was the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue. This virus had been in my body since I was 14, after I had glandular fever, but it had remained dormant for many years (after I fought it off with antibiotics), only to be reactivated again when I had run myself down too much, and for too long.
I am so grateful to have managed to fight it off with a mixture of different herbs and remedies my naturopath gave me, as well as ensuring I had A LOT of rest. So, in light of this, I wanted to share some natural remedies and steps to take to help overcome chronic fatigue, as well as ways to identify if you’re someone who may currently have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and may not even know it!
Crazy fact: Women are 2–4 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with CFS!
Other than the intense fatigue felt with chronic fatigue there are a few other symptoms that can often accompany it, like:
- Joint pain that moves from one spot to another
- Muscle pain
- Poor concentration
- Loss of memory
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Night sweats
- Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Significant changes in their mood, such as irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
It is still unknown what the cause of CFS is, as we still only know very little about chronic fatigue (not that long ago, it was believed chronic fatigue wasn’t a real thing, that it was “imagined” by those who had it. Crazy, hey?!). While researchers continue to search for the root cause of CFS, there are some studies which have found that hormonal imbalances, poor immune system response, viral infections, chronic low blood pressure and nutritional deficiency are contributing factors.
What’s more, research indicates that CFS may be linked to Celiac disease, food sensitivities or food allergies, and oxidative stress.
It’s believed by most researchers that it’s a combination of factors that can vary between each individual. Viruses that can cause CFS include HHV-6, HTLV, Epstein-Barr, measles, coxsackie B, parovirus and cytomegalovirus.
Ways to Overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Conventional treatment protocols tend to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying causes. It is not uncommon for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome to be prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping pills. The side effects from these drugs may sometimes actually be worse than the original symptoms.
Here are a few simple changes you can make and additions you can add to your diet and lifestyle to help treat chronic fatigue syndrome. I discovered them from Dr. Axe in his blog post on how to Overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
1. Eliminate Food Allergens and Sensitivities
There is more and more research pointing to a link between food allergies and sensitivities and chronic fatigue syndrome. Allergies to certain foods, metals, pollen, and other environmental chemicals may be contributing the the rise of CFS in individuals.
Gluten & Other Common Intolerances
One of today’s most common food sensitivities is towards gluten. Another common allergy, an intolerance to lactose, which is a casein allergy, may also be at the root of CFS.
It is suggested to consider taking an IgG (Immunoglobulin G) test to help you identify the foods you may be sensitive to — then you can eliminate them from your diet.
Along with an IgG test, it may be a good idea to add on a Candida albicans test. If Candida is left untreated, it can eventually bring about an inflammatory immune response and create holes in the lining of your gut, leading to leaky gut.
The Candida diet I followed when I had a candida imbalance was recommended to me by my naturopath, and is rich in foods like probiotics including kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as green vegetables, flax and chia seeds, and coconut oil. It also requires the elimination of foods that feed the candida in the body, such as sugar, fruit, alcohol and grains.
As I briefly touched on earlier, casein, a protein found in dairy, can bring about serious allergic reactions. A casein allergy is more than just a lactose sensitivity, as it is caused from the immune system producing antibodies to protect against the protein, and can cause the body to produce histamine. This can cause hives, nasal congestion, wheezing, the swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, face or throat, and even anaphylaxis.
Thus, the best way to prevent these symptoms from occurring is to avoid casein, which is found in high levels in dairy products, including yoghurt, milk, cheese and ice cream.
A bacteria known as H. Pylori is believed to also be a contributing factor. It’s actually common in about two-thirds of the global population, and can attack the lining of the stomach. If left untreated, it can lead to stomach ulcers.
Researchers found that once this bacteria was out of the body, the participants physical and psychological symptoms, including those from IBS, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, got better.
2. Increase Vitamin B
Researchers have found that there is a link between low vitamin B levels and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Vitamin B6 rich foods include wild tuna and salmon, bananas, grass-fed beef, sweet potatoes, turkey, hazelnuts, garlic and cooked spinach.
This nutrient helps prevent and alleviate fatigue, and promotes a healthy immune system. As I mentioned earlier on, some viruses are believed to play a role in CFS, thus, increasing B6 levels in the body may prove to be helpful, as B6 supports the proper functioning of T-cells, allowing them to fight infections better.
This process helps your body to eliminate toxins, make hormones, and even assists in the production of neurotransmitters like melatonin. If your body cannot carry out this process properly, this can lead to a variety of chronic conditions like certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, allergies, digestive problems, mood disorders, mental illnesses, and chronic fatigue.
Vitamin B6, folate, and B12 are required for proper methylation and cellular function. If you’re vitamin B12 deficient, this impacts the methylation process and can cause many problems that are shown to directly contribute to CFS.
Vitamin B12 helps to boost energy, lower risk for depression, prevent against neurological degeneration and protect against some types of cancers.
Vegetarians and vegans are often more at risk for developing a deficiency in vitamin B12, as it’s most commonly found in animal products. Foods rich in B12 include beef liver from grass-fed cows, sardines, tuna, raw cheese, cottage cheese, lamb, raw milk (milk that hasn’t been processed in any way), free range eggs and wild salmon. In addition to B12 rich foods, a vitamin B complex supplement can help (or is essential if you don’t eat animal products).
3. Increase levels of Magnesium and Potassium
If you have CFS, it may be a good idea to add these magnesium–rich foods to your diet: spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt and kefir, almonds, black beans, avocados, figs, dark chocolate and bananas.
These foods may help you overcome chronic fatigue, which is one of the symptoms of a magnesium deficiency, and also promote proper nerve function, healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure regulation, and countless more benefits.
Potassium is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes in the body. Foods high in potassium include avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, coconut water, kefir and yoghurt, white beans, bananas, acorn squash, dried apricots and mushrooms.
A deficiency in potassium can bring about symptoms similar to that of CFS: fatigue, irritability and muscle cramps.
4. Rest and Relax
It’s crucial that people suffering from CFS do their best to effectively manage stress, and relax.
“Rest” means more than just sleep. Set aside one day a week when you don’t have any commitments or responsibilities, and commit to a full day of rest. This gives your body and mind a break , and helps to fight stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. It’s also important not to overtax yourself during the week.
When it comes to exercise, those with chronic fatigue are advised to exercise at a controlled intensity, as HIIT (high intensity training) workouts can leave you feeling drained for several days afterwards.
It’s important to establish a regular bedtime routine, which includes a physical and emotional wind-down period. Yes, this means unplugging from technology – like computers, TVs, smartphones, etc. – at least 90 minutes before bed.
It’s ideal to keep your bedroom cool in the evenings to help promote good sleep, and keep the lighting soft, not too harsh. Make your bedroom a peaceful and restful area. Essential oils can be wonderful in helping to promote sleep too. Essential oils that support relaxation and sleep include eucalyptus, lavender, valerian, Roman Chamomile, marjoram, bergamot, clary sage, jasmine and ylang ylang.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
Lots of love,
McCoy, Kathleen, BS. (January 24, 2018). 4 Steps to Overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/health/article/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/