When you wake up, you’re tired. While going about your day, you’re tired. After just having a nap, you’re tired. Does it ever end?
This was pretty much my norm for two to three years before I found out I had chronic fatigue. I thought I was pushing myself too hard, so I started resting a lot more. I would go to bed at 9pm every night, to wake up at 7am. Even with this 10 hours of sleep, I still needed to take day naps in order to keep functioning throughout the day.
When I realised more sleep wasn’t helping, I thought it must be linked to a nutrient deficiency, like iron or B12, so I upped my intake of both supplements, and ate more iron-rich foods.
Again, not much change…
Finally, in desperation I went to see my naturopath and discovered that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) was the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue.
I’ve had this virus ever since I was 14, when I contracted glandular fever, but it was lying dormant in my body for years (after having fought off the glandular fever with antibiotics), and reactivated when I’d run myself down, way down, and stayed that way for too long.
My EBV often comes back whenever I find myself pushing too hard, but I see the warning signs much earlier now, and can pick myself up more quickly.
I haven’t been able to completely get rid of my chronic fatigue (I won’t until I’m able to remove the EBV from my body), but I have been able to heal my body to a certain point, where I’m able to live life as I please; I can stay up late now without crashing – not every night, just some nights – I can function on 6-8 hours of sleep without constantly waking up feeling exhausted. I can go weeks, sometimes months, now without signs of fatigue.
I’ve learned to look at this chronic fatigue as a blessing; it tells me when I’ve been pushing my body too hard. All I do now, when the symptoms start to arise, is give my body time to rest.
I’ve learnt to become more in tune with how I’m feeling, and not see my body as a machine that needs to keep pushing. I look forward to the down time; to rest, relax, and recuperate.
Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely frustrating at times, but I’ve learnt to manage it as best I can, and I’m slowly building up my immunity and liver to help fight off the virus completely.
Common Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Chronic fatigue isn’t just caused by EBV (though it is a common contributing factor), no, other causes may include:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Poor immune system response
- Viral infections (including HHV-6, HTLV, Epstein-Barr, measles, coxsackie B, parovirus and cytomegalovirus)
- Chronic low blood pressure
- Impaired methylation
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Celiac disease
- Food sensitivities or food allergies
- Oxidative stress
According to Dr. Axe, in addition to the extreme fatigue experienced with CFS, other serious symptoms include ‘joint pain that moves from one spot to another, muscle pain, poor concentration, loss of memory, enlarged lymph nodes, headaches, chills, night sweats, and digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).’
How to Overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
For a while after being diagnosed with CFS – even once I’d started seeing improvements in my health – I had this fear of going to bed late; I thought that if I went to sleep any later than 10:30pm, I’d wake up exhausted and the day would be a complete right-off.
It took me a while to understand that I didn’t need to fear the feeling of exhaustion or tiredness, my body was well enough now that I could function on less sleep and not need to nap to get through the day.
Conventional treatment protocols tend to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause(s). In fact, it’s not uncommon for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome to be prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping pills, with the side effects from these drugs sometimes being worse than the original symptoms.
Some natural remedies for chronic fatigue include:
1. Avoiding Food Allergens & Sensitivities
These include such things as:
- Gluten, dairy and other common intolerances. There are tests available that can help to identify food sensitivities in the body.
- Candida overgrowth
- Increase vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Food sources of B6 include; wild tuna and salmon, bananas, grass-fed beef, sweet potatoes, turkey, hazelnuts, garlic and cooked spinach. B6 can help alleviate fatigue and promote a healthy immune system. Food sources for B12 include; beef liver, sardines, tuna, raw cheese, cottage cheese, lamb, free range eggs and wild salmon, and in supplement form in a vitamin B complex supplement.
- Boost Magnesium and Potassium. Food sources of magnesium include; spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt and kefir, almonds, black beans, avocados, figs, dark chocolate and bananas. Potassium is needed for maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes. Foods sources include; avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, coconut water, kefir and yoghurt, white beans, bananas, dried apricots and mushrooms.
2. Rest & Relax
‘Rest’ means more than just sleep. Set aside one day a week when you don’t have any responsibilities, and commit to a full day of rest. Sunday is usually my day-off, and I’ll often take the whole day to sit with a book and just read to my hearts’ content. It’s a great way to switch-off from daily stresses, and give my body and mind a break. I also set aside one hour to meditate daily, and practice yoga for at least 15 minutes a day, which I’ve noticed has greatly improved how I manage stress.
Also, do not overtax yourself during the week.
It’s important to “unplug” from technology at least two hours before going to bed. Blue light triggers the mind to wake up.
For more information on natural treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, see here.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.
Do you or someone you know experience chronic fatigue? How do you manage it? Share below.
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/
Wong, Cathy. (Medically reviewed: May 25, 2020). Natural Treatment Options for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Very Well Health. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/natural-treatments-for-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-88222
7 Natural Remedies for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (Updated: September 1, 2021). Reader’s Digest. Retrieved from https://www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/8-natural-remedies-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/
Wilson, James L., ND, PhD. (May 4-6, 2017). Adrenal Function in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. American College of Apothecaries. Retrieved from https://acainfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Adrenal-Fatigue-Presentation-Wilson.pdf
Kinney, Kelsey, RD. (January 3, 2014). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Stress: A New Frontier for Treatment?. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-and-stress-a-new-frontier-for-treatment/
Kresser, Chris, M.S. (Updated: June 28, 2019). 5 Causes of Fatigue Your Doctor May Not Be Looking For. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/5-causes-of-fatigue-your-doctor-may-not-be-looking-for/
Kresser, Chris, M.S. (February 12, 2015). Chronic Fatigue – Treating the Cause Not the Symptoms. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/chronic-fatigue-treating-the-cause-not-the-symptoms/