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Nutrition and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is the name for a group of weakening medical complaints characterized by persistent fatigue and other symptoms that lasts for a minimum of six months.

Tips to Improve Energy

  • Drink at least 1½ litres of water daily plus fresh juices to detoxify the body and reduce muscle pain and fatigue.
  • If stress has played a major part in your life, your adrenal glands may be exhausted. A nutritional therapist can organise a laboratory test to investigate the levels of your stress hormones (cortisol and DHEA). Based on this information, symptoms can be improved with appropriate nutritional therapy.
  • Foods to enjoy: beans and pulses, fresh vegetables, organic white meat, fish, seeds and freshly cracked nuts, organic brown rice and millet, natural yoghurt, yeast-free bread, oat cakes, rice cakes, cold-pressed vegetable oils (for dressings).
  • Protein helps to build and maintain body tissue and balance the fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which could lead to fatigue. Protein can also alleviate pain and muscle weakness. Sources: lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and rice.
  • Many nutritional therapists have found that clients suffering from CFS respond well to an anti-candida diet so it might be worth getting yourself checked out for candida.
  • Some experts suggest that CFS is linked to the immune system which may explain why certain foods could worsen symptoms. A good place to start when trying to identify food sensitivities is to keep a food diary of what you eat and when you experience the worsening of symptoms which could help you spot any patterns.
  • Low blood sugar is common in CFS. Having blood sugar level tests may help eliminate this possibility.
  • Foods to avoid: sugar, yeast, refined grains such as white rice and white flour products, malted products – some cereals and drinks, fermented products (vinegar, soya sauce, alcohol), most milk products, fresh and dried fruit (high in fructose), mushrooms, tea and coffee, artificial sweeteners, soft drinks, fried foods.
  • An inefficient digestive system can result in feeling sluggish. In order to avoid this, whole grains should be included in your diet to insure that the digestive system is kept moving e.g. brown rice, barley, quinoa, oatmeal and whole wheat.

Supplements and Herbs

Supplements that may be helpful in alleviating CFS symptoms:

  • Antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C help protect cells from free radical damage and oxidative stress.
  • Probiotics such as acidophilus and bifido bacteria enhance intestinal colonies of friendly bacteria.
  • Milk thistle encourages detoxification.
  • Siberian ginseng, vitamin B5 and vitamin C support the adrenal glands.
  • Chromium and vitamin B3 have been shown to balance blood sugar.
  • CoQ10 is a fat-soluble coenzyme and involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate, the cellular source of energy. In addition to reducing fatigue, CoQ10 may alleviate muscle weakness and pain and reduce cognitive dysfunction. Its role as a free radical scavenger may lead to improvement in immune responses.
  • Essential fatty acids such as omegas 3 and 6, EPA, DHA, fish oil, flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil and borage seed oil are vital for maintaining the structure and function of cell membranes, particularly in the nervous system and can help reduce fatigue. They can also enhance immune system activity.
  • Magnesium may help reduce fatigue.
  • The herbs ginseng and Echinacea may help improve energy and boost the immune system.

NOTE: Before taking on any nutritional programme or herbal supplements as part of your CFS treatment, consult a qualified nutritionist through the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (www.bant.org.uk) or the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (www.nimh.org.uk).