Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) could be called the mystery illness of this age. It is a common problem seen in medical practice that is not a progressive or degenerative disease. It may be an autoimmune disease resulting from a combination of viruses, allergies or hormone imbalances or a dysfunction of the immune system. CFS mainly affects young people and about twice as many women as men. This debilitating illness can last for weeks, months or years. Not everyone will respond in the same way.
A definition of CFS is unexplained persistent or reoccurring, debilitating fatigue that occurs suddenly. It is not a gradual tiredness associated with over work or stress but physical and mental stress can exacerbate the condition and prolong the illness. It is not substantially improved with rest.
Often work and study cannot be maintained at the previous levels. Personal and social activities are greatly curtailed. There may be an impairment of short- term memory, a sore throat, tender upper back, muscle pain and fatigue, multiple joint pains, disruptive sleep pattern, swollen lymph nodes, and reoccurring headaches.
There is no current laboratory test that seems to find any abnormalities associated with the disease. Depression seems to be a factor but then chronic fatigue can be very depressing. Behavioural therapy to develop a positive view is useful.
It is sometimes felt that it is a disturbance of the sleep and wake cycle. Some people manage better by increasing daytime activity and sleeping more at night. A light exercise programme that doesn't fatigue the body is recommended. Diet can be of assistance.
Boosting the Immune System
The immune system is often compromised so a diet boosting the immune system can help.
- Large quantities of fruit and vegetables are rich in natural antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotene and Lycopene and are good sources of potassium.
- Green leafy vegetables give folate, riboflavin, magnesium and vitamin E.
- Wholegrain breads and cereals will supply B vitamins, magnesium, manganese and selenium.
- Red meat will increase stores of iron, zinc, potassium, folate and selenium.
- Salmon, swordfish, and tuna are high in omega 3 oils that help boost the immune system.
- Legumes such as lentils, beans and split peas have a low glycaemic index, and are rich sources of manganese, magnesium, potassium, niacin and thiamine.
- Canola or flax seed oil, avocado, nuts and seeds will supply essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.
When appetite is poor, vitamin supplements are sometimes recommended. No supplement can compete with a well balanced diet. It is important to include the widest range of foods possible to help the body fight the fatigue.
Food Intolerance Diet
Many people respond to a Food Intolerance Diet. This means keeping away from food additives, colours and flavourings as well as watching spices and preservatives.
Avoid alcohol, as it puts extra stress on the body and will generally add to the fatigue.
Low GI Meals
Small frequent balanced meals emphasising low glycaemic index foods such as whole grain bread, pasta and legumes will stabilise blood sugars and increase energy levels.
Nausea, Bloating and Bowel Problems
Some people seem to benefit from an IBS diet. A few people may respond to gluten or lactose free diets.
What more can I do?
Physical and emotional stress lowers the immune system and can result in slower recovery or may cause a relapse. Onestep and one day at a time is the best approach. Supportive counselling, a healthy life style and a varied diet can be helpful with this debilitating condition. If you are tired and lethargic, do not assume that you have CFS. See your general practitioner for further investigation.
When you have been diagnosed with CFS, seek the guidance and nutritional support of an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) for assistance in all aspects of dietary care and to ensure balanced nutrition. Dietary restrictions without appropriate substitutes will lead to poor nutrition and not aid in recovery.