What is CFS?
Symptoms of CFS include fatigue for 6 months or more and experiencing other problems such as muscle pain, memory problems, headaches, pain in multiple joints, sleep problems, sore throat and tender lymph nodes. CFS is most common in women in their 40s and 50s, but anyone can develop CFS and it can last for years. Since other illnesses can cause similar symptoms, CFS is typically very hard to diagnose.
So what causes CFS?
Unfortunately, there is no single definitive answer to this question. Prevailing medical opinion today is that CFS may be a common endpoint of disease resulting from multiple causes such as viral infection, traumatic conditions, stress and toxins among other causes. Medication is often prescribed to treat symptoms of pain, sleep disorders and other problems, but does not address any underlying cause(s).
From a nutritional perspective, we do know that there are likely to be a wide range of underlying causes. Your health care practitioner can help to identify underlying causes and support these with tailored nutritional interventions.
Common Underlying Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Symptoms reported by CFS sufferers are similar to the hallmarks of Gulf War Syndrome, which is now widely believed to be the result of massive exposure to organophosphate pesticides, coupled with the effects of nerve gas protection tablets. Studies have now found high levels of environmental pollutants in the blood of chronic fatigue patients. Studies have also shown chronic fatigue syndrome to be responsive to a nutritional treatment programme, which focuses on supporting optimal detoxification processes.
In a review article published in the scientific journal Integrative Medicine, author David Anderson wrote, “Stress has become the leading health problem in Western society. We are more ravaged by the consequences of stress today than at any time in previous history”. Unfortunately, as a society we are suffering from an epidemic of stress- related health problems and significant physical or emotional stress is commonly reported in patients with CFS. Supporting a balanced stress response through targeted nutritional intervention is therefore a key part of any CFS treatment strategy.
Studies have shown that people with CFS are more likely to have a history of allergies than healthy controls. A low allergen diet is therefore recommended as part of any treatment strategy in individuals with CFS.
Maintaining and supporting effective digestion is key to optimal health. Symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, flatulence and constipation can all indicate underlying digestive problems. Like all other processes in the body, energy production relies on a steady supply of essential nutrients and without effective digestion, these nutrients are simply unable to enter the bloodstream and reach the areas where they are most needed. Your health care practitioner will assess your digestive function and recommend additional support if required.
Fatigue is a classic deficiency sign of many nutrients, yet of all the nutrients tested so far, the most consistently beneficial for CFS sufferers is the mineral magnesium. Magnesium has many important functions for optimal health and is commonly found to be deficient in a typical Western diet. Many symptoms of CFS are consistent with typical signs of magnesium deficiency such as low energy, sleep problems, muscle cramps and spasms, muscular aches and pains and adrenal stress. Supplementing with GI-friendly, high-strength magnesium and additional necessary co-factors can help to support optimal levels of magnesium and correct underlying deficiency.
Your health care practitioner will advise whether it is necessary to exclude any foods from your diet for a short period, in order to identify possible food sensitivities. Common problem food groups include wheat, dairy and gluten.
Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol and sugary foods and drinks as these can all play havoc with energy levels.
Always choose wholegrain rather than white varieties of bread, pasta and cereals to support energy levels.
As far as possible eat simple, fresh, wholesome foods whilst avoiding heavily processed or refined foods and drinks.
Include plenty of brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet to increase your daily nutrient intake.
Increase your intake of nuts, seeds (and their oils) and oily fish whilst reducing intake of red meat and dairy products.
Drink plenty of fresh filtered water and herbal teas to support effective elimination of toxins from the body.
Consider including some deep relaxation into your weekly routine such as Yoga, Tai chi, Pilates and Meditation.
Identify any physical or emotional stressors in your life and take steps to address them.
It can take some time to fully recover from CFS so don’t try to do too much too soon – build up slowly and move forward in small steps.
Key Nutrients to Support Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Powder Formula to Support Balanced Detoxification
A complete balanced powder formula made with a base of low allergy potential rice protein that can be mixed up into a drink is an invaluable support when energy levels are low since it avoids the need to take lots of different supplements. Key nutrients to support optimal detoxification include a full complement of essential vitamins and minerals, in addition to amino acids, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, L-Glutathione, L-Cysteine, L-Glycine, Taurine, L-Lysine and L-Theanine. Potassium citrate may help to alkalise otherwise acidic individuals.
Herbal adrenal formula to support a balanced stress response
Herbal adaptogens, Rhodiola rosea, Asian ginseng & Cordyceps mycelium have all been shown to help support adrenal balance and can be particularly useful as part of a treatment strategy for CFS patients.
Your health care practitioner will identify any existing digestive imbalances and may recommend digestive support such as natural plant enzymes to support digestion and pureed papaya extract to support effective elimination. In addition, high quality probiotic supplementation may be recommended to support a healthy microbial environment within the bowel.
Your health care practitioner may recommend nutrients to support energy production such as NADH (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), coenzyme Q10, N-acetyl carnitine, vitamins B1 (thiamin) & B2 (riboflavin).
High strength magnesium support
Supplementing with a high-strength magnesium powder which includes additional necessary co-factors such as malic acid, taurine, glutamine, l-carnitine, calcium, molybdenum, B6, B12 and folic acid can help to support optimal levels of magnesium and correct any underlying deficiency.
Antioxidant protection is an essential part of any supplement programme in patients with CFS. Key antioxidant nutrients include vitamins C & E, glutathione, NAC, alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10 & polyphenols from grape seed extract.
Ongoing baseline support
In addition to dietary guidelines a high quality daily multivitamin and mineral formula and a high quality fish oil supplement may also be used for ongoing support.