Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is not classified as a disease, but the term is used by many health care providers when a patient experiences unexplained, persistent fatigue for more than six months. About three out of every 1,000 Americans may suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. It typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 50 years old and it appears that Caucasian women are more prone to chronic fatigue syndrome than others.
Causes and Symptoms
At this time, there seems to be no primary identifiable cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, but many researchers suspect that there are multiple contributing factors, such as a hyper-reactive immune system and a viral or other chronic infectious agent. There are several medical conditions that could also cause prolonged fatigue, and the diagnosis that need to be ruled out include: depression, the Epstein-Barr virus, long-term autoimmune disease, pregnancy, sleep disorders, anemia, cancer, hepatitis, and diabetes, in addition to non-medical causes such as extreme exercise and excessive stress.There are many symptoms associated with chronic fatigue, but disabling fatigue and exhaustion are most prominent. Presence of at least four of the following symptoms concurrently may indicate CFS:
- Significant impairment in short-term memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Headaches of a new type or severity
- Joint pain without redness or swelling
- Muscle pain
- Tender lymph nodes
- Poor quality of sleep
- Exhaustion lasting more than a day after exertion
A physical exam will generally reveal only subtle abnormalities, typically lymph node tenderness or throat inflammation. Laboratory tests will most likely be normal. Physicians will frequently rule out other possible causes of the fatigue, and if nothing can be found, the patient will often be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome by exclusion.
Suggested Lifestyle Changes
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment or universally reliable cure. It seems that the best predictor of improvement is to remain as active as possible. It is important to have a physician who is sensitive to the syndrome, and avoid those who recommend expensive treatments that have no proven validity. The following treatments have been shown to be beneficial for many patients:
- Exercise. Some studies have shown that those who engage in exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, actually feel less fatigue and an improvement in normal functioning. Aim for 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity at least five days a week. Do not over-exercise; maintain a moderate-to-low pace.
- Stress-reduction exercises. Perform breathing exercises daily and practice a relaxation technique such as yoga or meditation on a regular basis.
- Be selective about support groups for people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Seek those that are positive and avoid those who give you ideas for new symptoms and convey the impression that the disease will be with you for the rest of your life.
- Try cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It can help you regain a sense of personal control, improve physical functioning, and reduce fatigue.
- Do not despair! Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a lifelong malady. Many of my patients have recovered well after one to five years of feeling ill. Do not expect to wake up cured one wonderful day. Do expect to have ups and downs, with the downs becoming less severe and less frequent.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is one of the most common reasons for fatigue.
- Be active. You need to expend some energy every day in order to have more of it.
Nutrition and Supplements
Try the following to prevent or lessen symptoms of CFS:
- Take my general antioxidant vitamin formula plus a B-100 B-complex supplement.
- Try eleuthero, 500 mg three times daily, and coenzyme Q10, 60-120 mg daily, both of which can help boost and maintain energy levels.
- Eat two cloves of raw garlic a day.
- Take astragalus root for its antiviral and immunity-enhancing properties. Look for products standardized to 16% polysaccharides and 0.2 % flavones. A usual dose is 2 capsules or tablets twice a day, unless the product directs otherwise.
- Stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can cause or contribute to fatigue.