We all get tired from time to time. Maybe we didn’t get enough sleep or we over-exerted ourselves throughout the day. Tiredness is normal – but too much exhaustion could signal a serious problem.
A condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition where the individual constantly feels too tired to perform any activity – even the ones they enjoy. Worse yet, no amount of sleep or coffee can shake of the constant feeling of being tired.
Chronic fatigue syndrome affects roughly 836,000 Americans and a shocking 84 to 91 percent of people are not even diagnosed.
But what can cause a person to be tired day in and day out? Well…
Causes of chronic fatigue syndrome
Sadly, researchers aren’t certain what causes chronic fatigue syndrome, but they do have many theories about potential causes.
For one, Epstein-Barr virus or herpes virus-4 has been theorized to be a potential cause for chronic fatigue syndrome. Inflammation of the nervous system has also been theorized to cause chronic fatigue syndrome, and researchers believe it causes a failure in the nervous system.
Risk factors of chronic fatigue syndrome
Although a defined cause of chronic fatigue syndrome has yet to be determined, there are some risk factors which can increase a person’s risk of developing it. Risk factors include:
- Age – people over the age of 40 are at higher risk of CFS
- Gender – woman are more prone to CFS
- Previous illness
Signs and symptoms of CFS
Aside from fatigue which lasts for days on end, there are other symptoms of CFS. Symptoms of CFS are distinguished in two groups: primary and secondary. In order for symptoms to be attributed to CFS they must be present for a period of six months or longer, and the fatigue must not improve with sleep, rest or relaxation. Lastly, the fatigue experienced from CFS limits a person’s ability to perform normal tasks. Chronic fatigue is also accompanied by the following:
Primary CFS symptoms
- Malaise (extreme exhaustion and sickness) post physical activity or exertion
- Sleep problems
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Persistent muscle pain
- Joint pain not accompanied by redness or swelling
- Tender lymph nodes (located in the neck or armpit)
- Sore throat
Secondary CFS symptoms
- Brain fog
- Problems with balance, dizziness, fainting, difficulty maintaining an upright position
- Allergies to food, odors, medications
- Irritable bowel
- Chills and night sweats
- Sensitivity to light, blurry vision, eye pain
- Depression or mood changes
Common difficulties of living with CFS
When you’re tired, you know how difficult it can be to drag yourself out of bed and get on with your day. But if you experience that level of fatigue on a daily basis, living with CFS can become quite challenging and difficult.
Common challenges those with chronic fatigue syndrome face in their daily lives include:
- Constant changing of symptoms
- Reduction in stamina to perform daily activities
- Memory and concentration problems which can impede with work life
- Loss of independence, livelihood, economic security
- Changes to relationships
- Worries about raising children
With the daily challenge, living with CFS can bring on feelings like anxiety, isolation, anger and even abandonment. Due to the toll which CFS can take on a person’s life, it’s important to manage as best as you possibly can, utilizing all the available natural remedies and lifestyle changes.
Treatment, home remedies and lifestyle changes to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome
There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but that doesn’t mean treatment won’t help to limit the challenges those with CFS face on a daily basis.
Conventional medicine does provide medications which can help improve sleep and alleviate symptoms of depression and muscle tension. Other medications include antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen and stimulants; all help to relieve pain, improve concentration and boost energy.
There are also lifestyle options to help with symptoms, like exercise, reducing stress and saving your energy. Your doctor may recommend working with a physical therapist to create an exercise routine. Some research has shown that those with CFS who exercise have fewer symptoms compared to those who do not. Highly effective ways to minimize stress are yoga, deep breathing exercises, massage therapy, hypnosis, meditation and muscle relaxation techniques.
Therapy can also aid with treatment of CFS. There are two main types of therapy that a person with CFS can try: psychological counseling and physical therapy. We mentioned physical therapy already, so it would be wise to complement the physical aspect with psychological counseling as well. CFS can bring along a lot of uneasy, negative feelings that a therapist can help a patient work through.
Lastly, knowing what to eat and what not to eat can also benefit those living with CFS.
Suggested diet changes to fight CFS
As with any diet, whether living with CFS or not, it’s important to limit – or avoid altogether – your intake of processed or refined foods, added sugars, saturated fat, alcohol and caffeine. Instead follow these tips:
- Limit your dairy intake
- Enjoy leafy greens
- Consume flaxseed oil
- Eat whole grains
- Eat protein – eggs, meat, fish
- Stick with healthy fats found in olive oil
- Eat more fruit
- Be aware of any food intolerances
By sticking to these guidelines you can have better success in managing the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Although chronic fatigue syndrome may seem like a debilitating illness, with proper treatment and management you can continue to live a healthy life.