A Holistic Approach to Chronic Fatigue
By Leslie Vandever
Anyone who lives with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) will tell you that it’s a devastating disorder. It can have a negative impact on virtually every aspect of your life. Like the name suggests, CFS causes extreme fatigue that doesn’t ease with rest or sleep. But it’s far more than just being tired.
“Chronic” means that a condition or disease recurs again and again over time. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “fatigue” is “extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.” And “syndrome” refers to “a group of symptoms that consistently occur together or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome affects more than 1 million adults and children in the U.S. It can last for years. For a diagnosis, you must experience at least six months of overwhelming fatigue that doesn’t get better with rest and has no detectable underlying medical condition that might cause it. At least four of the following symptoms must accompany the fatigue:
· general malaise
· sore throat
· “brain fog,” including memory loss and difficulty concentrating
· unrefreshing sleep
· unexplained muscle pain
· pain in multiple joints
· enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
· extreme exhaustion that lasts more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
So far, medical science doesn’t know what causes CFS, though scientists believe it might be triggered by a viral infection, problems with the immune system, a hormone imbalance, or even stress or emotional trauma. So far, there is no cure, and there are no disease-specific medications for it. Given its complex and baffling nature, treating CFS can be frustratingly difficult. Symptoms often vary over time.
But there is hope. By taking a gentle, holistic approach that uses both natural treatments and remedies along with modern medicine, you may soothe or even eliminate CFS symptoms, at least temporarily. This approach includes:
· Working closely with and communicating with your doctor or other health care professionals.
· Focusing on the most problematic symptoms first. These may include ways to combat fatigue, sleep issues and their resulting “brain fog,” such as practicing good sleep hygiene; and treating depression and anxiety with cognitive behavioral or other mental health therapy, medications, natural supplements or a combination of all three
· Treating dizziness or light-headedness, which may include referral to a neurologist or cardiologist, then treating any underlying cause
· Monitoring prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements to avoid potentially harmful interactions and side-effects
· Using care with nutritional and herbal supplements Many patients report that these successfully soothe or ease symptoms, but you should discuss them with your doctor before taking them. Nutritional and herbal supplements are unregulated and, because of the lack of or few clinical trials, provide little or no credible information about or proof of their ingredients, potency or possible side effects.
· Maintaining proper nutrition Your body requires a healthy diet to function at its best. Many CFS patients are sensitive to some foods or chemicals; some nutritional or herbal supplements may even be dangerous to them. Talk with your doctor or nutritionist about your diet.
· Managing daily activities and exercise Because CFS causes such debilitating fatigue, learning how much activity or exercise you can manage each day is key. Exercise is crucial for overall health. Tailor it to fit your particular circumstances to avoid exhaustion and triggering symptoms.
· Improving your quality of life and overall health by using tools like cognitive behavioral therapy to help you manage your symptoms. CBT helps people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer; why not you? Other types of mental health therapy, including professional counseling and support groups may be helpful, too.
Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in Northern California.
· Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (2012, May 14) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on October 30, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/general/index.html
· Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (2013, March 3) National Health Services. Retrieved on October 30, 2014 from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Chronic-fatigue-syndrome/Pages/Treatment.aspx
· Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (2014, July 1) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on October 30, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20022009