Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), dismissively named the ‘Yuppie flu’ in the 1980s, is now recognised as a seriously debilitating disease. Kerry Bone, a leading Australian herbalist, believes that chronic fatigue syndrome is not a new disorder, but one that was called ‘neurasthenia’ in Victorian times.
- Unfortunately, as yet there is no definitive diagnostic test for CFS.
- To be diagnosed as suffering with CFS you must have tiredness in mind, body and muscles for at least six months with all other possible disorders ruled out.
- People who have CFS are indeed fatigued, some to the extent of being bed-ridden, and most find it a strain to achieve their normal day-to-day activities.
- The syndrome is often initiated by flu-like symptoms that never really go away or return intermittently.
- Low-grade fever.
- Heightened allergies.
- Oversensitivities to food, chemicals or other substances.
- Frequent infections.
- Weight gain or loss.
- Sleep disturbances including night sweats.
- Non-restorative sleep and nightmares.
- Sore throat; painful lymph nodes.
- Muscle aches and pains without signs of inflammation.
- Brain fog.
- As the immune system is depressed, opportunistic infections such as the yeast organism, candida albicans , takes advantage and often contribute to the symptom line-up.
What causes it?
- There is a frustrating lack of information about what causes this condition. Even more than for other conditions, CFS differs case by case, in possible causes and symptoms.
- One common causative theme is stress, whether from relationship fractures, death of someone you love, overwork or over-exacting personal standards.
- More women than men seem to be affected. A surprising number of sufferers are young, achievement-oriented go-getters who juggle careers, families and studies, and are used to being ‘on’ all the time. Adjusting to the torpor of CFS is all the more difficult for them.
- Athletes also succumb to CFS, overdoing anything including over-training will contribute to this syndrome.
- One theory is that a virus initiates CFS. Likely candidates include Ross River fever, glandular fever (Epstein-Barr virus) and even the ubiquitous herpes virus.
- Another theory is that CFS is caused by heavy metal toxicity.
It is thought that lead toxicity was partly to blame for the fall of the Roman Empire. Roman aqueducts and pipes were lined with lead along with eating utensils and the ubiquitous goblets that were made from it. Metals such as mercury, lead, aluminium, arsenic and copper can be present in our environment at relatively high levels. The early signs of lead and mercury poisoning include fatigue, muscle pain and impaired attention span – all symptoms of CFS.
What to do
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects the adrenal glands, nervous and immune systems. CFS patients are often very sensitive, emotionally and physically. Sensitivity is always the sign to start slowly with treatment. Pushing too hard will be counterproductive. Patience is necessary with this condition, for the patient and the practitioner.
- Eat food that is as close to nature, the less chemicals in your system the better.
- Avoid sugar as sugar suppresses the immune system.
- Avoid alcohol which is a nervous system suppressant.
- Avoid caffeine completely. Although you might feel you need a ‘pick-me-up’, stimulants such as coffee will only serve to flog an already tired horse. The same goes for nicotine.
- Food allergies are common in people with CFS. Treat accordingly. See Food Allergies
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as freshly made juices. It would do you well to invest in a juicer.
- Eat protein every day including organic eggs, and fish. If you are a vegetarian, ensure that you have plenty of vegetable protein namely, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- If there are signs of candida overgrowth go on the candida diet and program.
- Herbs are excellent for CFS. Combine at least one from each of the following three groups:
- Immune system enhancing herbs such as astragalus, withania, echinacea, andrographis, golden seal, poke root (If glands are up).
- Adaptogens such as licorice, rehmannia, Siberian and Korean ginseng, Rhodiola, tulsi.
- Nervous system agents such as St John’s wort, oats, zizyphus, kava, passionflower, valerian.
- Magnesium helps tired muscles and calms an overactive nervous system.
- Vitamin C and zinc are needed for the immune system.
- Coenzyme Q10 may help with energy levels.
- Take a good Vitamin B complex each morning.
- The Bach flower remedy, olive, is tailor-made for exhaustion.
The term adaptogen was first coined in the late 1940s, when it was used to describe a medicine that can improve the body’s response to stress. At that time, Russian scientists Professor Lazarev and his student Dr Israel Breckman carried out research into the effect on the body of stressors, such as extreme physical and mental training, air and space travel, extremes of temperature and chronic illness. Their findings? Basically not good. Herbs were then researched that reduced the effects of stress and increased physical and mental endurance and performance. These herbs were called adaptogens and include Siberian ginseng, licorice, Korean ginseng, schisandra, astragalus, gotu kola, tulsi, rhodiola and withania. Adaptogens are indicated whenever there is stress on the body or fatigue, making them the perfect choice for those with CFS.
- Rest is the most important remedy of all. Rest means rest, so rest when you are lying in bed – that means no TV, no internet, no reading. Restorative rest is not about lying in bed all day, it is about returning to be after being active to restore and replenish energy levels.
- An excellent piece of advice, by Australian Kerry Bone, world leading herbalistgain by Kerry Bone, for the treatment of CFS (and other illnesses where fatigue is an issue) is that as soon as you have got some extra energy GO TO BED. This is the opposite of what you would like to do, after weeks and months of listlessness all you want to do is run around with excitement. Wrong! You need to build-up your strength until there is a deep reservoir of energy.
- Reduce stress. The less you have to do the better. If you can, work fewer hours. Now is the time to call in all favours… babysitting, dog walking, cleaning the house.
- Learn some form of meditation and practice it at least 20 minutes daily. Transcendental meditation, tapes, guided visualisation or if you are strong enough you might like to go on a retreat that focuses on meditation such as Vipassana to kick start your practice.
- Warm baths with a handful of epsom salts.
- Some gentle exercise every day is important to prevent your muscles from shrinking due to underuse. Don’t exert yourself. Qi gong and tai chi are gentle oriental exercises that stimulate energy meridians.
- If you are not getting anywhere with treatment, it may be worthwhile checking for heavy metal toxicity. This is usually done with hair analysis testing.
- Restorative yoga poses such as balasana (child’s pose), and supta baddha konasana (goddess pose). For balasana, kneel on the floor and then sit back on your heels. Fold your body forward so that your chest rests on your knees and your forehead rests either on the floor or on a folded blanket. Either stretch your arms forward along the ground or rest them alongside your legs, facing your feet. For sputa baddha konasana, lie on the ground, with your head resting comfortably on a pillow or folded blanket. Bring the soles of your feet together, with your knees out sideways, as close to your body as you can. Take your arms out to the side, at a 45 degree angle away from the body. Stay in these positions as long as comfortable, 5 to10 minutes would be ideal. Another relaxing and restorative pose is savasana (corpse pose) and it is the ultimate letting go pose. Lie down on your back with your neck and head resting on a pillow or folded blanket. If your back hurts, place another pillow under both knees. Have your arms 15 cm away from your body. Palms facing towards the ceiling. Let your legs fall to the side with feet slightly apart. Mentally scan your body for areas of tension and allow them to relax. Buttocks, jaw, forehead and chest. Keep your mouth closed and place tongue at the roof of mouth, just behind your front teeth. Belly breathe. Chillax for 20 minutes would.
At a glance
- Avoid sugar as sugar depletes the immune system and adrenal glands.
- Avoid caffeine, the last thing you need is a nervous system stimulant when your nerves are exhausted.
- Avoid any known food allergy, for example, wheat, dairy, soy.
- Include protein with each meal such as lean meat, chicken, Fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes.
- If you have a candida overgrowth, see page XX for information on the candida diet.
- Adaptogen herbs are well indicated for CFS, these include withania, Siberian ginseng, rhodiola, licorice Keep taking them. In addition, taking herbs for the immune and nervous system are helpful.
- Coenzyme Q10 will increase energy production within muscles.
- It is very likely you got into this predicament by overdoing things. If this is the case, there is no time like the present to learn how to relax. This won’t come easily to you. Do it anyway.
- When you have more energy. Go back to bed and rest.