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Strategies to Help Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a health condition that affects between 1 and 2 million people   [1] and many of the people who suffer from it haven’t been properly diagnosed. CFS causes unending fatigue, muscle aches and utter exhaustion and affects so many people’s lives negatively.

The causes of CFS are wide and variable and can include exposure to viruses like Epstein Barr and bacterial infections like Lyme Disease, and hormonal imbalance amongst other things. CFS affects more women than men, and seems to be more common in people ages 20-40 but can affect people of all ages, and with all different ethnicities and backgrounds.

There are more and more medications aiming to treat CFS, however like many diseases there is a strong lifestyle and food component that can help many people who suffer from the disease feel some relief. Many of my clients suffer from CFS, and come to me wanting to discuss ways to help improve their symptoms and feel better. Over the years of helping my clients through CFS as well as other pro-inflammatory illnesses, I’ve come up with a few key components that can help both people diagnosed with CFS as well as anyone who may be undiagnosed and/or suffering from a pro-inflammatory illness.

Here are 4 anti-inflammatory strategies for anyone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (and for anyone who doesn’t, too!):

Make time for daily meditation.

Research shows that including meditation can really help those with CFS (and frankly all of us)Meditation helps to lower cortisol levels a well as improve breathing practices and mindfulness. [2] – if you haven’t tried it yet, you should.

If you’re not a meditation-type of person and prefer some movement with your breathing you can also try qi gong, tai chi, or yoga; all three of these are also great for promoting healthy breathing, can help to lower cortisol and can also help to add gentle movement, and release stress. A little goes a long way here.

Make your home as toxin-free as possible.

Whether you know it or not, our homes can often be more pro-inflammatory than you think. From the cleaning solutions we use, to the air quality, and more.

  • First, get some easy-to-care-for green plants- they’ll help to purify the air.
  • Second, get a HEPA air filter- they’re not expensive and clean air quality is key.
  • Third, keep bleach around for big messes, but transition to use natural cleaning solutions- there are so many accessible companies that make them (a 1:1 white vinegar/water blend is also good)—this includes sprays, detergents, soaps.
  • Finally- throw out the plastic you use to eat/drink from. We can’t get rid of it all—my favorite juicer and blender are plastic, but if we can get rid of at least the dishes and cups we use that are plastic, and/or never put them in the dishwasher as it can increase likelihood that those chemicals leach into your food.

Focus on gut health.

Researchers [3] are looking more into the connection between elevated types of bacteria in the gut in people with CFS, and finding that there is a connection and a frequent presence of unhealthy bacteria in the gut of those with CFS. Focusing on gut health may help (it’s a slow process but it certainly doesn’t hurt).

  • Eat more prebiotic foods- asparagus, bananas, green onions, oats, Jerusalem artichokes, bran, and apples to name a few. These foods contain prebiotics- that are effectively food for healthy bacteria that live in the gut.
  • Cut out artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, saccharin- as these artificial sweeteners may negatively affect the health of the good bacteria in your gut [4].
  • Start a mediation/ de-stress practice. Research suggests that stress can negatively influence the health and population of healthy bacteria in the gut.[ 5]

Eat more anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Though there is still more need for research with respect to specific benefits for those with CFS and anti-inflammatory foods, there is evidence that eating various nutrients can help with generally reducing inflammation in all of our bodies. Two really important components for CFS though are decreasing caffeine- caffeine can make us more tired and can elevate the stress hormone cortisol and can also mask symptoms of CFS. The second is reducing added sugars and processed foods in general- they don’t provide anything (or much) healthy stuff for our bodies to use, and often can take more energy for breakdown- and we need that energy. Try including more anti-inflammatory nutrients in your diet- if nothing else, it’ll help to promote eating fewer processed foods and more fiber, which is always a good thing for energy in particular.

  • Curcumin rich foods: Pretty much the only way to get this powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient is by eating foods with curry or turmeric within- or taking a supplement. You can also use curcumin (turmeric) in your smoothies, fresh veggie juices, in salad dressing. You should also know that curcumin is more easily absorbed when accompanied by pepper- so use them together in your food.
  • Bromelain rich foods: Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory nutrient that may help promote anti-inflammation in the body. Pineapple is the main food source of bromelain in food. Try to include pineapple as a snack or as a component of a smoothie or juice – or even a salad.
  • Magnesium rich foods: Magnesium is a key nutrient involved in so many key processes in the body, including muscle contraction and relaxation, hormone production, cortisol by helping to reduce stress and promoting overall calm. Try to include foods like nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, chia seeds), and green leafy veggies (kale, spinach, romaine).
  • Anthocyanin rich foods: Anthocyanin is an anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrient found in foods with a red and purple hue. Eating more foods with anthocyanin may help to promote overall health as well as anti-inflammation. For example, purple sweet potatoes, purple cauliflower, beets, cherries, blueberries, red cabbage, red onions.
  • Anti-inflammatory fats: Anti-inflammatory fats include mono and polyunsaturated fats as well as omega 3’s and may help to reduce total inflammation in the body. Here’s a few foods that can help you eat more of each.
    • Monounsaturated fats: olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, almonds, cashews
    • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (some of these contain omega 3 fatty acids too): chia seeds, flaxseed, mackerel, salmon, sardines, walnuts
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C gets a lot of attention for colds and viruses, but it’s actually an antioxidant and can help to promote anti-inflammation in the body as well. Include foods that are lower in citrus, as these can be bothersome for some with inflammatory-based illnesses. Choose broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mango, papaya, spinach, and kiwi.

Want recipes that can help your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Check out these!

Carrot and Avocado Salad

Turmeric Oatmeal