Approximately 17 million people worldwide suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is what it sounds like: extreme exhaustion that is chronic, lasting longer than six months and unrelieved by sleep or rest. CFS can be exacerbated by even the slightest physical activity (e.g. showering or brushing hair), and people who suffer from this condition may be so exhausted several days after minor exertion that they cannot get out of bed.
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms
In addition to fatigue, those with chronic fatigue syndrome may experience other symptoms, such as:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle pain
- Depression or anxiety
- Poor sleep that is not restful
- Joint pain that moves from one joint to another
- For those with headaches, new headache patterns or location
- Poor memory or difficulty concentrating
Chronic fatigue syndrome tends to affect women most often, at a rate of two to four times more than men. There is no clear cause of chronic fatigue, but some research indicates that it may be caused by certain viral infections, autoimmune disorders, or hormone imbalances.
This syndrome can be debilitating to the person suffering but also devastating to loved ones and caregivers. While researchers continue to study potential treatments, here are some current treatment options for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Vitamins and minerals for rest
One of chronic fatigue syndrome’s primary symptoms is the inability to have restful sleep. Although prescription sleeping medication is an option, long-term use can be dangerous and habit forming. There are several supplements that may help promote more restful, quality sleep without a prescription.
- Melatonin: The body produces melatonin on its own to signal the brain that it is time for rest, but sometimes it does not produce enough. You can prompt your brain to begin melatonin production by keeping lights in the bedroom dark when it is time for bed. Keeping a clean and clutter-free bedside table (and room in general) also helps promote sleep, as does going to bed at the same time and shutting off all screens (TV and computer) at least two hours before bedtime. If this does not help, start with a low dose of a melatonin supplement (500 mg) and see if that helps improve your rest.
- Theanine: Theanine is an amino acid that improves the quality of sleep. The tricky part is that it is found naturally in green and black teas, both of which contain caffeine. You could try decaf versions of those teas, or try a supplement. Take 100-200 milligrams 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
Vitamins and minerals for increased energy after a poor night of sleep
Unfortunately, sometimes sleep is elusive, and you may still have things to do the following day. There are natural supplements that can improve energy and alertness to get your through the day until you can rest.
- L-Ornithine: A body suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome often has too much ammonia in the blood. This ammonia can make the brain foggy and less alert. L-Ornithine can help with that foggy-brain feeling and increased alertness and mental acuity during the day. The dosage is two to six milligrams.
- Glycine: After a poor night’s sleep, glycine is an amino acid that may help improve cognitive performance the next day. Three daily grams can help clear up your thinking and sharpen your mind.
Whole foods for energy
Lack of vital nutrients can contribute to fatigue and lack of energy. It is important to eat whole foods that are a vital source of iron and magnesium to keep iron levels in the blood high and increase oxygen levels in the blood and muscles. Many people do not get their recommended daily dose of eight to 18 milligrams of iron and 310 to 420 milligrams of magnesium daily.
Although supplements are an option, reach first for leafy greens, white beans, oatmeal, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, and spinach to concentrate on upping levels of both vital nutrients naturally. Add vitamin C to increase absorption of iron in the blood and help build up your immune system at the same time!
Antidepressants for mood disorders
Coping with a chronic condition can be mentally taxing, and many with chronic fatigue syndrome also battle depression and anxiety. Antidepressants can help ameliorate the effects of depression, some of which contribute to even more fatigue and a deeper sense of malaise.
Prescription sleeping medication
Used carefully and under a doctor’s supervision, prescription sleeping medication can help provide a full, restful night of sleep when it is desperately needed. A person’s outlook can change drastically with a good night’s rest, and this may enable them to work with other treatments during the day.
Graded exercise therapy (GET)
This type of exercise therapy is designed by a physiotherapist for each individual patient. The therapist will evaluate the chronic pain patient and then design an exercise program that gradually increases in duration and intensity as needed. Exercise can improve mood and quality of life, but chronic fatigue patients often feel as if they can’t muster the energy to do anything. This type of exercise takes that into account.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
When combined with graded exercise therapy, CBT helps patients change their mindset surrounding their chronic fatigue. This does not tell them that it’s all in their head. Instead, it helps them to reframe their challenges and focus more on improvements and steps forward.
Complementary and alternative medicine
Many chronic fatigue syndrome patients report success with alternative treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and t’ai chi. Using these treatments can be helpful when a patient does not want to add prescription medications, or they feel as if they need to incorporate more holistic approaches to their treatment plan.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can be debilitating, but there are ways to approach treatment that can be helpful. If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic fatigue, which treatments have you found to be the most effective?
Image by Ansel Edwards via Flickr