Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, is a very complicated illness that involves many symptoms including debilitating fatigue.
This fatigue is so severe that it cannot be relieved by getting bed rest and can significantly interfere with daily activities.
Today, physicians can diagnose CFS by looking at a pattern of specific symptoms, both physical and mental. However, the causes of this disorder are still very much a mystery.
Researchers have pointed to several possible triggers such as: a faulty immune system, viral infections, or even nutritional deficiencies.
Additionally, researchers are exploring other things such as anemia, sleep disorders, low blood pressure, or even other metabolic disorders as having a connection with CFS.
Symptoms of CFS
Sure, everyone experiences a feeling of sluggishness from time to time. However, the fatigue of CFS is very overwhelming and lasts for 6 months or more.
It could possibly worsen after mental or physical exertion, and even getting a full night of sleep doesn’t relieve the symptoms. Fatigue is often in conjunction with other symptoms such as chronic pain.
Individuals with CFS often have chronic, recurring pain, including sore throat, muscle/joint pain, and headaches.
The muscle/joint pain occurs without any signs of swelling or redness. It is not really clear what actually causes the symptoms of pain, but it can be managed through physical therapy or medication.
In addition to the fatigue and the pain, individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome can also experience the following:
- Problems with memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disturbances in sleep
- Dizziness or weakness
Who is at Risk for Developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a fairly common disorder- over a million Americans are affected by this disorder.
Women are much more likely to develop the disorder than men- four times more likely, in fact.
It is true that CFS can occur at any age, but most commonly affects people in their 40s and 50s. It is thought that it could be hereditary, but there has been no evidence that CFS is contagious.
CFS rarely occurs in children and only occurs slightly more in teens. However, children and teens who do have CFS are much more likely to improve than those who are older.
If your child or teenager is diagnosed with CFS, you should find a specialist who can build an individualized management and exercise program. Also, find some other ways to help them to cope.
Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome without Medication
A standard treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome has not been developed yet.
However, many individuals have shown improvement through individualized programs for exercise and stress management.
Your physician may prescribe medications to treat the various symptoms of your chronic fatigue.
However, since there is no conventional treatment for CFS, many people seek alternative and complementary treatments. Some of those treatments are as follows:
This is an herb that has been used to combat fatigue and increase energy in Asia for centuries.
Research has shown that Panax Ginseng greatly enhances cellular immune function in those who have CFS or AIDS.
However, one study involving 96 individuals who suffered from persistent fatigue found that the Siberian Ginseng was not better at reducing fatigue than the placebo.
Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH)
This is a naturally occurring molecule that is formed from niacin, or Vitamin B3, and plays a crucial role in cellular energy production.
One study evaluated the effectiveness of NADH in 26 individuals that had been diagnosed with CFS.
In the study, participants were given either 1 milligram of NADH or a placebo for four weeks.
At the end of this study, 31% responded favorably to the NADH. Only about 8% responded to the placebo.
There were no reports of severe adverse effects. Though this is very promising, larger studies are necessary in order to prove the effectiveness of NADH.
Carnitine is found in almost all of the body’s cells and is responsible for transporting the long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of cells. It facilitates the conversion of these fatty acids into energy.
Some studies have revealed that the level of carnitine are lower in those who have CFS and has also been linked with impairments in tolerance of exercise, and muscle pain/fatigue.
However, some other studies have not found a link between lower levels of carnitine and CFS. Though L-carnitine is typically well tolerated, high doses can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset.
In some cases, you may experience an increase in appetite, an increase in body odor, and even a rash. Rarely, L-carnitine causes seizures in those with or without a pre-existing seizure condition.
CoQ10 is a compound that occurs naturally in the mitochondria of our cells. This substance is involved in ATP production, which is the main energy source of our cells. Additionally, it is an antioxidant.
This is a hormone that is secreted by our adrenal glands and also ovaries and testes (though in smaller amounts).
It can be converted into the body to other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Additionally, it is involved in sleep, memory, and mood.
DHEA levels peak when a person is in their mid-20s and declines slowly as they age. Studies have revealed that DHEA levels are lower in those who are suffering from CFS.
Very little is known about the long term safety of DHEA, so it should only be used under the close supervision of a physician and should only be used if lab tests indicate a deficiency.
Essential Fatty Acids
One treatment that has been used for CFS is essential fatty acids. One theory is that viruses cause the body’s ability to produce 6-desaturated essential fatty acids.
Supplementing with fatty acids helps to correct this problem. More studies are needed on using essential fatty acids to treat CFS because one study showed that using essential fatty acids improved the symptoms and one study showed that they did not.
This is the typical medicine of India and can possibly improve digestion and eliminate toxins.
Herbs will be used according to the dosha, or constitutional type, of the patient. In the case of chronic fatigue syndrome, the vata dosha is thought to be responsible.
No matter what approach you use to treat your CFS, you should always check with your doctor before doing so, just to be sure that there are no other conditions that need to be treated first.