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How to Beat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is one of those illnesses that can take over a whole persons existence and make simple tasks seem like impossible challenges. CFS definitely requires a holistic approach as every individual is different, but hopefully in this blog post I can help people understand the illness more and find some sense of wellness in their illness.

My Story

I was diagnosed with CFS when I was just 17 years old. I had finished year ten, was halfway through year studying 11 and had just applied for a casual job at my local hungry jacks. I was feeling excited about the future and motivated to start earning my way and making my place in the world. Then I became unwell and everything changed. It started with body aches, a cough and flu-like symptoms. This lasted for at least a week. This was one of the worst illnesses I ever had and I could barely find the energy to move a few steps around my lounge room. My flu symptoms cleared up around a week later but my energy never returned. I felt just as wiped out and weak as when I first became unwell. I never attended my first job, school was out of the question as I could barely leave the house. My life felt like it was over.

Now keep in mind this was in the early 2000's and CFS was practically unheard of at this stage and very misunderstood. I began my illness journey, which basically consisted of a barrage of tests and every doctor under the sun telling me everything was in my head. I developed other illnesses such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks. My sleeping pattern was really erratic. I would stay up all night until 3am because I couldn't sleep and then sleep for 23 hours at a time. My fatigue was so intense I could barely muster up the energy to shower myself. After about 8 months of torture we found a specialist doctor who dealt with CFS. Visiting him was one of the best things that ever happened to me and started me on my wellness journey. He told me that it's not all in my head I did have an actual illness. He gave me a graduated schedule for small activities to do each hour of the day and this (over the course of months) got me back on track to feeling like a real human again.

Later on I went to university and I became a registered nurse, however, I never felt as though I had as much energy as everyone around me and always struggled with insomnia. I only worked part time and almost never did overtime as I knew I would just crash and burn. This is how I first learnt to honour myself and have balance in my life. When I started my naturopathy degree and found herbs that could support my energy throughout the day and help my insomnia at night. But I was only in the last year that I have considered the cause of all these issues. Yes I had an infection which is probably latent causing fatigue but I also lived on a mountain with very little sunlight and Vitamin D is so important for immune function and inflammation. I had previous trauma and stress as a child and adolescent. I was also struggling with unknown food allergies and had stomach pain attributed to IBS nearly every night. When I eat an allergen now and I have my head pounding and the fatigue I can think 'I see what that is now'. This is why I reiterate it is so important to find the cause rather than just take medicines forever (I don't take anything to sleep now as when avoiding allergens and controlling my stress with meditation I sleep quite well). But enough about me.

What is CFS?

CFS is defined as a medical disorder that lasts for at least six months that cannot be explained by another medical condition. Symptoms of CFS include:

  • an unrefreshing sleep

  • dizziness worse when standing

  • trouble with concentration, memory or focusing

  • fatigue

  • swollen lymph glands

  • joint or muscle aches

  • extreme exhaustion after exercise

Although, there are theories about causes such as a viral infection or stress, the cause is unknown.

CFS is high risk for women and young to middle-aged adults. Complications include: depression, loneliness, isolation, work and school absences.

What else could it be?

To diagnose CFS is basically ruling out other causes first. Other causes can be:

  • Allergies and intolerances

  • Insomnia

  • Cortisol dysregulation

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea

  • Malnutrition

  • Iron deficiency

  • Anaemia

  • Diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

It is common for those with CFS to have other disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety or sleep issues.

Diagnosed by:

  • fatigue interferes with normal activities

  • not alleviated by rest

  • worsened by physical or mental activity

  • of new onset

Treatment:

A holistic approach to treatment that encompasses that whole person is best as each person is different. There are many herbs and nutrients which support energy production and have been known to benefit CFS. Herbs like adaptogens and nutrients that support energy production in the body such as B vitamins can help.

Sleep problems need to be assessed and treated with lifestyle changes and possible herbal use where needed to improve calming neurotransmitters such as GABA and melatonin.

Exercise needs to be graduated as heavy exercise programs can cause more burnout and prevent recovery.

Cortisol dysregulation needs to be addressed with calming exercises and herbs to reduce cortisol at night and adaptogens to improve daytime cortisol.

It's more important to understand that CFS cannot be fixed overnight it is a process of gradual small changes and sometimes it will be two steps forward one step back.


If you have been diagnosed with CFS and are really to start your wellness journey with me, book an appointment today.


Love and light,


Branwen

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