Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Treating chronic fatigue syndrome can be straightforward when you focus on the underlying energetic systems of the body. For most Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating disorder that leaves sufferers constantly tired. This feeling of lethargy is not improved by rest and can be worsened by physical or mental activity. People who suffer from this disorder often function at a substantially lower level of activity prior to the development of the full-blown illness. CFS can last for many years and may be difficult to diagnose. According to Dr. Robin Terranella of Southwest Integrative Medicine, CFS is a diagnosis of exclusion and the diagnosis process can be frustrating for patients. Symptoms of CFS are similar to other diseases and a doctor must rule out a number of illnesses like fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis, neurasthenia, multiple chemical sensitivities, and chronic mononucleosis before determining that the problem is indeed CFS.
CFS is sometimes confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). While there are some similarities in symptoms, the diseases are vastly different. SAD is a seasonal disorder that includes depression in addition to fatigue and is more prevalent in certain areas of the country like the Pacific Northwest. SAD is often treated with vitamin D and sunlight or light therapy. Dr. Terranella notes "there is a strong link with viral infection as cause. EBV or Epstein Barr Virus is thought to be the causative agent. However, the amount of EBV found in health individual is comparatively similar to those with CFS. So while researchers are not entirely sure what the cause is, immune function and EBV is clearly linked with CFS. Still others report dysfunction with the mitochondria or energy producing centers in the cells. With CFS, symptoms are constant and not dependent on the season or sunlight as with SAD. CFS is a diagnosis of exclusion and there generally is a frustration until the diagnosis is made."
Doctors estimate there may be as many as one million Americans suffering from CFS. However, few of them have been officially diagnosed. CFS is more common in women than in men, and it usually affects people between the ages of 40 to 60. CFS occurs around the world in all ethnic and racial groups.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Symptoms of CFS include cognitive dysfunction, impaired memory or concentration, exhaustion that is nearly constant, not feeling refreshed after a full night's sleep, persistent myalgia, severe or unusual headaches, tender lymph nodes, and sore throat. Some patients have reported abdominal pain, irritable bowel conditions, bloating, chest pain, chronic cough, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, chills and night sweats, shortness of breath, visual problems, allergies to certain foods, odors, and noises, dizziness, depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, jaw pain, and/or weight loss or gain. There may also be intense feelings of isolation, guilt, and anxiety, which intensify the other symptoms and sometimes interferes with treatment programs.
Numerous medications can treat the various symptoms of CFS, but there is currently no cure or treatment specific for the overall condition of CFS. Many people seeking alternative treatments use ginseng (and other adrenal herbs), Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide, L-Carnitine, or Coenzyme Q10. Deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, and massage may also be helpful. Dr. terranella notes "intravenous vitamin, herbal, and nutrients can be extremely helpful for CFS. These nutrients target the energy producing center of the cell and n the process increase production of energy." Many patients have noted that Tai Chi can be beneficial by reducing anxiety and promoting a feeling of well-being. Some hormones have been used in treatment, such as has Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which may be given by a healthcare professional. Ayurvedic herbs may be used such as ashwagandha, amla, bala, triphala and lomatium. Other natural treatments include digestive enzymes, probiotics, vitamin C, magnesium, beta-carotene, licorice, melatonin, glutamine, whey protein, folic acid, and tyrosine.
While western medicine may have been slow to accept the legitimacy of CFS, its viral link has opened the eyes of many medical practitioners. Like many chronic health problems, CFS can be controlled by making lifestyle changes. However, the disease itself may make these lifestyle changes seem insurmountable. If a patient is exhausted, it can be tough to exercise and eat right. A consultation with a natural health practitioner may help you understand the power you have in controlling your CFS. If you are struggling with chronic fatigue, and your doctor has been unable to find another cause for fatigue, you may have CFS. While many patients do not fully recover from CFS, even with treatment, you can learn to balance your condition and your life. Living with chronic fatigue syndrome can be difficult, and CFS can profoundly impact your daily life, which requires people to make significant lifestyle changes.
Speak with a healthcare provider like Southwest Integrative Medicine for more details about how you can manage your CFS.