Sick and Tired?
An Rx may not be the answer to fighting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Here are some alternative ways to address the symptoms.
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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is characterized by a level of fatigue that interferes with normal daily activities. A person with CFS often experiences extreme exhaustion after intense physical or mental activities. Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with CFS.
The most commonly recognized cause is infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which also causes mononucleosis. However, CFS can be caused by several other viruses. The initial symptoms of CFS are like a flu that does not go away. Sometimes exposure to chemical toxins, such as pesticides, can trigger similar symptoms. Although doctors don’t usually investigate it, adrenal exhaustion should also be considered a potential trigger of CFS. Depression is an often overlooked symptom of CFS.
Diagnosing CFS is complicated. According to the CDC, a person must experience chronic fatigue for at least six months, plus have four other distinct symptoms, such as sleep that does not refresh, severely impaired short-term memory, muscle pain, and tender lymph nodes. A positive test for Epstein-Barr virus antibodies is an important clue.
Conventional treatments are limited and often include antidepressants and sleep-inducing drugs.
Eating and Lifestyle Tips
It is of paramount importance to remove all refined sugars and other refined carbohydrates, along with gluten-containing grains, from the diet. The diet should emphasize quality proteins (chicken, fish, grassfed beef) and a diverse selection of vegetables. Protein is rich in mitochondria, the so-called energy factories of cells and “mitochondrial nutrients,” and plants contain chloroplasts, which serve a similar function. In addition, moderate regular exercise helps, as does avoiding extreme swings in physical activity.
Think in terms of supplements that support energy production in cells. After all, energy levels are the sum of your body’s 30 trillion cells. Because energy production takes place in the mitochondria of cells, mitochondrial nutrients support key steps in energy production. Many of these supplements will benefit people with severe fatigue but without CFS.
B-complex vitamins. All of the B vitamins play important roles in cellular energy production, but vitamins B2 and B3 may be the most important. Both of these vitamins are part of other compounds that make the chemical form of energy known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Try a 50-mg vitamin B-complex supplement.
Coenzyme CoQ10. The focus of the 1978 Nobel Prize in chemistry, CoQ10 helps shuttle energy-carrying electrons along during a key step in the cell’s production of energy. Numerous studies have shown that CoQ10 supplements can increase energy levels in people. In one study, Japanese researchers reported that people were able to cycle faster and had quicker recovery times after just one week of taking 300 mg of CoQ10 daily. Another study, conducted at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, also found that both trained and untrained men and women had greater endurance after taking 200 mg of CoQ10 for two weeks. A small study by Peter Langsjoen, MD, of Tyler, Texas, involved healthy octogenarians taking CoQ10 supplements. All of the patients reported improved energy levels. One gained enough energy to resume chopping wood, a pastime advancing age had previously forced him to give up.
Carnitine. Cells require carnitine to transport fats so they can be burned for energy. A study compared carnitine supplements to a drug in the treatment of CFS. After two months, carnitine led to significant improvements in CFS symptoms. A study of 66 centenarians found that taking carnitine supplements daily led to significant reductions in physical and mental fatigue, along with improvements in cognition and muscle mass. Try 2–3 grams daily.
Lipoic acid. Europeans have used lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic nerve disease. Like other mitochondrial nutrients, lipoic acid contributes to the cellular production of energy. Some research indicates that a combination of lipoic acid and the acetyl-L-carnitine form of carnitine can improve both physical and mental energy. It also functions as an antioxidant that enhances the activity of other antioxidants. Try 200–300 mg daily.
Vitamin C. This essential nutrient provides multiple benefits. It is required by white blood cells to function normally, so it helps fight infections. A study of people with either CFS or Epstein-Barr infection (without CFS) found that very large amounts of the vitamin reduced viral antibody levels. Vitamin C is needed for the body’s own production of carnitine, which is involved in energy production. Try 3–5 grams daily.
Probiotics. There’s growing research indicating that the gut functions as a “second brain,” in part because some of its bacteria produce neurotransmitters. Researchers at the University of Toronto gave supplemental Lactobacillus casei or placebos to 39 CFS patients. The researchers reported that patients taking probiotics had significant reductions in anxiety. Try a multi-strain probiotic immediately after at least one meal daily.
People with fibromyalgia experience many of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), but there are important differences. While CFS patients complain of severe chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia is characterized by musculoskeletal pain. Most fibromyalgia patients are deficient in vitamin D. That and several other supplements, including B-complex vitamins, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), and glutathione can be helpful.
The Vitamin Shoppe
Carnipure l-Carnitine 3000 mg