Chronic fatigue syndrome

Are you tired, struggling 'to get back into the swing of things?'

If you are tired of feeling tired then please read on….

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a blanket term given to extreme fatigue without identifiable cause. Previously healthy, energetic women may experience a variety of symptoms, including extreme fatigue, weakness and headaches as well as weight gain & difficulty concentrating. For a woman suffering from chronic fatigue; even the most basic tasks such as making the lunches & getting the kids off to school can leave them drained for the rest of the day.

As a mother of four in my late 30's, I could not understand why I was so tired. I holidayed twice a year, had a supportive husband and my children were at school - I even had a cleaner; so there was plenty of rest in my life! - Yet I was robbed of my energy, and filled with aches and pain. A good day meant I would exist well enough to function in a most basic way and a bad day took me hostage. After years of battling, I was finally diagnosed with 'chronic fatigue syndrome'. Sarah

For some women it may occur after an infection such as a cold or virus. Or it can start after a period of high stress. It can also come on gradually without any clear starting point or any obvious cause. Giving birth can be a trigger point - especially if it was a lengthy & complicated birth.

Symptoms to look out for

In addition to persistent fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome has a number of symptoms, but these are the most popular:

  1. Loss of memory or concentration
  2. Sore throat
  3. Painful and mildly enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
  4. Unexplained muscle soreness
  5. Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
  6. Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
  7. Sleep disturbance
  8. Extreme exhaustion after normal exercise or exertion

What's the cause?

The exact cause of chronic fatigue is unknown. Several possible causes have been proposed, including:

  • Iron deficiency anemia or low B12 levels

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

  • History of allergies

  • Virus infection, such as Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus 6

  • Dysfunction in the immune system

  • Changes in the levels of hormones such as adrenal, thyroid, androgens, progesterone or testosterone

  • Mild, chronic low blood pressure (hypotension)

  • Poor liver function

  • Stress may also cause chronic fatigue syndrome.

  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Fatigue can be a symptom of many illnesses, such as infections or psychological disorders such as post natal depression. In general, see your health professional if you have persistent or excessive fatigue.

How to treat it

There's no specific treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome but you can aim to relieve symptoms by using a combination of treatments, which may include:

  • Lifestyle changes. Encourage yourself to slow down and to avoid excessive physical and psychological stress. This may save your energy for essential activities at home or work and help you cut back on less important activities.

  • Introduce gradual but steady exercise such as Pilates. This can help prevent or decrease the muscle weakness caused by prolonged inactivity. In addition, your energy level can often improve significantly.

  • Dietary changes. Support a healthy lifestyle by kicking bad habits such as eating processed foods & consuming coffee or alcohol. Choose foods that are supportive of what your body needs. Cut out gluten, dairy, pork and sugar and take a practitioner grade multi vitamin or try spirulina.

  • Improve your mood Depression can be both a cause & effect of chronic fatigue. Herbs such as Hypericum, Oats & B vitamins can help to improve your mood.

  • Aid existing pain with Glucosamine & Fish Oil supplementation

  • Improve & support immune system regulation with herbs such as Rehmannia & Hemidesmus.
Remember though, each of us will use a slightly different approach to getting well. There is no one 'magic bullet' that cures chronic fatigue syndrome. There are basic principles that work for everyone but you need to find out what works for you. Whether you have chronic fatigue or are just 'worn out' the New Year is a perfect time to get that energy back. You can have your life back - and better than ever!

Looking for healthy answers?

Knowing is healing. So don't give up when you can't find answers. Listen to your symptoms - they are your body's way of telling you something is not quite right. The choices you make from this day forward will have a direct effect on your future well-being.

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of MassAttack, is a practicing Naturopath specializing in the research and development of natural treatment programs for women with hormonal imbalances, which have contributed to such symptoms as weight gain, tiredness, cravings, low libido, anxiety and mood swings. She is both an accomplished writer and recent recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award 2006.  Visit her website