Tips on how to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome

Tips on how to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome

07 Mar 2022

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a complex disease (3) that causes unexplained exhaustion regardless of if you took part in an activity that is tiring, or not (1).  This can happen to anyone of any age whether they are a child or an adult (2).

The causes of chronic fatigue syndrome vary from trauma, toxin exposure, infection, stress, and genetics (1).  It is also often confused with depression (4) due to both having similar symptoms. However, CFS is diagnosed as persistent muscle, body pain and exhaustion, while depression is diagnosed as persistent low moods (5).  

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome

CFS is primarily experienced as constantly feeling a lot more tired or fatigued than normal (1).  This type of exhaustion is called post-exertional malaise (PEM) (2). This results in the feeling of not having enough energy for regular daily activities, and experiencing flu-like symptoms after exercise.

Other symptoms vary, but you may have CFS if you experience the following (1,2,4):

  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Sore throat
  • Memory problems
  • Restless sleep
  • Allergies and sensitivities to the environment
  • Blood pressure drop
  • Temperature Regulation problems
  • Migraine
  • Depression

How to exercise when you have CFS

Unfortunately, there is no cure for CFS per se, as it is a complex disease that is not yet fully understood. The best way to treat it is by managing symptoms and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (1,2,4).  This includes certain changes in how you work out.

Pacing during exercise

People who suffer CFS may not be able to exercise regularly, or as vigorously as non-CFS sufferers, because physical activity can exacerbate symptoms. CFS may result in a reduced tolerance to exercise, and over-exercising can deplete your energy to the point you have none left to go through your day.

Following this it is important to pace yourself and measure how much you can do within an exercising session. For example, if you want to run, keep a pedometer with you as it will help you measure how much distance you can cover until you are tired. Once you have established your limit, you can gradually work on pushing that limit further without overexerting yourself (1, 2).

Know when to stop or try something else

Remember to stop any physical activity you're doing if you feel symptoms flaring up. It is important not to push yourself to do any physical activity or exercise that you feel like you cannot comfortably manage.

It helps to keep an activity diary so you can keep track of the kinds of activities you do, their effect on you, or whether symptoms flare up. This might help guide you on the kinds of exercises you can do over the long run.

Healthy diet

A healthy lifestyle includes eating the right food. Here are some of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that can help you keep your energy levels up.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Nutrients, Vitamins, and Minerals

Iron

Iron supports energy production. It plays an important role in the chemical processes that produce energy for the body, as well as in the transport of oxygen through the bloodstream (7).

Iron is your main source for producing hemoglobin, the protein within red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen to your entire body. Healthy hemoglobin levels in your blood indicate a good amount of iron and the optimum ability for your cells to absorb oxygen (7).

It is also responsible for producing myoglobin, the protein responsible for supplying and storing oxygen in your muscles, allowing your body to move (7, 10)  

Iron is found in various meats such as beef, pork, chicken, fish, and lamb. It is also found in iron-fortified foods such as whole grains, and in vegetables such as prunes, broccoli, and beans (7,8,9).  

Ashwagandha

Also known as Indian ginseng, Ashwagandha is a herb native to India and Southeast Asia and is often used in Ayurvedic medicine as a rejuvenating remedy. The effects of this remedy include stress symptoms relief, supporting a healthy stress response in the body, enhancing the body’s adaptation to stress and increasing sleep quality (11,12,13).

Magnesium

This is a versatile mineral with several functions in your body. Magnesium can be found within foods of high fibre such as fruits, whole grains, dark chocolate, almonds, black beans, fish and more (16). It is known to support your nervous system health, heart health, and relieve muscle spasms. As an agent for producing ATP, magnesium is also used in the body to support energy production (14, 15)

Acetyl L Carnitine

This amino acid is used to help produce energy for the body. It helps by linking different fatty acid chains within your body and then transporting them into your mitochondria (the powerhouse of your cells).  This amino acid can be found in animal products such as milk, meat, poultry, and fish (18).  

B-Complex

This is a combination of various B-vitamins. These vitamins are essential in supporting the production of energy for your body (19, 22).  B-vitamins are found separately across different foods from poultry to milk, and even vegetables.

Vitamin C

Most commonly, it is used by the body to support healthy immune system function and wound healing (21, 22).  This vitamin is mostly associated with the maintenance of myelin sheaths in nerves, red blood cell formation, and fatty acid absorption for energy (19, 20). It can be found in animal products such as cheese, milk, and meat.


Learn about other nutrients:

Iron | Ashwagandha | Magnesium | B complex | Acetyl L-carnitine | Vitamin C | Vitamin B12

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

  1. Health Direct, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)”. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs. January 19, 2022.
  2. Better Health Channel, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)”. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs. January 19, 2022.
  3. Emerge Australia, “ME/CFS Information”. https://www.emerge.org.au/pages/category/mecfs-informationJanuary 19, 2022.
  4. Health Direct, “A Systematic Review of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Don't Assume It's Depression”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2292451/ January 19, 2022.
  5. Health Direct, “Iron”. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/depression January 19, 2022.
  6. Vitable, “Iron”. https://research.vitable.com.au/iron, January 19, 2022.
  7. Better Health Channel, “Iron”. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/iron January 19, 2022.
  8. Health Direct, “Foods High In Iron”. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-iron, January 19, 2022.
  9. Nutrition Australia, “Iron”. https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/iron/ January 19, 2022.
  10. M.T. Wilson, B.J. Reeder, “Myoglobin”. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/myoglobin, January 19, 2022.
  11. NCBI, “Ashwagandha”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548536/ January 19, 2022.
  12. Medline Plus, “Ashwagandha”. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/953.html January 19, 2022.
  13. Vitable, “Ashwagandha”. https://research.vitable.com.au/ashwagandha-plus January 19, 2022.
  14. Vitable, “Magnesium”.https://research.vitable.com.au/magnesium January 19, 2022.
  15. Health Direct, “Magnesium and your health”. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/magnesium#:~:text=Magnesium%20is%20a%20nutrient%20that,%2C%20stroke%2C%20diabetes%20or%20osteoporosis. January 19, 2022.
  16. Health Direct, “Foods high in magnesium”.https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-magnesium January 19, 2022.
  17. Rxlist, Acetyl L Carnitine https://www.rxlist.com/acetyl-l-carnitine/supplements.htm. January 19, 2022.
  18. Carnitine, “National Institute of Health”.   https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Carnitine-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=Animal%20products%20like%20meat%2C%20fish,1%2C3%2C5%5D. January 19, 2022.
  19. Better Health Channel, “Vitamin B”.https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vitamin-b January 19, 2022.
  20. Better Health Channel, “Vitamin B”.https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vitamin-b#cyanocobalamin-b12 January 19, 2022.
  21. Health Direct, “Vitamin C”. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-c January 19, 2022.
  22. Better Health Channel, “Vitamins and minerals”.https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Vitamins-and-minerals January 19, 2022