Being tired all the time is a relatively common, albeit abnormal, aspect of modern life. However, when the fatigue is disabling and lasts longer than 6 months, it is termed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Sadly, those with CFS are often told by their providers and/or loved ones that the fatigue is all in their head leaving the individual experiencing self doubt, guilt, fear, and distrust in themselves and their loved ones. It is our intention to validate those suffering with CFS that their fatigue is real and to provide hope for healing.
Currently, over 1 million Americans suffer from this dis-ease that manifests with a lack of energy and motivation, in which, women are 2–4 times more likely than men to be diagnosed.
As the name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome implies, chronic fatigue is the main culprit of this disease, but does not tell the entire story. Chronic fatigue is characterized by a number of related symptoms, including:
Constant or relapsing fatigue
Fatigue that's not significantly helped by resting
Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities and work
Exhaustion and achiness after physical activities
Impaired memory or concentration
Waking up tired, even after a full night's sleep
Tender lymph nodes on your neck
Digestive disorders like IBS
Anxiety, depression, panic attacks
If you're experiencing at least four of these symptoms, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) might be to blame. But the issue with the term "chronic fatigue" is that it's only a description of how you feel—it doesn't explain why you are fatigued in the first place. Just as Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of symptoms that are messengers about something deeper occurring within the body, so too is CFS.
Let’s unpack this disease dynamic to understand some potential physiological and emotional causes.
Unfortunately, little is known about the true root causes of CFS, however, preliminary research findings indicate that the following can be at play:
dysregulated immune system
gut microbiome imbalances
food sensitivities and/or allergies
Chronic inflammation is a strong driver of CFS. Although, inflammation is not in itself a root cause, so it’s important to be able to explore the possible causes of inflammation, which is typically based on multiple underlying imbalances. Healing requires beginning with the foundational pieces followed by a deeper investigation into the underlying imbalances. To begin the healing, here are some steps you can begin now to overcome this debilitating disease.
1. Ditch the processed foods: Processed foods such as packaged products, sugar, refined/processed grains, fried foods and processed meats drive inflammation in the body. Instead, opt for an anti-inflammatory diet that’s full of whole foods.
2. Eliminate Food Sensitivities and Allergens: More and more research is pointing to a link between food allergies and sensitivities and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Allergies to certain foods, pollen, metals and other environmental chemicals may be causing the rising number of individuals with CFS.
The most common food sensitivities and allergens include: gluten, dairy, non gluten containing grains, corn, citrus foods, tree nuts, eggs, yeast, soy, night shade vegetables. Begin by doing an elimination diet while keeping a food journal to help you learn the impact foods are having on your body. Here at Sagebrush Wellness, we can also run a food sensitivity test if an elimination diet isn’t quite your thing.
3. Nutrient Deficiencies: Specific nutrient deficiencies have been linked to CFS such as B vitamins, Vitamin D, fatty acids, magnesium, zinc and carnitine. From a functional medicine perspective we want to look into what’s causing those nutrient deficiencies. Most common reasons individuals are deficient in nutrients is due to low consumption, stress, poor eating hygiene, and gut imbalances. While getting to the root of the nutritional deficiencies, nutritional supplementation might be necessary to boost the body’s supply. To access professional quality supplements, please click here.
4. Nourish Your Adrenals: Studies have shown a correlation in those with CFS to have low free cortisol during their waking period. There are numerous factors that can create a dysfunctional adrenal response including chronic stress, poor sleep, chronic infections and ongoing consumption of food sensitivities/allergies. Adrenal dysfunction can be a complicated matter to address and typically begins with a salivary or urinary test. However, a good starting place for nurturing the adrenals is to address the topics listed here as well as manage stress, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and get adequate sleep.
5. Heal Your Gut: Imbalances within the GI Tract such as H.Pylori overgrowth, SIBO or fungal overgrowth can not only impact nutrient status, but also disrupt adrenal function and mitochondrial status. Additionally, Your gut is your second brain and is actually directly connected to your brain via the vagus nerve. We recommend having a comprehensive stool test to evaluate your gut health. A good starting place is to incorporate Bone broth into your diet as it’s rich in collagen and glutamine, which are both helpful in supporting the gut.
6. Support Your Immune System: Chronic infections whether it’s viral infections such as Epstein Barr Virus, Herpes or Coronavirus or bacterial infections like Lyme Disease can create an inflammatory storm, disrupting the immune system and endocrine system. In addition to getting tested for underlying infections, consider blends of Siberian ginseng, samento, sarsaparilla, guaiacum, astragalus, resveratrol, and cat's claw for their immune-strengthening properties.
Lastly, we want to address the emotional connection behind CFS. Symptoms such as fatigue are the way our body’s communicate with us. A constant feeling of fatigue may be your body’s way of asking you to find joy and purpose in your life. To get to the root of the emotions underneath the fatigue, ask yourself the following questions:
What is my body saying no to?
Am I feeling mentally stimulated during the day?
What are my values and am I living in alignment with them?
What do I lose myself in? How can I do more of that?
What change might be necessary to free me from chronic fatigue and maximize my energy levels?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a multisystem based condition with multiple underlying imbalances that require a multipronged approach. To address healing, the whole person needs to be supported including the physical body, the mental body and the emotional body. If you or a loved one is experiencing CFS, please reach out for a complimentary discovery call.
This blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone.
Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner before implementing new recommendations and/or supplements.