Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is an illness that affects both the brain and bodily systems. It is characterised by fatigue that is not alleviated by rest and at least four of the following symptoms that occur for six months or more:
- impaired short term memory or concentration that affects daily activities
- sore throat
- muscle pain
- sore lymph nodes in the neck or under the arms
- pain the joints that is not accompanied by redness or swelling
- new or severe headaches
- sleep that is not restorative
- a feeling of general malaise that lasts for more than 24 hours after exercise
However, if you have been diagnosed with CFS or suspect that you are suffering from it, there are some natural therapies that may be useful in treating and managing the condition.
Psychotherapy and CFS
Psychotherapy is conducted by a trained practitioner and it helps with the mental aspect of CFS. Counseling, whether in an individual or group situation can help a person to improve their self-esteem and lifestyle, as well as to accept the condition itself. Psychotherapy allows a person to confront and explore their feelings about the situation, learn how to relate how they’re feeling to their loved ones, give the person tools to manage the condition, and help manage the depression that many sufferers of CFS feel.
CFS is a very stressful condition and one of the keys to managing it is to learn coping skills as well as learning to accept the limitations that you have while you are suffering from the condition. While it is a chronic condition, it is not a permanent one and psychotherapy can help to remind the person that there is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, as well as provide tools to cope with stress.
Herbal Medicine and CFS
Herbal medicine is a useful tool in the management of CFS. However, while herbal medicines are useful, it is important to note that they will not start to work instantly. To completely resolve the symptoms of CFS, it may take as little as four to six weeks or as long as twelve to eighteen months, depending on the severity of the CFS and any other health issues that the person is suffering from. Some herbs that are helpful with CFS include:
- Echinacea – this herb helps to protect cells during infection and it stops bacteria and viruses from entering the cells. It is useful for strengthening the immune system.
- Licorice – is an antiviral herb that is useful in the chronic phase of CFS. Licorice root also supports the endocrine system.
- Astralgus – enhances the immune function and it is good for cold and flu symptoms. It strengthens the production of white blood cells which are needed by the body in order to fight off infection and inflammation.
- Gingko Biloba – improves circulation and brain function.
- Chinese Ginseng – helps the body to fight stress and it also increases energy. As well, it fights off viral infections and supports the immune system.
- Siberian Ginseng – increases the body’s resistance to stress, fatigue, and disease. It also helps to improve mental alertness and is a powerful antioxidant.
- Goldenseal – is useful for helping to control infection.
- Milk Thistle – protects the liver.
- Pau D’arco – is helping for treating infections of candida.
- St John’s Wort – has antiviral properties and is also helpful for depression.
- Skullcap/Valerian Root – improves sleep, as insomnia is another problem that is associated with CFS.
- Ashwaganda – is a tonic that can improve strength, stamina, vigour and sexual energy.
- Cat’s Claw – is anti-inflammatory and also helps to promote the immune system.
- Kava Kava – is calming and helps ease the anxiety that is often associated with CFS.
- Olive Leaf – is both antifungal and antiviral.
Homoeopathy and CFS
There are many homoeopathic remedies that are useful in the management of CFS. You will need to consult a practitioner to find the best remedy for you but some remedies that are useful include:
- Kali phos – is helpful for fatigue that is accompanied by trembling caused by stress or overexertion.
- Arsenicum album - is helpful for exhaustion that is accompanied by anxiety, as well as a constant feeling of cold with joint and muscle pain.
- Nux vomica – is helpful for fatigue that is caused by lack of sleep, overwork or fatigue.
- Argentum nitricum – is helpful for a person that feels fear, has anxiety, and is secretive.
- Phosphoricum acidum – is helpful for those that feel emotionally or physically drained, or apathetic.
- Picricum acidum – is helpful for those that feel dreadful even after slight exertion, especially mental exertion.
- Silicea – is helpful for headaches and exhaustion that is caused by overwork.
- Zincum metallicum – is helpful if you are forgetful and tend to repeat things.
Acupressure for CFS
Acupressure can help to improve your physical condition as well as helping you cope with the tired, weak feeling associated with CFS. Some useful acupressure points are:
- CV6 (Sea of Energy) – this is located three finger widths below the bellybutton and pressing on this point can alleviate dizziness and confusion as well as help you to feel better overall.
- Gallbladder 20 and 21 – help to bring energy from the head and keep it circulating throughout the body. Pressing on these points can relieve fatigue and depression, as well as helping the immune system.
- Gallbladder 41 – helps to regulate the function of the hormones.
- Back bladder points – all of the points on the back bladder help to relax and tone the nervous system.
- Kidney 3 – regulates kidney function (in TCM, a general feeling of a lack of energy is associated with an imbalance in kidney function).
- Large intestine 4, 10, and 11 – pressing on these points stimulates the large intestine so that toxins are properly disposed of.
- Liver 3 – pressing on this point relaxes the nervous system.
- Pericardium 6 – helps to relax the chest and the mind.
- Spleen 6 – helps to strengthen the blood.
- Stomach 36 – helps to improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Bach Flower Remedies
Bach flower remedies are especially good for treating the emotional aspects of CFS. Aspen is a good remedy if you are feeling fearful but you cannot explain why you are feeling that way. Holly is helpful for relieving anger and mood swings. Hornbeam can help to relieve fatigue and a feeling of exhaustion. Impatiens is good for calming impatience, tension, nervousness, and irritability. Finally, mimulus is good for those people that are shy and timid.
Exercise and CFS
Exercise is one of the most important things in the management and treatment of CFS. This is because people that suffer from the condition do not exercise because they feel weak, and like they continually need to rest. This rest leads to muscle wastage which results in a person feeling even more tired. In time, this becomes a vicious cycle and exercise helps to break this cycle. Gentle exercise leads to stronger muscles which leads to increased performance, so that people feel less tired and so that they are able to do more. Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain, making us feel better emotionally. It does not matter what type of exercise you choose as long as it is gentle and can be started slowly at first. It is important to build up the amount of exercise that you do as too much exercise too soon can actually be counterproductive.
Nutrition and CFS
Nutrition is an essential part in the management of CFS. If you suffer from CFS, you should avoid sugar and sweet foods, as these cause the blood sugar to raise and drop dramatically. An unstable blood sugar level leads to fatigue. If there are any foods that you are allergic or intolerant to, be sure to eliminate these from your diet. Remember to drink plenty of water each day to help flush toxins from the body.
Eating essential fatty acids such as those present in cold water fish, nut and seed oils (such as flaxseed oil) help to strengthen the immune system. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. These are high in fibre which alleviates constipation, a factor in fatigue. It is interesting to note that 60 percent of people that suffer from CFS also suffer from candidiasis. To help with this, eliminate all forms of sugar, and take probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria.
B vitamins are depleted in stressful situations, so it is worthwhile considering taking a supplement or eating more foods that are rich in these vitamins. Vitamin C is helpful for immune system, while vitamin A is necessary for the production of antibodies that help to fight off viral infections. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that stops vitamin A from being destroyed by oxygen and it helps to improve the supply of oxygen to the body’s cells.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for CFS
TCM uses a combination of acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion and lifestyle changes in helping to manage CFS. The emphasis is on strengthening and protecting the immune system and also on conserving and generating energy. TCM suggests that the immune system can be improved by working on the way that the body makes energy from protein sources. In CFS, the immune system may be using as much as 60 percent of an energy storage compound in the body called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP manufactures protein to make immune antibodies and when the immune system is using all of the ATP, there is little energy left for the rest of the body, leaving you feeling very tired. If this is the case, then acupuncture is used on the points that relate to autoimmunity and also the meridians in the body.
Herbal formulas that are useful in managing CFS include bu zhong yi qi wan, xiao chai hu wan, and astralgus ten formula.