Like we mentioned in our previous article, all of us feel tired or exhausted at times. But for some of us, being tired almost ends up being a way of life – you tend to feel exhausted more often than not. If you find that sleep or rest doesn’t seem to make you feel much better, it’s time to consult your healthcare provider. This could have so many underlying causes and it’s important to find out what’s going on.
Let’s talk about one particular health condition that isn’t discussed too often.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a debilitating, yet poorly understood malaise. While there are no clear-cut diagnostic tools (and there are other illnesses that mimic the symptoms of CFS), it is generally characterised by extreme fatigue and tiredness that does not go away even with full rest for at least six months.
It is usually diagnosed by a doctor after elimination of other potential causes such as autoimmune diseases, certain viral diseases, hypothyroidism etc.
Potential Causes of CFS
No single cause has been identified, but the medical community has speculated a few potential causes which include:
- Weakened Immune System
- Hormonal Imbalances
Unfortunately, no cure has been identified and “treatment” of CFS largely consists of managing the symptoms that appear in each individual case.
Symptoms commonly associated with CFS
The most common symptoms are the following
- Debilitating fatigue that interferes with your daily activities for at least 6 months and which is incurable with rest
- Post-exertional malaise i.e., symptoms getting worse after physical or emotional activities
- Loss of memory/focus
- Muscle pain and joint pain
- Frequent infections such as sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes on the armpits/neck
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia
CFS may also present in cycles; a person may be relieved of the symptoms for a certain period (remission) only to find them returning at a later point (relapse).
The question then arises as to what the best way is to manage CFS symptoms.
It is important to remember that each affected individual may has a different set of symptoms and a different severity. It is also possible that the severity of the symptoms may be change with time for the same person.
Some Good Habits to Manage Symptoms of CFS
Keeping this in mind, some of the best habits for CFS are the following:
Keeping a journal/diary
When symptoms such as fatigue worsen with certain day-to-day activities and the intensity of these activities, it is important you pay close attention and take note of this. Pacing yourself throughout the day and figuring out the ideal balance of rest and activity for you is a very important part of your CFS journey.
You can have an activities journal, a mood journal, a habit tracking journal, sleep journal, diet journal or all of these. These are generally beneficial for anyone, but even more so in the case of those of us with CFS.
When you’re able to find the right amount of down-time you need between activities, it will become a lot easier to manage your life with CFS.
Paying attention to diet and eliminating dietary allergens
Again, while everybody should be making sure their diet is well-balanced, it assumes much more significance for those suffering from CFS. For a detailed look at diet and CFS, you can read through this.
Additionally, it is sensible to have a diet chart prepared with the help of your doctor or nutritionist. Supplements may also be necessary where your natural diet may be lacking.
Additionally, identifying and eliminating dietary allergens is crucial to guarantee overall health. Dietary intolerances produce an inflammatory response in the body which may keep the environment conducive for worsening CFS symptoms.
Substances such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are known to disrupt sleep patterns and worsen symptoms of insomnia.
Include those foods and herbs in your diet that naturally produce a relaxing effect on the body and may help you rest or sleep better.
Incorporate positive sleep habits in your routine (such as maintaining the same time to sleep and wake up every day, not using any devices an hour or two before sleeping, sleep meditations and affirmations, keeping lights and disturbances out etc) to give yourself the best chances of sleeping well.
Read next: For Healthy + Complete Digestion, DO THIS
Medications to address symptoms of depression or insomnia
While there is no medication to address CFS at the root, there are medications to help with insomnia and depression (which can occur alongside CFS). Taking a sleep aid or antidepressant (while unfortunately stigmatised) helps a lot of people. Consulting with your doctor and taking prescribed medication to boost the overall quality of life can be a big part of managing CFS.
Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation
While the power of exercise does indeed help with many other diseases and disorders, unfortunately, CFS symptoms (specifically post-exertional malaise) can worsen with vigorous exercise. However, it is worth trying out light exercises and seeing if keeping your body moving can help with your symptoms.
Light stretches can be tried and kept track of in your journal.
Reportedly, yoga, pranayama and meditation techniques have had positive results for many.
CFS is a debilitating disease and many of those afflicted find a lot of comfort and support in joining CFS support groups. It is important to incorporate healthy habits and get some feedback on solutions other people have successfully attempted to manage your symptoms and lead the best possible life.