Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: What it is and what can help
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is the name given to a collection of symptoms that leave you feeling permanently exhausted. No matter how well you sleep or how much you rest, you still feel exhausted all the time.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is thought to affect approximately 260,000 people in the UK alone.
Like many syndromes chronic fatigue can flare up and get worse or you might find that it gets better or goes into remission for a while.
In extreme cases the patient may not be able complete simple every day tasks like getting out of bed or brushing their hair or teeth. When the flare passes, the person may be able to get through a day at work or meet up with friends.
What causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
There are various things that can trigger CFS including viral or bacterial infections, trauma and stress, imbalance of hormones, mental health challenges, problems with your immune system and genetics.
If you are chronically tired, think back to when you started feeling this way.
Have you always felt this way or has it got gradually worse over time? Did it come on suddenly?
Had you had an illness like Glandular Fever or a severe infection? Had something particularly stressful or traumatising happened around that time? Does anyone else in your family also have it?
What are the Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The main symptom is feeling constantly exhausted
Other symptoms include
- Headaches / Migraines
- Joint and Muscle Pain
- Sore throats
- Brain Fog/ Inability to concentrate
- Dizziness and Nausea
- Sleep disorders
- Low mood
Like all syndromes, people may get some symptoms but not others or they may get all of them.
What can be done about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Until recently, the main treatment for Chronic Fatigue was a combination of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and GET (Graded exercise therapy)
Recently these treatments have been recommended to be removed from the NICE guidelines for being not as effective as previously thought.
There are other things that can be done to help people living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
These include looking at the individual symptoms and treating those. Also managing your stress levels and tweaking or adjusting your lifestyle according to what you’re able to do each day.
Speak to your GP
Sometimes exhaustion is caused by a lack of a particular vitamin, mineral or hormone so it would be good to speak to your GP about having a blood test.
Vitamin B12, Iron, Vitamin D deficiencies and thyroid disorders can all cause or exacerbate symptoms of fatigue.
It would be good to rule these out. They’re all usually fairly easy to fix too.
If you find getting to sleep, staying asleep or you find you snore a lot or wake up in the night, speak to your GP about this. They may want to run tests for sleep apnoea.
If you feel nauseous
If you are feeling nauseous and have little or no energy for cooking, try eating carbohydrate-rich foods such as sandwiches using wholegrain bread and some protein.
Having snacks based on carbohydrates and protein can help you have more energy. Eating a small meal every 3-4 hours can be helpful.
If you find that you have more energy in a morning, try using a slow cooker as you can pop the ingredients in there first thing and then when it’s dinner time you can come down to a hot meal without much extra fuss.
You can use frozen diced onions, frozen sliced mushrooms and frozen peppers to add flavour to your dish without having to do any chopping.
Helping Brain Fog
There are various things that can help brain fog.
Having a set place to put things like your glasses, bag and car keys can be a huge help. It’s one less thing to think about! I take this one step further and always put my car in the same part of the same car park when in town so I don’t have to think about where I put it! Do whatever works for you!
Writing things down can be helpful.
Having a notebook can be very useful for coping with brain fog to help you keep track of things you need to remember! Or use the ‘notes’ facility on your phone or tablet.
Essential oils such as either Basil or Rosemary oil are great for helping brain fog. Diffuse a couple 3-5 drops in a diffuser (but not if you are pregnant or have high blood pressure)
Orange Essential oil is great for lifting low mood.
Always consult a qualified Aromatherapist before using essential oils. Always keep essential oils out of the way of children and pets
Muscle / Joint Pain in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients
One of the best things for muscle or joint pain is massage as it not only helps relieve pain and reduce stress and tension.
Whilst having strenuous exercise is NOT generally recommended for people with CFS, having a little walk even around the house can be helpful. Without gentle exercise you can find your body starts to feel tense and stiff. Having a short walk also helps your circulation and lymphatic system work effectively.
Aromatherapy Massage using essential oils such as marjoram essential oil may be useful for this too.
Eating a Mediterranean style diet with plenty of olive oil and oily fish may be useful too.
Managing Relationships when one of you has CFS
It can be really tough when one (or both of you) are unable to get out of bed or lead an active life due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Communication is key. It can be hard understanding truly what it is like for the other person, especially when one day they may have some energy and the next they are bed bound. So if you feel something- tell your partner. Help them to understand your point of view.
Having chronic fatigue can play havoc with your self-esteem levels and your own feeling of self-worth. It can make you feel depressed knowing that you often can’t lead the full life you’d like to lead. Be as honest as you can about how you feel. Don’t be afraid to reach out for outside help too.
There are support groups and counselling available to help support you through this.
Over to you
Are you or your partner living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? What do you find helps? Please leave me a comment in the comments box below
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