Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: What it is and what can help

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: What it is and what can help

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
  • Palpitations
  • 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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Resources

You may also like my blog post  5 Great ways to boost your energy naturally

or my article Why am I tired all the time?

NHS Article on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 

 

5 Great ways to boost your energy levels naturally

5 Great ways to boost your energy levels naturally

1. Have a good morning routine.

Your morning routine sets the mood for the rest of the day.

Open your curtains (and a window if you can) to let the sunlight shine in. Whilst the kettle boils for your morning brew, sip a glass of water. This helps stave off dehydration. Make your bed if you’re able to.

If possible go for a morning walk (or run if you prefer). It doesn’t have to be a long walk, a short walk around the block can be just enough. This helps your body to recognise that it is daytime.

If you’re chronically unwell or have issues with your mobility either sit in the garden or by a window or door, if you’re able to. Again it doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just a few minutes can be enough to make a difference. 

Have breakfast within an hour or two of waking up. Try to include some protein and carbohydrate in your breakfast. Try scrambled eggs with your toast, or a little peanut butter with your banana.

Protein keeps you fuller for longer and when in conjunction with some carbohydrate helps keep your blood sugar stable and your energy levels constant. Meaning you’re less likely to have an energy dip mid-morning

 2. Avoid Energy Vampires

Energy vampires include

  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Empty calories
  • Draining friends
  • Boring meetings
  • Pointless tasks

All of which drain the life force out of you and make your energy levels plummet.

Instead treat yourself to a regular massage or reflexology treatment, listen to your favourite podcasts or listen to relaxation music. Or learn mindfulness, or take a yoga class.

Keep sipping water throughout the day. 

Spend time with people who make you feel happy and who are on your own wavelength. Find support from other people who are going through the same things as you. 

Watch funny movies and make time for your hobbies. Whatever you do that makes time simply fly by. Do more of that!

Cross any pointless tasks off your list. If you don’t HAVE to do them, don’t do them!

3. Boost your energy levels by upgrading your nutrition!

Ensure all your meals include protein and some carbohydrates. It can be helpful to eat smaller meals throughout the day, spaced about every 3-4 hours.

Avoid eating heavy meals towards the end of the day.

Avoid empty calories (processed foods, refined carbohydrates, low-calorie drinks etc.)  They often cause your blood sugar levels to spike and dip which can leave you feeling more tired.

Avoid excessive caffeine. Caffeine in moderation can be helpful for boosting energy levels but in excess can affect your ability to sleep and leave you feeling drained.

Alcohol also negatively affects energy levels so avoid excess alcohol consumption, especially in the run up towards bedtime.

If you find that your energy levels are greater first thing in the morning, consider getting a slow cooker. You can pop that on in the morning and by dinner time you have a freshly cooked meal waiting for you.

If you find chopping vegetables too tiring you can buy frozen vegetables including diced onions, mushrooms and peppers. Whilst they might not be exactly the same as fresh, they can allow you to make home cooked meals, despite having low energy.

4. Stick to a routine

Our bodies seem to like knowing what to expect so keeping to a fairly regular routine really helps. 

Aim to get up the same time each day and go to bed at a similar time every night. Don’t be tempted to sleep in, especially if you’ve struggled to sleep the night before. 

Experiment with having naps. Some people find that having a nap helps their energy levels and other people find that having a nap plays havoc with their sleeping patterns. So do whatever works best for you.

5. Take regular gentle exercise*

Whilst you might think it makes no sense taking exercise if you don’t have a lot of energy but it can be helpful. It can also help you release endorphins or feel-good hormones. You don’t have to do anything strenuous.

Gentle swimming sessions can be beneficial or going for a walk or taking a yoga or pilates class.

There are also Gentle Yoga classes available for people who need something a little more nurturing.

Doing even 10 mins exercise once or twice a day can make a big difference. There are plenty of free and paid-for online exercise classes available

*If you have chronic fatigue syndrome or ME this may not be as helpful as it will for those who do not have it. Speak to your GP before increasing your exercise levels if you have ME or CFS 

 

What do you find helps boost your energy levels?

Please let me know in the comments below.

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How to take care of your feet

How to take care of your feet

Feet are amazing things. They carry us wherever we need to go. They’ve got thousands of tiny nerve endings on the soles of the feet. They’re built to support you no matter what you weigh. They deserve your love and attention! Here are some great ways to keep your feet feeling happy and loved.

How do you keep your feet happy? Treat them to some fabulous, supportive, comfortable footwear.

Shoes should not hurt. They should fit nicely, with room for the toes to wiggle a little. Footwear that nips, pinches, or makes your toes go numb should be left in the shop. Shoes should also not be overly loose. Your feet should not need to grip your shoes to prevent them from falling off! 

Some shoe shops have started doing half sizes and a range of width fittings for adult shoes which is a huge bonus as many of us are between full shoe sizes. If you’ve not had your shoe size checked recently try using this shoe size chart.

The time of day you go shopping for your shoes can also affect the sizing. Your feet tend to swell towards the end of the day so it’s better to go shopping for shoes late afternoon to accommodate this.

high heels

Rotate your footwear and wear lower heels at home

It is good to have several pairs of shoes or boots and to rotate them so you’re not wearing the same pair day in and day out. If you need or like to wear high heels for work try changing into something softer and lower heeled when you come home. 

treat your feet to a foot spa

Treat them to a spa experience

You can do this at home using a bowl of warm water (a washing up bowl will be just fine. I have a special washing up bowl that I use just for feet!) Always check the water temperature before putting your feet in.

You can pop in some nice bubble bath or a handful of epsom salts or add a couple of drops of essential oil like peppermint or lavender essential oil to a teaspoon of sunflower oil and swish that in. Or add a few slices of fresh lemon and some lavender flowers. This can be a lovely thing to do at the end of a hard day at work (or shopping, or chasing after the children!) Towel dry.

Give yourself a mini pedicure

Keep your toenails cut relatively short (but not too short) and ensure you don’t cut down the sides of the nail.

Always cut your toenails straight so they don’t end up digging into your toe. If you find your toenail has started growing into your toe please see a Foot Health Practitioner or Podiatrist for help. If it looks red, hot, is painful or feels infected please see your GP as well. 

Moisturise your feet regularly

Moisturise your feet regularly

Make moisturising your feet part of your daily routine. Gently massaging foot lotion into your feet before bed can help you to relax as well as keeping the skin on your feet nice, soft and supple. 

Put your feet up!

Sitting down with your feet up can feel amazing.  Especially if you’ve been on your feet all day or sat at your desk. Either lay flat with your feet resting on the wall or prop your feet up on cushions on your sofa arm. Stay like this for 10-15 minutes. This helps your lymph drain better and helps blood flow back towards the heart.

Partner foot massage

Get your partner to give you a foot massage

Using a little foot or body lotion, get your partner to gently massage your feet.

My three favourite foot massage moves are

1. Holding the ankles by cupping your hand under your partners ankles and just holding them for a few moments. This can be wonderfully reassuring.

2. Wrap one foot up in a fluffy towel. Gently rotate the ankle of the other foot in a series of slow but random movements. Do this for a few minutes then swap over. Only do this if your partner has full mobility in their ankles.

3. Very slowly move your hands up your partners leg towards the knee, gently slide back down again and repeat 3 times.

Finish by wrapping both feet up in towels and holding for a few minutes.

podiatrist

Who to turn to if you have a problem with your feet

Sometimes we need help keeping our feet healthy.

If you have any problems with your feet from:

  • Fungal nail infections
  • Painful bunions,
  • Verrucae,
  • Ingrowing toenails,
  • Athletes foot,
  • Diabetic foot care,
  • Corns,
  • Calluses 
  • Anything else that’s causing pain or discomfort for your feet

Consult your local Podiatrist (Chiropodist) or Foot Health Practitioner. Don’t be afraid to go, they will have seen everything before! 

It may be possible to get a referral to a Podiatrist via your GP if the condition is causing pain or loss of mobility.

image how to take care of your feet

Resources

If you would like to find out more about National Feet Week please visit https://nationalfeetweek.org #nationalfeetweek

Read my article about Taking Care of your Legs 

Boroughbridge Chiropody https://www.boroughbridgechiropody.co.uk

 

Like this article?

Come and Join me on Pinterest www.pinterest.co.uk/sarahcooperreflexology

Simple ways to create a more active lifestyle

Simple ways to create a more active lifestyle

 If, like me, your early experience of being active revolved around those dreaded PE classes where you were the last to be picked for the team and you still associate physical activity with pain, rejection and humiliation you might benefit from some simple ideas to help you to create a more active lifestyle. 

Being active doesn’t mean you have to be cold, bored, or wear a silly PE skirt. It can even be fun! You don’t even need to find huge chunks of time to go to the gym, or to spend hours a day working on your fitness (unless, of course, you want to.)

In fact the easiest way to create an active lifestyle is to take little steps in the right direction so that activity is something you do as part of your general life, rather than something you have to find time to do. Or worse, another chore!

gym kit

Set yourself up for success

If you like going to the gym or swimming, it is useful to have the kit you need to go all ready and to hand so you can quickly go to the gym or pool without having to find where you put your goggles or find your other trainer, or scurry around looking for your gym shorts or your headphones. Regular swimmers may find it useful to have 2 or 3 swimsuits so you can always pop a clean one and a clean towel into your bag every time.

If you need to drive to your gym because it is too far away to walk, maybe try keeping your kit in the car boot ready for when you need it! Maybe keep your membership card in a separate purse in your gym bag so it’s always ready for action when you need it.

For those of you who like to go for walks in the park, always make sure you have some suitable footwear and a good waterproof coat to hand so that if you do get a few minutes to spare you can quickly change your shoes and go for a walk.

Always having the right gear in the right place at the right time helps you be able to get active when inspiration strikes. Often the very thought of having to go in search of ‘stuff’ is enough to make us slump back on the sofa in despair. So give yourself a chance and set yourself up for success!

gym kit

Dance whilst the kettle boils

Whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, put on some upbeat music and get dancing.

Dancing improves not only your activity levels but can also lift your mood! If you have a music streaming system like Spotify you will be able to create your own playlist with your favourite songs to dance along to! Being active can be great fun!

gym kit

Meet a friend and go for a walk!

Instead of meeting a friend for a coffee in a coffee shop why not arrange to go for a walk together instead and maybe grab a takeaway coffee or take a flask with you? This way you can get your daily step count in and be sociable at the same time!

If your friends aren’t available to meet up for a walk, go on your own! It can be wonderfully clearing to go for a brisk walk on your own.

gym kit

Have a dog? Take it for a walk! Don’t have a dog? Take yourself for a walk!

If you had a dog you’d probably take it for a walk two or three times a day. If you don’t have a dog you can still go for a walk several times a day if you like. I have a ‘dog walking coat’ despite not owning a dog! I use it for going for walks in the rain.

gym kit

Remember that wonderful feeling!

Do you remember a time when you did do something active and you ended up with a big smile on your face?

Maybe you came back inside after a brisk walk on a chilly day and your face started to glow and the warmth of the central heating hit you as you opened your front door?

That feeling of being happy, energised and truly alive? If you remember that feeling, it can help motivate you to get moving. Afterall we all want to feel fantastic don’t we?

gym kit

Run (or rather walk!) errands on foot

If you have to run errands like going to the post office or to pop to the shop to buy bread or milk, why not walk there rather than taking the car (if it’s practical to do so!) For smaller journeys it can be so tempting to always take the car but if you have enough time, walk!

If you’re going upstairs and don’t have a mobility issue, take the stairs. Or at least take the stairs on the way down!

Find other little ways of slotting exercise and being active into your ordinary daily lifestyle.

gym kit

Get outside at lunchtime if you can! 

Instead of eating as you work, try eating your lunch outside when the weather is nice. Maybe go for a short walk whilst you’re out there. Get some fresh air into your lungs and let go of any of the tension from being sat at your desk! It will also stop you getting a crumby keyboard! If you have a proper break and a change of scenery you’re likely to work more productively in the afternoon! 

gym kit

Check what’s on your doorstep

Is there a nature reserve, woodland, lake or park nearby that you’ve not explored recently? Maybe take a flask, a blanket, a picnic or some snacks and go exploring. Take some fabulous photographs and make a day of it. Take in the sounds, colours, smells and textures whilst you’re there. Drink it all in and enjoy the experience.

gym kit

Put some housework tunes on and do some housework!

Ok ok, so maybe this isn’t the most exciting way of keeping fit but housework can be great for clearing your mind whilst also getting active! On most music streaming services there are loads of fabulous playlists entitled ‘housework songs’ and they’re normally the more upbeat tunes. So get mopping or vacuuming, sweep away the cobwebs off the ceiling, and dance whilst you dust. The house will look sparkling clean in no time!

gym kit

Book your active time into your diary

If you’re wanting to be more active and have a gym membership it can be useful to book your gym time into your own diary like you would any other appointment.

It can also help to go 2-3 times a week at first, rather than going 4 or 5 times in week one, twice in week two and then having the rest of the month off!

If you know which days/nights you’re going to the gym you can plan around them and you won’t be as tempted to skip as they’re in the diary. 

gym kit

Over to you!

As you can see, being active can seamlessly slot into your daily life and be fun too! 

What are YOU going to do to be more active today?

Please let me know in the comments box below

Migraine – What it is and what you can do about it

Migraine – What it is and what you can do about it

Migraine – What it is and what you can do about it

What is Migraine?

Migraine is generally a severe, one-sided headache, which may be accompanied by visual disturbances, neurological symptoms and/or nausea and vomiting. Visual disturbances can include flashing lights, zig-zagging, double vision, blind spots and blurring.

Neurological symptoms can include tingling in the limbs, pins and needles, facial numbness, loss of sensation or numbness in the arms and legs, confusion, dizziness and loss of speech.

Some patients get ‘just’ the headache and others get some of the other symptoms and this may vary from attack to attack.

It is also possible to have a silent migraine where you get the other symptoms without the headache.

Children can get a stomach migraine which makes them vomit rather than necessarily having a headache.

It is thought to affect around 6 million people in the UK  with 190,000 people having a migraine on any given day. So if you suffer with migraines, you’re not alone.

 

What causes migraine?

Whilst the causes of migraine are not yet fully understood it is widely thought that it may be linked to abnormal activity in the brain which in turn has an effect on the way the brain functions. Certain types of migraine (for example Hemiplegic migraine) may be hereditary and due to a genetic factor. 

There are a range of well-known triggers which seem to either spark off a migraine or to exacerbate them. Everyone is different so it’s useful to isolate what is likely to trigger yours and to avoid that as much as possible.

Keep Track

Keep a note of what you eat, how you feel, what you drink, your stress levels and where you are in your cycle if that applies to you and see if a pattern builds.

Apps like Migraine Buddy are useful to help you keep track of your migraines.

Migraine Triggers

Migraines can be triggered by a range of stimuli including:

  • Skipping meals or eating in a rush,
  • Being dehydrated,
  • Drinking alcohol especially red wine and darker spirits
  • Eating certain foods including cheese, tomatoes, chocolate, citrus fruits
  • Additives in diet, slimline and processed foods such as artificial sweeteners,nitrates, MSG and preservatives
  • Drinking caffeine
  • Hunger/Thirst
  • Stress at home, school, university or work
  • Weather and environmental factors (such as thundery weather or a high pollen count)
  • Hormones
  • Working environment, especially when sitting in the same position all day
  • Lack of or too much sleep!
  • Strong perfumes
  • Strong sunlight/bright lights/loud noises
  • Tension in the neck and shoulders
  • Some medications/contraceptive pills
  • Overusing painkillers. Having too many headache tablets can give you a rebound headache!

 

Hormonal Migraines

There may be a hormonal element to migraines in women. Some women note that they have migraines during the 2-3 days in the run up to their period and in the first 3 days of their period. It is thought that a drop in oestrogen levels can contribute to headaches.  A period tracking app like Clue may also be useful.

Pregnancy can also have an effect on migraines although this does vary from person to person.

Whilst migraines are fairly common in pregnancy, if you do suddenly get a severe headache after 20+ weeks (especially from week 24 onwards) which is accompanied by visual problems, pain in the rib cage, vomiting, fluid retention or sudden swelling in your hands, feet or face, contact your Midwife or 111 urgently.

The perimenopause, menopause and HRT medication can all exacerbate migraines in some women.

 

How to manage a migraine

For occasional migraines the best solution would be to take a couple of over the counter painkillers, having a drink and a snack and going to bed in a darkened room until it passes.

If you feel nauseous you can buy anti-sickness tablets from your local pharmacy. There are also special migraine relief tablets that have an anti-sickness medication built-in.

Double check that you’re having the correct amount of paracetamol in total as many of them already contain paracetamol so DON’T take them with paracetamol! If  you’re in any doubt ask your pharmacist for advice.

Having an ice-pack might help (if carefully wrapped in a tea-towel)

Try to stay hydrated and if you feel up to it, having regular snacks or small meals. Sipping drinks can be kinder to the stomach than gulping them down.

 

 When to get help from your GP

If you find that you’re having more than 5-8 migraines a month speak to your GP who may be able to prescribe a preventative medication or take a blood sample as sometimes migraines can be linked to a deficiency of a vitamin or mineral.

There are also medications (often triptans) you can be prescribed to stave off an attack as soon as it happens, including injections and nasal sprays.

If you have migraines a lot and other things haven’t worked, you might be referred to a specialist Headache nurse or to the Neurology department for further tests and treatment if necessary. 

What else can help?

Reducing Stress

As migraines are often triggered or exacerbated by stress it is important to be as stress-free as possible.

Finding ways of releasing stress and tension are very helpful in preventing or minimising migraines. Think of any areas of your life that might be particularly stressful.

Is there anything you can do to make them less stressful? Any meetings you don’t need to attend?

Children’s activities that they no longer enjoy? Feel free to say no to anything you find stressful if you’re not contracted to be there!

Set up new systems

Sometimes setting up a new system can reduce stress right down. Like having something in the slow cooker ready for when you get back from football practise rather than having to start cooking from scratch when you’re tired and hungry. Or laying out clothes the night before. 

Take time out. Do some exercise. Enjoy your hobbies

Taking a little time out for yourself can be really powerful.

Gentle exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga can be useful as can mindfulness classes. Or ensuring you take part in hobbies that you love. 

Have Reflexology/ Massages / Acupuncture

Having a regular reflexology treatment or massage can be helpful as it helps to balance the body and to relieve stress and tension and to allows you to have some time to yourself.

Reflexology uses a firm but gentle pressure on specific points on the foot or face which is combined with massage techniques and holding specific points and is usually deeply relaxing and nurturing.

Acupuncture is also thought to be effective for managing migraines. This involves having tiny needles inserted into different areas of your body (and surprisingly doesn’t hurt!)

The key is to have a series of regular treatments over a period of about 6-8 weeks for best effect.

If you have health insurance cover double check to see if this is covered in your policy as some do cover things like Reflexology or Acupuncture.

 

Additional Resources

Like this Post? Please share with your friends 

Read my Chronic Migraine Survival Tool Kit blog post

Follow the hashtags #migraineawarenessweek and #letsbeatmigraine 

 

Always keep up to date!

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Over to you!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below

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