The first I’d ever heard the term “chronic fatigue syndrome” (CFS) was almost twenty years ago from a 56-year-old woman named Lynne when she and her husband Paul had the cabin next to mine on an east coast holiday. Such were the times; they were owner trainers and had pulled the air-conditioned trailer containing their three greyhounds more than 1500km for a meet. Daily training along a deserted beach had my Dalmatian joyous in finding the best (and speediest) playmates ever. Lynne was an average middle-aged woman, whose dog walking and training kept her physically active. A few mornings into our newfound friendship I found her in bed, in pain and unable to move; and it was with some embarrassment she told me she had chronic fatigue. I didn’t know what it was; I simply processed it as a fancy way of saying that she was often tired – and with our decade-plus age difference, I figured it was just what happens when you’re almost sixty.
Laughable, I know; and when I naively suggested something along the lines of a snooze setting her right, she explained what she had; its crazy and unpredictable onset had a lot of people assuming it a malingerer’s “fake disease” that didn’t really exist. It was all news to me: an affliction arbitrary in symptoms and episodes, with no known medical solution.
At that time CFS was also referred to as Fibromyalgia; currently it’s similarly known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and more recently, Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID). It’s reasonable to consider that if it can’t be suitably named, how can it be cured?
There is no specific test for CFS/ME/SEID, just clear guidelines to help the diagnosis: primarily six months of fatigue that worsens with activity but doesn’t improve with rest. Sufferers can also experience headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle and joint aches, and anxiety and depression. Not every discernable indication is felt by every sufferer, which doesn’t diminish the severity of the disease. As yet, not only is there still no cure, but no definitive cause, and treatment focuses on finding reliable symptom relief.
A significant part in the manner and development of the disease is oxidative stress, which can be greatly reduced with dietary changes and supplements. Independent research suggests mitochondrial dysfunction may be significant to the pathology of CFS/ME/SEID, with studies revealing a deficiency in natural Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Its ability to simultaneously generate energy and prevent oxidative damage in cells, offers potential benefit in its use as a supplement. It can reduce muscle pain, the incidence and severity of headaches, and improve sleep quality and mental alertness.
There is some experimental evidence that the natural antioxidant properties of both green tea extract and curcumin show symptom improvement for some. Many clinical studies have shown the benefits of magnesium as an anti-inflammatory, as well as the adoption of a Mediterranean-style eating plan for the same reason. This plant-based, seasonal diet choice of fresh produce, legumes and beans, with the occasional inclusion of red meat and moderation of eggs, poultry and seafood, inhibits inflammation which has been linked to many chronic diseases that threaten good health, balanced temperament, and mental wellbeing.
Much has been debated, dismissed and discovered since its symptoms first appeared in the 1930’s, and we are at least at a point where a difference between calm and exhausted inertia is the difference between reassured recuperation, and further depletion.
Consulting a chronic fatigue treatment specialist is now an accessible prospect and a useful option. What is most prevalent in all current research is that better treatment outcomes occur with individual assessment and tailored integrative therapy plans. Alternative treatments and complementary medicines that have produced positive results for many, include (although are not limited to) acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy, yoga, homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine; as well as increased essential nutrients and vitamins after consultation with a certified natural remedy health care provider.
CFS/ME/SEID is an extraordinarily complex illness with a collection of signs and symptoms as individual as the person dealing with it. To be deemed effective, the use of complementary therapies and alternative remedies simply has to work for that specific individual in managing their better health and quality of life.