Everybody experiences fatigue from time to time, whether from a poor sleep or a busy day. While inconvenient, this level of fatigue is not life-disrupting and can usually be resolved with a good night’s rest. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is much different. This complex condition is characterized by profound feelings of tiredness that do not improve, regardless of rest, for at least six months. The fatigue is so severe that it gets in the way of daily activities at work and at home, making everyday life difficult.
Experts believe that about up to 2.5 million Americans are affected by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. While CFS can affect anyone, it tends to be most common among women between 40 and 50.
There is still uncertainty about what exactly causes CFS. Currently, no underlying medical condition has been identified as a cause, though there are some leading theories including psychological stress, viral infection, and inflammation.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is notably difficult to diagnose. Not only is there no known cause, many other conditions also produce symptoms of fatigue. Doctors aim to rule out other possible causes of fatigue before diagnosing CFS. When left undiagnosed and untreated, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome leads to decreased stamina and concentration, along with emotional distress and strained relationships.
Keep reading to get the facts on this chronic illness including symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.
The most obvious symptom of this disorder is fatigue – not moderate fatigue, but severe enough to interfere with daily life. For a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, patients must show a significantly reduced capacity to complete normal tasks due to fatigue which is not improved upon by rest. This must last for at least six months.
People with CFS experience extreme tiredness especially after physical or mental activities. This is called post-exertional malaise, and can last more than 24 hours after the activity.
Additional physical symptoms are:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome also typically involves sleep issues, including:
Other symptoms may include:
People who suffer from CFS also tend to experience frequent alterations in levels of irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. The emotional and mental side effects of CFS are significant, making integrative mind-body treatment essential.
As mentioned, there is no known cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. While researchers are still trying to uncover a root cause, there are certain risk factors that can be identified:
Some of these risk factors, such as age and sex, are unavoidable. But no matter your demographic, you can work to support a healthy immune system, lower your stress levels, and eat a balanced diet. Doing so will help protect you not only from CFS, but numerous other health issues as well.
There is no cure or universal treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, since its precise cause remains unknown. Thus, most treatments aim at reducing the symptoms, which can vary greatly. It is important for individuals to work with a healthcare practitioner to discern what really works for them – we can help!
Conventional treatments typically include sleeping pills for fatigue and antidepressants to help with mood. However, the prescription route often produces side effects that can be worse than the condition itself. Instead, we recommend lifestyle changes, nutraceuticals and other natural treatments to reduce symptoms and help heal the mind and body.
One method of treating chronic fatigue syndrome is through diet. Since there appears to be a link between digestive issues and CFS, it is important to eliminate potential food sensitivities, allergens, and intolerances that may be inflaming the body and leading to fatigue. If any nutritional deficiencies are found, dietary changes or supplementation may be recommended by a healthcare professional.
Along with proper diet, treating the mental aspect of chronic fatigue syndrome is also highly important.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can be challenging both physically and mentally. However, there are numerous ways to treat symptoms and improve energy levels. Reducing stress and eating a proper diet are two major ones. Many people also benefit from working closely with a healthcare practitioner. If you are living with CFS, reach out to create a treatment plan that meets your unique needs. The time to revive your energy levels and take charge of your life is now!
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