Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ... What You Need To Know

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This month, Jenna Hope, Nutritionist shares with us her knowledge on CFS. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is affected by impaired hormonal balance and may result in chronic fatigue (and some other symptoms which we’ll come onto). Although, just because you’re feeling exhausted isn’t to say you’re suffering with CFS. There are many syndromes and nutrient deficiencies which may lead to exhaustion.

Why do we get chronic fatigue syndrome?

Bacterial infections, hormonal imbalances, mental health problems or extreme psychological stress can all contribute to the development of chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic stress will drastically increase cortisol levels to the point where cortisol secretion is impaired and becomes significantly reduced. This isn’t as beneficial as it sounds, cortisol is essential for coping with everyday fight or flight activities and impaired cortisol release will lead to the inability to respond to everyday stressful situations.

What are the symptoms of CFS?

The symptoms associated with CFS include: waking up exhausted even after a long sleep, having increased energy in the evening, an inability to cope with stressful situations, reduced immune function and cravings for salty foods. It’s easy to be unaware of some of these symptoms as coffee, sugar and energy drinks are often used to provide an energy boost.  

How Might My Lifestyle Be Contributing To CFS?

Over dosing on HIIT workouts and running off coffee and living life at 100 miles an hour might just be contributing to your fatigue. It’s important to take some ‘self-care’ time as this can help to reduce your stress levels. Swap your HIIT training for strength training, yoga and as these may have beneficial effects on CFS symptoms. It’s also recommended to consume no more than one coffee a day and do this before 2pm in the afternoon to allow you time to metabolise the caffeine before going to sleep.

How can my diet affect my CFS symptoms?

Dietary choices alone won’t cure CFS but they can influence the effects of the syndrome.

Reduce your coffee intake and opt for green tea as a caffeine source instead. Green tea contains L-theanine which promotes a calming effect on the brain and the body.

Pick low sugar options and avoid fried foods where possible.

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Ensure adequate magnesium status. Magnesium helps to support the adrenal glands which are responsible for the release of cortisol. Foods rich in magnesium include: such as green leafy veg, almonds, beans, avocados and bananas), commit to a weekly Epsom salt bath (if a bath is available) or invest in a magnesium body spray. Epsom salts are a great source of magnesium which is absorbed through the skin.

Consume anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, herbs and spices in order to increase a range of micronutrients and prevent deficiencies.  

Eat regular meal times to control blood glucose levels and prevent energy dips.

Swap your high sugar snacks for foods rich in healthy fats and protein to help balance energy levels. Foods such as yoghurt, nuts, chia seeds and hummus and vegetables are good options.

Whilst there is still a need for further research into nutrition and CFS this is a great place to start in order to support your adrenal glands and help to reduce the effects of CFS.

Sources: Larun, L., Brurberg, K. G., Odgaard-Jensen, J., & Price, J. R. (2016). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 6.

Brown, B. I. (2014). Chronic fatigue syndrome: a personalized integrative medicine approach. Altern Ther Health Med, 20(1), 29-40.

Stachowicz, M., & Lebiedzińska, A. (2016). The effect of diet components on the level of cortisol. European Food Research and Technology, 242(12), 2001-2009.