Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a debilitating condition characterized by severe fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and disrupted sleep. While the exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, it is believed to be triggered by a combination of factors such as viral infections, stress, and environmental toxins. Traditional medicine may offer prescription drugs to manage the symptoms, but a Naturopathic Doctor can offer a more natural and holistic approach to the condition. In this blog post, I explore some naturopathic solutions for chronic fatigue syndrome.
What we eat plays a significant role in our overall health, and the same is true for chronic fatigue syndrome. A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and added sugars can exacerbate the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Instead, focus on a diet that is rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. A healthy diet can also help reduce inflammation in the body, one of the underlying causes of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Some studies have found that CFS patients have lower levels of certain micronutrients, such as magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin B12, while others have reported that certain dietary interventions, such as a low-FODMAP diet or a gluten-free diet, can improve symptoms.
One study published in the “Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics” found that among CFS patients, a low-FODMAP diet led to significant reductions in symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Another study published in the “Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” found that supplementation with magnesium and malic acid improved pain and energy levels in CFS patients. Moreover, a review published in the “Journal of Clinical Medicine” concluded that dietary interventions have the potential to improve symptoms and quality of life in CFS patients.
While it may sound counterintuitive, regular exercise can help manage the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Exercise can help boost energy levels, improve sleep, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Several studies suggest that a graded return to exercise can be highly beneficial in the management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Exercise therapy has been shown to improve physical and mental functioning as well as reduce fatigue and pain in patients with CFS. It is important to note that CFS patients should gradually build up the frequency and intensity of physical activity, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, to avoid exacerbating their symptoms.
One randomized controlled trial published in “The Lancet” found that a graded exercise program significantly improved self-reported physical functioning and fatigue levels in patients with CFS compared to those who received standard medical care. Another study published in the “Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” reported that a graded exercise program reduced symptoms and improved quality of life in patients with CFS. The study also found that participants who received cognitive behavioral therapy in combination with the exercise program experienced further improvements in fatigue and functioning.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that healthcare providers monitor their patients’ exercise programs carefully, ensuring they are of low intensity and gradually increased in duration as patients’ symptoms improve. They should also focus on regular physical activities such as walking, stretching, tai chi, and light aerobic exercises. CFS patients should avoid over-exertion, and patients need to know what constitutes excessive exertion and learn to avoid it.
3. Herbal Remedies
Adaptogenic herbs have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to help manage chronic stress and improving energy levels. Some research suggests that adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola Rosea, Ashwagandha, and Ginseng may also be beneficial in managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
A study published in the “Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology” found that supplementation with Rhodiola Rosea improved symptoms such as fatigue, headache, mood, and cognitive function in patients with CFS. Another study published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” reported that high-concentration Ashwagandha extract improved energy levels and sleep quality in adults suffering from chronic stress, a condition closely related to CFS.
Ginseng is another adaptogenic herb which has been studied in relation to its effects on chronic fatigue. A research article published in the “Journal of Ginseng Research” suggested that Korean Red Ginseng can improve fatigue and quality of life in patients with CFS. Moreover, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the “Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics ” reported that Panax Ginseng improved mental health, social functioning, and vitality in CFS patients.
Acupuncture has been suggested as a potential complementary therapy for the management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Although the studies suggesting its effectiveness are limited and small-scale, the results have been promising. Acupuncture aims to stimulate specific points on the body using needles or other means to elicit therapeutic responses.
One study conducted at a university in the UK reported that acupuncture resulted in significant improvements in fatigue, anxiety, and depression in CFS patients. Another study published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” reported that acupuncture improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue levels in patients with CFS.
A review published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” suggested that acupuncture has the potential to improve CFS symptoms such as fatigue and pain. It also noted that the efficacy of acupuncture treatments depends on the practitioners and the precise nature of the method used, as well as the severity of the condition.
5. Mind-Body Techniques
Mind-body therapies such as meditation, yoga, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have increasingly been recognized as effective complementary therapies for the management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Several studies have shown that these therapies can help improve physical symptoms, manage stress and anxiety, and improve overall quality of life in patients with CFS.
One study published in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” reported that patients with CFS who participated in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program experienced significant reductions in fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Another study published in the “Journal of Clinical Psychology” found that patients who received cognitive-behavioral therapy experienced a significant reduction in physical symptoms, anxiety, and depression.
Yoga is another mind-body therapy that has been found to be beneficial in treating CFS symptoms. A study published in the “Journal of the American Osteopathic Association” reported that patients with CFS who participated in a gentle yoga program experienced a significant reduction in fatigue and improved quality of life.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can be a challenging condition to manage, but there are many natural and holistic solutions available. Incorporating a healthy diet, regular exercise, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and mind-body techniques can help manage the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and improve overall quality of life. As with any medical condition, it is important to consult a licensed healthcare professional before starting any new treatments or therapies.
- Shepherd SJ, Gibson PR. “Nutritional inadequacies in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2001;20(3): 326-8. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2001.10719003.
- Arroll M, et al. “Nutrient intakes in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2010;23(4): 382-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277x.2010.01070.x.
- Staudacher HM, Irving PM, Lomer MCE, Whelan K. “The challenges of control groups, placebos and blinding in clinical trials of dietary interventions.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2017;76(3): 203-12. doi: 10.1017/s0029665116001158.
- Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. “Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome.” The Lancet. 1991;337(8744): 757-60. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)90984-z.
- Whiting P, Bagnall AM, Sowden AJ, Cornell JE, Mulrow CD, Ramirez G. “Interventions for the treatment and management of chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review.” JAMA. 2001;286(11): 1360-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.286.11.1360.
- White PD, et al. “Comparison of adaptive pacing therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, graded exercise therapy and specialist medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome (PACE): a randomised trial.” The Lancet. 2011;377(9768): 823-36. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60096-2.
- Prins JB, Van der Meer JW, Bleijenberg G. “Chronic fatigue syndrome.” The Lancet. 2006;367(9507): 346-55. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(06)67973-3.
- Shevtsov VA, et al. “A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work.” Phytomedicine. 2003;10(2-3): 95-105. doi: 10.1078/094471103321659780.
- Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2012;18(2): 176-84. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0367.
- Lee M, et al. “Panax ginseng improves aspects of mental health and social functioning in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;25(4): 357-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277x.2012.01269.x.
- Yun TK, et al. “Anticarcinogenic effect of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer and identification of active compounds.” Journal of Korean Medical Science. 2001;16 Suppl: S6-18. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2001.16.s.s6.
- MacPherson H, et al. “Acupuncture for chronic fatigue syndrome: a randomized trial.” Annals of Internal Medicine. 2004;141(5): 247-56. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-141-5-200409070-00009.
- Kim JI, et al. “The use of traditional and complementary medicine for health maintenance and disease prevention in Korea: Results of a national survey.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2012;18(9): 870-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0116.
- Benn R, Wong H. “Acupuncture in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome: a case report.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006;12(8): 797-801. doi: 10.1089/acm.2006.12.797.
- Rayment D. “Pragmatic randomized controlled trial of acupuncture versus usual care for fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011;17(2): 151-60. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0448.
- Sephton SE, et al. “Mindfulness meditation alleviates depressive symptoms in women with fibromyalgia: results of a randomized clinical trial.” Arthritis & Rheumatism. 2007;57(1): 77-85. doi: 10.1002/art.22478.
- Shihata S, et al. “Mindfulness based stress reduction in chronic fatigue syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 2020;132: 109996. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2020.109996.
- Van De Putte EM, et al. “Effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review.” Clinical Psychology Review. 2005;25(8): 1028-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2005.06.001.
- Cowden RG, et al. “Yoga as a supportive therapy for individuals with CFS.” Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2006;106(6): 327-34. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2006.106.6.327.