- Because the cause is not known, treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome focus on symptoms, typically through the use of pharmaceutical drugs. It is essential that the drug chosen must not exacerbate fatigue (fatigue is a common side effect of many drugs).
- Tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), two classes of antidepressants, are commonly used with patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Tricyclic antidepressants have been shown to have some benefit in reducing depression and improving sleep patterns.
- Cognitive therapy and support groups are often recommended and have shown benefit.
Treatment Strategy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Treatment strategy may vary considerably depending on the suspected or apparent cause of the chronic fatigue and may include:
- Support and enhance immune function.
- Support and enhance liver detoxification.
- Support and enhance gastrointestinal health.
- Support and enhance adrenal function.
- Identify and address food sensitivities.
- Identify and address any metabolic abnormalities.
- Identify and treat nutrient deficiencies.
Lifestyle for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Identify stressors and learn to manage them through relaxation, meditation, counseling, etc.
- Work to address the mental and emotional components of chronic fatigue syndrome which can be both a cause or an effect of the illness.
- Learn and implement diaphragmatic breathing techniques.
- Correct posture, if this is an issue.
- Participate in regular, low intensity exercise.
- Work to support optimal sleep hygiene.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diet
- Drink plenty of pure water.
- Eliminate caffeine and alcohol.
- Eliminate refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates suppress immune function.
- Consume a diet of whole, preferably organic foods with an emphasis on lean meats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Pesticide residues have been found to be higher in chronic fatigue syndrome patients, therefore choosing organic foods is important.
- Increase dietary antioxidants through consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially blueberries.
- Focus on getting adequate high quality protein and fiber, both of which stabilize blood sugar.
- Identify and eliminate food intolerances. One study found that of chronic fatigue syndrome patients who eliminated wheat, milk, benzoates, nitrites, nitrates, food colorings and other additives from their diet, 90% reported improvement in severity of symptoms.
Nutritional Supplements for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
There are numerous nutritional supplements that may be of benefit in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. No person will utilize all of these treatments simultaneously. Your physician will likely perform some laboratory testing to assess nutrient deficiencies. Consult a nutritionally oriented physician for proper selection, dosing, and safe application of the following treatments.
- High potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.
- Consider additional antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E.
- Co-enzyme Q 10.
- One study found that 80% of chronic fatigue syndrome patients are deficient and supplementation led to significant improvement.
- This nutrient is also an essential component of cellular energy production. It can be depleted from the body by certain medications, such as statin drugs for lowering cholesterol.
- An amino acid that is required for cellular energy production.
- Deficiency of carnitine has been documented in some CFS sufferers and supplementation has led to improved energy in a preliminary study.
- One third of CFS patients respond to supplementation with carnitine.
- Depressed in 80% of chronic fatigue syndrome patients.
- Supplemented in the form of 5-hydroxy tryptophan (5-HTP).
- Essential fatty acids.
- EFAs are fatty acids (also known as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) which are essential to life, but which cannot be produced in the body and must be taken in through diet.
- One study found that after 3 months of treatment, 85% of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome reported improvement, compared to 17% of controls.
- Myer's Cocktail
- An intravenous (IV) vitamin and mineral treatment with relieves symptoms in about 50% of cases of CFS.
- Vitamin B12
- B12 deficiency seen in 30% of chronic fatigue syndrome patients (Wallach).
- Deficiency symptoms include fatigue and depression.
- Even people without documented B12 deficiency report improved energy levels after supplementation.
- Dosing is best if given as an intramuscular injection or sublingually (under the tongue).
- The preferred form of B12 supplementation is methyl- or hydroxycobalamin, rather than cyanocobalamin.
- Folic acid.
- Deficient in a subset of CFS patients.
- Deficiency can lead to immunosuppression, fatigue and depression.
- Supplementation for 3 months lead to improvement in 1 study.
- Vitamin C.
- Deficiency symptom: fatigue and depression.
- NADH (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide)
- NADH is an important nutrient in cellular energy production.
- Preliminary studies have found it to be effective in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Magnesium is involved in every energy dependent reaction in the body. It is depleted with chronic stress.
- CFS patients typically report improved energy with supplementation of magnesium.
- Potassium and magnesium aspartate has shown benefit for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Supplementation may be of benefit in people with low adrenal function or neurally mediated hypotension.
- Frequently deficient in CFS.
- Deficiency symptoms: immunodepression, muscle pain, and fatigue.
- Antioxidant treatment:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Selenium. Supports glutathione levels.
- Glutathione. Directly increases glutathione levels.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine. Raises glutathione levels.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid. Increases intracellular glutathione.
- Co-Q 10. Improves energy production. Neuroprotective.
Botanical (Herbal) Medicine for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Botanical medicines to support adrenal function such as Eleutherococcus senticosus Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, and Glycyrrhiza glabra. [Glycyrrhiza should not be taken by people with high blood pressure without physician supervision.]
- Herbal medicine may be used to support immune function. This may include herbs such as Astragalus, Cordyceps, Schisandra, Reishi Mushroom, or others.
- Many herbal medicines have multiple effects. A physician trained in herbal medicine can select an herbal formula which will have the broadest impact on the symptoms and causes of chronic fatigue syndrome for a particular patient.
- Antioxidant botanicals
- Oligomeric proanthocyanidins. (OPCs). Protect against lipid peroxidation and DNA damage.
- Ginkgo Biloba. Powerful antioxidant. Increases brain blood flow. Neuroprotective. Improves memory and cognition.
- Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry). Neuroprotective. Antioxidant.
Homeopathy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Homeopathy is a highly individualized gentle form of medicine which can be effective for chronic fatigue syndrome. It is necessary to have a complete homeopathic interview with a trained homeopathic physician for selection of the proper remedy.
Supplement Quality Is Important
Nutritional and botanical supplements used in these treatments are intended to have a physiological effect and clinical benefit, i.e., they are effective and your health improves.
The quality of nutritional supplements in the general marketplace is suspect. In order to get the maximum benefit to your health, be sure you purchase the highest quality nutritional supplements.
The doctors at The Connecticut Center for Health are very experienced in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. If you have (or suspect you have) symptoms and want to learn more about natural treatments for this condition, we recommend that you contact one of our clinics for a free consultation about chronic fatigue syndrome or an appointment.