For many of us, tiredness may seem temporary. But if exhaustion makes you feel like you are sleepwalking through life for months together, you could be afflicted by chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
While it may not seem life-threatening, chronic fatigue hampers the quality of your life. Maintaining a social life, going to work, or exercising all seem like insurmountable chores. Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, memory problems, muscle pains, aches, headaches, tender lymph nodes, and sore throat.
Treatment can prove tricky when a disease is hard to detect. Read through to understand what causes chronic fatigue and how a grounding and miraculous new school of thought called functional medicine could weed this and other bodily malaise from its very roots.
Understanding chronic fatigue
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. estimates that about 2.5 million Americans suffer from CFS, most undiagnosed. Multiple studies indicate that women experience acute tiredness twice as often as men, most between the ages of 25 and 45. It can also impact kids and teenagers.
CFS is not to be confused with fibromyalgia or long covid, which display similar symptoms. It is important to screen out conditions such as anemia, diabetes, thyroid illness, fibromyalgia, depression, and sleep disturbances before making a diagnosis or seeking treatment.
The suggested causes for ME/CFS include immunocompromised situations, viral or bacterial infections, hormonal imbalance, below optimal nutrition, chronic stress, or genetics.
Is it a real condition?
Despite three decades having passed since the syndrome was first described in scientific literature, people are still largely unaware of CFS and how it can affect them.
If you are observant, your colleague who may be a repeated absentee, often low on energy or distracted, could be suffering from it and not even be aware. Instead, they may wrongly assume that they are demotivated or have an ‘attitude problem’, suffer in silence and not seek help.
Community awareness and destigmatizing the condition will help support the affected and also help them seek treatment. An illness like this will force you to take stock of your life, but early treatment will always prove effective over turning a blind eye. That being said, one could implement a few steps to ensure optimal health, promote a healthier lifestyle and keep CFS at bay.
1. Adequate sunlight and stress management are crucial, along with mindfulness meditation practices in daily life. These work on two levels:
• It prevents the so-called “stress hormone” cortisol from being released in response to everyday stressors.
• Aids the production of feel-good hormones like dopamine, which maintains motivation, concentration as well as combats fatigue disorders.
2. The way food is grown, prepared, and consumed in the modern era is highly deficient in micronutrients and has a variety of adverse effects on public health. A micronutrient deficiency reduces the amount of energy a person can access in their body. This then hampers their physical ability, decreasing their productivity and ability to contribute to society.
3. A highly processed diet and artificial lifestyle have inundated our life with toxins. While not the easiest thing to do, we must avoid food, cosmetics, environment, and materials such as plastics containing toxic substances.
The liver is the primary detox organ of the human body, and when it is overloaded with toxins, it cannot perform its normal functions. Therefore, a well-balanced detox protocol helps clear them out and consequently improves the health of our bodies and brains.
Taking steps toward healing
Hijama or wet cupping is an excellent detox method when overcharged with chemicals, toxins, or stress. Having been around for centuries, it remains one of the most effective and least invasive detoxifying techniques for the body.
Fasting, when done right, remains under-recognized but scientifically proven to improve health and wellbeing, increase energy, decrease stress, and improve memory. What might surprise people is its profound effect on the brain. Evidence proves that a regular fasting regimen allows the body to flush out harmful toxins before they can cause lasting damage (such as cancer).
In the same vein, Juicing is also considered an effective detox method. However, the juices need to be organic, pesticide-free, and not overtly acidic to preserve your digestive environment.
As awareness about the gut-brain axis continues to expand, improving your gut health climbs the rungs of importance in maintaining health. The gut microbiome is crucial to a healthy GUT-BRAIN axis, and your health suffers when it skews out of balance.
Adolescents with eating disorders commonly experience gut symptoms such as constipation, bloating, and indigestion, and some are even diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). The gut microbiome has also been implicated in various mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
In a nutshell, no indication of poor health can be ignored. Diabetes, hormonal imbalances, etc., play a vital role in impacting the individual’s overall health. Prolonged mental or physical exertion, baseless dieting trends, and unhealthy practices must be avoided.
Beyond the physical body, emotional wellbeing is equally important. The wellness wheel portrays the interconnectedness of emotional coping and physical wellbeing. Your ability to regulate your emotions and manage stress is the difference between healthful living versus a life spent battling illness.
As always, sleep is both an underrated and integral factor. Quality sleep of 8- 9 hours is a must. A toxic body is an exhausted body. Your body will be unable to muster up enough healing energy if you don’t sleep enough.
Taking steps toward healing
The field of functional medicine and nutrition can tackle chronic fatigue, among other illnesses.
Functional medicine is a systems biology-based approach that goes deeper than symptomatic treatment and instead of superficially treating symptoms or over-relying on drugs to treat diseases, it aims to restore health and wellbeing by addressing the underlying causes of illness, such as inflammation, poor gut health, and nutritional deficiencies.
Every uncovered symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness, and working on these interconnections between illnesses works in overall healing and long-term health. If you are caught in the vice grip of exhaustion that won’t leave you, consider that the reasons might be bigger than a bad day at work or a poor night of sleep. When you prioritize health, you will achieve more than just elimination of disease – you will regain the zest for life that is crucial to a life well-lived.