As seen on: WebFMD.
I was recently interviewed about my approach to chronic fatigue syndrome by the functional medicine community WebFMD. (Think of WebMD, just for functional medicine). WebFMD are researchers, health practitioners, online publishers, and tech entrepreneurs dedicated to increasing the public awareness of functional medicine.
What is Chronic Fatigue?
Imagine that a simple errand, exhausts you for days. You can barely get out of bed to take a shower or fix a simple meal. For people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), this is their everyday reality. No matter how much rest they get, they just can’t seem to shake the extreme fatigue they feel.
CFS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, is extreme tiredness which doesn’t improve with rest. The fatigue can affect one’s entire life and prevents them from the simplest day to day activities. Unfortunately, CFS often impacts highly successful, driven people who are used to performing at the top of their game. Being chronically tired can be both physically and emotionally devastating for someone who is used to being highly productive.
Since the complex layers of this condition are not well understood by Western medicine, it is commonly brushed off by doctors and patients alike. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of people with CFS are not properly diagnosed.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Diagnosis & Common symptoms
The primary symptom of CFS is unrelenting fatigue. There are currently no lab tests that directly diagnose CFS. Diagnosis is based on the evaluation of symptoms and medical history. Diagnostic criteria include:
- Symptoms range for six months, with moderate, substantial or severe symptoms for at least half of the time
- Post-exertion malaise
- Unrefreshing sleep.
And at least one of the following:
- Orthostatic intolerance
- Cognitive impairment
Some of the more common symptoms can include:
- Chronic headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Joint or muscle aches
- Digestive issues
This non-specific diagnostic criteria and vague symptoms leave a lot of room for interpretation by medical professionals. Sometimes these symptoms are treated individually and are seen as unrelated to each other. Many times patients are given sleep medications or sent to see a psychiatrist before they are properly diagnosed. If you are having symptoms of CFS, you should see a medical professional that is specialized in chronic fatigue syndrome to determine the right diagnosis.
Potential Contributing Causes
There are several risk factors and underlying health conditions that can contribute to the development of CFS. Each individual underlying cause may completely change the necessary tests required and the treatment. For this reason, the entire picture needs to be evaluated to determine the right approach in each case.
In functional medicine, we approach the body as a whole, rather than concentrating on just one area. Just like peeling back the layers of an onion, we investigate each patient’s unique situation to reveal the unique root causes behind their illness.
As a part of the diagnosis, we often create a timeline based on the patient’s medical history to document the progression of CFS and identify contributing factors. After a thorough interview, physical exam, medical history and relevant laboratory tests, we usually have a much better understanding of the potential underlying causes. This allows us to develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to each person unique situation.
Treatment for CFS
Since CFS has different underlying causes, the treatment is often tailored to the individual. With that said, there are a few general guidelines we often recommend for most CFS patients:
- Diet & eating plan that focuses on whole foods, healthy sources of clean, grass fed animal protein along with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. The diet generally eliminates high sugar foods and processed, refined foods that can spike blood sugar making fatigue worse.
- Supplements may vary depending on nutrient testing and symptoms present. Common deficiencies that may contribute to fatigue include B12, vitamin D, and iron. Mitochondrial support with CoQ10, Acetyl-L-carnitine, D-ribose, and B-complex can also help to optimize energy production.
- Lifestyle. Although you might be physically exhausted, staying at home in bed all day can worsen your symptoms. Tailored physical activity, spending time in nature, and social interactions may help increase your energy, mood and emotional wellness. Actively managing stress is also a critical part of the path to feeling better.
If you are struggling with unrelenting fatigue that is preventing you from living your best life, don’t hesitate to reach out. CFS is not a life sentence, and with a personalized treatment plan you can start to feel better. We are committed to helping you get your energy and health back, book a consultation today.
To read my full article on WebFMD: Finding the Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Peeling Back the Layers of the Onion.