People with CFS experience extreme fatigue and a wide range of other symptoms, including flu-like symptoms and chronic pain.
Patients and patient advocates often prefer to call the condition chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), to convey the complexity of the illness.
Symptoms appear within a few hours or days and last for 6 months or more.
They can include:
- tender lymph nodes
- sore throat
- muscle pain
- joint pain
- feeling tired
- feeling discomfort after physical exertion for more than 24 hours
These symptoms either stay with a person or come and go for more than 6 months. They often resemble those of other health conditions.
Effect on quality of life
Many people with CFS find it difficult to carry out everyday tasks, including work. Employment rates vary. Over half of those with CFS feel too unwell to work, and nearly two-thirds are limited in their work because of their illness.
Some people lead relatively normal lives, but others are unable to get out of bed or to care for themselves.
The cause of CFS is unknown. To discover possible triggers, researchers are studying the relationship between stress, the immune system, toxins, the central nervous system, and activation of a latent virus. Some researchers suspect a virus may cause it; however, no specific virus has been identified.
Studies suggest that CFS may be caused by inflammation of the nervous system, and that this inflammation may be some immune response or process. Other factors such as age, prior illness, stress, environment, or genetics may also play a role.
According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), people with CFS may experience digestive problems, such as:
- gas and bloating
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea and constipation
- intolerance or sensitivity to alcohol, caffeine, some foods, and some drugs
They recommend following a balanced, healthful diet and suggest the following tips:
- Avoid large meals and eat little and often, for example, every 3 to 4 hours.
- Include a portion of starchy food, and especially slow-release starchy food, such as oats, with every meal, as these can help maintain steady energy levels.
- Consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
- Include protein foods in at least two meals, such as meat, fish, nuts, soya, or lentils.
- Consume milk and dairy products or alternatives, such as soy milk.
- Avoid high-sugar and high GI foods, such as sodas and candies, as these can lead to energy and blood sugar spikes.
- Have fruit ready as a snack in case you have a craving for comfort food.
It is important to maintain a healthy weight. This includes not eating too much when you are too tired to exercise, and also keeping up a healthful intake if your appetite is low.
There is no evidence that an anti-candida diet or any other restrictive diet will help with CFS. Anyone who thinks they may have a food intolerance should speak to their doctor before cutting out any food group.
Any supplements should first be discussed with a health care provider, too.
Dr. Birken recommends optimizing thyroid as well as a short term use of compounded cortisol 2-3 times per day.
“Many CFS patient see improved energy and functionality with both thyroid and cortisol hormones.” Dr. Birken said. “Additionally, an amino acid called l-tyrosine can help with mental focus and alertness. And it’s important to take a pharmaceutical grade probiotic since there can be a gut influence on fatigue.”
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