Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a growing problem in the United States. Currently, more than one million people suffer from CFS according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Four times more women than men develop CFS but it affects both genders. It is also more common in teenagers and middle-aged adults (40s and 50s) but not exclusive.
It’s a complicated condition that is difficult to properly diagnose because it isn’t typically linked to another medical problem. The symptoms also mimic other illnesses so misdiagnosis is common initially for patients with CFS.
There are no medical biomarkers for this condition so patients may appear healthy and simply “tired” to their doctor. Every case is unique and CFS can flare up and then subside for long periods of time, making it difficult to treat effectively and manage from day to day.Over a million people suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome according to the CDC. #CFS Click To Tweet
8 Chronic Fatigue Symptoms Used for Diagnosis
- Severe fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest.
- Fatigue significantly worsens following mental or physical exertion.
- Alternating sleep patterns.
- Flagging memory or poor concentration.
- Aches and pains in joints and muscles with no known source.
- Frequent headaches.
- Tender lymph nodes
- Sore throat.
Other signs may include changes in mood such as depression or anxiety, poor balance, and difficulty with coordination. If you experience four of the above symptoms for six months or more, you may have chronic fatigue.
Medical solutions are not as easily found for CFS because there’s no specific drug to treat it and it can come and go – improving and worsening – over time. A treatment plan for chronic fatigue patients may involve your regular practitioner, a physical therapist, and a mental health professional because a collaborative effort has proven to be more effective.
The goal is improving (and maintaining) quality of life.
General Fatigue and Lack of Energy
Even if you don’t suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, there are times when all of us feel as if we’re dragging. You may have small periods of time where you have no energy and little motivation. While it isn’t usually a medical issue, it can be stressful and inconvenient.
This happens to me a couple of times each year and I finally recognized a pattern. Extreme fatigue would appear after several months of working too many hours on too many projects without giving myself time to breathe.
My body and mind would essentially “shut down” and force me into sleeping and being still for several days to recuperate. This taught me that I can either take care of my body or it will shut down and leave me wrecked.
There are still days when I get little sleep for a few days due to deadlines and suffer from intense brain fog and a desire to go back to bed.
Until a couple of years ago, my solution to any lag in energy was handled with coffee or sugar-rich foods for a quick pop of energy and feeling of alertness.
Caffeine and sugar ramp up your brain chemicals but dissipate quickly, leaving you with a “crash” that makes it necessary to repeat the process to ramp up again.
Choosing snacks that boost and sustain your energy keep you from feeling up and down while also protecting you from blood sugar levels that fluctuate rapidly from low to high and back again. Riding a sugar rollercoaster is dangerous over time and can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
9 Favorite Foods to Boost Energy All Day
- Lemon infused water
- Greek yogurt, pickles, or sauerkraut (probiotic foods)
- Nuts (especially almonds and pistachios)
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut, and sardines)
- Peanut butter (a personal favorite)
- Berries, citrus, or bananas
- Hummus or tabbouleh with pita
- Leafy greens (kale and spinach in particular)
What I absolutely love is combining some of these foods in a single recipe.
Mixing up a quick green shake, baking an egg and spinach frittata, or tossing together a superfood chopped salad makes it easy to get what I need without a lot of mess or time. It’s the ideal boost mid-day when my energy starts to fade. I drink lemon infused water throughout my day (between cups of coffee) to stay hydrated.
Ignoring Chronic Fatigue Is Not the Answer
Whether you have periods of “low energy” or are struggling with something much more significant, you shouldn’t ignore signs of mental or physical exhaustion. Not only does your body deteriorate without sufficient rest, your mind begins to suffer as well.Don't ignore signs of mental or physical exhaustion. #ChronicFatigueClick To Tweet
Acute or chronic fatigue can lead to irritability, confusion, a higher risk of illness or infection, and stress as you try to maintain the status quo despite being too tired to function.
If you have CFS, here are some tricks that may help with the symptoms…
- Practice meditation to help sooth your mind.
- Take up yoga, tai chi, or swimming as a low impact way to ease joint and muscle pain.
- Make your sleep space as calm as you can.
- Set a sleep routine and stick to it (even if it doesn’t always help with the fatigue).
- Eat energy-fortifying foods and skip the junk that saps your nutritional levels.
- Drink plenty of water and infuse it if you enjoy the taste.
Most importantly, ask for help if you need it. Chronic fatigue can change how you feel, function, and even how you look. Don’t go it alone…and don’t give up.