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What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a complex and debilitating condition characterised by extreme fatigue that is not improved by rest and lasts for at least six months. The cause of CFS is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of factors such as viral infections, immune dysfunction, and genetic predisposition.
Facts About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Nobody is sure what causes CFS. Some people report they had experienced an injury, surgery or significant emotional stress shortly before their symptoms began. While in others, the symptoms are developed gradually over months or years. Viral or bacterial infections like COVID have also appeared to have trigger CFS.
It hasn’t always been recognised as an illness; misdiagnosis is common.
Any one can get it, at any age even children can develop it. It is more commonly diagnosed in women in their 40s and 50s.
It is estimated that 250,000 people in the UK and 1 million people in the US have been affected. This is more than those with HIV or M.S.
There no specific tests for CFS so other illnesses like Lupus have to be ruled out. The eventual diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and the pattern of their symptoms.
Sadly, there is no cure.
7 Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
In addition to persistent fatigue, you may experience various symptoms, including:
1. Post-exertional malaise (PEM): Physical or mental activity can exacerbate symptoms, leading to a worsening of fatigue and other symptoms.
2. Unrefreshing sleep: Despite getting enough sleep, you may often wake up feeling tired and lacking energy.
3. Cognitive difficulties: You may experience problems with concentration, memory, and thinking, sometimes referred to as ‘brain fog’.
4. Muscle and joint pain: Widespread muscle and joint pain, without redness or swelling, is common in CFS.
5. Headaches: Frequent headaches, often resembling migraines, can occur.
6. Sore throat and swollen lymph nodes: You may experience a persistent sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
7. Digestive issues: Symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are occasionally reported.
You may also find you are intolerant of alcohol, certain foods or chemicals.
As you can imagine, CFS can have a huge impact on your ability to carry out your normal activities like work and social ones. Up to a quarter of CFS sufferers are house or bed-bound.
How Can You Manage CFS?
If you have the above symptoms for several weeks, then your first port of call should be your doctor so you can have tests to rule out other causes.
Medications can be used to manage specific symptoms like sleep disturbances, pain, headaches and abdominal issues.
To help to manage the fatigue, many people find that they have to pace themselves to do their activities.
It is vital to follow a healthy, balanced diet if you have or think you have CFS and drink plenty of fluids. Eat:-
Plenty of starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta for a good source of energy. Choose carbs that release energy more slowly like porridge (oatmeal) and wholegrain bread to keep your blood sugars steady.
Good sources of protein like beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meats.
Cheese, yoghurts and milk for calcium or make sure your dairy alternatives are fortified with calcium.
At least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Healthy fats like olive oil.
Avoid or limit:-
Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, fried foods, and processed meat.
Consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
You could batch cook and freeze meals in advance for the days when you haven’t the energy for cooking.
Another tip is to eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep up your energy levels.
Do you suffer or know someone who suffers from CFS? How do you or they cope with it? Feel free to comment.
Thank you for reading.
Sources: meresearch.org.uk, nhs.uk, mayoclinic.org, ME Association, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com, bda.uk.com