What is chronic fatigue?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) causes persistent fatigue or exhaustion, that cuts across your life and doesn't go away with sleep or rest.
CFS is also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis. Myalgia means muscle pain and encephalomyelitis means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
CFS is a serious condition that can cause long-term illness and disability, but many people – particularly children and young people – improve over time.
Who is affected?
It is estimated that around 250,000 people in the UK have CFS.
Anyone can get CFS, although it is more common in women than in men. It usually develops in the early 20s to mid-40s. Children can also be affected, usually between the ages of 13 and 15.
Symptoms of chronic fatigue?
Symptoms vary from person to person, and from day to day.
Fatigue: physical and mental exhaustion, that does not go away with sleep or rest. It can feel overwhelming. It can be worse for exercise, but the effect might be delayed. With severe chronic fatigue patients might be bed-bound and find the simplest tasks difficult or impossible.
- Muscular pain, joint pain and severe headaches
- Poor short-term memory and concentration, and difficulty organising thoughts and finding the right words ('brain fog')
- Painful lymph nodes (small glands of the immune system)
- Stomach pain and other problems similar to irritable bowel syndrome, such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea
- Sore throat
- Sleeping problems, such as insomnia and feeling that sleep is not refreshing
- Sensitivity or intolerance to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods
- Psychological difficulties, such as depression, irritability and panic attacks
Less common symptoms:
- Dizziness, excess sweating, balance problems and difficulty controlling body temperature
What causes chronic fatigue?
Exactly what causes chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is unknown, but there are several theories.
Some experts think a viral infection such as glandular fever can trigger the condition. Indeed, I commonly find patients test positive to "post virus", when muscle tested.
However, some chronic fatigue does not start after an infection and the condition sometimes develops gradually. I commonly find patients test positive to candida, which is known to cause tiredness and other chronic fatigue symptoms. This generally indicates a compromised immune system.
I commonly see chronic fatigue in patients who are very conscientious and "want to get it right" at all costs. This temperament might mean they push themselves more than others, specifically through an illness, when they won't take time to rest and recover - chronic fatigue can be the result.
Chronic fatigue is also common after an intensely stressful time, for example a divorce, a serious accident or a situation of conflict. A common question I will ask is what was happening 1-2 years before the fatigue started?
Other medically suggested causes of include:
- A hormone imbalance
- Genes – some people may have an inherited tendency to develop chronic fatigue, as it is more common in some families
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified CFS as a chronic (long-term) neurological condition and this classification has been accepted by the Department of Health.
However, the WHO’s decision remains controversial and is not accepted by everyone working in the field. 84% of members of the Association of British Neurologists surveyed in 2011 said they did not view CFS as a neurological condition.
Conventional treatment for chronic fatigue?
There is no test to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
It can take a long time for the condition to be diagnosed, as other conditions that cause similar symptoms need to be ruled out first.
You may have blood tests, urine tests and scans to rule out other conditions, such as anaemia, an under active thyroid gland or liver and kidney problems.
There is no medication available that can treat chronic fatigue specifically, but different medicines may be used to relieve some of the symptoms.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help ease any muscle pain, joint pain and headaches you may have. Stronger painkillers can also be prescribed by your GP, although they should only be used on a short-term basis.
If you have chronic pain, you may be referred to a pain management clinic.
Anti-depressants can be useful for people who are in pain or having trouble sleeping.
If you experience severe nausea you may be given an anti-emetic.
You will be advised to pace yourself, avoid stress and spend time relaxing.
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) might be recommended to enable your thought process to improve your lifestyle habits.
Graded exercise therapy, aims to build your physical stamina through exercise.
How I treat chronic fatigue
I see a lot of patients with impaired energy levels, who may or may not be classified as having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I am more comfortable talking about chronic fatigue, rather than the "CFS".
Kinesiology for chronic fatigue
I will muscle test for all pathogens, including post virus, candida and other parasites, then I will investigate other causes of ill-health - toxicity, free radical overload, adrenal fatigue, thyroid, etc. Candida is very common
I will muscle test for food and environmental sensitivities.
Supplements might be recommended, as indicated by muscle testing.
Frequency therapy might be used if there are pathogens present, and commonly they will be gone by the end of treatment. Although commonly they will return before the next treatment.
Acupuncture for chronic fatigue
Acupuncture aims to restore balance and to boost energy levels. It is likely the Spleen and Kidney energy needs nourishing.
Emotional freedom technique (EFT) can be focussed on both symptoms and emotions. There are likely to be stressful or upsetting events that have contributed to the on-set.
What can I expect?
Treating chronic fatigue has to be done gently. For very severe cases treatment in itself can be exhausting.
With regular weekly treatment, using kinesiology, acupuncture and EFT, I would expect you to notice an improvement in your symptoms.
If you have the strength (and inclination!) I will teach you the tapping points for you to start to do EFT on yourself. You will also have a list of foods to avoid, and perhaps supplements to take.
British Acupuncture Council fact sheet on effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic fatigue an extract:
A systematic review of studies on the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome with acupuncture and moxibustion in China. All studies concluded that acupuncture treatment is effective, with response rates ranging from 78.95% to 100%.
The ME Association recommend both acupuncture and dietary methods can be effective.
Each case is slightly different, so to discuss your symptoms further call 020 7370 4693 or email.
A case history for chronic fatigue
Jodie 38, chronic fatigue
Jodie had had a very high profile job in finance, but 6 months ago she had to give it up, and now spent most of her time in bed, although she was not bed-bound. Her energy levels were described as 1/10, sometimes she suffered low grade aches throughout her body, she suffered shortness of breath on exertion, she would get bloating and puffiness, suffered irregular bowel movements and felt very oppressed and overwhelmed with her condition.
I tested her for pathogens, there was both post virus and candida. (Before this began, she had had a severe chest infection which she had continued to work through - "there was a big deal to be secured, so I couldn't be absent!") There was also toxicity.
I used Frequency Therapy to get rid of the candida and the post virus, which did clear during a session, but could come back.
I recommended anti-oxidants and fish oils to resolve the toxicity.
Acupuncture was used to build her energy and her immune system.
EFT was used to deal with her current symptoms, and current oppression, then over time we addressed both her anger and sadness over historic events.
We had to work slowly, and she would feel very tired after each session, however I saw her weekly for 5 months, during this time she returned to work, initially part-time and then full-time. She now comes to see me every 2 weeks, on an on-going basis, which keeps her balanced both emotionally and physically. Although she still has to watch her work-life balance, she is better at delegating, and setting her boundaries around what is possible for her.
Lifestyle advice for chronic fatigue
- Avoid sugar
- Avoid caffeine
- Avoid processed food
- Moderate or avoid alcohol
- Eat lots of fresh veg and fruit
- Drink 2 litres of water a day
See if you feel better with:
- Multivitamin - good quality eg. Biocare
- Anti oxidant - either as a mix, or Glutathione or Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Omega 3 fish oil
- Floradix iron supplement
These are common supplements I might suggest, but everyone tests differently - and it does vary significantly
Stress reducing tips
In my experience working to hard, and stress is a big contributor, so:
- Get good rest, at least 8 hours a night, the more before midnight the better
- Get fit, doing gentle exercise
- Take a walk in nature: the countryside or a park
- Try yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi
- Engage your creativity: painting, playing an instrument, taking pictures, creative writing (start with a journal)
- Avoid over obsessing about emails, texts and the internet
- Anything to provide balance to counteract a busy life
Ask yourself, what do I do to relax? I hope you have an answer! If so, make time for it. If not - play and find out.
Try to avoid sleeping too much during the day, it can actually hinder your recovery. But do include 30 minute rest periods during the day - perhaps use this for meditation, listening to a guided mediation, or I like Hemisyc products, which use binaural beats to put the brain into deep relaxation.