What is the best way to treat your CFS? The short answer is, to see your Exercise Physiologist or General practitioner (preferably one experienced in CFS) as everyone’s symptoms can differ, and an individualised program needs to be implemented for you. I see many patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and almost all of them make the same mistakes. Here are the most common mistakes to look out for when treating your CFS;
CFS has little to nothing to do with your sleeping. People with chronic fatigue complain of unrefreshing sleep whether they sleep 8 hours or 18 hours. The first mistake is thinking you need more sleep. As a general rule, the amount of sleep you are getting should be equal to the amount of sleep you used to get before falling ill. If you used to sleep 8 hours a night, you should try to maintain that sleep time. If you didn’t used to have naps during the day, you should not be sleeping during the day. CFS sufferers will generally feel no more refreshed with more than 8 hours of sleep at night. However, poor sleep patterns may encourage mental health issues, poor time management and a feeling of not being able to achieve what you want to do in the day. Good sleeping patterns (not necessarily more sleep) will improve your well being.
Pacing, pacing, pacing! How many times have you felt well enough to do something, but then paid for it the next day? This is what practitioners call the ‘Boom Bust cycle’ You feel good, so ‘Boom’ you do a spike of activity, next thing you know ‘Bust’. This is a never ending cycle, and while you remain in this cycle you will never recover. The first step is identifying this cycle. Keep a diary of your fatigue levels and activities that you perform. What causes you to be excessively fatigued? vacuuming? reading? shopping? Exercise? Work/school? All of them squashed into one day? Ask yourself these questions and identify patterns. If you know the problem, then you can pace it. Can you reduce the activity intensity or duration? Can you avoid aggravating situations or manage them so they are no longer a problem? If you can master the boom bust cycle, you can develop a foundation and from that foundation, step by step build supporting structures to improve your fatigue tolerances and reduce aggravations.
Most people are aware that if they do too much physical work, this will cause fatigue. However mental or emotional fatigue can also play a big role in your symptoms. Mental fatigue can include activities of concentration, problem solving or imagination. Activities to watch include; reading, excessive computer use, studying, cross words, learning new activities, driving or occupations that require any mix of these. If you do have limitations with mental fatigue, then it should be treated the same as physical fatigue. You should pace your activities, avoid boom and bust cycles, introduce a graded mental fatigue program to gradually improve your fatigue symptoms.
Common symptoms associated with CFS are joint pain, whole body fatigue, confusion, forgetfulness, anxiety, a sore throat, hyper sensitivity (and more). Common feeling associated with depression include: anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of pleasure in activities, mood swings, excessive fatigue, insomnia, lack of concentration, thoughts of suicide (and more). First thing you should know, is this is normal. These are common symptoms described by thousands of people. However it is important to tell the difference between CFS and mental health. If you have feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest, feelings of guilt or thoughts of suicide, talk to your Doctor/Psychologist/Counselor/practitioner. Mental health is a serious and very real problem with CFS and should not be ignored.
Search engines are a wealth of blogs, and personal opinions. Some are true, some are false and some are somewhere in between. Just because something worked for someone else, does not mean that it will work the same for you. If you find something that interests you, do not take their word for it, do your research. Easiest way to do research is ask a professional. It is their job to keep up to date with treatments that have been clinically proven to work. At this time, special diets have zero research to support their use in CFS including ‘dairy free diets’ ‘supplement usage’ ‘low fat diets’, ‘high protein diets’ and ‘this food is a wonder food that will fix all your problems kind of diet’. Although there isn’t any supportive research to support these, I will say this: A clean natural balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and avoiding take away and junk food in my experience, does appear to have a positive outcome (once again not research supported, but in my experience).