How to deal with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Imagine being so tired that you don’t have the energy to do the simplest tasks, like make a meal, take a shower, or even brush your teeth. If you have chronic fatigue syndrome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibromyalgia, and over six million folks in the United States or 1 in 50 do, you don’t have to imagine it—you live it, every day. Unfortunately, when you have chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, taking a nap, a break, or a rest doesn’t make it go away. When you have chronic fatigue syndrome, besides being bone-tired, you may experience headaches, muscle and joint pain, and insomnia and other symptoms. Typical symptoms of fibromyalgia include achy joints, fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. The overlap between chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia is so high that they are often considered the same complaint.

Factors to Consider

Like CFS sufferers, fibromyalgia sufferers are often women in their 40s and 50s. We’re not exactly sure what causes CFS and fibromyalgia.

A virus or microbe may set up a cascade of symptoms that become chronic. Think of it like tripping a row of dominoes that just won’t stop. If you think you have CFS or fibromyalgia, you are diagnosed according to your symptoms, not lab testing. Once you have your diagnosis, your treatment needs to be tailored to you, since everyone is different.

Still, the areas of treatment fall under the general categories of addressing sleep, hormonal support, infections, nutritional support, and exercise—what Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! calls the SHINE Protocol. You can learn more about it, including seeing the placebo controlled study showing that 91 percent of patients improve, often dramatically ( The overall concept is that optimizing energy production is critical, and managing diet and using supplements can often bring relief naturally.

Foods That Help and Hinder

A healthy diet is critical in managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia, and dietary antioxidants are of paramount importance. When you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia, the body is under increased oxidative stress, which means it is manufacturing more free radicals that can damage healthy cells. To fight free radicals better, stock up on a rainbow of deeply colored fruits and vegetables that are bursting with antioxidants.

If you don’t feel up to cooking because of low energy and aches and pains, try to prepare one meal that you can eat several times. Cook foods that balance blood sugar, like whole grains and lean protein and vegetables, for antioxidants and fiber—this can lower inflammation in the body. If you are just too tired to don the chef’s hat, why not choose healthy frozen options like Amy’s or Kashi foods? You can find more choices than ever before in your grocery store. Your health food store has even more choices. It’s worth taking a shopping trip for healthy frozen foods!

Keep in mind, too, that avoiding certain things in your diet is just as important. “Removal of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame has been shown to dramatically improve symptoms of fibromyalgia,” says Dr. Logan. “They may be gaining access to the brain more readily.” It’s also critical to remove artificial food dyes and preservatives like benzoates to avoid provoking symptoms. “That’s an absolute must.”

It’s important to investigate food intolerances as well, such as those to dairy and wheat.