Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Natural Treatments
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
If you suffer from severe exhaustion and recurrent fatigue that does not improve with rest and that gets worse with the simplest activities, and if it is accompanied by muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, and recurrent colds that linger for long periods of time, you may be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The medical community has classified CFS as a syndrome because it is a variable group of symptoms that are present at the same time with no discernible underlying medical condition.
CFS affects more people than statistics show since there are no definitive tests for diagnosis. In recent years CFS has been on the rise-more than half a million Americans may suffer from this condition without being aware of it. There are no known biomedical causes for CFS, but some think that severe emotional or physical stress or trauma and prolonged viral or bacterial infections precede the appearance of symptoms. There are speculations that CFS is caused by an overstressed immune system that fails to protect the body properly or becomes overstimulated and attacks the body itself.
I saw my first case of CFS in 1986. A patient from the Lake Tahoe area flew to Los Angeles to see me after seeing a number of specialists, without success. After I helped her recover, many people with CFS from the same area came to see me. Initially I thought it was a geographically unique condition limited to Lake Tahoe, but soon I was seeing patients from around the country. Over the years I’ve worked with immunologists and holistic internists to design a comprehensive program to help CFS patients regain their quality of life. CFS can be debilitating – many patients aren’t sick enough to be bedridden, but they’re not well enough to live a normal active life. The most frustrating thing for many CFS patients is that since they don’t appear sick, their family and friends have difficulty understanding why they’re unable to live normally.
In Chinese medicine, in order to function properly, the body requires vital substances, including blood, fluids, energy produced by a healthy digestive system, and the vital essence from the kidney-bladder network which maintains healthy immune function. When these energies are exhausted, the body cannot function properly. Breakdown is the consequence. Many classical medical texts attribute conditions similar to CFS to the exhaustion of these vital substances as a result of being overworked, prolonged illness, emotional trauma, physical stress, or overindulgence. Most of my patients with CFS have experienced one or more of these. My success in treating CFS can be attributed to understanding the intricate balance of the body’s vital substances and restoring deficiencies with herbal and nutritional therapies, acupuncture, and lifestyle counseling.
Here are some of my recommendations.
- Diet for CFS
- Home Remedies for CFS
- Daily Vitamin Supplements for CFS
- Herbal Therapy for CFS
- Qi Gong Movements for CFS
- Acupressure for CFS
- CFS: Advice on what to avoid
DIET FOR CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
Proper nutrition and a balance of the right foods can help the body heal itself. Improper nutrition and lifestyle, on the other hand, can complicate disease and prolong its course. I recommend a seasonal diet rich in substances that help regenerate blood, energy, and vital essence.
- Incorporate more fresh fruits, including a variety of berries, watermelon, pineapple, papaya, figs, pears, and jujube dates. Ginger, scallions, garlic, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, sage, dill, turmeric, and cayenne pepper are all energy tonics that support healthy immune function.
- Organic sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey, and lamb, as well as wild caught deep-sea fish are helpful for energy, blood, and essence building.
- Favor cabbage, carrots, eggs, winter melon and squash, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, yams, sweet potatoes, lima beans, black beans, soybeans, mung beans, adzuki beans, daikon radish, pearl barley, white fungus (an Asian mushroom), and buckwheat.
- Eat smaller meals at regular intervals and more frequently. Don’t eat late in the evening and don’t eat very heavy meals.
- Drink more water, at least 60 ounces of room temperature every day.
- Avoid dairy products (especially cheese), simple sugars, processed flour, all processed and artificially flavored foods, and fatty, oily foods, which create dampness and injure the vital energy.
- Avoid tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and shellfish.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol, as they produce heat in the body and cause confusion of the body’s energy.
HOME REMEDIES FOR CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
- Take an invigorating bath with Epsom salts and essential oils of wintergreen, eucalyptus, and menthol for 20 minutes every day.
- Always go to bed at the same time every night, before 11p.m., and get at least 8 hours of sleep. If you can, take a 30- minute nap in the middle of the day, or at least try to get some relaxation time in by lying down in your car for a little while. Never nap for more than 30 minutes at a time, or you may wake up groggy.
- Make a garlic and egg white omelet with 2 egg whites and include 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1/3 cup diced sauteed yam, and 1/2 cup chopped parsley
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR CFS
- Taking beta carotene (800 milligrams), vitamins C (1,000 milligrams), E (800 IU), and B complex, and omega-3 fatty acids (1,000 milligrams EPA; 800 milligrams DHA) can help alleviate the symptoms of CFS. Many of these nutrients are depleted in CFS patients.
- The mineral supplements zinc picolinate (50 milligrams), magnesium glycinate (500 milligrams), calcium citrate (1,000 milligrams), vitamin D (400 IU), and manganese (25 milligrams) support healthy immune function.
- The amino acids L-carnitine (500 milligrams), L-lysine (1,000 milligrams), and L-glutathione (100 milligrams), and alpha lipoic acid (50 milligrams), and the antioxidant coenzyme Q-10 (50 milligrams), can help the body to recover from CFS.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR CFS
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.
- A traditional Chinese herbal formula for Chronic Fatigue contains Poria sclerotium, Licorice root & rhizome, Peucedanum root, Sichuan Lovage rhizome, Notopterygium root & rhizome, Bupleurum root and Chinese Mint (aboveground parts).
- I recommend the Chinese herbal formulas Abundant Energy and High Performance, for supporting healthy digestive function. The formulas contain ginseng, codonopsis, polygonatum, glehnia root, longan, Japanese apricot, astragalus, schizandra, Siberian ginseng, and other Chinese herbs.
- Another formula we often use is Perpetual Shield Immune Booster, which helps support healthy functioning of the immune system. It includes Fo-Ti root, ligustrum, Cherokee rose, white mulberry, sesame, eclipta, achyranthes, honeysuckle, siler, goji berry, and other Chinese herbs.
- In addition, Ginseng, licorice, astragalus, green tea, gotu kola, codonopsis, schizandra, Siberian ginseng, and cordyceps have adaptogenic capabilities and are used to relieve the symptoms of CFS.
EXERCISE FOR CFS
I recommend light to moderate exercise, since people with CFS are prone to setbacks from overexertion.
- Start by exercising 10 minutes a day, and increase by 5 minutes each week until you reach 45 minutes. Be patient and amp up gradually. Excessive exercise can further injure the energy.
- Walking is a good start - 30 minutes of gentle walking every other day can invigorate the body, raise basal metabolism, and help with energy.
QI GONG MOVEMENTS FOR CFS
I often prescribe tai chi or a Self Healing Qi Gong exercise to strengthen the vital qi of the spleen and stomach. It’s called Spleen-Stomach Strengthening Qi Gong.
This exercise should be done daily for 15 minutes, preferably in the morning and not too vigorously.
- Lie down comfortably on your back, with your hands at your sides. Focus on your navel. Visualize a golden disk the size of a Frisbee spinning around your entire abdomen with its center at your navel.
- With every inhalation the disk spins half of a circle. With every exhalation the disk completes the other half of the circle.
- Breathe deeply so that the disk spinning slowly, corresponding to your respiration for a total of 21 times in the clockwise direction.
- Reverse the direction of the disk’s rotation and repeat the breathing-spinning synchronization.
SELF ACUPRESSURE FOR CFS
- Locate the acupoint Foot Three Miles (ST-36), four fingerwidths below and to the outside of the right kneecap. Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb. Hold for 5 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.
- Locate the acupoint Hundred Meeting (DU-20), on top of your head, midway between your ears. Apply steady pressure with your index finger until you feel soreness. Hold for 3 minutes.
CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME: WHAT TO AVOID
- Excessive physical and mental activity, all kinds of stress, and overeating. Get plenty of sleep.
- Alcohol, smoking, and caffeine, as using them will weaken vital energy in the long run.
- Developing food allergies, and practice food rotation - don’t repeat any one food within four days of eating it. For CFS, eliminate nightshade vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant.
- Anxiety and emotional turmoil, which burn out the vital energy.
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©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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