“I’m so tired.”
We’ve all heard it, and we certainly have all said it. More importantly, we’ve all experienced it. In a world filled with constant stimulation and a society that has adapted (and praised) the go-go-go mentality, it seems that people are more exhausted than ever. But there is a fine line between feeling tired and feeling chronically fatigued. If your feelings of tiredness don’t go away after a good night’s rest and last for more than six months, it is likely that what you are experiencing is chronic fatigue syndrome.
So what is chronic fatigue syndrome? Otherwise known as CFS, it is a long-term medical condition consisting of intense fatigue that does not improve with sleep. This can lead to problems with concentration, dizziness, and memory loss. There is no explanation of how or why CFS occurs, which makes it a complicated disorder that can be difficult to resolve. However, you may be at risk if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• Memory loss
• Difficulty concentrating
• Extreme fatigue
• Muscle or joint pain
• Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits and/or neck
• Sleep that is not energizing
• Extreme tiredness after working out
• Extreme tiredness after mental stimulation
It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms must occur at least half of the time for at least six months, making it much different than the normal occurrence of feeling tired after a long day. Additionally, these symptoms must range from a moderate to severe level of intensity. Although the cause of CFS is unknown, it is important to understand the possible reasons that it may occur, as it may represent an underlying and deeper-rooted health condition.
Possible Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Doctors have identified a few different medical conditions that may be underlying causes of CFS, most of which are physical conditions that involve a compromised immune and nervous system. Due to the nature of these conditions, it is important that you see a medical professional to get to the root cause. Some of the possible underlying conditions include:
• Weakened or Problematic Immune System
• Research has found a correlation between people with CFS and those who have problems with their immune systems, including autoimmune disorders
• Viral Infections
• Although no concrete evidence has been found, doctors have noticed that patients with CFS have had a viral infection, such as herpes or Epstein-Barr, in the past. These viral infections may prompt the onset of CFS.
• Hormonal Imbalances
• It is common for patients with CFS to have imbalances in their hormone and endocrine systems, such as the pituitary and adrenal glands. Bloodwork can assess these levels.
• Past Injury or Emotional Trauma
• A significant physical or emotionally traumatic event may spark the onset of CFS.
The possible causes listed above are significant health issues that can take a severe toll on one’s health and lifestyle, especially in combination with CFS. Because the exact cause of CFS is unknown, it isn’t easy to find a resolution. For that reason, it is highly beneficial to seek the help of a health professional that can make an educated assessment based on the symptoms you are experiencing.
In addition to underlying conditions, age and sex may also be potential risk factors. Women are much more likely to have experience with CFS than men, and although anyone can be affected with CFS at any age, it is more common in young to middle-aged adults.
How to Solve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Although there is no specific cure or standard protocol for CFS, you can manage the underlying symptoms. Many of these conditions can be healed naturally and holistically, which can positively affect your overall lifestyle, physical and mental health. Possible methods include:
• Talking to a trusted professional can help with any emotional trauma or issues with depression, both of which can lead to problems with sleep.
• Dr. Lana’s therapy group, Collaborative People, addresses conditions of all types with various modalities, giving you the option to choose what works best for you.
• Lifestyle Changes
• Limiting or avoiding caffeine can have a significant effect on one’s sleep and sleep quality
• Limiting or avoiding alcohol can also improve sleep, as alcohol can disrupt the REM sleep cycle and dysregulate blood sugar management, which takes a considerable toll on your adrenal glands.
• Creating a healthy sleep routine by turning off all electronics at least one hour before bed and setting your alarm at a healthy wake-up time.
• Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle that can improve energy and quality of sleep.
• Alternative Medicine
• Acupuncture can relieve pain and stress from physical injury, trauma and help with hormonal imbalances.
• Yoga and meditation can help to calm the mind and alleviate muscle and joint pain.
• In chronic or severe cases, medication may be used to manage symptoms of depression, sleep insomnia, physical pain, and regulate blood pressure.
Adrenal Fatigue vs. CFS
Similar to CFS, Adrenal Fatigue is another common condition that can spark fatigue, sleeplessness, and the need for stimulants, such as caffeine, to stay awake. Although the specific cause of Adrenal Fatigue is not known, health professionals believe that it is brought upon by long-term physical and emotional stressors that essentially wreak havoc on the adrenal glands and hormones. The adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, release hormones – such as adrenaline and cortisol – when they are under stress and cause the body to go into “fight or flight” mode. This causes your heart rate, blood pressure, and immune system to go into overdrive, and if the stressor persists, your adrenal glands cannot keep up with this response over time, leading to Adrenal Fatigue.
However, Adrenal Fatigue is also different than CFS in a few important ways. Whereas possible causes of CFS range from viral infections to autoimmune disorders, Adrenal Fatigue is solely a result of the overworked adrenal glands, leading to imbalanced hormone levels. However, it is important to keep in mind that the overworked adrenal glands are thought to be caused by chronic stress, which can often be the result of – or in some cases, lead to – other underlying health conditions.
Additionally, the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue also vary from those of CFS. A few additional symptoms include:
• Weight loss (in some cases, weight gain)
• Low blood pressure and dizziness
• Loss of body hair
• Cravings for sweet or salty foods
• Poor mood regulation
• Poor circulation
• Loss of muscle tone
Like CFS, Adrenal Fatigue can typically be healed holistically through lifestyle and diet changes, a supplement plan from a licensed Naturopath, therapy, and acupuncture.
By taking control of your health and making critical lifestyle changes, it is possible to improve CFS. Remember to stay hopeful and open-minded to trying new things – everybody is different and may require a different healing method! Progress is not always linear, but when you are in the hands of a trusted professional, progress can be made.
Schedule a session with Dr. Lana, a Naturopath, and certified acupuncturist, to discuss your individual needs and create a natural healing plan. Learn more here.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Signs, Symptoms, & Causes is written by Lana Butner for www.drlanawellness.com