Chronic fatigue syndrome is difficult to diagnose and just as difficult to cure. My experience with chronic fatigue syndrome stems from cancer treatment, although there are many other causes for developing CFS.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The direct causes of chronic fatigue syndrome are not well understood. There are many theories about the underlying causes. After speaking with my doctor, I discovered that CFS may be caused by problems with immune system function, anemia, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, or even viral infections. This is one of the reasons that chronic fatigue syndrome is so difficult to diagnose. It mimics many other illnesses such as the flu or even depression. There isn’t a specific test that can diagnose CFS. In my case, other illnesses were ruled out and because of undergoing radiation and chemotherapy I was diagnosed fairly quickly. In general, my doctor will only diagnose CFS if a person has fatigue that lasts for six months, does not improve with rest, and severe enough to reduce daily activities by fifty percent.
Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
My experience with chronic fatigue syndrome was very unpleasant. I found that even with rest, a balanced diet, and exercise I still felt exhausted. It seemed as if no one understood how severe the problem was. Simple things such as standing in front of the mirror to curl my hair, making scrambled eggs for breakfast, or driving to pick up the children from school would exhaust me. Chronic fatigue syndrome is often misdiagnosed as depression. One doctor actually wanted to prescribe anti-depressants to me. I had to laugh at him and let him know that I had just lived through eight surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and life had never looked so beautiful to me. I was a far cry from depressed. I was frustrated because I wanted to have the energy to do everything and it seemed that my body wouldn’t keep up with my mind and spirit.
Chronic fatigue syndrome shouldn’t be confused with being exhausted from overwork or being overstressed. A person with CFS cannot maintain a normal active life. Fatigue is persistent and does not improve with rest. I had muscle weakness, muscle aches that were severe enough to take a muscle relaxant, headaches, loss of appetite, intestinal upset, and night sweats. My doctor said that people can also experience depression, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and even low blood pressure.
Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Here’s the bad news; there isn’t a cure. When I heard that I began to cry in the doctor’s office. That was the closest I got to actually being depressed. I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life feeling so horrible. Here’s the good news; I feel much better now. Having dealt with CFS myself, I can honestly say that the best remedy is exercise no matter if you have to do leg lifts in bed, walk the dog, or even sit on the sofa and lift two pound weights. Do anything you can to exercise. I know it feels impossible but the only way to get energy in this situation is to burn energy. I learned that from my surgeon when I was hospitalized during my cancer treatment for five months and weighed only 89 pounds (I’m 5’11). I could barely walk or hold up my head but I would go from one end of that hospital to another twice a day. It took about two hours to do it because I had to sit down every five feet or so, but persistence does pay off. Do your best each day and make yourself do something physical even if it’s small.
I had anemia along with chronic fatigue syndrome and started getting B-12 injections which made a big difference along with a change in diet. B-12 is a natural energy booster and I receive an injection once per month at my doctor’s office. I also changed my diet to fifty percent raw foods and juices, started consuming more water to flush the toxins out of my system faster, avoided chocolate and sugars because they can deplete the body of magnesium which can lead to fatigue, and included various nutritional supplements such as co-enzyme Q10, magnesium, shitake extract, and chlorophyll in pill form. I am not a doctor by any means but I do have a somewhat extensive knowledge of herbal properties.
Each is person is different and the underlying cause of CFS may not be the same. Parasites are a common issue for many people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome according to my general practitioner. I also learned that a recent study by John Hopkins University identified a link between CFS and a problem regulating blood pressure. Basically, the body responds inappropriately to standing for prolonged periods of time. People experience light headedness which is caused by a drop in heart rate and blood pressure. I was amazed to hear about the study because that has been an issue for me my entire life, long before cancer came into the picture.
It’s been right at six months since I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and I still have days when the smallest thing can be exhausting but in general I am doing much better. There is hope if you’re suffering with this affliction. Granted, there is no cure but you can do many things to improve the situation.