Just Fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

 By Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D.

If you are dragging yourself through the day or feel like you have a bad cold you just canít kick, you may be one of the estimated 1 to 4 million Americans who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Over half a million Americans may have this condition and not be aware of it. This article is specifically geared to help you become aware of your own susceptibility -- and give you strategies to regain your Vitality if you are extremely fatigued.

If you think you may have CFS, be sure to work with your doctor for appropriate treatment, and you may find the remedies below helpful.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Temporary Tiredness?

Many of us have the occasional bout of exhaustion after a particularly challenging week, but Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that lingers for six or more months. The medical community classifies CFS as a syndrome because it presents a variable group of symptoms with no discernable underlying medical condition. There are no definitive tests, which means many people do not know that they are suffering from it.

Some symptoms that characterize CFS include:

  • Severe exhaustion and recurrent fatigue that does not improve with rest.
  • Fatigue that gets worse after the simplest activities.
  • CFS is usually accompanied by muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, and recurrent colds that linger for long periods of time.
  • Joint pain, especially that which moves from joint to joint without swelling or redness.
  • Many of my patients with CFS or general low immune system function will have a pale tongue indicating a low energy state
  • Sufferers of CFS arenít sick enough to be bedridden, yet arenít well enough to live a normal active life.

There is no known biomedical cause for CFS, but speculations point to severe emotional trauma, prolonged viral and bacterial infections, or a chronically stressed immune system that begins attacking the body. Many classical medical texts attribute conditions resembling CFS to be caused by the depletion of vital bodily substances -- blood, fluids, and energy from an optimal digestive system. In my practice, I treat CFS patients by restoring the bodyís vital substances with herbal and nutritional therapies, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes. Talk to your physician for personalized recommendations.

DIY Acupressure: Press Your Own Healing Button

You may not have access to an acupuncturist, but the next best thing is acupressure, in which you use your fingers (instead of needles) to stimulate meridian points.

Foot Three-Mile (ST-36): Stimulating this point circulates vital energy and blood, helps regulate digestion and metabolism, and strengthens the bodyís resistance to stress. Locate the point four finger-widths below your right knee, to the outside of the kneecap. Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb, and hold for 5 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.

Hundred Meeting (DU-20): Think of this point as an automatic valve that initiates repair and regeneration in your body. Find this point on top of your head, midway between your ears. Apply steady pressure with your index finger until you feel a slight soreness, and hold for 3 minutes.

Herbal Energy Tonics

Some of the herbs that you cook with are also energy tonics that support healthy immune functions, such as ginger, scallions, garlic, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, sage, dill, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Traditional herbs with adaptogenic capabilities have also been used to relieve the symptoms of chronic fatigue. These adaptogens help the immune system withstand environmental stress and include ginseng, licorice, astragalus, green tea, gotu kola, codonopsis, schisandra, Siberian ginseng, and cordyceps. These are available in the form of capsules or tea from health food stores, offices of Chinese medicine practitioners, and online; a licensed practitioner will be able to help create a formula for your specific needs.

Eat a Revitalizing Diet

Proper nutrition and a balance of the right foods can help the body heal itself, while improper dietary habits can complicate and prolong disease. Eat a diet that follows the seasons and that is rich in substances that help regenerate blood and vital energy, especially squash, yams, sweet potatoes, beans of all kinds (lima, black, soybeans, adzuki, and mung), daikon radish, eggs, cabbage, carrots, buckwheat, berries, cherries, watermelon, pineapple, papaya, figs, and pears. Organic sources of proteins such as chicken, turkey, and lamb as well as wild-caught deep-sea fish are helpful for energy, blood, and essence building. Eliminate nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, as well as shellfish, simple sugars, all processed foods, and dairy products, especially cheese. Try eating 5 smaller meals at regular intervals instead of 3 big meals. Donít eat late in the evening and donít eat very heavy meals.

CFS Remedy Recipe - Garlic egg-white omelet: Add one finely chopped clove of garlic, 1/3 cup diced yams, and 1/2 cup chopped parsley to 2 egg whites. Sautť the yam for about 15 minutes, and then add the other ingredients.

Invigorate with Lifestyle Changes

Perhaps most important of all is living a balanced lifestyle. Get to bed at the same time every night before 11pm, and get at least 8 hours of sleep. If possible, take a daily 30-minute (but no more) nap in the middle of the day. Revitalize with a daily 20-minute invigorating bath: mix Epsom salt with wintergreen, eucalyptus, and menthol essential oils.

Exercise is also important, but keep it light since CFS is prone to set backs from overexertion. Start with 10 minutes of exercise a day. Increase this by 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 or 45 minutes. Qigong and tai chi are excellent choices, as these exercises relieve stress, increase energy, and assist the bodyís healing process.

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