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Nutrition And Lifestyle For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

fatigue, nutrition | November 20, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


Nutrition And Lifestyle For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) first attracted attention in the mid 1980s with patients describing persistent debilitating fatigue and symptoms such as sore throat, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and difficulty sleeping.

Causes for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Initially, as there was no recognisable cause for the symptoms, chronic fatigue was referred to as a psychiatric disorder, a 20th century illness, and even as a “yuppie flu”. Although there is still no explanation why chronic fatigue syndrome develops, it is now recognised as a serious condition that can cause long-term illness and disability.

It has been suggested that a person is born with a predisposition for the syndrome, which can then be triggered by other factors.

Possible predisposing factors:

  • Personality - people who are overanxious are presumed to be more vulnerable to Chronic Fatigue
  • Lifestyle – inactivity in childhood may increase the risk of chronic fatigue in adults.
  • Genetics – more women are diagnosed with chronic fatigue than men

Triggering factors:Causes for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • Viral infections - some people develop chronic fatigue syndrome after having a viral infection such as cold and flu or glandular fever.
  • Psychological stress - serious stressful situation, such as the loss of a loved one or a job have been found to trigger chronic fatigue.
  • Other - hormonal imbalances, immune system problems, toxic exposure, food intolerance and physical trauma such as serious injuries, surgery, pregnancy, or even labour have been suggested as a triggering cause for chronic fatigue.

Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. Your doctor will carefully evaluate your symptoms and medical history, and may order further tests to rule out other possible explanations. According to Emerge Australia, to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, a patient should have symptoms that have persisted for more than 4-6 months in an adult and 3 months in a child.

Nutrition Intervention for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Because the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is still a mystery, there is no known cure and research is ongoing. However, some nutritional strategies may assist in relieving the symptoms. They include:

Correcting nutritional deficiencies

Some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome appear to be deficient in certain vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Correcting these deficiencies may improve fatigue and contribute to the healing process.

Nutrition Intervention for Chronic Fatigue SyndromeSpecific deficiencies include:

  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
  • L-tryptophan
  • l-carnitine
  • coenzyme Q10
  • Essential fatty acids.

Elimination diets

Many patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have been found to have allergies or food sensitivities. Many eliminate gluten and/or dairy, sometimes unnecessary, in the hope it would relieve their symptoms.

If you suspect that certain foods in your diet are causing some of the symptoms of chronic fatigue, an elimination diet may help to determine if you are sensitive to anything in your diet. This should only be done in consultation with a qualified dietitian,  nutritionist or naturopath.


Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds in plants that provide powerful benefits to our health. They help the body get rid of toxins, boost the immune system, improve heart health, stimulate the death of cancer cells and involved in energy metabolism. There are thousands of polyphenols in fruits and vegetables.

Studies in animals (mice and rats) found that polyphenols reduce fatigue. One study in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome demonstrated that a daily consumption of dark chocolate (containing 85% cocoa solids) considerably reduced their fatigue. Chocolate contains cocoa, which is a potent polyphenol. Other foods that are high in polyphenols include blueberries and red grapes, apples, oranges, onion, broccoli, kale, turmeric and tea.

A balanced, healthy diet  

In the absence of a proven food allergy or intolerance, it is not recommended to follow dietary restriction.

However, one study found that 95% of patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome had poor fibre intake and 70% had unhealthy fat, fruit, and vegetable intake. Improving the quality of the diet may help reduce fatigue and increase energy levels.

A healthy and balanced diet should include a wide variety of whole unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables in different colours, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, in their most natural forms, as well as healthy oils: fish, olive, and avocado, and lean quality protein.

Lifestyle Intervention for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Cognitive behaviour therapy

This therapy is a general form of psychotherapy, teaching patients how to gain control over their symptoms. Although the exact way in which it works is not known, studies found that cognitive behaviour therapy greatly improves fatigue in adults with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Graded exercise

Graded exercise therapy has been found to be a very effective and safe treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, improving symptoms of fatigue and overall health in most participants. 

Graded exerciseThe therapy is delivered in six stages:

1. Estabilising a daily routine 

2. Starting regular stretching 

3. Deciding on a physical activity goal and choosing a type of activity with which to start (such as walking)

4. Setting an achievable physical activity baseline

5. Increasing the duration of physical activity 

6. Increasing intensity

The Bottom Line

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disease that can last for months and even years. If you have been diagnosed, it is important that you slow down and minimise physical and psychological stress, optimise your diet, and when you are ready, begin a slow graded exercise program with the help of a qualified therapist. Australia’s best online discount chemist


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Clark, L. V et al., 2017. Guided graded exercise self-help plus specialist medical care versus specialist medical care alone for chronic fatigue syndrome (GETSET): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Lancet (London, England), 390(10092), pp.363–373. Available at:

Emerge Australia 2017. Think you might have ME/CFS? -. Available at:

Institute of Medicine. 2015. Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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