Many of us often blame feeling tired during the day on our busy lives. But before you go blaming feeling tired on being busy, be sure you aren’t suffering from a health condition such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There are a number of health conditions in which tiredness can be a symptom, so it is important to monitor your symptoms, research them and talk to a doctor.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be devastating for people diagnosed with it. This is because not much is known about CFS and therefore not much can be done to treat it, except to mitigate the symptoms. CFS is a disorder characterized by extreme fatigue.
An estimated 1 million Americans suffer from this condition. The condition is also known as mylagic encephalomyelitis (ME), meaning “painful inflammation of the brain and spinal cord”.
Along with fatigue, there are a number of other serious symptoms:
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle pain
- Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
- Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
What Causes CFS?
The causes are largely unknown. However, there are a few factors that are suspected of causing CFS. Suspected factors include:
- Viral Infections: People who have had viruses such as Epstein-Barr, human herpes virus 6 and mouse leukemia viruses have all been suspected of getting CFS later. But no conclusive link has been found.
- Hormone Imbalances: It has been found in people with CFS, that they have abnormal levels of hormones produced in the hypothalamus, pituitary glands or adrenal glands.
- Immune System Dysfunction: People with CFS appear to have weakened immune systems. But it is still unclear whether this contributes to having CFS.
All of these factors have not been 100% medically proven. While these factors have often been found in people with CFS, there are also three factors that may put you at a higher risk of having this condition:
- Age: Individuals in their 40’s and 50’s have been most commonly affected.
- Sex: The majority of CFS patients have been women. However, this could be because women are more likely to talk to a doctor about their symptoms.
- Stress: those who experience high-levels of stress, or have difficulty managing stress may be at a higher risk.
Other than feeling tired all the time, those with CFS will experience several effects on their lives due to the symptoms. They will likely experience depression, social isolation, lifestyle restrictions, and increased work absences. All of these effects have a difficult impact on personal lives and families.
What to Do?
One of the most difficult things about this condition is that doctors do not know much about it. This means that there is no known cure yet, and that some medical professionals may not take it seriously.
To confirm if a person has CFS, first, doctors will run tests to rule out other conditions which have similar symptoms. CFS symptoms resemble other illnesses such as mononucleosis, Lyme disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, primary sleep disorders, and major depressive disorder. If they rule out these possible conditions and you experience 4 of the 8 ‘official’ symptoms, than you may be diagnosed with CFS.
As with most conditions and illnesses in our lives, we should always take good care of ourselves and our health in order to reduce our risks. Here are some ways you can reduce your risk and stay healthy:
- Reduce Stress
- Improve Sleeping Habits
- Pace Yourself
- Eat nutritious, healthy foods
- Alternative medicine techniques such as acupuncture, massage, yoga and tai-chi
- Take supplements and vitamins for good health.
A supplement such as Ashwagandha can help you keep your hormone levels in check and at normal levels.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that is believed to help the body adapt to stress, adrenal fatigue and regulate body processes. Over the years it has been used for arthritis, colds, as an aphrodisiac and more.
As always, consult with a medical practitioner before making changes, especially if you have a health condition, are on prescribed medication or are pregnant or breastfeeding.