Unfortunately, the cause of CFS has not yet been identified. Scientists believe that it could have multiple causes including immune dysfunction, very low blood pressure, infections, stress, and nutritional deficiency, although evidence is lacking for nutritional defects in people with CFS.
It is, however, known that CFS patients are a high cardiovascular risk category. So, this factor should be taken into account while choosing foods for chronic fatigue syndrome. Like any other disorder, the top foods to beat chronic fatigue syndrome must come from a varied diet selected from the basic food groups to ensure an adequate nutrient intake and to reach and maintain a reasonable body weight.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body. Include whole grains as part of the balanced diet to keep the digestive system in good working order. Brown rice, barley, quinoa, and oatmeal are some of the healthiest whole grain options. Choose gluten-free foods and avoid processed foods and refined sugars. Many CFS patients, however, feel better with low-carbohydrate diets. Whenever possible, go for fruits and vegetables as a source of carbohydrates rather than cereals and millets. Fruits and vegetables have an added advantage of essential minerals, which are important to people suffering from CFS.
Top protein foods for people with CFS are animal proteins such as meat, fish, and eggs, because animal proteins contain the maximum number of essential amino acids required by your body. Having said that, avoid red meats although you can have them occasionally. Nuts and beans are also good quality proteins but they are not as good as animal proteins. It is essential that you include variety of different proteins in your diet so that you can get all the amino acids. You may also include protein drinks, such as whey protein powders, to boost the low levels of glutathione in your weakened immune system.
Unlike the current recommendation for low fat diets, people with CFS are rather encouraged to consume healthy fats. Unhealthy fats should still be avoided. Fats help you improve poor immune function and hormonal imbalance, and also help in cognitive functioning. Moreover, fats are excellent source of energy. And the top source of fats is the extra virgin olive oil which is very rich in omega-3s. An Iranian study on neuroprotective effects of olive oil suggested that olive oil intake significantly reduced cell death and decreased memory loss, especially short term memory loss, common in CFS patients. Most studies therefore recommend the Mediterranean diet for CFS because this diet includes virgin olive oil. Papers presented in the International conference on the healthy effect of virgin olive oil also agreed that ĎThe Mediterranean diet, rich in virgin olive oil, improves the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as the lipoprotein profile, blood pressure, glucose metabolismí and reduced inflammation and oxidative stress.
Coconut and avocado oils are a close second. Meat and fish fats are also natural fats that you can consume.
Fruits and Vegetables
All green vegetables are good for those suffering from CFS. Researchers have found that CFS patients had elevated levels of methemoglobin (MetHb), a marker of oxidative stress, which shows that antioxidant treatment can help reduce free radical damage in them. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can increase plasma antioxidant capacity in people with CFS. Blueberries, with the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value, have been found to have significant benefits due to their high potential antioxidant activity, neuroprotective properties, and specific ability to protect red blood cells from oxidative damage.
Vitamin and Minerals - D-ribose
Since this disorder is associated with impaired cellular energy metabolism, it is necessary to choose foods that can improve the energy metabolism. A study from the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, Dallas, USA, suggests that D-ribose, a five-carbon sugar, from natural sources increases cellular energy synthesis in heart and skeletal muscle and significantly improves energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity and well being in people with CFS. D-ribose is found as riboflavin in foods such as chicken meat (0.08 mg per 3 ounce serving), milk (0.34 mg per cup), cheddar cheese (0.11 per ounce), and almonds (0.23 mg per ounce). Note that D-ribose might lower blood sugar. If you have very low blood sugar or diabetes, donít take ribose supplements or vitamin.
Gupta and colleagues from Punjab University, India, recommended curcumin from turmeric to be a valuable option in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Singal and colleagues from the same university suggested taking green tea to combat oxidative stress. In their experiment in lab animals, they found that green tea extract and catechin given for 7 days restored the reduced glutathione levels in the brains of these animals and improved the symptoms of fatigue. Still others have found Ginkgo biloba and Johnís Wort to have the same effect.
Food intolerance is also one of the symptoms of CFS. So, not only should you concentrate on eating healthy foods, but try making dietary changes by eliminating certain foods from your diet and see if it benefits the symptoms. For example, an Australian study found that eliminating wheat, milk, benzoates, nitrites, nitrates, and food colorings and other additives from the diet significantly reduced fatigue, recurrent fever, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, joint pain, cognitive dysfunction and IBS, in 90 percent of the CFS patients participating in the study.
Another study found that eliminating milk, wheat and corn from the diet could benefit some patients. For that matter, the patients themselves should find out through trial and error method what foods they have intolerance to, and avoid those foods.