Feeling physically or mentally exhausted after a day’s work or after the extra effort you put in into your daily routine, is natural. But if the tiredness or fatigue lasts six months or longer and does not improve with bed rest or worsens after physical exercise or mental exertion, you may be looking at a disorder called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms could be muscle pain, severe headaches like you have never experienced before, impaired memory or mental concentration, insomnia, painful lymph nodes, sore throat, gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, constipation, nausea, and even, sensitivity to light, noise, alcohol and certain foods.
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 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 a variety of different proteins in your diet so that you can get all the amino acids. You may also include protein drinks, such as why 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 an 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 ‘The Mediterranean diet, rich in virgin olive oil, improves the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as the lipoprotein profile, blood pressure, glucose metabolism’ 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 rich 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.
Vitamins and Minerals - D-ribose
Since this disorder is associated with impaired cellular energy metabolism, it is necessary to choose foods that can improve 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 ounces 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, don’t 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 John’s 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 an intolerance to, and avoid those foods.
Oil, olive, salad or cooking
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- The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study. -(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17109576)
- Neuroprotective effect of olive oil in the hippocampus CA1 neurons following ischemia: Reperfusion in mice. - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23914093)
- International conference on the healthy effect of virgin olive oil. -(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16008542)
Latest Publications and Research on Top Foods to Beat Chronic Fatigue SyndromeSubacute Stroke in a Young Female: A Case of Moyamoya Syndrome Initially Anchoring with Anxiety. - Published by PubMed
Post-exertional malaise is associated with greater symptom burden and psychological distress in patients diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. - Published by PubMed
Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Postlicensure Observational Studies on Human Papillomavirus Vaccination and Autoimmune and Other Rare Adverse Events. - Published by PubMed
Modification of Immunological Parameters, Oxidative Stress Markers, Mood Symptoms, and Well-Being Status in CFS Patients after Probiotic Intake: Observations from a Pilot Study. - Published by PubMed
Results of the feasibility phase of the managed activity graded exercise in teenagers and pre-adolescents (MAGENTA) randomised controlled trial of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis. - Published by PubMed