Monday, July 7, 2008

Are you struggling ‘to get back into the swing of things?’

“A mother of four in my late 30’s, I could not understand why I was so tired. I holidayed twice a year, had a supportive husband and my children were at school – I even had a cleaner; so there was plenty of rest in my life! - Yet I was robbed of my energy, and filled with aches and pain. A good day meant I would exist well enough to function – in a most basic way and a bad day took me hostage. After years of battling, I was finally diagnosed with ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’. Sarah Chronic fatigue syndrome is a blanket term given to ‘extreme fatigue without identifiable cause’. Previously healthy, energetic women can almost “fall in a heap”. They can present with a mixed bag of symptoms, ranging from extreme fatigue, headaches, weight gain & difficulty concentrating. Even the most basic tasks, such as making the lunches & getting the kids off to school can leave them drained for the rest of the day.

For some women, it may occur after a cold or virus. Or it can start after a period of high stress. It can also come on gradually without any clear starting point or any obvious cause. Giving birth can be a trigger point – especially if it was a lengthy & complicated birth.

In addition to persistent fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome has a number of symptoms, but these are the most popular:

  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Sore throat
  • Painful and mildly enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
  • Unexplained muscle soreness
  • Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
  • Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Extreme exhaustion after normal exercise or exertion

The exact cause of chronic fatigue is unknown. Several possible causes have been proposed, including:

  • Iron deficiency anemia or low B12 levels
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • History of allergies
  • Virus infection, such as Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus 6
  • Dysfunction in the immune system
  • Changes in the levels of hormones such as adrenal, thyroid, androgens, progesterone or testosterone
  • Mild, chronic low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Poor liver function
  • Stress may also cause chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Low thyroid function

Fatigue can be a symptom of many illnesses, such as infections or psychological disorders such as post natal depression. In general, see your health professional if you have persistent or excessive fatigue.

There's no specific treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. However the good news is that you can aim to relieve symptoms by using a combination of treatments, which may include:

Lifestyle changes. Encourage yourself to slow down and to avoid excessive physical and psychological stress. This may save your energy for essential activities at home or work and help you cut back on less important activities.

Introduce gradual but steady exercise such as Pilates. This can help prevent or decrease the muscle weakness caused by prolonged inactivity. In addition, your energy level can often improve significantly.

Dietary changes. Support a healthy lifestyle by kicking bad habits such as eating processed foods & consuming coffee or alcohol – keep away from your red listed foods! Choose foods that are supportive of what your body needs.

Improve your mood Depression can be both a cause & effect of chronic fatigue. Herbs such as Hypericum, Oats & B vitamins can help to improve your mood.

Aid existing pain with Glucosamine & Fish Oil supplementation

Improve & support immune system regulation with herbs such as Rehmannia & Hemidesmus.

Remember though, each of us will use a slightly different approach to getting well. There is no one 'magic bullet' that cures chronic fatigue syndrome. Identifying the cause is the starting point towards reclaiming wellness. You can have your life back - and better than ever!

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of MassAttack, is a practicing Naturopath specializing in natural treatment programs for women with hormonal imbalance, such as PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis & Thyroid imbalance. Uniquely for patient convenience her programs are also offered via the Internet. She is both an accomplished writer and recent recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award 2006. Narelle can be contacted at narelle@massattack.com.au