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March 5, 2011

Chronic fatigue. Are you constantly tired?

Chronic fatigue is a complex condition with many possible contributing factors, resulting in medical doctors struggling with treatment of this common “syndrome”. A condition is labelled a syndrome when there are multiple, seemingly unconnected symptoms with no obvious cause.

Nutritional therapy begins to look at the bigger picture. Chronic fatigue syndrome can be viewed as a jigsaw puzzle, whereby each piece that makes up the whole picture is addressed in turn.

Factors that may contribute to chronic fatigue include :

  • Toxicity
  • Sluggish liver function
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Immune system challenges, especially previous viral episodes, such as glandular fever
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Thyroid issues
  • Food intolerances
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Constipation and digestive issues, such as Candida
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Anaemia

Commonly in chronic fatigue, there will be a history of antibiotic use that had lead to compromised excretory functioning of the body and increased toxicity. There may also be nutrient malabsorption as a result of unhealthy bowel terrain, due to the lowering of friendly bacteria in the intestines. With excess toxicity and lack of nutrient absorption, many other imbalances may occur, as the body struggles to receive all the building blocks it needs for optimum health.

Cell membrane integrity and antioxidant status are other considerations. Often mitochondrial function (the powerhouse of the cell responsible for producing cellular energy) is depleted, and by increasing good quality fats in the diet, such as omega 3 oils, the body will build better cell membranes for optimum cell function. Antioxidants protect the cells from any oxidative damage and are crucial for optimum health and vitality.

Get your energy soaring again.

A nutritionist will begin to investigate how many underlying factors are present via detailed information gathering, during consultation, and a variety of tests, such as hair mineral analysis, comprehensive stool analysis and food intolerance testing to name a few. Once the contributing factors have been determined, the nutritionist can then set to work on getting things back into balance with therapeutic use of foods and supplements, as well as lifestyle supporting factors.

For example, often in chronic fatigue, there is heavy metal toxicity from amalgam fillings in the teeth. If a hair mineral analysis test shows a high mercury reading, then a heavy metal detox plan would need to be set in place, and if the adrenal glands are depleted due to high stress levels or from a previous stressful incident, a treatment plan may be formulated to provide nutrients for optimum adrenal hormone output, as well as addressing lifestyle factors such as relaxation and exercise. Specific supplements at the correct dosages can work wonders in getting specific bodily systems back into balance again. All of the above contributing factors can be addressed and corrected effectively with nutrition.

Eating for energy

  • Avoid high-salt, high-fat, and high-sugar foods that leave you feeling sluggish and tired. It may be tempting to reach out for high-sugar foods as they perk you up for a short time, yet your energy levels will soon drop due to a sudden dip in blood sugar levels, which always comes after a sugar “spike”.
  • Eat frequently but in small portions for a steady supply of energy to your body. If a low blood sugar levels are zapping you of energy, it’s crucial to observe a low glycaemic diet to control your blood sugar swings.
  • Eating natural foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, raw seeds, nuts, whole grains and oily fish like salmon and mackerel will help to increase your energy levels. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids especially mineral water. Just a slight dehydration in the body can drastically reduce energy.
  • Supplements may be needed to restore energy levels and these may include B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, probiotics, a good multivitamin & mineral, iron if anaemia is present, antioxidants, CoQ10 and specific formulas, such as adrenal support nutrients or anti-Candida herbs, to treat specific underlying issues that have been identified.
Playing detective, finding the reasons

Often we are looking for a quick-fix and do not stop to consider what is really happening in the body. The vicious circle in chronic fatigue is that low energy leads to low motivation, lack of drive and lack of inspiration to start looking at the bigger picture.   This is where the nutritionist can help. There really is no “one-glove-fits-all” remedy for this complex condition and, as it has usually built up over time, with many different contributing factors,  working slowly on finding the reasons for the fatigue and dealing with them one by one, may take some time but it will be well worth the effort once the body begins to be restored back to its original vitality.  The body is constantly striving for perfection, for a state of balance. To awaken perfect health within ourselves – it’s our birthright.

Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health and executive health adviser of The Spa Resorts.

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