Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations to Support Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia

Posted on Aug 22 2018 - 9:00am by Guest writer

We welcome back Tracy Tredoux (@TracyTredoux) to discuss how, through diet and lifestyle changes, we can begin to tackle some of the symptoms associated with Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia.

As mentioned in my previous article, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) are names given by the medical profession to a collection of symptoms, arrived at after a process of elimination. Symptoms are the body’s ‘cry for help.’ It is important to address underlying imbalances and/or stressors in order to eliminate and/or correct them for the symptoms to disappear. Treating symptoms without addressing their root cause, will simply prolong the illness. Possible stressors and imbalances resulting in CFS and/or FMS include:

  • Viruses
  • Autoimmunity#
  • Nutritional imbalances
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Inflammation
  • Digestive issues
  • Stress
  • EMF sensitivities
  • Food allergies or sensitivities
  • Chemical exposure / sensitivities
  • Exposure to yeast / mold

It is important for any person who has suffered with these syndromes for a period of time, to consult an appropriate healthcare practitioner who can help find out which of the abovementioned events (often more than one) is causing or contributing to their symptoms. However, there is also much that each CFS, FMS sufferer can do to in terms of diet and lifestyle, to support the body and afford it a better chance of reducing symptoms.

Diet/Nutrition

Vegetables

We are what we eat. Our bodies need the right balance and quality of macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates), the right micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and all the colourful pigments in plant food (phytonutrients) to run and function optimally. Nearly all of us are nutritionally imbalanced in one way or another. Some of the most common causes of fatigue – and easiest to test for – involve deficiencies in three minerals and two vitamins. After iron comes lack of magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Magnesium deficiency is common today in the general population, but more so in patients with FMS. Every energy consuming reaction in the body needs magnesium to proceed. Symptoms of low magnesium in fibromyalgia include increased fatigue, increased pain and increased spasms. Cleaning up your diet is one of the most important components on the road to improved health. This involves:

Eliminating

  • processed and refined carbohydrates and sugar
  • high-fructose corn syrup (found mainly in foods and beverages in USA such as soda, candy, some breads, some sweetened yoghurts, canned fruit, juice and even granola bars)
  • processed meats: bacon, canned meat, hot dogs, salami
  • additives, preservatives, MSG, artificial sweeteners, aspartame, soda, diet soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, alcohol, caffeinated beverages
  • hydrogenated fats (margarine, vegetable shortening, packaged snacks, ready to use dough, fried foods), trans fats (crackers, cookies, cake, frozen pizza, fast-foods, French fries) and vegetable oils (sunflower oil, canola, corn, safflower soybean etc)
  • gluten

Adding

  • whole, real, fresh, organic unprocessed food in as close to their natural state as possible
  • lots of fresh vegetables and a few low glycemic fruits (cherries, blueberries, grapefruit, pears, apples, plums, strawberries, oranges)
  • foods with plenty of fiber (split peas, lentils, black beans, artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, raspberries, blackberries, avocado, oatmeal, flaxseed, chia seeds)
  • food containing healthy omega-3 fats (mackerel, wild Alaskan or organic salmon, cod liver oil, herring, sardines, oysters, anchovies, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts) which help reduce inflammation
  • nuts such as almonds, macadamia, pecans and walnuts, and seeds such as pumpkin, hemp, sunflower, chia
  • oils such as olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil
  • organic, grass fed meats
  • organic (pasture-raised when possible) chicken and turkey
  • protein and/or healthy fats to each meal to help stabilise blood sugar levels
  • 8 glasses of filtered water daily, green teas, herbal teas, bone broth

Detoxification

Today we are living in a sea of toxins. They are in the food we eat (pesticides, herbicides, GMO), the air we breathe and the water we drink. 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced into our environment in the last two hundred years, only about 6% of which have been tested for their long-term effects on human health. Toxins are in household cleaners, plastics, kitchenware, cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs. Toxins are responsible for the rise in chronic illnesses dominating the 21st century. Proper nutrition is important to make sure we are putting into our body the tools it requires to function optimally. Detoxification is important to make sure we are taking out of our body the toxins that are harming it and preventing it from functioning optimally. As we all need to become more active in our own health care, it is necessary to take steps to rid the body of toxins. This includes:

  • Identifying the toxins in our environment and reducing our exposure to them
  • Enhancing our own detoxification system

Testing for heavy metals in the body helps identify whether metals such as mercury, aluminium, cadmium, etc. are responsible for, or contributing to, CFS and FMS symptoms (as well as numerous other health problems). There are many ways of ridding the body of heavy metals and other toxins. This requires the expertise of an appropriate healthcare practitioner. However, these foods should be included in your diet to enhance detoxification:

  • Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, rocket, radish, wasabi). Eat at least 1 or 2 cups cooked daily
  • Garlic
  • Green tea (one or two cups a day)
  • High quality sulfur-containing protein – eggs, garlic, onion
  • Curcuminoids (turmeric, curry)

Certain supplements help support the various pathways in the body that rid the body of toxins. The main nutrients helpful in boosting detoxification include zinc, selenium, N-acetyl-cysteine, high dose vitamin C and milk thistle. Sweating is another important exit route of many toxins (exercise, steam rooms, infra-red saunas). It is important to know, however, that many toxins are stored in fat cells and liberating too many too quickly can result in complications and thus it is wise to be under professional supervision.

Eliminating as many toxins as possible from your own environment is essential to enhancing your detoxification. This includes:

  • Avoiding plastic containers and plastic water bottles
  • Consulting the Environmental Working Group’s Deep Skin Guide before purchasing cosmetics. The Organic Pharmacy in London has a huge choice of chemical free, natural beauty products, cosmetics, body creams, shampoos etc.
  • Buying organic whenever possible. The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce (aka Dirty Dozen and Clean 15) is updated each year and lists the 15 foods safest to eat non-organic and the 12 foods which have highest pesticide levels and best only eaten organic
  • Using non-toxic household cleaning products which can be found in all supermarkets today

More and more healthcare practitioners are finding, in their experience, that detoxification can be a critical part of the healing process for chronic illnesses, but this must be done under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

Other Important lifestyle factors

Sleep

Stress

Any time we are exposed to something we perceive as stressful (thinking about a meeting with a boss later in the day), our stress response is activated, and we go into fight-or-flight mode. Chronic, relentless, ongoing stress has an adverse effect on our health. A stress response can be initiated by:

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • A nutrient-depleted diet
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Being stuck in traffic and late for work
  • Digestive imbalances
  • Environmental toxins that stress out our body and brain

It is not always possible to remove all the stressors from one’s life. However, it becomes important to learn stress coping mechanisms. These include:

  • Relaxation
  • Meditation (www.headspace.com, www.zivameditation.com)
  • Deep breathing
  • Taking time out for yourself
  • Connecting with loved ones
  • Making a few dietary changes
  • Getting proper nutritional balances
  • Listening to music
  • Being in nature
  • Yoga
  • Having massages
  • Writing in a journal

Exercise

Exercise is good for the body and the brain. The benefits of exercise include:

  • Reducing pain
  • Balancing hormones
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving immune function
  • Improving mood and balancing neurotransmitter function
  • Correcting and preventing insulin resistance
  • Boosting overall motivation
  • Erasing effects of stress
  • Strengthening cardiovascular system

It goes without saying that we should all exercise. Anything is better than nothing and starting 15 minutes a day and building it up is a good way to start. Ultimately a good quality exercise programme includes aerobic training (interval training is ideal and less time consuming), strength training and stretching.

Sleep

It is during sleep that the body and brain regenerate. This means if you do not sleep, over time the body falls apart. Getting between 7-9 hrs sleep a night has a dramatic effect on health and weight. If you are not getting a decent night’s sleep, it is important to start practicing good sleep hygiene.

  • Avoid substances that interfere with sleep (caffeine, alcohol, sugar)
  • Avoid stimulating activities two hours before bedtime
  • Have a relaxing Epsom salt bath in the evening
  • Establish a routine bed time, preferably between 10.00pm and 11.00pm
  • Keep your bedroom dark or use an eye mask
  • Write down your worries before you go to bed to ease your mind
  • Don’t look at electronic devices before bed. Rather read, meditate or do deep breathing

Conclusion

There are many factors that can be causing or contributing to CFS and FMS. However, making certain dietary and lifestyle changes go a long way to rebalancing hormones (reducing stress, balancing blood sugar levels, lowering insulin), reducing digestive issues, addressing nutritional imbalances, reducing viral load, getting rid of toxins, building the immune system and reducing inflammation thereby helping to address many of the symptoms commonly associated with CFS and FMS.

Tracy Tredoux is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist, living and working in London. When not giving talks or consulting with clients, she writes health and nutrition articles, tips and recipes which you can find at @TracyTredoux

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