This is a long post on a topic that is particularly important for me: the chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia. I am not a physician, and this post is by no means medical advice. If you have any health condition, I strongly suggest you talk to your doctor. Please read the disclaimer at the end of this post.
I have presented the diet I will use from May 1st, to address my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. However, this post presents a much more holistic set of tools and lifestyle, which I recently tested and adopted, and takes this subject to a whole new level. This includes a complete description of the diet as well as techniques to reduce muscle fatigue and pain. Keep in mind that what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for all. One thing I learned with CFS is that we have to get to know what works with us. I felt that I needed to aggregate all that information in one article and I sincerely hopefully that this helps someone.
The symptoms I will try to counteract with the lifestyle I present in this post are:
- Fatigue: this is something that I’ve had for the past 4 years. It does not prevent me from working at the computer, but it surely prevents me from exercising sometimes and increases the chances of low mood. I also wake up tired, which really sucks.
- Exhaustion: this is a terrible symptom (essentially a very intense fatigue) which prevents me from doing anything. Fortunately, it happened very seldom in the last 2 years. Typically lasts from 1/2 days to 1 week.
- Neck pain and stiffness: this is an acute, strong pain in the neck, which is really painful and annoying but does not prevent me from much. I’d rather have this one for the rest of my life and not have anything else. When I wake up my neck is very tense and if I move my head my neck cracks all over, and hurts. I feel that this is moderately connected to the fatigue.
- Dizziness/vertigo: this is by far my worse symptom, but I am lucky that I only have on-and-off crises. Most crises last for 2 weeks, but I’ve been experiencing intense, extremely debilitating dizziness for more than 3 months now (although I had no crises for the previous 18 months). Sometimes dizziness comes with motion sickness, which is really debilitating. Very seldom, I experience nausea as well. I feel that my dizziness is connected to stress and anxiety, which worsen my neck pain and stiffness, which in turn increase the probability of experiencing dizziness.
- Depression / low mood: In my case, this is not due to CFS – it is because some symptoms are really debilitating and I can’t do much. Plus, I never know when they ago away, and I feel that they will never go away. It is exactly that that kills me. I get anxious when symptoms don’t go away, which probably makes them worse.
- Feeling toxic: Hard to explain, but I feel that my body is very toxic on the inside.
- Loss of interest and enjoyment: Having no energy or not feeling well can be truly devastating. The only things that still turn me on are huge projects, like turning From Cents To Retirement into a reference blog in the context of Early Retirement.
Diet – a Paleo diet variant as a fibromyalgia diet and a chronic fatigue syndrome diet
I have previously explained the Paleo diet variant that I have followed in the past, which greatly helped me with many of my symptoms. This section is a much more extensive version of that post.
Some sources report that diet can play an important role in improving my CFS. This section goes over the diet that worked the best for me, up until today.
The Paleo Diet as a diet to beat CFS
My understanding of the Paleo Diet is that you remove all processed foods, refined vegetable oils, cereal grains, dairy, and legumes. In contrast, you can eat grass-fed meat, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds and healthy oils, such as olive oil. You can check out the entire lists here, the Paleo Diet website. I personally use legumes and cereal grains very occasionally, but stick to the paleo diet for the most part.
Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia and The Paleo Diet
I personally use a variation of the Paleo Diet, simply because I was so used to cereals that I could never get really used to the Paleo Diet. I actually saw this diet for the first time on a fibromyalgia diet book. In particular, the variations include:
- Rice (although Quinoa was preferred);
- Low GI fruit at the beginning of every meal;
- Green, fresh salads at every meal;
- All meat cooked at very low temperature – rare or at most medium rare;
- Very little white meat – at least 90% beef;
- Plenty of Sauerkraut;
- Water as the only drink (at least half a gallon), except for 1 espresso (at most one) a day and homemade teas.
This can be a diet that is close to a ketogenic diet because most carbs are removed. Here are some pics of a regular day on this diet:
The first specific food that plays a crucial role in my diet is sauerkraut. If you don’t know the benefits of sauerkraut, they include 1) the ability to increase your digestive health, stimulate the immune system, and eliminate inflammation, to name a few. It also provides good amounts of iron, which is essential for energy production. As a fermented food, sauerkraut comes with tons of good bacteria, similar to those found in yogurt and kefir. I found from personal experience that sauerkraut enhances my digestive system considerably and reduces the abdominal pain that I occasionally experienced.
Sugar is completely prohibited in the diet I follow. I don’t like sugary foods, so for me, it is not a big problem. The only thing that I love which contains some sugar is dark (high cacao) chocolate. Sadly, I can only eat a very small piece at night, after dinner. That is it.
Coffee is another thing that I must consume with a lot of moderation. Sadly, as a good Portuguese and Italian, I LOVE espresso, and it certainly is one of my biggest pleasures throughout the day. With this diet, I am reduced to one espresso a day (which I usually drink at breakfast or after lunch).
Dairy is completely removed from the diet. I don’t drink milk for about 4 years now, but I occasionally do eat one yogurt or another. With this diet, I will be removing every food that contains milk. I will replace this with almond or rice milk.
This section goes over the various supplements I have successfully tried before and I will be integrating into my diet from May 1st on. The supplements include:
- Breakfast: L-Tyrozine+Krill Oil+Vitamin D, Digestive Enzymes and Ginseng (I take this one: Ginseng from Now Foods).
- Lunch: 5-HTP Plus, Digestive Enzymes, and Ginseng.
- Dinner: 5-HTP Plus, Magnesium, Passiflora, and Ginseng.
I have also done cycles of the following supplements:
- Antifungal supplements (at breakfast and dinner)
- Probiotics (at breakfast – after the antifungal cycle)
- Ginger and Ginkgo Biloba.
- A liver supporting supplement.
Although not exactly a remedy, one thing that has been particularly effective for me, in fighting dizziness/vertigo, are heating pads. I typically apply these on my neck (both on the back of the neck and on the sides). I started to use heating pads because of muscle stiffness in my neck, but it has helped dramatically with dizziness. Whether there is a direct connection between my stiff neck and being dizzy I don’t know (although it could make sense).
Another great tool against dizziness is ginger and mint tea. I usually use a greater to prepare the ginger tea (it has to be really strong to be effective) and I usually drop a few organic mint leaves there. This list of home remedies against dizziness also recommends 1) deep breathing, 2) lemon and 3) Indian Gooseberry, among others. I will try to incorporate these and see whether they work for me.
Pressure Points (Acupressure)
Acupressure (see a definition on Wikipedia) is an alternative medicine technique with the same principles of acupuncture. The underlying idea is that energy flows through “meridians” in the body and it can be affected by specific points in the body. In particular, acupuncture points clearing blockages in these meridians. The pressure can be applied by hand, with your elbow or some specific devices.
My favorite thing about acupressure is that not only it doesn’t cost any money (because you can do it yourself), as it also produces results right away.
I do acupressure on a daily basis, between 1 and 3 times a day. I usually do the following routine: TE3, LI4, P6 (inner gate) and EX (third eye) – each of which for 5 seconds. On top of that, I press and massage the GB20 after my neck massage, every day before doing to bed. If you are not familiar with the points I mentioned, I recommend watching this youtube video by “The Chen Dynasty”:
and this amazing list of pressure points useful for dizziness and vertigo (as I said before, I use P6 and G20 and TW17 a lot).
I typically have no problems falling asleep. For many CFS sufferers, this is not the case. However, even though I get asleep pretty fast, the problem for me is that my sleep is often not refreshing. I remember the good old days when I felt tired, went to sleep and woke up magically refreshed again. It is not like that anymore. I often wake up exhausted and feel that my body slept but didn’t rest.
What works for me
I have found that what works for me is 1) to sleep about 7h30m-8h, 2) go to bed between 11 pm and 11.30 pm and 3) stick to the same sleeping schedule. If bedtime changes a lot, I run into a problem. The same way, if I go to bed after midnight, I feel my body doesn’t seem to rest as much.
On top of that, I think that meditating 5 minutes every day before going to sleep and applying acupressure works well. I also found out that massaging my neck is absolutely crucial for dizziness, so I will to that for 10 minutes before and after mediation. The best massages for me are lying down on my bed, with my head on a thick pillow and use my hands to massage my neck. As my head is on the pillow, there is space between my neck and the mattress, where I put my hands to massage the neck.
A good alternative is to sit on my bed, with my back straight, and apply this message:
At the end of it, I also apply acupressure as I massage the LV3 point. I prefer to apply a massage every day, for 5 minutes, than one every week for 2 hours.
Important disclaimer: The statements in this post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This blog and this post are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.