Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is sometimes referred to as Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome. It used to be called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), but it is no longer called that as there is no evidence of inflammation of the myelin component of brain tissue. It is a profoundly disabling condition in which there is both mental and physical exhaustion after the mildest exertion.

Normal physical tiredness is related to a cause such as excess effort. It may be enough to force us to rest but it then improves in a short time. Repeated physical effort tends to improve our fitness and ability to carry out heavy or sustained work. The severity and impact of the symptoms experienced by the majority of people with CFS is vastly greater than the symptoms of ordinary fatigue.

There is usually a delay of anything from hours to days between the effort and the exhaustion in CFS and repeated activity does not lead to adaptation and improvement in strength or stamina – usually the opposite occurs.

CFS may follow any viral illness, but it is specifically associated in adolescents with infection by the Epstein-Barr virus which causes glandular fever; hepatitis, gastro-intestinal viruses. It can come on even where there is no previous viral infection. It has been linked to food allergy, adrenal gland dysfunction and chronic viral infections, but no single cause has as yet been identified.

CFS is a major world-wide health problem, affecting between 2 and 4 people per 1000 of the population. Although children as young as five years old have been diagnosed with it, the commonest age of onset is between the early twenties to mid-forties. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with CFS as men.

The condition is characterised by generalised fatigue which is not improved by rest or sleep and is not the result of exertion. Impairment of short term memory or concentration. Sore throat, muscle pain, headaches, difficulty sleeping, joint pains and tender lymph glands. Each individual may experience different symptoms.

Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)

Supplement/Herb What it does Dosage
B-Complex Important for efficient energy metabolism to be maintained. As directed
Multi vitamin and mineral formula Provides the nutrients required for the various processes of energy metabolism and are important for those whose diet may be deficient in these key co-factor nutrients. As directed
Potassium and Magnesium Potassium and magnesium aspartates are an important part of the energy-producing Krebs cycle. Deficiencies of both potassium and magnesium can lead to fatigue. 250 – 1OOOmg of each daily
Coenzyme Q10 CoQIO is an essential compound in energy production within the cell mitochondria, which tends to decline with age. 30 – 200mg daily
Rhodiola Increases tolerance to mental, physical and environmental stress. Rhodiola reduces fatigue, increases endurance and greatly enhances mental performance. 250 – 750mg daily
Siberian ginseng Stress can be a major factor in fatigue and increases tolerance to various stressors (e.g. mental, physical, environmental). This herb helps normalise stress responses and regulates the manufacture and secretion of adrenal hormones. It also strengthens the adrenal glands themselves, which is especially important to those suffering from chronic stress. 300 – 900mg daily
NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) helps make ATP, the energy source the body runs on. 5mg to 10 mg daily for at least 8 weeks
L-carnitine Required for energy production in the powerhouses of cells (the mitochondria). 1gm to 3gm daily
Echincea To boost the immune system and help fight viral infections. 500mg 3 times daily


Diet and Lifestyle Factors

Reduce or avoid:

Saturated fats, Trans/hydrogenated fats, refined/processed foods, alcohol, pesticide exposure, and artificial additives/preservatives which all deplete the body.

Avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, chocolate and colas as these will all weaken your adrenal glands.

Sugar, as it makes the body less efficient at destroying bacteria.


Complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal cereals, past bread and rice.

Eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit daily.

Eat high quality proteins as the amino acids they contain are important for making white blood cells for your immune system.

Eat plenty of nuts, seeds, and oily fish for their omega 3 content.

Drink at least 2 litres of plain water daily.

Ensure that you have sufficient calorie intake to cover your energy needs, eat little and often to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Minimise the impact of stress by practising daily relaxation.

Make sure that you get adequate amounts of sleep.

Pace yourself and take a rest before you get exhausted.

Try and get some fresh air every day and keep your mind active by reading or doing mental puzzles.

Suggested further reading:

  • About chronic fatigue management
  • About Chronic Fatigue

Leave a Reply