While most people experience fatigue sometime in their lives, chronic fatigue occurs when the feeling of exhaustion goes on for more than six months. It can be a symptom of a lack of sleep, illness, and hormonal changes, among other causes. However, when no apparent underlying cause can be identified as the cause of the ongoing fatigue, the condition becomes known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis. Chronic fatigue can affect your daily life, but while even rest and sleep may not seem to help, these 10 natural approaches just might.
Regular exercise is often recommended to help boost energy levels, but those who suffer from chronic fatigue may find that exercise can do more harm than good in terms of their energy. Known as post-exertional malaise, physical activity can cause stress in chronic fatigue sufferers, leaving them feeling worse the next day. In this case, a more careful approach to exercise may be needed. Utilizing gentle and mindful exercise forms like tai chi have been shown to be beneficial for some chronic fatigue sufferers. This mindful exercise can help get your body moving without causing the stress that can send you into a bout of extended exhaustion.
Massage and acupuncture
In addition to tai chi, traditional Chinese Medicine has lots to offer those with chronic fatigue. Acupuncture and massage techniques like tuina have shown promising results in studies on chronic fatigue sufferers. Used in China for more than 5,000 years, tuina has been shown to help regulate free oxygen radicals to reduce fatigue. Likewise, a study of acupuncture for chronic fatigue demonstrated that “standard acupuncture and warm needling acupuncture produce significant clinical results.” Used in combination, these two treatments have been shown to provide even more effective results.
In clinical studies, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—talking to a trained psychotherapist—has provided positive results for those suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome by reducing fatigue, post-exertional malaise, anxiety, and depression. CBT works to help you recognize how your behaviors, thinking, and underlying fears can play a role in creating feelings of fatigue the way you feel. In short, talking about your chronic fatigue with a trained professional can help you improve your energy levels and provide you with mental strategies to better deal with the complex emotions associated with chronic fatigue.
Research has shown a link between low magnesium levels and those that suffer from chronic fatigue. Supplementing with magnesium could help to boost your mood and replenish your energy levels. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults ranges from 310 – 420 mg daily. If you’re worried you may not be getting enough or could benefit from supplementation, be sure to talk to your doctor about what the dosage and form would be best for you.
Research has shown that some sufferers of chronic fatigue can experience delayed melatonin secretion, meaning the hormone that brings on the feeling of sleepiness doesn’t get released in line with normal circadian rhythms. Early research has shown that taking melatonin in the evening could help reduce symptoms of exhaustion and improve concentration and motivation in those with chronic fatigue syndrome. Melatonin has also been demonstrated to offer effective results in treating chronic fatigue in those with Parkinson’s disease and MS.
Both American ginseng and Asian ginseng have been shown by clinical studies to be potentially useful in fighting chronic fatigue, particularly among those whose fatigue is associated with a chronic illness. Siberian ginseng has also been recommended to fight chronic fatigue. Under doctor supervision, sufferers can be recommended to take regular doses of Siberian ginseng for three months, followed by a three to four week break.
Coenzymes Q10 and NADH
Essential to the body’s production of energy, the coenzymes Q10 and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) have both been studied for their role in energy levels of those with long-term chronic fatigue syndrome. In one study a combination of CoQ10 (200 mg/day) and NADH (20 mg/day) supplementation was given to chronic fatigue sufferers for eight weeks. Following the eight-week period, the subjects were noted to have a significant improvement in their fatigue with no negative side effects reported.
Essential fatty acids
Like the coenzymes above, low levels of certain essential fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, are believed to play a role in those who suffer from chronic fatigue. Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of those with chronic fatigue syndrome. You can get the skinny on essential fats here on alive.com.
Research suggests that deficiencies in vitamin B complex—including vitamin B6, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, folic acid, and pantothenic acid—are linked to chronic fatigue. B vitamins are important to cell function and help the enzymes in your body fulfill their roles. They are also water-soluble, meaning your body flushes out excess so you must replenish your supply through food or supplements. While you can get the needed B complex vitamins through food sources, talk to your doctor if you think you may not be getting enough.
Scientists have discovered differences in the microbiomes of the gut in those with chronic fatigue compared to their healthy counterparts. However, it’s not yet clear it the reduced bacterial biodiversity in the gut of those with chronic fatigue is an underlying cause or a symptom of chronic fatigue. You can find out more about why your microbiome is important and how to give it some love here on alive.com.