Are you facing burnout? Jayney Goddard tells you how to get your energy back
More so, now than ever, we live in a society where many of us experience severe fatigue. Although Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is often overlooked by conventional medical doctors, it definitely exists. One of the reasons it is largely unrecognised is because doctors are not trained to understand that lots of different symptoms can actually add up to a debilitating syndrome. It’s not their fault – it is just the way conventional medicine is taught. The conventional medical model divides us up into discrete parts whereas, in complementary medicine, we are trained to look at the patient as a whole being – by taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
Conventional medicine is gradually beginning to accept that CFS exists but CFS campaigning groups estimate that fewer than 20 percent of patients have actually benefited from a helpful diagnosis. This is one of the reasons that I have chosen to specialise in looking after people with the condition – plus I too have firsthand experience of this devastatingly debilitating syndrome, so I know how bad it can get – and that, thankfully, there is hope.
Generally speaking, if my patient describes having at least four of these symptoms, it is highly likely that CFS is the underlying problem. However, why do these nebulous symptoms happen – what’s really going on underneath the symptoms? In complementary medicine, our aim is to discover the underlying cause of any health problem – including CFS. What we have discovered to date is that in many people the syndrome develops after a prolonged period of overwhelming stress (of any kind). The approach I take with my patients is to support them in repairing the damage done to their systems overall – and then to rebuild their resilience – holistically. This approach is effective as CFS is, after all, a syndrome which seems to affect all body systems. Ultimately, a holistic approach is the only sensible option for this confusing problem.
Adequate rest is crucial for CFS sufferers, but it might be elusive – the more exhausted they get, the more difficult it is to sleep.
Try to lie down and elevate your legs at circa 3pm every afternoon. This is an old Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment that is said to nourish the adrenal glands – these produce adrenaline and are often exhausted by chronic stress over time.
Nutrition and supplements
Focus on eating a nutrient-rich diet which features a wide variety of whole foods including vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts and healthy ‘whole fats’ (e.g. avocados). Avoid refined salt, oil, fat, alcohol and sugar from your diet – this is known as the “SOFAS” way of eating.
A study, published in NMR in Biomedicine, found low levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the brains of patients with CFS. Glutathione protects and boosts your mitochondria – your cellular energy centres. It also supports the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your cell’s high-energy fuel. Three helpful supplements to boost glutathione include L-arginine (if you are not prone to viral problems such as herpes and shingles – it can cause these to flare up – but only if you already have these viruses), alpha lipoic acid (ALA), and CoQ10.
Generally, ensure that you are taking vitamin B12 (as methyl cobalamin) as this is occasionally difficult to get on a plant-based diet (although most people are deficient in it) and vitamin D3 is deficient in nearly everyone, regardless of their dietary choices.
Consider taking adaptogenic herbs to shore up your immune system – and promote resilience. See my website for an article about adaptogenic herbs – it will help you choose which might suit you best.
In CFS, moderation is key. You must keep moving – but take it easy. I recommend walking for no more than half an hour five days a week for my CFS patients. This is best done outside. During the recovery phase it is also advisable to do gentle restorative exercises including yoga, tai chi and Pilates (under supervision of a teacher who understands the immense recovery challenges of patients with CFS)
In closing, I have noticed that most of my CFS patients have something startling in common: they find it very difficult to set boundaries and say “No!” – particularly with loved ones. They are easily put-upon and tend to be very kind-hearted people who will put others first. But the truth is that if we don’t look after ourselves, we end up not being able to look after our loved ones. A vital part of recovery is looking at how to set firm but fair boundaries, so they stand a much better chance of full recovery. To find out more, visit JayneyGoddard.org.
Jayney Goddard is president of the Complementary Medical Association. Find out more at the-cma.org.uk
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