Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), like Fibromyalgia, can be a debilitating disease that can consume an individual's life and make their quality of life decline significantly and steadily. As an individual who has suffered from CFS since my teenage years, I know these symptoms and the consequences of these symptoms intimately.
Generally, a CFS patient will have several symptoms for an extended period of time (generally 6 months or longer), such as:
- Unexplained 'aches and pains', generally throughout the body or move from one area to another with no swelling or redness
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of memory
- Enlarged lymph node in the neck or armpits
- Constant fatigue
- Severe exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
- Inability to feel refreshed after sleeping for 7 - 8 hours
- Psychological symptoms may include: irritability, mood swings, or panic attacks
Unfortunately, there is no one test that can be conducted to determine whether CFS exists or not; it is purely the summation of all symptoms at this time. Individuals with CFS will feel completely worn out, overtired, and their body will feel completely exhausted after physical or mental exercise. Individuals with CFS can't function as other 'normal' individuals do.
Someone with CFS can have several really great, energetic, and wonderful-feeling days and then all of a sudden be hit with fatigue, joint and muscle pain, irritability, or panic attacks. And even if the individual sleeps or rests for 7 - 8 hours they won't feel refreshed the next morning.
In addition, individuals with CFS are highly discouraged from donating blood and organs because the cause of CFS is unknown and it is unknown how or if CFS will present in an individual receiving the blood or organ donation. Because CFS is still a mystery to the medical profession they are safeguarding donor recipients from the possibility of receiving this syndrome in the future. I didn't know this until I hosted a community blood drive for my company and found out that I was ineligible to donate blood.
There is no cure for CFS. It's just something that we have to live with, work around, and deal with on a consistent basis. Some individuals have more severe symptoms than others. While there is no scientific proof, as someone who has CFS, I believe that there are a few things that play a huge part in how defined and severe the symptoms are or are not.
Some of these include:
Stress levels - the higher the stress levels in someone without CFS, the more likely they are to get sick. If the individual has CFS, then they are even more likely to get sick, have pain in their body, and experience the psychological parts of CFS.
Diet - the old saying 'we are what we eat' is so very true, especially when it comes to someone with CFS. If the individual isn't eating their fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, then their body isn't able to absorb the needed nutrients to stay healthy. The more junk food that is eaten, the worse I feel!
Exercise - this is a huge one for me, especially when I'm hurting really bad. Exercise does so many good things for us.
- It increases the circulation in our body - it actually increases the amount of blood pumped through our body
- It gets our heart working harder - which makes it stronger - it is, after all, a muscle and it needs to be worked
- It gets our endorphins going - this is the 'feel good' part of the brain. When the endorphins are flowing bad moods change to good moods, pain is reduced (or goes away), and we are just happier in general.
- It works our muscles - when an individual just lays or sits down all day they aren't actively using or strengthening the muscles. Muscles need to be worked because this is how they become stronger and receive oxygen. The oxygen makes the muscles happier (and hurt so much less).
Vitamins - I really didn't start taking vitamins (like I'm supposed to) until a few short years ago. I highly recommend going with a Whole Foods vitamin because the body absorbs so much more of the whole foods vitamins because they are extracted from actual plants vs. man-made vitamins which the body only absorbs a small amount. I can definitely tell the difference when I missed taking my vitamins for the day.
Listen to your body - your body wants to feel good, so listen to what it's telling you. Are you overworking your body? Are you getting enough rest at night (7 - 8 hours)? Are you allowing for downtime after a big physical or mental event? These are things to think about to help battle CFS and its symptoms.