Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is defined as a condition with a criteria of symptoms that includes lethargy, poor concentration and/or memory, sore throat, headaches, tender lymph nodes, and muscle pain that persists for 6 months or longer. CFS symptoms may vary among patients — solely as fatigue and lethargy, or as a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Naturopathic treatment of CFS is based on the symptomatic presentation of the individual; therefore, the treatment structure will be applied differently for each patient. Following is a brief overview of our general naturopathic approach to treatment of CFS.

The first step in treating CFS is conducting specific lab work to rule out hormonal imbalances, viral infections, environmental toxicity, and nutritional deficiencies that may exacerbate and/or contribute to CFS. A hormone panel that includes assessment of the thyroid, adrenal glands, testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone will detect any pattern of hormonal imbalance. The main virus known to cause fatigue is Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and a simple lab test can determine active or past EBV infection. Heavy metal and environmental toxicity are diagnosed through simple urine and blood tests. A functional nutritional panel determining levels of essential nutrients is important in diagnosing the cause and alleviating the symptoms of CFS. Labwork is the first order of business, in that it may clearly point to a cause or, rule out non-contributing factors of CFS.

Treatment will vary according to lab results, symptoms, and the individual’s health goals. In general, treatment begins with an elimination diet removing potential aggravating foods, and encouraging healthy nutrition choices. The frequency of meals and nutritional quality food will affect body function throughout the day. Eliminating potentially aggravating foods can assist in decreasing inflammation, feelings of ill health, and remove obstacles to achieving optimal health.

Focusing on detox, specific nutrient absorption, sleep habits, and exercise can help to alleviate CFS as well. A build-up of environmental toxins in the cells can have an effect on energy and inflammation levels. Depending on environmental test results, heavy metal chelation or a detox protocol may be necessary. CFS symptoms respond well to a high dose B-complex, magnesium, CoQ 10, carnitine, and a super green food combination. Sleep habits are essential to establishing a proper circadian rhythm. Going to bed and waking at the same time with scheduled naps no more than 15 minutes long can regulate the body’s energy and cortisol levels. Exercise can be overwhelming and more tiring to a person with CFS but, a small amount of regular physical movement will improve stamina and a daily walk or 30 minutes of stretching is recommended.

In addition to healthy habits, lab exams, detox, and nutrients, herbal therapy is highly recommended to improve stamina and decrease symptoms. Herbs such as rhodiola, ginseng, ashwaganda, astragulas, and licorice can all have a positive effect on CFS. Herbal remedies should not be taken without an evaluation of the individual based on their personal health history.

CFS is a debilitating disease but, fortunately, a reversible condition. It takes time and adherence to a well-laid-out treatment plan. The body will heal itself with the correct nutrients and structure to build back to optimal health.

Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568-2598. 

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