Chronic fatigue syndrome

health-benefits Aug 18, 2021
When we visited Utö, the most outer island of this beautiful archipelago in the place we call Finland, I allowed myself to be guided by the incredible energy of  Inca, the daughter of the family we were visiting there. She took me to a series of abandoned bunkers from the times this island was a military strategic point and there I found this graffiti that represent very well  the feeling of all that has to do with military, war, conflict and drama. 

With love from Korpo.
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor / Unsplash

Fatigue or uncomfortable tiredness is a common symptom that can be the result of working, mental stress, overstimulation and under stimulation, jet lag, active recreation, boredom, and lack of sleep. Fatigue can be experienced by all people, and some people may feel fatigued several times and such fatigue can be reduced after taking a nap or rest.
Extreme fatigue or tiredness that doesn't go away with rest and may aggravate with physical or mental activity is a complicated disorder known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It can also be referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID). It is characterized by extreme fatigue, sleep abnormalities, pain and other symptoms that are made worse by exertion.

This type of fatigue may last for at least 6 months, and it can reduce the ability to perform usual daily activities. CFS can affect anyone, people of all age groups, including children. It is most commonly seen among women in their 40s and 50s.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome have abnormalities in the brain and autonomic nervous system which controls blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and other vital body functions.
In the brain, particularly, the abnormalities are found in the hypothalamus (a part of the brain that regulates hormones and vital functions) and the pituitary gland.
Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome may have an unusually high heart rate and low blood pressure when they have been standing for a while.

It is important to note that people with CFS can’t tolerate vigorous aerobic exercise.


The most common causes of chronic fatigue syndrome are depression and overwork.
The contributing factors that cause CFS may be viral infection, a weakened immune system, stress, hormonal imbalances and environmental or genetic factors.
CFS can be difficult to diagnose because no single cause has been identified, and many other conditions produce similar symptoms.


Symptoms of CFS may vary based on the individual and the severity of the condition.
Fatigue, loss of memory or concentration, orthostatic intolerance (going from lying or seated to standing positions makes light-headedness, dizzy, or faint),
sleep problems such as chronic insomnia, feeling unrefreshed after a night’s sleep and physical symptoms like frequent headaches,
unexplained muscle or multi-joint pain without redness or swelling,
frequent sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in neck or armpits and extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
The main symptom is fatigue that lasts for over six months and it often worsens with activity, but doesn't improve with rest.

Risk factors

 of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • early abuse, trauma, or family problems
  • infections such as cold, or flu,
  • mental health illness especially problems with stress, depression, or anxiety
  • age and gender: Chronic fatigue syndrome commonly affects people in their 40s and 50s and more frequently women. Women are four times more likely to get CFS than men.
    The condition is rare in children, but girls are more likely to develop it than boys.
    Teenagers, between 13 and 15, most often may get chronic fatigue syndrome.
    This gender-specific susceptibility is due to the female hormone, the estrogen.
  • If it is genetic, family members may be at a risk to inherit the genes and the condition from their parents.
  • People suffering from diseases such as Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Multiple chemical sensitivities, Temporomandibular disorders (TMD or TMJ), Interstitial cystitis  which causes pain in the bladder or pelvis, Post-concussion syndrome, Tension headache, chronic pelvic pain in women, chronic prostatitis in men, may be at increased risk for CFS.
  • People with a sedentary lifestyle and not doing regular exercise throughout their lives also at an increased risk of CFS
  • Frequent and overexerted physical exercise
  • Repeated contact with occupational or domestic toxic substances such as domestic cleaning products, insecticides and other biocides.


Since the symptoms are different in different persons, different types of treatment may be required to manage the disorder and relieve their symptoms.
Currently, there is no cure or approved treatment for this condition.
However, some symptoms can be treated or managed to provide relief.

Mild chronic fatigue syndrome can be managed but moderate and severe symptoms cannot be managed because they influence the quality of life and abilities causing diseases like lupus, heart disease, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Home remedies and lifestyle changes

Limiting or eliminating caffeine intake and avoiding nicotine, alcohol can help ease insomnia and cause better sleep.

  • If unable to sleep at night, it is better to avoid napping during the day.
  • A sleep routine has to be created by going to bed at the same time every night and aiming to wake up around the same time every day.
  • To get relief from the pain associated with CFS, yoga, and massage can be done.
  • To avoid inflammation, anti-inflammatory foods like fish and olive oil are recommended.
  • Inflammatory foods like sugar, fried foods, and processed meat are to be limited.
  • Eating smaller meals more frequently or adding small snacks between each meal may help keep high energy levels.
  • Eating naturally sweet foods with a bit of protein like, eating berries with plain, unsweetened yogurt help maintain blood sugar and energy levels.
  • Vegetables of all colors are to be included to get their unique nutrients and benefits. For instance, red vegetables are full of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and help reduce inflammation and yellow veggies contain important vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, and B6.
  • Popped corn instead of corn flakes or brown rice instead of pasta have to be chosen.
  • Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain and heart health, and they can also help reduce inflammation.


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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