CFS is much more than feeling tired on waking or thinking another cup of coffee will perk you up. Chronic fatigue is a serious and debilitating syndrome, which impacts multiple areas of life over time.
There is more understanding of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) now, but unfortunately, it is still an area that needs a lot of research. However, there are some changes we can make that could help in managing symptoms, as part of lifestyle medicine.
One of those ways is to ensure our diet and nutrition are in line with healthy balanced eating guidelines, and since we get energy from food, this makes a lot of sense.
Ways to adjust our diet to manage CFS
1. Avoid inflammatory foods
It stands to reason that if we cut down on inflammatory foods, our bodies will thank us for it, and it appears inflammation in the body is linked to the development of CFS. Inflammatory foods are sugar, dairy, gluten, fried and processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, coffee, and processed meats. Aim to replace or swap these with anti-inflammatory foods, such as fresh fish, organic fruit and veg, Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., wild salmon, walnuts, chia seeds)
2. Cut down on caffeine intake
We are all aware of the issues associated with excess coffee intake, but with CFS the problem is that it can give a false sense of energy, which could lead you to do more than you really should be. Also, coffee has a half-life of 6-7 hours, so, this means if you have a cup of coffee at midday, it is still circulating around your brain at Midnight.
Some people say they can drink coffee before bed and still fall asleep, however, there is scientific evidence that confirms that our deep sleep brain waves (vital for restorative purposes) are decreased by 20%. This leaves us feeling unrested on waking, leading us to reach for more caffeine.
3. Keep a food diary
I have found this extremely helpful! Not only do I write down what I am eating, and how much, I also write down how I feel after each meal or snack. This way I worked out the foods which make me feel better or worse after eating. Make sure you write down any stomach upsets, because CFS is also connected to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and you can share this journal with your GP and health coach. Just be sure not to get obsessed with counting calories – it is more important to focus on the nutritional value of food.
4. Drink enough water
There is no evidence that this cures CFS, however, there is no doubt that hydrating our body systems will help maintain or improve health. Dehydration can make symptoms worse. It is advised to drink an average of 2 litres of filtered still water daily (excluding additional requirements related to any exercise).
5. Reduce or cut out refined sugar
In the same way that caffeine gives a false ‘high’, sugar does the same thing. The sugar ‘crash’ that follows can make you feel even worse and more fatigued. It is also extremely inflammatory, and has become known as “pure, white and deadly”. A good swap is to replace natural sweet foods with some protein and cinnamon to help even out your blood sugar and energy levels. One example could be fresh or frozen berries with plain, unsweetened yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
6. Maximize your vegetable intake
Increasing non-starchy carbs in your diet daily can help to manage symptoms. Keep it colourful, ensuring a rainbow array of vegetables (red, yellow peppers, red cabbage, green leafy veg etc).
7. Include Healthy Fats
Fats still have a bit of a bad rep, but they are vital for a healthy balanced diet. I add a few almonds, walnuts and/or seeds into my food daily. I include avocado, eggs, and oily fish in my weekly meal plan, to ensure I am getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. They are vital for heart and brain health, but they can also help to reduce inflammation.
CFS is a debilitating and serious illness, which requires more research into fully understand the condition. It appears to be linked to IBS. Following some of the ideas above and focusing on having a diet in line with healthy balanced eating guidelines makes sense since we get our energy from food. Focusing on good nutritional value, rather than calories is important.
If this resonates with you, please reach out to me, for individualized guidance, help, and support.
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