Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Part 2

Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Part 2

Dietary changes and healthier lifestyle choices can help you manage Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

General Lifestyle and Dietary Guidelines for Treating CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Lead a Healthy Lifestyle:

  1. Healthy, Balanced Eating
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Manage Stress
  5. No Smoking
  6. Good Time Management

1. Healthy, Balanced Eating

The most important reasons to eat healthily are:

  • FUEL = ENERGY for our bodies
  • PROTECTION = Protect our bodies against infection and disease

What should we EAT?

All FOODS are divided into FOOD GROUPS each of which carries out one of the above functions.

Foods from each Food Group should be eaten at each meal in order for the meal to be “balanced”.

Just like a 3-legged stool: if one leg is missing, the stool cannot stand properly.

In the same way, if one Food Group is missing, then our bodies will not work properly.

Leg 1 = Energy foods

Low GI (energy-sustaining starch foods)
  • Examples: Seed bread, rye bread; Provitas; mealies; baby potatoes;  samp and beans; legumes; LOTS of veggies; popcorn; small portions of Fruit
  • Controlled portions every 3-4 hours
  • Result of eating these foods: good stable energy levels, improved concentration, loss and maintenance of weight; improved moods, improved sleep patterns; prevention of diabetes, and more…

Leg 2 = Building Food

  • Lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, Soya products, legumes, low fat milk & yoghurt, Peanut butter
  • Research shows that PLANT-BASED PROTEINS such as Soya, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds have enormous benefits in the treatment and management of CFS, and all lifestyle diseases

Leg 3 = Protecting Foods

Fruits and Vegetables 
Be sure to add in 8-10 glasses of water per day!! 

How much should we eat?

The Plate-model gives us a clear guideline

When should we eat?

Three balanced meals (a good healthy breakfast, lunch and a small supper), PLUS 2 small healthy snacks (2-3 Provitas + low fat cheese/fruit/low fat dairy/nuts) per day

2. Exercise

BENEFITS of regular exercise

  • Increases your metabolic rate
  • Reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, osteoporosis
  • Improves mood, self-esteem and self-image
  • Increases energy levels


  • Hampers weight-loss
  • Decline in metabolic rate & muscle tone with age
  • Increased risk of  lifestyle diseases
  • Inactive people often tend to eat more
  • Being unfit


Remember: Short bursts of activity throughout the day are as effective as doing longer periods of exercise.    (Shorter, repetitive bursts of high-intensity exercise, e.g. 10min x 3 times/day).

Look for everyday opportunities:

  • Use the stairs
  • Park your car at the far end of parking lot
  • Take a walk around the building at lunch-time
  • March, stretch or do squats while watching TV
  • Pace around the house / garden / complex
  • Skip, stretch, jog in place, or lift weights at home
  • Be prepared – keep walking shoes in your car

3. Sleep

Consequences of lack of sleep:

  • Fatigue
  • Bad mood 
  • Lack of focus
  • Compromised Immune System
  • Long Term lack of sleep can contribute to the development of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. 
  • Increased risk of injury at the work-place.

Link between lack of sleep and obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disturbances

  • Studies have found that short-term sleep restriction (<6hours/night) is associated with impaired glucose metabolism, dysregulation of appetite, and high blood pressure.
  • Long-term lack of sleep can contribute towards causing obesity and diabetes.
  • Sleep loss has been shown to result in reduced glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased evening concentrations of the hormone cortisol, increased levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, decreased levels of the satiety (ability to feel full) hormone leptin, and increased hunger and appetite!  Effectively short sleep duration can increase the risk of becoming obese, because it does not allow the recovery in the body of the hormonal profile facilitating appetite control.
  • Another factor to bear in mind is that lack of sleep could also lead to weight gain and obesity because the time available for eating increases. Also, the increased fatigue and tiredness associated with sleeping too little could lessen one’s resolve to follow exercise regimens.

Sleep Apnoea and the link with heart disease

  • Sleep apnoea occurs in some morbidly obese individuals. It can cause multiple night-time awakenings, which can result in raised blood pressure. If this remains elevated throughout the day, chronic hypertension can be the result.

Mood Disorders

  • Prolonged inadequate sleep can contribute to:
  • Mood swings, irritability and general mental distress;
  • Depression and anxiety

4. Manage Stress

Stress is the enemy when you have chronic fatigue syndrome. Most people agree that stress makes symptoms worse.

Stress Symptoms

You may not always realize it when you’re feeling stressed. You need to learn to recognize the symptoms of stress before you can manage it. These vary from person to person, but some common ones include:

  • Tension headaches
  • Frequent colds
  • Sleep problems
  • Generalised anxiety
  • High frustration levels
  • Lowered libido

Top 10 Emergency Stress-Stoppers

Emergency stress stoppers are actions to help you defuse stress in the moment. You may need different stress stoppers for different situations, and sometimes it helps to combine them. Here are some ideas:

  1. Count to 10 before you speak or react.
  2. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.
  3. Go for a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom and back. It can help break the tension and give you a chance to think things through.
  4. Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.
  5. If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow. This works especially well for stressful emails.
  6. Walk away from the situation for a while and handle it later once things have calmed down.
  7. Break down big problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time, instead of trying to tackle everything at once.
  8. Turn on some relaxing music or read an inspiring book.
  9. Take a break to do something that will distract you from the situation.
  10. Work out or do something active. Exercise is a great antidote for stress.

5. Smoking: QUIT!

Physical Effects of smoking all cause CHRONIC FATIGUE

  • Heart Disease
  • Lung cancer and emphysema
  • Fertility problems
  • ↑asthma attacks
  • Hypertension
  • Eyes -bloodshot and itchy
  • ↑sick days
  • Teeth and gums become stained
  • Smoking affects your looks by: Wrinkles, skin tone/colour, poor wound healing

6. Good Time Management

  • Plan time to do menu planning and shopping
  • Plan time to exercise
  • Plan recreation time- family/friends/pets

Live a good healthy life:

  • Eat correctly 
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage your stress 
  • Practice good sleeping habits
  • Do not smoke
  • Manage your time
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