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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


The Health Index

Fatigue is a common symptom that can have a myriad of causes or be the result of mental and physical illnesses and their treatment. In contrast, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) - is diagnosed relatively rarely. CFS/ME is characterised as fatigue that lasts longer than six months, does not improve with rest, and significantly reduces the quality of life.

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CFS is an exclusion diagnosis. That means that the diagnosis can only be made when other possible reasons causing persistent fatigue have been excluded through the exploration of the patient’s health history, clinical examination and diagnostic tests.

What are the causes?

The cause(s) for chronic fatigue syndrome are as yet unknown. Most patients fall ill between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more often affected than men. Scientists have identified clues that infections, toxins, and emotional conflicts contribute. Some experts suspect an interaction of different factors: genetic predisposition, changes in the brain, stress, a weak immune system, along with a viral infection and psychological disposition.


One hypothesis says that acute fatigue is caused by a viral infection, while the creeping form is mainly psychological. For many people affected by CFS, the syndrome starts out of nowhere. It is common that symptoms first appear after an infection, with extreme exhaustion and muscle, limb and headaches. After some time, sleep disorders, memory gaps, and lack of concentration aggravate the patient's condition. Many have consistently high temperatures - a sign that the immune system is highly active.


Exercise aggravates the situation. After a certain period of time (months or years) there is stagnation or recovery at different levels. Patients with a creeping variant of CFS fare worse, as exhaustion slowly worsens without any improvement.

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What are the symptoms?

  • Fatigue and exhaustion that doesn't improve with rest

  • Reduced short-term memory and difficulty concentrating

  • Sore throat

  • Muscle aches

  • Sensitive lymph nodes in the armpits and neck

  • Muscle aches

  • Headaches

  • Deterioration after exertion

  • Insomnia


Other diseases that can also cause these symptoms must be excluded before diagnosis of CFS. Some conditions with symptoms that resemble those of CFS include:

  • Mononucleosis (glandular fever)

  • Lyme disease

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Lupus

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Major-depression disorder

  • Severe obesity

  • Sleep disorders

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How can a nutrition practitioner help?

CFS is a complex condition and recovery tends to be slow. A nutritious diet is vital to support the recovery process. A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits.


They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you. The plan will take your low energy levels into account, containing recipes that can be prepared with very little effort.

Find your CFS


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