15 Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
People often ask me what treatments I’ve tried to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic fatigue. However, when you adopt an optimistic and curious approach to working out what works for you, it is possible to make a full recovery. Over the last few years, I’ve been on a journey trying out lots of interventions in a bid to make a fully recovery from chronic fatigue.
My intention in writing this blog is to inspire you to seek out whatever will help you overcome this life-limiting illness. Towards the end, I share one surprising treatment that has significantly transformed my life for the better.
Please note I am not a doctor by rather someone who has been ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, on and off for around ten years. Obviously, it’s important you seek advice from a chronic fatigue professional before trying any of these out for yourself. You may also want to read my full Chronic Fatigue Recovery Series <HERE>.
What natural treatments have I tried for chronic fatigue syndrome?
When you accept there is no medicine or drug that cures chronic fatigue, the only options are natural treatments.
The core theme I’ve learned from all the professionals I’ve worked with is the need to make lifestyle changes. The type and scope of these changes depend upon your experience of the illness and the reasons you got ill.
Here I share both treatments and lifestyle changes that have made a positive difference to my health.
1. Diet: focus on gut health, detoxification, and optimum energy production
One of the first things I did was to start working with a functional medicine doctor who had me eliminate refined sugar, gluten, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and dairy while also increasing my intake of plant-based foods and healthy sources of protein. It was hard at first but became easier as I tried out new recipes and experimented with replacing some foods with healthier choices e.g. replacing pasta with green beans.
The functional medicine doctors I’ve worked with also used diagnostic testing to create a personalised diet and supplement programme to underpin my recovery. The focus was initially to improve my gut health, remove toxins, and feed my body enough of the right foods so my body would find it easier to produce more energy.
Initially, I thought these dietary changes would only be for a few weeks until I felt better. But as the months and years have passed, this has become a new way of being. Now that I’ve discovered a way of eating that genuinely makes me feel better, I can’t imagine going back to old ways of eating. I’m very conscious I need to do everything I can to boost my health, and feeding my body the right fuel is a fundamental part of this. Yes, I occasionally love a piece of cake or a glass of wine, but my diet is much better.
Most recently, I did the Zoe Programme created by Dr Tim Spector and colleagues. This has been by far the best way to understand (through tests and blood sugar monitoring) exactly how my body responds to different foods and drinks. The key takeaways for me were that my body processes fat far better than sugar and the importance for me to eat protein when I eat sweet things e.g. having almond butter with an apple rather than the apple alone. Check out the Zoe App <HERE>.
Find it easier to adopt new healing habits with my Chronic Fatigue journal. Check it out <HERE>.
2. What supplements help with chronic fatigue syndrome?
People often ask what the best supplements are for chronic fatigue. But, as the reasons we get ill vary significantly from person to person, there isn’t one supplement that will work for us all. Rather, a functional doctor or nutritionist with experience of helping people recover from chronic fatigue can carry out clinical tests (many of which are not available through your GP) that will highlight deficiencies or imbalances (e.g. hormones, gut health, minerals) and help identify exactly what your body needs to recover. I’ve been on so many different supplements over the years but the core supplements I see myself continuing to take are probiotics (for gut health), a good multivitamin with Co-Enzyme Q10, and a high dose of Vitamin C. I’ve also found supplements to stimulate mitochondrial renewal really helped too.
3. Stress management
While a short-term release of adrenaline is needed to get us out of danger, I can’t reinforce strongly enough the negative impact of stress on your recovery. When you have a chronic illness, your body is already on heightened alert, spending far more time than is healthy in the ‘flight or fight’ response. Research consistently shows that chronic stress puts our health at risk.
One thing I’ve learned to do better is to put my stress management and health first each day.
While in recovery, I aim to spend as much time as possible in a calm, peaceful, and relaxed state. This has been challenging especially when my dad got ill and subsequently died. My health deteriorated significantly in the months after that.
Thankfully, as a life coach, therapist, and yoga teacher, I know lots of tools I can use to reduce my stress. These include yoga, meditation, tapping or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), self-hypnosis, theta healing, reiki, and spending more time out in nature. I’ve regularly used all these over the last few years. Doing relaxing activities became the thing to do each day instead of work.
I am very aware I need to continue to prioritise my health and being in a calming relaxed state, as I reintegrate into normal life again, to avoid any relapse.
4. Adopting a recovery mindset
I started off optimistic (or perhaps deluded) about how quickly I’d recover from chronic fatigue. As time went on, even though I am a glass-half-full person, I’ve often had periods where I didn’t feel I was getting any better. During these times I doubted I would get better and became concerned I would need to accept life as I knew it was over. While I’ve used NLP and EFT to manage my mindset and emotions for years, I’ve also found working with a mindset coach during my recovery helpful. I would thoroughly recommend working with a mindset coach who is experienced in helping people recover from chronic fatigue.
5. New health-boosting habits
New healthy habits such as developing a morning routine that puts my health first, listening to my body, and spending more time in bed, have all aided my recovery.
Health first – most mornings I journal, have a shower, take my supplements, and do some stretching, meditation, yoga, and breakfast before looking at my phone. On the days I didn’t have the energy to get up, I’d still do the aspects of this I could before picking up my phone or computer.
Getting up later and going to bed earlier – I remember the first time a functional doctor told me to go to bed by 9pm and to stay in bed until 9am. Initially, I struggled with this as it felt lazy. Yet, my overachiever mindset (and desire to cram in as much as I could into a day), for over fifty years, was one of the reasons I got ill. If I was honest, I was already struggling to be up this long anyway so I followed their advice and found it was exactly what I needed. Getting more rest could help you if you’re at the CRASH stage of chronic fatigue or are having a relapse. Unsure what stage you’re at? Check out my What is Chronic Fatigue Blog <HERE>.
Listening to my body – this has become my mantra. I hate letting people down and often want to get on with life as I used to do, but one of the worst things you can do with chronic fatigue is to push through the signals your body is sending you. Whenever I feel tired yet tempted to do something I ask myself, what is in my body’s highest interest? It is usually to rest although sometimes it’s to get fresh air, or to meet up with someone. This all involved letting go of your ego (especially if you have a tendency to set yourself goals) and to say ‘no’ more often without worrying about what people think.
6. Energy management
Limiting activities – having chronic fatigue is like having a faulty battery in your phone: you only have enough energy to do a few things. Once your battery runs out you can’t do any more. This has been one of the hardest lessons to learn. At my worst, my body couldn’t do much other than sleep for what seemed like weeks on end. Then as I started to feel I had more energy, despite knowing about the need to increase activities very gradually, I still had regular relapses until I accepted any increase in activity needed to be much slower than I wanted.
Tapping/EFT, NLP, and self-hypnosis – these are my go-to techniques for letting go of negative emotions such as stress or frustration and physical pain. You can find out more about tapping for chronic fatigue in this book.
Energy medicine – I first heard about Donna Eden’s work while doing trauma healing with genocide survivors in Rwanda over ten years ago. As a leader in the field of energy medicine, Donna shares many tools and techniques to help heal your body. Find out more <HERE>.
7. Oxygen therapy
I’d heard this was highly effective in helping people overcome long covid, so I decided to give it a try.
Oxygen therapy is known to help reduce common symptoms including pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction. It involves having regular treatments of 98% oxygen in a pressurized chamber where air pressure is two to three times as high as normal air pressure. This enables you to take in a higher concentration of oxygen than you would normally. I had one to two treatments a day for three weeks.
Did it work?
Yes, the treatment itself made a huge difference in that I felt fantastic afterwards. But, I underwent the treatment too soon in my recovery journey and the travel was too much.
Prior to starting the treatment, I’d been in pain driving only five miles along the road to the nearest town. Needing to drive an hour a day each way in rush hour traffic to get to the treatment centre erroded the benefits. I tried to reduce my travel by having two sessions a day but that made my days too long. That said, if I could get it locally, I would do it again.
8. Learning about chronic fatigue
OK, so I know this isn’t a treatment but understanding the illness, why you got ill, and potential solutions is empowering. It was only once I realised chronic fatigue is a real illness that causes physical dysfunction of several systems in our body, that I started to treat my recovery with the commitment and seriousness I needed. I’ve also learned why I used to keep relapsing and how I can put myself in optimal health for the future. Find out more in my Chronic Fatigue Recovery Blog Series <HERE>.
9. Essential oils
Essential oils offer valuable support for individuals recovering from chronic fatigue by helping to reduce stress and anxiety, enhancing relaxation, and improving sleep quality. Varieties like lavender and chamomile promote calmness, aiding restorative sleep, while invigorating oils like peppermint combat mental and physical fatigue, boosting energy levels. I often put lavender oil in a defuser when using my infra-red sauna blanket (see below) and when I go to bed. I also often use essential oils as part of my yoga practice. As I now have a good selection of high quality oils, I also now use them instead of perfume, and to treat other ailments. Check out the oils I use <HERE>. https://www.doterra.com/
10. Slow mindful yoga and restorative yoga
If you’ve got chronic fatigue syndrome you’ll know there are days you can barely get out of bed and most forms of exercise or yoga would be too much. However, slow-breath-led yoga, restorative yoga, and meditation are really good ways to relax, destress, and switch off your mind. These often formed part of my daily yoga practice, especially when I was tired. On days I couldn’t do much physically, I’d do meditation, other days I’d do more physical forms of yoga. I often use crystals too to boost my healing when doing meditations. If you’re new to meditation you may find it easier to be led through the meditation. Check out online apps such as Deepak Chopra’s app <HERE>.
Breathwork is intentionally controlling your breathing patterns for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. There are many different breaking techniques. Common benefits include stress reduction, improved focus, and enhanced relaxation. I incorporate breathwork into my yoga practice and also focus on my breathing to switch off before I go to sleep.
I’ve been using visualisation as a tool to achieve my goals for decades–it works. In the context of my illness, I visualised myself being fully fit and full of energy as I went through each day, doing all the things I’d been unable to do while ill. I have no doubt that regularly visualising being healthy helped me feel better, cope and be more optimistic, especially during challenging times.
14. Infra-red sauna
A couple of friends recommended Infrared light is good to help you relax (and let go of stress) as well as being a powerful way to stimulate the mitochondria in your body to produce more energy again. I decided to get an infra-red sauna blanket which I really like. 2-3 times a week, I relax in this as part of my switching-off routine at night. I usually sleep better when I do this or another relaxing activity for an hour before I go to bed. Check out the one I have <HERE>.
15. Medical Cannabis
Yes, medical cannabis is legal in the UK for certain conditions including chronic fatigue. However, it’s rarely prescribed through the NHS. I go to a private clinic (see below).
Taking a small amount of medical cannabis each day has been an absolute game-changer for me. Within a week of taking this, I felt so much better. Yes, I still have limited energy as my body is still physically repairing itself. But I no longer have painful joints, I’m sleeping better and I’m able to do more than before. I still need to manage my energy carefully over the next 6-12 months to avoid any further relapses and give my body the best chance of making a full recovery. Most importantly, I feel I am on the road to recovery and I’m optimistic about the future again. Want to know more about medical cannabis? Check out the book The CBD Bible by Dr Danni Gordon who also runs the London Resilience Clinic you can check out <HERE>. Bear in mind, that medical cannabis is still illegal in many countries.
In the absence of any quick cure for chronic fatigue, recovery involves finding the best natural treatments for you.
This may feel like a journey of trial and error but it is also rewarding to understand what works best for your body. While it can take longer than you hop to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome, and it can often be a soul-destroying and frustrating time, investing in new healthy habits and lifestyle changes is what will set you up for a happier healthier future. I personally like to think I’ll be healthier and be able to life a fuller life in the long run.
What’s next for you?
Have you been tempted to try any of what I’ve shared above? Please do let me know your experiences in the comments below. What any help in nurturing a recovery mindset with an experienced coach and therapist. Contact me <HERE> to find out more.
With love and gratitude,
Life Coach for Adventurous Midlife Women, Best-Selling Author & Speaker
Empowering you to enjoy a life of purpose, adventure, and fun in your midlife years and beyond.
P.S. Have you checked out My Meaningful Life course yet? Find out more HERE.
Often described as one of the most authentic and inspiring souls you can meet, Alisoun is on a mission to make it easy for adventurous women in their midlife years and retirement to live their truth, do something that matters, and shine more brightly than they’ve ever done before.
Alisoun’s keynote talks, training, mentoring, and best-selling books Heartatude: The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success and Give-to-Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities and Social Causes have favorably changed the good fortune of thousands of people worldwide. Personally, Alisoun loves spending time with friends, exploring the world, and life by the beach in Scotland.
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