Q. Hello, I’m 22 years old, and I’ve been tired and feeling unhealthy since 2007 after a diagnosis of mono. I’ve pretty much diagnosed myself with CFS because I feel I have many of the symptoms. My question to you is how can I improve my health without having to spend a lot of money on herbal supplements, and organic foods? I would if I could, but I’m a college student with not a whole lot of money in my pocket. Thank you. Aubrey
A. Hi Aubrey, I can appreciate your situation. I was in the same position for many years myself when I went to college so I know how frustrating it can be. Additionally, with these hard economic times, many people struggle with this issue and are looking for affordable health care strategies.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your health that wont cost you anything, and what I’m going to share here would be applicable to any health condition under the sun and even to those who just want to protect their health.
Chronic fatigue syndrome, like most health conditions has a variety of contributing factors, which usually include nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, food sensitivities, environmental toxins and heavy metal toxicity, endocrine and adrenal disorders, candida overgrowth or other unfriendly organisms and/or parasites, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia and overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Whether we are trying to improve our health or protect our health, the bottom line always boils down to diet, nutrition, environmental toxins and lifestyle.
1. Choose a Healthier Diet
Even if you can’t afford organic, making better choices in what foods you consume can offer significant improvements in all health conditions, especially chronic fatigue syndrome and its related symptoms.
The most important food to remove from the diet is sugar. Sugar is destructive to the endocrine system, nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system etc. Although initially it gives you a boost in energy, in the long run it depletes your energy more, because it causes an intense release of neurotransmitters in the brain and hormones in the adrenal glands and increases blood sugar levels. However, after the initial high, there is a crash to an even lower level than previously. This cycle depletes the hormones and neurotransmitters and leads to hypoglycemia, adrenal fatigue, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and many more. Sugar should be avoided.
Learn more about sugar and your health.
Next most important items to eliminate are food additives, preservatives, dyes and genetically modified. These are chemicals that also disrupt the endocrine system, nervous system, brain, etc. They often result in fatigue, hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, increased heart rate and impaired cognitive function to name just a few. Look for foods that state they are free of additives, dyes, preservatives and gmos.
Avoid the caffeine. Although caffeine also makes you feel better temporarily, it ultimately sets you up for an endless cycle of fatigue because it too exhausts the adrenal glands and depletes neurotransmitters. The same applies to nicotine. Both caffeine and nicotine trigger the release of stored sugar into the blood stream as well.
So get rid of the coffee, candy bars, chips, cookies, soda pops, pretzels etc. and switch to whole foods only like fresh meat, eggs, low-starch vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
Avoid the carbohydrate rich foods like potatoes, whole grains and beans. Carbohydrates, even the complex ones, break down into sugar in the body, which as we established above is destructive to the endocrine system and results in fatigue as well as a host of other debilitating symptoms and health conditions. Wheat is one of the most common foods to result in chronic fatigue. Some people, like myself, can feel significantly better with the removal of wheat and sugar alone. You’ll want to learn more about all these topics by reading the following pages as well:
Good Carbs Bad Carbs
The Paleolithic Diet
12 Reasons to Eat More Meat
Pesticides and Your Health
Candida Overgrowth Symptoms
2. Reduce Pesticide Residue
Some foods are affected by pesticides more than others, so if you can afford at least some organic foods in your budget, then that is a step in the right direction. Pesticides disrupt the endocrine system and autonomic nervous system, which are major players in chronic fatigue, so even if you can reduce the amount of pesticides you are exposed to, it will be beneficial.
The following foods have been found to have the highest amount of pesticide residue, so if you are capable of buying at least some foods that are organic, this is the place to start: butter, yogurt, cheese, apples, red meat, poultry, apples, celery, peaches, cherries, sweet bell peppers, lettuce, nectarines, strawberries, spinach, grapes, potatoes, and pears.
However, you want to make sure you’re not buying genetically modified foods. Almost all non-organic soy and corn is gmo, unless otherwise stated.
Washing your fruits and vegetables with a veggie brush and peroxide will remove some pesticide residue, but not all. You can also peel the skin off produce like potatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis and the like, however you lose some of the valuable nutrients this way. Root vegetables absorb a lot more pesticides than other vegetables.
It’s pretty easy in most places to find meat and poultry in the mainstream grocery store that is at least free of antibiotics and growth hormones that isn’t much more expensive than its counterpart.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Insufficient water intake can result in excessive fatigue. Drink lots of water, and not tap water. Tap water is polluted with a variety of toxins that contribute to chronic fatigue, poor health in general and many serious health conditions like cancer. Drink filtered water. Water is also necessary to flush toxins out of the system, which may be causing fatigue.
Learn more about the health benefits of water.
4. Reduce Environmental Toxins
Many of the common everyday chemicals found in your shampoo, soap, cleaning supplies, perfume, cologne, dish soap, air fresheners, laundry products and cosmetics are endocrine disruptors. Meaning they disrupt normal functioning of the endocrine system. One of the primary symptoms of endocrine disruption is chronic fatigue, as well as anxiety, depression, weight gain and insomnia.
Get rid of the perfume and air fresheners and switch over to environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and personal care products.
Do not use pesticides or herbicides. They are the most detrimental of all to not only the endocrine system, but the nervous system and immune system as well.
Learn more about environmental toxins.
5. Get Adequate Sleep
The body regenerates and heals during sleep. Getting adequate sleep is crucial for the adrenal glands and the endocrine system in general to function properly. Make time for the recommended 8 or 9 hours and take naps if necessary. There cannot be sufficient energy to get through the day if the body and mind do not rest and rejuvenate.
Learn more about sleep and your health.
6. Reduce Stress
Stress is the primary contributing factor for chronic fatigue. It depletes the adrenal glands, disrupts the endocrine and nervous system, weakens the immune system and results in burn out. Getting lots of rest and reducing the stress is critical not only for healing for all health conditions, but for maintaining optimal health in the average bear.
7. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise turns off the sympathetic nervous system, increases energy levels, improves sleep, reduces stress, boost neurotransmitters, relieves pain, enhances immune function and promotes positive feelings of well-being. However, someone with chronic fatigue likely has weak adrenal glands, so exercise should not be too strenuous. It should be mild and gentle and it should include several short bursts of intensity to provide maximum benefit to the sympathetic nervous system. Exercise that is too intense depletes the adrenal glands and neurotransmitters.
Learn more about the benefits of exercise.
8. Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
The breath is one of the most powerful tools you have to improve your physical, emotional and spiritual health. It costs nothing and is available to you at all times. With the regular use of deep breathing exercises, you can manage pain, soothe the sympathetic nervous system, relieve anxiety, decrease depression, reduce stress and achieve higher levels of creativity and spiritual awareness.
The regular use of mindfulness based meditation and other techniques are also very effective for reducing stress, managing pain, alleviating anxiety and depression, restoring balance to the sympathetic nervous system, coping with life and it too is a great avenue for spiritual development and creativity.
Learn more about the benefits of meditation.
10. Get Adequate Sunshine
The sun is where we get our Vitamin D and it boosts our feel good neurotransmitters. The lack of sunshine is a major contributor to excessive fatigue, as well as depression, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, weak immunity and much more. Try to spend about 15 minutes a day in the sun with at least your head, face, neck and arms exposed. Don’t wear sunscreen. Open up the curtains and let the sunshine in.
Learn more about sunshine and your health.
So there you have a variety of excellent tools that you can put into practice that will help with chronic fatigue and promote better health, regardless of the condition, that cost you nothing. These are really basic principles for promoting optimal health and are a crucial part of healing for everyone, however they have their limits.
It’s important to be aware that chronic fatigue syndrome is a progressive health condition if the underlying causes are not addressed. Your health is likely to deteriorate more and result in more symptoms as time goes by. Nutritional deficiencies must be replenished, candida and other unfriendly organisms need to be eradicated or reduced, the adrenal glands and thyroid need to be strengthened, foods that cause inflammation need removed, the endocrine system needs repaired and detoxification needs to take place.
Most people with chronic fatigue are very deficient in the B vitamins. The body cannot produce energy without sufficient levels of B vitamins. Therefore if you can at least afford a good B vitamin complex that is yeast free, this should be a priority and may provide you with some relief. A good multivitamin/multimineral would be beneficial as well. High doses of vitamin C and pantethine are the most beneficial nutrients for strengthening the adrenal glands.
Whenever your finances allow, you’ll want to begin to address all these issues. The first and most crucial step would be to identify nutritional deficiencies and replenish them. Then have the appropriate lab work to identify if the other issues are pertinent to your situation and proceed accordingly.
All the best.