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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Sometimes, when we physically exert ourselves through an activity like exercise or manual labor, we fatigue ourselves to the point of requiring rest and recuperation.  Once we relax, sleep, or otherwise restore ourselves, we are able to return to our physical efforts without any complications.

When someone has been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), however, they are unlikely to recover from exerting themselves and feel a perpetual sense of tiredness and exhaustion.  Those diagnosed with this disorder are unlikely to regain a standard level of energy after getting a healthy amount of sleep and rest.  Symptoms associated with CFS include exhaustion to the point of preventing participation in standard physical activities, difficulty concentrating and remaining calm, pain in the joints and muscles, headaches, and a mild fever and sore throat.

It is estimated that about .4-percent of adults in the United States have this disorder, and it is reported that it primarily affects women between the ages of 30 and 50.

Western medicine makes no claims as to the specific cause of CFS, though it has been theorized that it may be a condition caused by the presence of a variation of viruses—including the Epstein-Bar Virus.  Primary methods of Western treatment for CFS include an assortment of medications with antiviral, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and pain-killing properties.

How Does Ayurveda View Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The primary role of the Pitta element in the body is to metabolize energy using the digestive fire in the stomach. When this fire is balanced and strong, it provides the body with the vigor it needs to perform physical and mental tasks in day-to-day life. When the fire in the belly gets aggravated and excessive, this element will burn the body rather than heat it. For some with a sensitive Pitta constitution, this burning action leads to a burn-out as their energy and vigor are drained by an excessive amount of fire in the system.

Though the specific factors in any one patient’s life needs to be considered in the diagnosis process, Ayurveda considers this burn-out to likely be the result of a poor diet of difficult-to-digest and/or unnatural foods, excessive physical activity, excessive anger and irritability, negative and disturbing thoughts, and possibly even a depleted immune system.

How Does Ayurveda Treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The Ayurvedic treatment process aims to restore the Pitta energy to its appropriate levels, foster healthier digestion, and detoxify the body. This involves taking food, herbs, and other remedies that help to reduce Pitta-based excesses and helping the patient to refine their physical activity so as to rejuvenate the system. Rest and calming yoga postures are also a big part of recovery as the system needs rebuilding in strength and balance.

In tandem with this type of therapy, the patient is also provided with herbs that help to build the immune system and prevent them from being susceptible to further viral infections that may compromise energy levels and vitality.

Lifestyle Changes for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 

When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future.  The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications.  Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future.  The following tasks will help to resolve issues of fatigue and excessive tiredness through Pitta-reducing and detoxifying therapies:

  • Take light walks to rebuild energy levels while not over-exerting the body. Start with 10-minute walks and build from there.
  • Eat at most only two times a day so as to provide the digestive fire time to rest.
  • Avoid heavy foods at night, which will create more stress on the digestive fire.
  • Avoid sour, spicy, and salty foods which will aggravate Pitta energy.
  • Avoid drinking too much while eating at the same setting. A half cup of water is sufficient.
  • Maintain a regular sleeping schedule.
  • Favor the gentle stretching born from light yoga postures over more rigorous forms of exercise so as to provide the body with activity without draining it of life-force.
  • Apply Ayurvedic oils of Balaashwagandha and Shirabala on the body and head to strengthen the muscles that are fatigued. This should be done every day and the oil left on for 45 minutes until it is washed off in the shower. Don’t use soap when washing to retain the oil on the skin surface.
  • Engage the services of a trained Ayurveda practitioner to administer Pancha Karma therapy, which is a multi-step process intended to purge the body of toxins.

Better Foods For a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness are derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices. We then have the opportunity to make deliberate and more conscious decisions as to what foods we do and do not put in our body which increases the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance. The following list of foods will help to reduce excessive amounts of Pitta in the body and restore the digestive fire to healthy levels:

 

Apples
Pears
Melons
Mangoes
Brussels Sprouts

Asparagus
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Oats (cooked)
Rice (white basmati)
Barley

Ghee
Cottage cheese
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Milk

 

Foods To AVOID In Response To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha.Sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha.Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. The following foods can aggravate Pitta energy, so they are best to be avoided when overcoming CFS.

 

 Corn
Lentils
Corn oil
Cherries
Pineapple
Bananas

Almond oil
Spicy foods
Salt
Garlic
Meat
Rice (brown)

Grapefruit
Tomatoes
Nuts
Spinach
Carrots
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)

 

Beverages For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favors room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire. The following beverages will help to restore strength and vitality to the body as well as balance the aggravated Pitta energy:

  • Hot water, especially during meals and first thing in the morning.
  • Herbal teas of coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and fennel.
  • Drink warm milk with a little cardamom, nutmeg, and ghee.
  • Avoid cold and frozen drinks.
  • Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, and black tea.

 

Herbs For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes drugs and vitamins and can be taken like tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and help to strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix together 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon. Drink these in half cup of hot water. The following herbs will help to balance aggravated Pitta energy and restore strength to the immune system:

 Turmeric
Cardamom
Cinnamon
Yellow dock

Fennel
Coriander
Ginseng
Ashwaganda

Shatavari
Shilajit
Guduchi
Bala

 

Yoga Postures For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 

When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid it of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty minutes or so per day and build up from there once the body becomes more flexible. The following postures will help to restore energy without further burning out the body and worsening symptoms associated with fatigue.

Fish
Cobra
Shoulder stand

Knee to chest
Corpse

Bridge
Hero

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Aromatherapy For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.

  • Immune function can be improved with rose, myrrh, frankincense, or lotus oil.
  • Use a coconut or sunflower oil base.
  • Apply oil on the skin in the chest center near the heart and other areas that ache.

Mantra Therapy For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment to restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.

  • To help control and resolve chronic fatigue syndrome, repeat the syllable “Aum” (pronounced ohm) for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
  • As a Pitta-related disorder, it is helpful to both outwardly chant and internally repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.

 

Breathing Practices For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 

Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body, and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress. The following breathing practices will help to restore immune function and cool excessive heat in the body.

 
 
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