Living With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By Angela Bekiaris

In 1991, at the peak of her career, the goddess of pop, Cher, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a severe illness which can affect the brain and gastrointestinal, immune and cardiac systems if not treated. The debilitating disease forced the singer/actress to stop performing for nearly three years, with rumours that she had even gone to Belgium for treatment. Cher, however, made a full recovery, and when asked her thoughts about people calling CFS psychosomatic, she replied, “My experience was that it was really a physical illness – but it does make you depressed as well… Boy, it was devastating for me.”
Diana, 48, a people reader, was diagnosed in 2016. “I constantly felt tired, and was suddenly suffering from seriously bad headaches,” she tells us. “I was also struggling to remember things, and knew I was too young to be starting dementia. My husband was worried about me and forced me to go see a physician. Thanks goodness he did. I was diagnosed with CFS. At first I didn’t know much about it, but luckily with a bit of knowledge, a positive attitude, some regular yoga sessions and a few other lifestyle changes – like not napping during the day anymore – I’m feeling much better, and so is my family. It’s not a death sentence but does need some serious attention.”


Know Your Facts!
May 12 is designated for International Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day (ME/CFS) – on the day of English army nurse Florence Nightingale’s birthday –
to raise awareness on the illness and help health professionals and those affected learn more about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. CFS is comparatively rare, and occurs more in women than men

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
CFS, as it is known, is described as a debilitating disorder characterised by extreme fatigue or tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest and can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition. Often referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), the causes of CFS are still not well understood, however some theories behind it include viral infection, psychological stress or a combination of factors. It is difficult to diagnose, but can be treated with lifestyle changes such as less naps during the day, limiting nicotine and alcohol intake, and avoiding emotional stress; physical and emotional therapy which can help improve your mindset; an antidepressant if the CFS has triggered depression (only after seeing a medical professional); and alternative medicine such as yoga, acupuncture, Thai chi or massage.

Did You Know?
CFS can affect anyone, however it’s most common among women in their 40s and 50s.

CFS Causes And Risk Factors
While the cause is unknown, there are some contributing factors, such as a weakened immune system, viruses, stress and hormonal imbalances. As mentioned above, women in their 40s and 50s are at a higher risk of getting CFS, as well as those with allergies, genetic predisposition. Environmental factors may also increase one’s risk.

9 Symptoms To Look Out For
As with most illnesses, symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common include:
• Fatigue which lasts for at least six months
• Loss of memory or concentration
• Chronic insomnia
• Muscle pain
• Frequent headaches
• Feeling unrefreshed after a night’s sleep
• Multi-joint pain without redness or swelling
• Frequent sore throat
• Tender and swollen lymph nodes in your neck and armpits

Experts reveal that you may be affected in cycles – sometimes feeling better, and sometimes worse. In fact, symptoms may disappear completely for a while.

8 Diet Hacks To Reduce CFS
• Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, fried foods and processed meat.
• Always stay hydrated.
• Keep a food journal, which in turn becomes a symptom journal.
• Experiment with your diet as some foods may make you feel worse than others. It’s important to listen to your body, say experts!
• Limit your caffeine intake as it gives you a false sense of energy
• Try eating smaller, more frequent meals to not feel over full and in turn, overtired
• Skip heavily processed foods
• Enjoy healthy fats, such as avocados or walnuts — they’re great for the brain.

3 Ways To Cope With CFS
• Take Charge: You are the one responsible for your own healing.
• Experiment: Be open to a change of lifestyle if it means it will help you recover.
• Believe: Have a positive attitude and get past this time. You can do it!

MEDICAL facts courtesy of


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