Fighting Chronic Fatigue with Food Choices

Quincy AdamChronic Pain Lifestyle

Desperate employee
Some chronic pain can be a symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS. CFS can start suddenly or develop over weeks or months, and symptoms can change from day to day. A difficult disorder to diagnose and treat, CFS can have a variety of symptoms and present in different ways.

Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

For many people, chronic fatigue is characterized by:
• Extreme physical fatigue, mental fatigue, or both, which is not relieved by rest.
• Feeling unwell after being active.
• Sleep problems.
• Pain, which can be widespread, located in one place, or which moves from one place to another. Types of pain can include muscle, joint and/or headache pain.

Fighting Chronic Fatigue with Food Choices

Dealing with chronic fatigue can make even the simplest of daily activities challenging. Although medical science currently offers little hope in the pharmaceutical world, certain dietary changes may bring about an improvement in your overall levels of energy and health. It’s always important to discuss diet and lifestyle changes with a healthcare professional, but taking the time to educate yourself before your next appointment can improve the chances of success on your healing journey.

Risk Factors Associated with Chronic Fatigue

There is currently no known cause nor cure for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but a few factors are often present in conjunction with this condition, including:

• An imbalance in intestinal flora which may lead to Candida and/or other parasitic types of overgrowth
• Nutritional deficiencies; low levels of vitamin D, magnesium, and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) are common
• Disorders of the immune system or systemic infections, such as Lyme disease
• Acute mental or physical stress

Adopting a diet that addresses and attempts to correct these issues may help reduce your CFS symptoms, and the best food choices for people with chronic fatigue are high in nutritional value and stimulating to the immune system. This type of diet allows your body to better handle any physical and/or mental stressors which may play a role in your CFS while simultaneously helping you regain a balanced state of intestinal flora.

More Protein, Vegetables and Good Fats, Fewer Simple Carbohydrates and Bad Fats

Because simple carbohydrates (such as sugars and white flours) have been linked with a decrease in immune function and an increase in inflammation and intestinal yeast overgrowth, they are clearly a poor choice for people who suffer from CFS. Eliminating or reducing foods which contain these ingredients is a big step in the right direction towards regaining your health. Make sure to read labels, as refined carbohydrates are often hidden in many packaged food items.

Replacing simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates (such as sweet potatoes, lentils, and quinoa), high quality proteins and healthy fats, in conjunction with plenty of colorful vegetables, supports proper immune system health, can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation in the body.

Fats that are considered essential to good health fall into two categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive, peanut and canola oils, avocados, and most nuts. Polyunsaturated fats come from a variety of cooking oils, such as corn, sunflower and safflower oils.

“Bad” fats, which should be avoided, include trans and saturated fats. Trans fats are manmade, but in light of overwhelming evidence of the health hazards of consuming these types of fats, the US Food and Drug Administration has required food makers to list their content as a separate line item on food labels since 2006. They are gradually being eliminated from restaurants and processed foods. Saturated fat, or fats that become solid at room temperature, make up a significant portion of the American diet and are commonly found in red meats, whole fat dairy products and commercially prepared baked goods.

The recommendations from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee holds that saturated fat intake should not exceed 10 percent of total calorie intake, and that saturated fats be replaced with unsaturated fats whenever possible.1

Gluten and Other Food Sensitivities

Some people are sensitive to certain foods and find that they have decreased pain and stiffness when they avoid them. For instance, research indicates that Gluten sensitivity can play a role in Celiac disease symptoms, as well as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.2, 3 Although more studies need to be conducted, some research has indicated that consumption of the Nightshade family of vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers can cause inflammation, and that arthritis sufferers who have experimented with removing these foods from their diet have experienced less painful symptoms.4

Which Foods Can Best Meet My Needs?

The following foods are all excellent choices for people who suffer from chronic fatigue:
• Wild caught cold water fish which supplies protein and vitamin D in a highly usable form.
• Organic, grass fed meats, especially heart and other organs, which are high in Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
• Nuts, avocados, spinach and other dark leafy greens, all of which are high in magnesium.
• An array of colorful vegetables and some fruits to supply additional vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Create a Plan of Action with a Healthcare Professional

Before embarking on any major changes in your diet or lifestyle, it’s important to talk with your doctor and/or nutritionist to discuss any concerns you may have. He or she can assist in your transition to a healthier diet, and may advise you to make changes slowly over time to increase the likelihood of long term success in correcting your chronic fatigue symptoms.


1 “2015 Dietary Guidelines: A Closer Look at Current Intakes and Recommended Shifts.” http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/#food-groups, Accessed April 19, 2016.
2Tonutti E, Bizzaro N. Diagnosis and classification of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Autoimmun Rev. 2014;13(4-5):472-6.
3 Bavelloni A, Piazzi M, Raffini M, Faenza I, Blalock WL. Prohibitin 2: At a communications crossroads. IUBMB Life. 2015;67(4):239-54.
4 Childers N.F. A relationship of arthritis to the Solanaceae (nightshades). J Intern Acad Prev Med 1979; 7:31-37