Chronic fatigue syndrome is an illness that produces severe and often disabling fatigue and exhaustion, accompanied by pain in various parts of the body. It can last for months or years. Its cause is unknown; it may be caused by many factors, including a malfunctioning immune system, chronic infection, allergies, and others.

Chronic fatigue syndrome may puzzle conventional doctors, but a patient has many options in alternative therapies. In fact, naturopathic physicians, with their broad range of therapeutic options, may be the best-qualified practitioners for these patients.

Nutritional Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Nutritional therapy's approach to chronic fatigue syndrome is twofold. It works to strengthen the health, in particular the immune system, and to eliminate any dietary items that might be causing or aggravating the condition.

The most basic prescription is to eat an unrefined whole-foods diet, high in complex carbohydrates and fiber and low in sugar, fats, and protein (especially from animal sources). Adding raw garlic to the diet is also suggested for its potential to fight viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Eliminating caffeine because of its negative effects on the adrenal gland is also important.

An investigation into any food allergies or sensitivities that may be aggravating the symptoms is also recommended. An elimination diet will identify any culprits. In an elimination diet, frequently eaten foods and common food allergens (such as milk) are avoided for approximately two weeks. Foods are then reintroduced one at a time, making note of any change in symptoms. Foods that bring on or worsen symptoms should be avoided.

The following specific supplements can support the activities of the immune system and adrenal glands and are, therefore, frequently prescribed to people with chronic fatigue syndrome:

  • vitamin C
  • beta-carotene
  • pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • zinc
  • magnesium (especially mixed with malic acid)
  • adrenal extract

An overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans has been linked to some cases. This yeast normally lives in the body, but certain factors (such as repeated treatment with antibiotics) cause it to multiply beyond healthy ranges. A diet free of sugars, including corn syrup, honey, dairy products (lactose), and fruit, is typically part of the program to treat yeast overgrowth. Products with baker's yeast, alcoholic beverages with brewer's yeast, and other aged or fermented foods are also to be avoided. Adding an antifungal substance such as garlic, caprylic acid, or grapefruit seed extract may also be useful.

A sample nutritional prescription for chronic fatigue syndrome might include a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement, adrenal extract tablets, and/or magnesium and malic acid supplements.

Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Acupuncture stimulates the body to heal and protect itself from disruptive forces -- everything from viruses and poor diet to stress. Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome typically focuses on points along the meridians (the energy channels) of the kidney, liver, lungs, and spleen, which control aspects of the immune system. Tiny needles are inserted in points on these meridians to replenish or disperse the flow of energy, or qi, bringing it to its ideal level.

In devising a personalized treatment, the acupuncturist looks beyond the symptoms to understand the health of the entire person. An acupuncturist will diagnose the problem with a physical and a medical history. Acupuncture treatment is often coupled with herbal therapy, dietary changes, and exercises.

An acupuncturist or naturopathic physician can perform acupuncture. For your first visit, be prepared to discuss in detail your symptoms and your general health, diet, and lifestyle.

Other Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Therapies

  • Ayurvedic Medicine for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Treatment includes dietary changes, herbal therapy, and stress-reduction techniques.
  • Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Fasts, special diets, and colonic irrigation can cleanse from the body toxins that are weakening it.
  • Environmental Medicine for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Certain chemicals, foods, emotional or physical stress, and infections can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome. Treatment involves desensitization and avoidance.
  • Herbal Medicine for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Echinacea, goldenseal, licorice, astragalus, panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and hypericum can be effective.
  • Homeopathy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Specific remedies must be tailored to the individual.
  • Osteopathy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Treatment involves physical manipulation, with drugs added if needed.
  • Yoga for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -- Exercises and breathing techniques can give the body energy and reduce stress.

For more information on chronic fatigue syndrome and alternative medicine, see: