Ryan Sheridan, NP
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: An Integrative Approach to Understanding and Managing the Condition
Updated: Feb 24
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex, long-term condition characterized by severe fatigue and a range of other symptoms.
The exact cause of CFS is unknown.
A diagnosis of CFS is made based on the individual's symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination, and there is no single test that can diagnose it.
An integrative provider takes a holistic approach to managing CFS. Every individual's experience with CFS is unique, so a personalized treatment plan is important to help find relief from symptoms and reclaim quality of life.
As an integrative provider, I've seen firsthand the toll that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), can take on an individual's daily life. While I may add lighthearted commentary or photos, I understand the nature of this condition to be very serious in that it leaves one drained of the ability to have a quality life, affecting their ability to work, attend school, or even engage in activities they once enjoyed.
The basics of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex and long-term condition characterized by severe fatigue and a range of other symptoms, including muscle and joint pain, headaches, sleep disturbances, and even "brain fog." This fatigue is not relieved by rest and can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities. Other symptoms may include memory and concentration problems, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, and unexplained muscle weakness.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex and long-term condition characterized by:
Muscle and joint pain
To date, the exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown. Our best guess at this point suggests there are a number of factors, including viral infections, immune system dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, psychological stress, and environmental toxins. In some cases, chronic fatigue syndrome may develop after stressful events, such as a car accident.
Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
Viral infection - yes even COVID-19!
Immune system dysfunction
Making a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome can be challenging, as the symptoms can be similar to other conditions, but typically an integrative provider will make a diagnosis if someone has been experiencing symptoms for at least six months and other causes have been ruled out. The diagnosis is made based on the individual's symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination, as there is no single test that can diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome.
Using an integrative approach for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
As an integrative psychiatric provider, I take a holistic approach to managing chronic fatigue syndrome. This means that I consider not just the physical symptoms of the condition, but also the emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being of the individual. In addition to medications for specific symptoms, such as pain or sleep disturbances, I may recommend lifestyle changes, therapy, exercise, and diet and nutrition counseling.
Integrative Treatment Options for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
Medications for specific symptoms
Diet and nutrition counseling
Some of the latest research has shown that lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, getting regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet, can help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Regular exercise, though it may sound counterintuitive, can actually help chronic fatigue. We know exercise helps improve mood, cognitive function, sleep, and physical health. But, exercising can also increase our energy levels and can be a very important part of chronic fatigue treatment.
In terms of diet and nutrition, I often recommend my patients follow a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. I may also recommend supplements, such as vitamins and minerals, to help support the immune system and manage specific symptoms, such as fatigue or muscle pain. I don't like to eliminate entire food groups or deprive of the fun foods. I use the acronym "HAT" (here and there) to help limit the less nutritious. food and encourage healthier eating. Working with an integrative provider that understands the limitations and has the tools and experience to guide the exercise makes a huge difference.
Treating each person as an individual
Every individual's experience is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another. That's why I work closely with my patients to develop a personalized chronic fatigue treatment plan. Chronic fatigue syndrome takes a special, patient approach in order to find the right combination.
Integrative psychiatry allows us the flexibility to use any an all tools at our disposal. This is critically important to the management of chronic fatigue syndrome as most folks find it challenging and upsetting to have limited treatment options. The beauty of integrative psychiatry is that each person comes to the table with their own set of goals, priorities, and expectations - all of which can be used to guide treatment in an effective and evidence-based way.
You can win against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
To sum it all up, while chronic fatigue syndrome can be a difficult condition to manage, an integrative approach can help individuals find relief from their symptoms and live full and productive lives. If you or someone you know is living with chronic fatigue syndrome, I encourage you to reach out to an integrative provider and ask questions about their approach to determine if it's a good fit. Chronic fatigue syndrome can be overcome - step one is finding help!
I am only an email or text away. Please feel free to reach out with questions about integrative psychiatry or if you're looking chronic fatigue treatment in the DC area. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to repost any part of my blog, just be sure to give me a backlink!