Ask The Doctor: Chronic Fatigue
Question: I am a 45-year-old woman and have been suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome for three years now. It seems I have tried everything. For a short time I got better but now I feel no better off than I did two and a half years ago. Currently, I am taking an antidepressant and that helps me feel better, but I don’t feel my “problem” has ever been addressed. Can you help?
Answer: I hope so. Let me tell you about two recent patients of mine who have similar stories. Both had life-altering symptoms to the point where they were both considering leaving their careers and going on disability. Both had tried many diets, supplements, antiviral therapy, fasting programs, herbs, antidepressants, and other conventional and unconventional treatments. Basically nothing had helped. I explained to them my view of chronic fatigue syndrome which I will admit even to me seems almost absurdly simple. That is, our energy level, or our energy resource, is like a flowing river. This river has many tributaries or areas to which our energy is diverted. The main energy “drain” for most of us is the digestion of our food. When we ease this energy drain going to digesting our food, we suddenly have a huge reserve available for tasks such as muscle function, thinking, exercise or other more creative pursuits. This is the essence of chronic fatigue syndrome. There is a profound energy shift from such tasks as immune function, muscle activity, thinking and creativity toward simple digestion of food. All of the etiologies discussed in chronic fatigue syndrome such as viral infections, trace mineral deficiencies, depression, etc., just contribute to poor digestion or poor choices in terms of effective therapy. For example, being depressed often leads to sugar addiction or eating lots of chocolate which makes digestion even worse.
The main contributing factors I have found in making the digestion weak and a greedy energy drain are eating processed food and the overconsumption of carbohydrate-type food, even whole grains. The simple intervention I recommended with these two patients, which in both has had dramatic and lasting results, is fairly simple. First, they are to eat no more than 10-15% of their diet as carbohydrate-type food, including grains, pasta, flour, fruits, sugars, fruit juice, etc. and the only allowable grains are either fermented (sourdough) bread or whole grains like those discussed in Nourishing Traditions. This is to continue for six months. In this time the bulk of their food is various organic organ meats, fish, fowl, cultured raw milk products, raw butter, yogurt, olive oil, flax seed oil and some coconut milk on a daily basis. To this is added as many fresh vegetables as can be eaten and prepared in a variety of ways. Second, on a daily basis, use some fermented food or drink. My favorite suggestion is Beet Kvass, for which a recipe is given in Nourishing Traditions, because it is also helpful for liver cleansing. Drink three times a day. There are many other fermented foods and beverages described in Nourishing Traditions. These enzyme-rich foods inherently ease the energy we must use in digestion. Third, use Celtic sea salt only, as this is the only salt with the trace elements present that are so vital to proper enzyme functioning. Fourth, daily castor oil packs over the liver area for one hour each day. These packs aid digestion, detoxify the bowels, and cleanse the liver. These fundamental changes usually will have a dramatic impact on your symptoms within one month and, unlike many therapies, the benefits will increase, not diminish, over time.