CFS Is An “All Systems Down” Condition!
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an extremely puzzling, frustrating, and challenging condition for both sufferer and clinician.
While the symptoms are genuine and devastating, there are no definite causes, diagnostic testing, or ways to address this condition. What works for one, does not work for the next; which is often the case with most, if not all, chronic dis-ease.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as:
"Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a serious, long-term illness that affects many body systems. People with ME/CFS are often not able to do their usual activities. At times, ME/CFS may confine them to bed. People with ME/CFS have severe fatigue and sleep problems. ME/CFS may get worse after people with the illness try to do as much as they want or need to do. This symptom is known as post-exertional malaise (PEM). Other symptoms can include problems with thinking and concentrating, pain, and dizziness."
My definition of CFS, based on my personal experience with it is as follows:
When the body, mind, and spirit become overwhelmed by the "Perfect Storm" of biochemical, physical, pathogenic, and psychological insults. This storm creates an "all systems down" scenario where the cells and organ systems of the body no longer function appropriately. There is total chaos. The result is impaired detox pathways, chaotic immune function, and chronic inflammation. There is very little cellular energy and thus significantly reduced capacity to carry on with everyday life functions without crashing.
Life with CFS/ME often leaves the sufferer living in survival mode, feeling as if they are running a marathon in quicksand with a bad case of the flu, wearing lead boots, and hungover. This condition hijacks all aspects of one's life - career, relationships, finances, socialization, and more.
To make matters worse, the medical community at large and thus also friends, family, and colleagues often do not recognize it as a "real" illness but rather a manifestation of psychological challenges. This leaves the sufferer feeling invalidated, alone, and as if they are crazy when in reality their body is under attack by multiple forces. It truly is an insidious condition."
If you are currently struggling with CFS, I get you! I was once in these shoes. I know and understand how devastating this condition and the resulting stress are on one's life.
I also want you to know that there are hope and solutions available to you for recovery. Though the road to recovery is not straight forward and without many challenges, it is POSSIBLE!
Because the path back to wellness is individualized and requires a multi-faceted investigation and app, I am not able to outline a comprehensive healing plan for anybody without knowing their full history and working with them closely.
I can, however, provide tips, strategies, and best practices for recovery that have helped both my clients and me to jumpstart our body's healing potential. Having said this, here are my top 10 health hacks on my path to recovery from CFS/ME.
#1: FIR (Far Infrared) Suana
Because of impaired detox pathways, CFS sufferers tend to recycle more toxins than they excrete. This fans the flames inflammation and inhibits recovery. FIR saunas use infrared panels that produce lower temperature heat (usually between 120 -140 degrees F) that easily penetrates human tissue, before heating the air.
FIR Sauna therapy is a powerful way to assist the removal of harmful toxins while also improving circulation, increasing core temperature to help fight off pathogenic microbes, reduces pain and inflammation, and promotes relaxation and better sleep quality. I purchased a walk-in, non-toxic and low EMF rated wooden sauna from High Tech Health in Boulder, CO back in 2010 that has been and continues to be instrumental. I would not be without it. To learn more, visit: https://www.hightechhealth.com/
#2: Binaural Beats
Anybody that has experienced CFS most likely has firsthand experience with how this condition adversely affects the mind and triggers anxiety, depression, panic attacks and more. In other words, it is common to have your mind freak out on you and engage in "armageddon-type" thinking when your life is continually derailed by never-ending symptoms. These states of mind, however, exacerbate symptoms and will most definitely inhibit healing.
For this reason, it is imperative to bring mind healing and relaxing modalities on board. Binaural Beats are a form of self-facilitated, audio wave therapy that delivers two slightly different frequency tones to each ear. This modality helps to balance the right and left hemispheres and the brain waves within.
This bio-hack has been observed to help with improving mood and emotional states, promoting more restful sleep, enhance cognitive function, and help with meditation. All of these benefits then help to reduce pain and inflammation and create more favorable conditions for healing. I have had and continue to have great success with both Tonal Meditations and Holysync. You can learn more here.
#3: TRE (Tremor Release Exercises)
Trauma and ongoing psychological stress are both factors in creating and fueling this condition. Chronic mental and emotional distress leads to a perpetually activated stress response and creates tension patterns deep within the musculature of the body. Once again, the body and mind will not and cannot heal when one spends more time in the stress response of "fight or flight" than "rest and digest."
TRE Exercises, established by Dr. David Berceli Ph.D., are specifically designed to help shake these tension patterns out and thus help the body to release "issues from the tissues." I continue to use them to this day to help keep my body free and clear of pent up stress and emotional toxins. To learn more, visit: https://traumaprevention.com/
#4: tVNS (transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation)
The autonomic nervous system, which is regulated by and communicates to the rest of the body via the vagus nerve, is a master control center for all organ system functions. Amidst CFS, the vagus nerve becomes inflamed and incurs damage from various insults, thus creating autonomic nervous system dysfunction. Because of this, the body can no longer appropriately regulate digestion, heart rate, respiration, detoxification, blood sugar, temperature, blood pressure, hormonal balance, sexual function and more.
tVNS is a non-invasive way to support the healing of the vagus nerve and rebooting of the autonomic nervous system. This has been one of the more recent additions to my health journey, and the results have been nothing short of astounding in a relatively short time of use. Here is a great article to learn more: https://www.healthrising.org/blog/2016/01/11/vagus-nerve-stimulation-fibromyalgia-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-mecfs/
#5: Red Light Therapy
Reduced cellular energy and mitochondria dysfunction are underpinnings in CFS and pretty much all chronic dis-ease states. The body and mind MUST have the energy to heal. Standard practice is to put things into the body in the form of supplements, medications, and IV treatments to help support energy production. It takes energy to process anything we put into the body and so, therefore, this practice can sometimes further stress an already stressed system.
Red light, in my opinion, is a missing, integral, and often overlooked component of recovery. Red light therapy delivers wavelengths of light that we don't get near enough anymore in modern-day, LED and blue light lit-up society. Red light works from the inside out to help repair mitochondria and thus up-regulate cellular energy. I use, LOVE, and recommend to all my clients the REDjuvenator #3. To learn more, I highly suggest reading the book The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy by Ari Whitten. You can also learn more about the REDjuvenator here.
#6: Myofascial Release Therapy
This modality was instrumental alongside TRE® in helping my body to release the "issues in my tissues" that I mentioned earlier. You see, our myofascial tissue has muscle and cellular memory of which stores the vibrational frequencies of trauma, causing the fascia to become tense and rigid. This, in turn, does not allow fluid movement or optimal functioning of cells and organ systems. It is as if they are wearing straight jackets.
Through resonance, these frequencies reverberate through the entire body as well out in the world around us. This does not only inhibit the physiological functions of the body, but it also can attract similar vibrational frequencies into our lives in the form of toxic relationships, recurring calamities, and just overall shittiness.
When I was at my worst with CFS and felt as though I was a towel being rung out by twisting each end in opposite directions, I did both at-home, very gentle myofascial release with the Fascia Blaster and I went for professional sessions 1-2x per week for almost a year. This in tandem with everything else I was doing helped tremendously; especially with the ongoing, horrific muscle and nerve pain as well as anxiety and depression.
Neurosculpting® is a structured yet creative approach for consciously reprogramming your brain for improved health, greater awareness and stress resilience. It is a unique process that combines mindfulness, neuro-scientific principles, meditation, nutrition, and daily practical strategies to help create positive, lasting changes in the brain—and life.
This very cool modality was also an integral component, along with others I have mentioned, in helping me to calm down and begin rewiring my mind and body for wellness. When one is sick for so long as I had been, and so many shitty things happened in my life, I definitely developed PTSD. It was as if my entire body and mind were stuck in a vicious, repeating loop.
It was so effective for me in helping me to understand the mind-body connection and to shift self-sabotaging mental and emotional patterns that I became a certified facilitator. I now use it as part of my comprehensive approach with the clients I work with. To learn more, visit: https://www.empoweredtoheal.com/neurosculpting
#8: Supplement combo of NAD support (Tru Niagen), CoQ10, Magnesium Malate, Acetyl L-Carnitine, DHA, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and Phosphatidyl Choline (GPC liquid).
Ok! So I have talked a ton about mind-body interventions. I don't want you to think that I don't feel supporting biochemistry is as important. It is HUGELY important and has been an absolute cornerstone on my path back to wellness. The tricky part with biochemical support, however, is that everyone's body has unique requirements and therefore this part must be carefully orchestrated and is best when guided by functional lab testing.
For me, however, the combo of supplements mentioned above, taken for long periods of time, was tremendously helpful in providing support for helping to repair cell membranes (this is hugely important and a topic for another article), restore mitochondria function and up-regulate cellular energy, and reverse damage to neuronal tissue and the vagus nerve caused by years of toxic insults and oxidative stress.
As previously mentioned, detox pathways are greatly impaired with CFS. As a result, toxins easily build up within the lymphatic system and continue to be recirculated through the body, triggering an inflammatory cascade.
The only way to move lymph fluid is to physically move it. Rebounding is a super simple and effective way to do this when done with consistency. To this day, I make a point to jump on my rebounder at least 1-2x per day for 3-5 minutes to give my lymph fluid a good flush and to shake off any stress I may be holding on to.
#10: Operation Reduce EMF (electromagnetic frequency) and WiFi exposure
Last but not least, when I was at my sickest, I also happened to be surrounded by heavy amounts of WiFi and EMF's. I was a high school teacher. The entire school was hooked to WiFi. Every classroom had Bluetooth technology, Smart Boards, and more. We all carried our Smart Phones on us as part of being "prepared" for a possible gunman going on a shooting rampage. I also had WiFi at home and would often work with my laptop on my lap into the late evening. I would then sometimes bring my computer or cellphone to bed with me and research about ways to get better. Ugg! Live and learn, uh!?
When I hit rock bottom with my health and had to walk away from my career to save my life, is when I finally started learning about the harmful effects of WiFi and EMF's coming from all the tech devices that we have all come to love and be overly dependent on.
This subject is also a topic for another article. But I will tell you that continual exposure to these levels of frequencies is not natural. It is absolutely harmful to cellular, mental, and emotional health on multiple levels. By having adverse effects on the voltage-gated calcium channels in our cells, it has a great ability to promote oxidative stress, disrupt brain waves, interfere with deep sleep, lower mood, put stress on the immune system, and so much more.
When I finally learned all this, my husband and I made it a priority to implement "operation reduce EMF's" in our home. In doing this, we got rid of WiFi and went back to hardwired internet (which is actually faster and more reliable!), we put our Smart Phones on airplane mode when home and have calls forwarded to a landline, and we both strive to not carry or place tech devices on our bodies.
While I can't quantify the positive results of Operation Reduce EMF’s for you, I can tell you that doing this, along with all other measures I have taken, has been integral in my recovery. If you want to learn more about EMF’s and how to best reduce them, the guy to follow is Nick Pineault. He is a a global expert on the topic and has put out some amazing content. You can find him here.
Perseverance, Patience, and Commitment Are Needed!
Bottom line, CFS is a complex, multifaceted condition that wreaks havoc on one's life. I think anybody that has experienced this condition can agree with that. Restoring one's health from the grips of CFS requires a multifaceted approach; one that aims to identify and remove stressors that inhibit the body's ability to heal, in a gradual and systematic way. EMF's are one of the BIG stressors on the body and mind as far as I am concerned.
My observations have shown me that those who commit to reducing stressors one by one, and maintain a growth mindset about the process, are the ones more likely to find their way back wellness. I put myself in this category.
That is a wrap for this article. I hope it provided you with hope and inspiration on your healing path.
I would also love to hear from you! Have you tried any of these hacks and what was your experience? What hacks have you implemented that are not on this list? Stay tuned for more tips, strategies, and best practices for CFS recovery in future articles.