As many as 2 percent of the population suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, a disabling fatigue that affects one's cognition, musculoskeletal, system and sleep. While there is no test that can immediately diagnose one's chronic fatigue syndrome, the syndrome is generally the verdict after all other possible causes for fatigue have been ruled out.
I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue when I was younger and it is still something that I struggle with every day. However, now, using my health and nutrition knowledge to find what works for me, I have learned that if I am mindful about what I put into my body, I can live a productive, happy, and healthy life. Following my personal journey, I have made it my career to help others combat this condition.
My three worst experiences with chronic fatigue were when I was 11, 17 and 25— twice, after suffering from mononucleosis and bronchitis, two of the most common infections followed by chronic fatigue. The third was after an emergency appendectomy. Each time I went to see a different doctor, using both Western and Eastern medicine, to help me overcome my fatigue. Some doctors prescribed herbs and supplements. Ultimately, one doctor put me on an extremely strict diet based on theories from the book, “Green For Life" by Victoria Boutenko. As a result, I removed caffeine, alcohol, gluten and dairy from my diet, decreased my protein intake and greatly increased my fruit and vegetable intake. Initially, it was a huge struggle and my body felt worse as it was slowly adapting to these new habits. However, after the initial shock to my body, I began to have more energy than I've had in the last decade. I was finally able to do the things that I love again. This experience not only changed my health, but it also changed my life's journey— I stopped studying business/law and changed my career path to health and wellness, and nutrition.
Whether you have chronic fatigue syndrome or just want more energy in the day, there are some great nutrition tricks that can help boost your energy, mood and health. The things we put into our bodies make or break our energy levels. Providing the right fuels can give you a new lease on life, while eating the wrong foods can cause bloating and sluggishness. There are numerous things that affect the quality of our energy: what we eat, when we eat it, how much we eat, and how our digestive systems react etc.
So how does our body produce energy? The process happens in the mitochondria, or the energy factory of the cell. This is where the Krebs cycle occurs and turns food into cellular energy, or ATP. This process accounts for 75 percent of the total energy produced by cells. Specific nutrients, such as vitamin B's, L-carniture, magnesium, amino acids and CoQ10, are needed as co-factors in the Krebs cycle. It is important that we provide our bodies with these co-factors either directly through diet or by taking supplements. Other nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, and essential fatty acids, also impact the production of energy by diminishing damage to the mitochondria and sustaining energy.
1. Take the Pressure Off
I am not a fan of the word detox, but I am a fan of knowing when it's time to be stricter about what you're putting into your body. Take the pressure off your body by cleaning up your blood and your immune system.
- Fruit and vegetables with every meal
- Abundance of good fats
- Diverse sources of proteins
- Natural sugars, honey, molasses, fruits
- Plenty of fluids (water, herbal teas etc.)
- High fat dairy (cheese, milk chocolate, and ice cream)
- Processed foods or “damaged fats" such as deep-fried, margarine, hydrogenated vegetables
- Artificial sweeteners
2. Strengthen Your Immune System
People with chronic fatigue are oftentimes mineral deficient; meaning, many of the nutrients needed to protect the mitochondria and boost the Krebs cycle are lacking.
Possible signs of mineral deficiency include fatigue, low blood sugar, cravings, muscle spasms and dizziness.
Add These Minerals
Magnesium is the most abundant mineral in the body and one of the most beneficial minerals for our immune systems. It can regulate gut bacteria, improve muscle and nerve function, help control inflammation, help reduce blood pressure, assist in fighting harmful toxins in the body, reduce anxiety and stress, improve sleep and most importantly, improve daily energy levels. Foods that are high in magnesium are:
- Cacao Powder
- Nuts (e.g. Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashews)
- Seeds (Sunflower, Flaxseeds, Pumpkin, Sesame etc.)
- Beans (Lentils and Beans)
- Whole Grains (Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Quinoa)
- Fish (e.g. Mackerel)
Selenium is a trace mineral that works with vitamin E to help prevent oxidative damage in the cells. It also works in conjunction with iodine to regulate metabolism. Foods that are high in selenium are:
- Brazil Nuts
- Fish (Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, cooked)
- Other Seafood (Oysters, Shrimp, Crabs & Sardines, canned)
- Lean Meats (Grass Fed Beef, Turkey, Chicken, Pork)
Boron is another trace mineral which is underutilized in optimizing our health. It assists with low concentration, poor memory, and weak muscles. It assists in building healthy bones and regulating cell health by increasing the body's ability to absorb calcium and magnesium. Foods that are high in boron are:
- Raisins, Prunes, Dates
- Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts)
- Dried Apricots
- Peanut Butter
- Beans (Red Kidney, Lentils, Chickpeas)
Chromium works with insulin to help transport glucose through the cell membrane into the cell when it is needed for energy. It also helps turn fats, carbohydrates and protein into energy. Foods that are high in chromium are:
- Brewer's Yeast
- Free Range Eggs
- Sweet Potato
- Grain Fed Beef
3. Boost Energy
Your cells are the foundation of your health. The foods you eat are also the foods your cells consume. By eating nutrient-dense foods, you provide your cells with the support they need to keep your entire body healthy. Start stocking your fridge with some of these amazingly nutritious foods known to support proper cellular health.
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, kale, red and green cabbage, chard, turnip greens, arugula, mustard greens, savoy cabbage, Chinese cabbage, rapini, watercress, radish, horseradish, turnip, rutabaga, wasabi and Oriental radish
Leafy Green Vegetables
Kale, collard greens, turnip greens, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, rapini (broccoli rabe), red and green leaf and romaine lettuce, cabbage, bok choy and watercress.
Cooking tomatoes in olive oil is a great way to combine lycopene with omega-3 fatty acids.
Try purple potatoes, which contain anthocyanins, an important antioxidant for protecting cells, instead of white potatoes.
Organic berries, such as strawberries, are not only delicious but also high in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, which are known to boost cellular health.
Studies have found that polyphenolin found in green tea is able to penetrate the body's cells and shield DNA potent free radicals.
Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant which has been used for centuries for its health benefits. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and supports the formation and maintenance of healthy cells.
Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.