The symptoms associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) can be very debilitating. These may include short term memory problems, being unable to concentrate, joint pain and stiffness, headaches, IBS, food intolerances and exhaustion.
Anybody suffering from a chronic illness needs to pay attention to their diet, but approximately two thirds of CFS / ME sufferers already have gastro intestinal problems, such as heartburn, constipation, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, bloating and nausea. To find an appropriate diet is not easy as what suits some sufferers will not suit others, but some basic rules to follow are:
Listen to your body – one of the golden rules - if you find certain foods make you feel worse, e.g. they cause a build-up of gas or make you feel nauseous, then avoid them – even if they are supposed to ‘be good for you’.
Eat sensibly – patients need to eat a health balanced diet which is able to supply all the nutrients necessary to make them feel better, try and eat a broad and varied diet. Even if you don’t feel like it as not eating will make your symptoms worse.
Eat simply – don’t mix too many foods together in one meal, your digestive system will be able to cope better with plain fresh vegetables, proteins and starches.
Eat wholesome foods – avoid processed foods as these contain artificial additives, something which the body doesn’t always digest very well. Eating organic foods removes the additional complication of pesticides, hormones and anti-biotics that are often found on most commercially produced food.
A few dietary changes that may be specifically beneficial to CFS / ME sufferers but also are just sensible for a healthy diet are:
- Use flaxseed oil – full of omega 3 and 6 which gets the blood flowing and helps creaky joints.
- Cut down on tea and coffee – or at least drink de-caffeinated tea / coffee or preferably herbal and fruity teas to limit the amount of stimulant taken in. Be aware that de-caffeinated tea and coffee still contains caffeine so if your body reacts negatively to this stimulant this will not fully avoid the problem. Unfortunately the same advice applies to alcohol; just think how this affects people not suffering from CFS / ME.
- Try overcoming the sugary / junk food cravings and substitute for ‘healthy snacks, for example a banana, nuts or natural yoghurt with dried or fresh fruit mixed in.
- Limit your intake of dairy products – try using soy, almond or coconut milk sometimes. Yoghurts and butter type spreads made with non-dairy milk are also widely available.
- Eat plenty of vegetables – if you don’t like too many ‘greens’ try disguising them in a smoothie or soup. Getting a juicer can really help. Even those recipes containing vegetables like spinach and broccoli which might sound not great to you actually taste pretty much like a purely fruit smoothie. We have included a couple of receipts for inspiration below!
- Try to use less processed sugars like maple syrup and unpasteurised honey.
- Find a ‘real’ bread bakery which ferments for longer than is now common and does use processing aids to speed the process. This type of bread triggers less gluten-intolerance issues and is a generally more wholesome.
There have been studies done which investigated the effect of certain dietary exclusions, for example sugar and yeast but the results have been inconclusive. A sensible course of action would be to meet with a qualified Nutritional Therapist who offers laboratory tests which can specifically identify food intolerances and gastrointestinal health issues (often referred to as healthy bacteria testing). The Nutritional Therapist will also be able to help with how to understand which foods work for you.
A few juice / smoothie recipes
Roughly chop larger fruits and vegetables, put them into a juicer gradually. These take no more than 5 minutes to prepare. The recipes are just guides and to make a juice into a smoothie just add milk or yoghurt! Experiment and modify to add to the fun.
- Greanie Meanie juice: a cucumber, a pineapple, a couple of apples, half a dozen broccoli florets and an avocado.
- Refresh and energise juice: a few leaves of fresh mint, a big handful spinach, a few apples and a pineapple.
- Power smoothie: a big handful spinach, 1 mango, 2 bananas, almond milk & yoghurt to make up to fill 2 glasses.