Chronic fatigue syndrome has emerged as a complex illness that affects many people. In Ayurveda, chronic fatigue syndrome is known as bala kshaya.
Symptoms of chronic fatigue include incapacitating physical and mental fatigue experienced as poor stamina and profound exhaustion, inability to concentrate, confusion, memory loss, anxiety and depression. A reduced tolerance for exercise is present, as well as joint and muscular aches and pains. Some individuals also suffer from sleep disturbances and disorders, enlarged glands, recurrent sore throats, alcohol intolerance, and unusual unsteadiness and clumsiness.
Associated medical conditions (that may be involved in triggering or perpetuating the syndrome) can include diabetes, anaemia, low thyroid function, chronic liver and kidney ailments.
So far, Western medicine can find no single cause, such as a particular virus or bacterium. Current Western theories link chronic fatigue syndrome to persisting or re-activated viral infection, and poor functioning of the body’s immune system.
In Ayurveda, chronic fatigue syndrome or bala kshaya is believed to be caused by a build-up of toxins (ama) that weakens and burdens the system causing extreme debility. Accumulated toxins poison the system, stopping the life force flowing freely, driving overwhelming fatigue.
This situation can eventually result in a disconnect or lack of coordination between mind, body and spirit. This explains the link with the immune system, which is literally the mind-body’s ability to know and protect itself.
Factors driving the creation of toxins and resulting imbalance in vital energy include inappropriate diet, exercise and lifestyle, including chronic physical and mental stress and irregular or insufficient sleep.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the key to cleansing the system, releasing energy blockages and regaining vitality is to identify the patterns of behaviour that are disharmonious with a person’s nature, and make choices to re-establish the balance. .
One first step is to look in to one’s unique constitution (dosha) to gain greater self-understanding. Then, to take holistic steps that suit their particular nature. For example, primarily the aim is to improve the basic functions of life—eating, eliminating, sleeping, loving, working.
This is done by first removing the behaviours and substances that are perpetuating the problem. For example, from a dietary perspective, it is generally beneficial to stay away from ama-generating and kapha-aggravating foods such as deep-fried foods, fat- and sugar-laden desserts, ice-cold drinks, meats and heavy grains. Keep all processed food, sugar, salt, and foods with additives, to the minimum. Caffeine and alcohol also sap the body of its vital energy.
Ideally the regular diet is light and detoxifying. Foods should be chosen that are digested easily and nourish body, mind and spirit. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh milk, ghee, natural (well-prepared) whole grains and light beans/legumes like mung dal.
As well as diet, treatments may address breathing techniques, massage, meditation, and herbal therapies. Ayurveda’s deep cleansing therapy of “panchakarma” is an extensive detoxification process involving oil massage and herbal therapies. If available, this can be an important part of treatment.
Following cleansing of the system and correction of diet and lifestyle, it is necessary to use rejuvenating therapies to help restore energy and vitality. This in particular involves herbs. “Rasayana herbs” that build the vital fluids of the body that underpin all other tissues and help to rejuvenate the system include: amla, licorice root, brahmi, arjuna, rhodiola and shilajit.
For chronic fatigue syndrome, the rasayana aswagandha (Withania somnifera) is also considered an excellent remedy. Ashwagandha helps to restore energy and improve neurological and muscular functions that become weak and can falter during chronic fatigue syndrome. It also helps to regulate sleep cycles, boost the immune system, and reduce anxiety and depression.
Foods that provide rejuvenating effects include ghee, and nuts like almonds and walnuts.
As each individual is able, light exercise is also recommended. Even a few minutes of walking or some yogasanas helps to improve digestion, boost circulation, and promote a state of general well-being.
And be sure to get adequate, restful sleep. By working through some of the above suggestions, sleep should be improved.
Be sceptical about unusual treatments such as mega-vitamins and super-foods in tiny capsules. Most of them are without proven benefits, and may actually add to the toxic burden of the body.
Similarly, NSAIDS and antidepressants to help ‘manage’ symptoms don’t treat the cause and come with plenty of negative side-effects.
If you have to get vaccinated, choose a time when you feel well.