Chronic fatigue is more than just feeling tired—it is a serious disease that affects your entire body. When your weariness has no apparent cause, and can’t be vanquished by rest and relaxation, you may be affected by chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). In addition to affecting your energy level, fatigue also affects your adrenal glands, your cardiovascular system, and your metabolism.
Considering the fact that your metabolism is the primary system that controls your weight, when the thyroid is overworked, your metabolism slows down. Normally, stress causes people to increase their intake of food and alcohol, but when the metabolism is affected through CFS or other stress related syndromes, regular weight gain is further compounded.
What is Chronic Fatigue?
While in the past chronic fatigue syndrome—previously known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME-CFS)—was dismissed as a symptom of other diseases, it is today widely recognized on its own as a medical condition. It is a disease that is characterized by exhaustion that remains unresolved, even after a full night of sleep or weeks of stress-free recuperation.
While a definite cause of chronic fatigue has yet to be identified, many researchers speculate that it may be caused by viruses, low blood pressure, a weak immune system, or hormonal imbalance. Often characterized by cognitive issues, sleep abnormalities, autonomic dysfunction, and chronic pain, CFS has seen a renewed research effort lead by the National Institutes of Health.
Why Does CFS Contribute to Weight Gain?
Due to the fact that chronic fatigue syndrome affects the metabolic rate and the thyroid, weight gain is a common side effect. Fatigue causes a chain reaction, sending the body into survival mode. Since the thyroid is extremely responsive to stress, its reaction is to produce less hormones.
There are two important hormones produced by the thyroid: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are controlled by a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland.
Since T3 and T4 regulate your body’s temperature, heart rate, and metabolism, hypothyroidism can be a major side effect to CFS. Along with irregular weight gain, heart palpitations, and low body temperature, hormonal imbalances can cause insomnia, hair loss, depression, and impaired memory.
While there are various treatments for hypothyroidism, treating your thyroid won’t help you resolve chronic fatigue syndrome. The current treatment for CFS falls under the self-care category, supplemented by antidepressants. Ideal self-treatments include exercise therapy, counseling, and herbal supplements.
Exercise therapy includes deep breathing, yoga, and rhythmic exercises. Exercise is beneficial for a number of reasons—primarily that it releases endorphins in your brain, promoting positive feelings and emotions. Exercise also helps you to meditate by focusing on the rhythm of your movements, as opposed to thinking about the stresses in your daily life.
Support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychology specialists can help you cope with emotional and physical stress. Weight loss support groups and prescription medication are also valuable options for the CFS healing process.
Herbal supplements are also a great augmentation for the support of your CFS treatments. According to the University of Maryland, the following supplements may reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Some of these nutrients naturally occur in your body, while others need to be introduced through supplements. DHEA, for example, is a natural neurosteroid produced by the adrenal glands. Though it is usually abundant in the body, many people with CFS see lower levels of production. Many of these nutrients fight depression, treat hormonal imbalance, regulate sleep, and aid in energy production.
You don’t have to live in a constant state of fatigue and suffer from weight gain and depression. Start taking care of yourself and ensure the right balance between work and rest. While you may be pushed to work harder, your health and well being is much more important. Considering the correlation between stress and disease is one of the first steps towards a better future.