Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS/ME

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2010 after I had been virtually housebound for nearly a year. At the time of diagnosis, and to this day, I felt like it was an unnecessary  and useless label. The diagnosis didn’t come with any kind of treatment plan, medication or even advice. It simply came with a “we don’t know much about it, but you’ll probably have this for life”. I was sent on my way believing that that was my lot. Thanks Doctor.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome does more then it says on the tin – and that’s why many CFS suffers are fed up with this vague and dismissible name. CFS/ME is a complex chronic illness that manifests differently among it’s victims and involves not only debilitating fatigue, but also chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), brain fog, weight loss, fibromyalgia, headaches, nausea, insomnia, muscle weakness and more.  woman-506120_1920

The causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are still debated, despite it being reported for more than 200 years. It’s likely that there are several triggers, and that a unique mix of factors trigger each individual’s illness.

In addition to viruses as the cause e.g. Epstein Barr, a recent review proposes a disruption of gut microbiota as a possible cause (Navaneetharaja et al. 2016). Our gut microbiome is so important for our long-term health this proposal doesn’t surprise me at all, and it fits with my experience. Because our gut microbes are so important, whether they are disrupted by a pathogenic virus, poor diet, stress or something else, the knock-on effects can be far reaching.  CFS has also been proposed as an autoimmune disease triggered by gut dysbiosis and disruption of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract (Navaneetharaja et al. 2016).

It’s easy to think that the virus that I caught in Costa Rica in 2009 was the culprit, as many studies show connections between CFS and various viruses, but in reality the virus I caught was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My CFS had been simmering away for a long time – I believe since my mid teens.

For me, I believe my immune system has been operating sub-optimally for a long time. I believe that my CFS is a result of gut dysbiosis and autoimmunity.  I know that when I look after my gut and acknowledge my diagnosed autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) my symptoms improve. It’s common to collect autoimmune diseases if you don’t catch them early and work at reducing inflammation.

For years I’d had periods of inexplicable exhaustion. As a child I’d happily curl up anywhere and go to sleep. In the summer holidays I remember systematically sleeping in until 11:30am and being shocked by how tired I was, but I simply couldn’t wake up earlier. I’ve never been sporty or energetic and I know I should be in bed at 9pm. I have been constantly cajoled, pestered and teased into doing things – going for walks, staying up late, going to the pub – when my body is crying out for sleep. At university, during my undergraduate, I had one day of SCUBA diving each week in the winter. I’d suffer severe headaches afterwards and I’d be exhausted the next day, barely able to walk to my lectures. In my early 20s I’d wonder if I’d be able to walk to and from town – just a 20 minute walk – but I was unsure of my strength. I remember catching a cold and being in bed for days, and then unable to walk faster than an 80yr old with a Zimmer frame. It was ridiculous and I remember marvelling at my lack of strength.  Each of these episodes passed and, once they had, I continued on with normal life – after all, all the doctors I saw told me I was normal.

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The final straw

I got seriously ill in 2009, at the end of my PhD. I’d had several quite stressful years during my PhD, but I’d loved my work and was passionate about producing high quality science. I’d worked hard in a very toxic system with no support. I had my ideas and data stolen, suffered abuse of power, manipulation and sexual harassment – things that are rife in academia. No-one had my back. I didn’t have an academic champion or mentor until it was far too late. This stress during my PhD was definitely a huge contributor to my poor health – and a big factor in distancing myself from academia. But it wasn’t the sole cause of my CFS. Many people unhelpfully told me I’d made myself ill by working too hard. While several studies link perfectionism and CFS (as reviewed by Kempke et al. 2015) this isn’t the full story.

What it CFS feels like

The fatigue is like no other. A total exhaustion that stops you from being able to lift your head off of the pillow, from moving your legs to get out of bed, from standing while the kettle boils or from being able to speak. It prevents you from functioning and makes you pause and question the necessity of every action. The brain fog that goes along with it is nothing short of terrifying. I could no longer rely on my brain. I couldn’t recall dates, times, facts or even names of close friends. I couldn’t problem solve. I couldn’t hold a conversation because I couldn’t follow it or remember what had been said or what I had already asked. It was humiliating and scary. I had terrible IBS and, despite eating three or more main meals in a day, I kept loosing weight. I ate and napped. That was it.

I went from being a competent, independent and reasonably intelligent woman to someone who couldn’t communicate with her friends, didn’t have the energy to read and couldn’t walk to the end of the road. I was by myself all day while my husband was at work. I was lonely and down. I needed to be cared for. I needed someone to shop, cook and clean for me, and my husband became my carer.

broccoli-952532__180Slowly I made myself better by focussing on me and allowing myself to put my health first. I took advice, I listened to my body and I learned to let go of anger. I changed my diet, even though my diet was healthy, and my approach to life. I radically reduced carbohydrates and I cut out gluten. I prioritised my sleep and I stopped using chemicals in my home and on my body.

It took time, but I returned to “normal” – at least I was no longer chronically fatigued and ill. I was different though, but in a good way.

I have to keep on top of it, especially since I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which shares many of the same symptoms as CFS. When I let my diet slip or if I pack too much in (which is a constant tendency),  I know I’ll pay the price.  It’s all about balance.

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Do you suffer from CFS or another debilitating illness? I’d love to hear your story.

I’ll be posting soon about the changes I made that helped me get my energy back, so FOLLOW my blog to make sure you don’t miss out.

Want to start feeling better right now? Check out my Reboot  I’ve packed all my best tips on how to get your health back on track in just 4 short weeks. This online package allows you to find your foundation of good health. It guides you through changes that will have long-lasting effects on your symptoms and overall health in a safe and manageable way.  It’s a great start towards taking control of your health and reaching goals!

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All the best,

Caroline

 

Top tips for healthy eating

Last week I attended the College of Medicine’s conference “Food. The Forgotten Medicine.” It was really interesting and uplifting to hear that some doctors are now acknowledging that food is a cornerstone of good health.  They also recognised that the 0 – 6 hours of nutrition training doctors get in Medical school is insufficient (and could explain why your doctor is reluctant to discuss any dietary interventions).

I’m hoping that the role of the health coach will soon be accepted and respected by the medical profession. As a health coach (PhD) , I have the time and expertise to talk through your diet and lifestyle. To hear your concerns and to understand your unique experience.  I can then work with you, as an individual, to find the right dietary and lifestyle changes so you feel better for the long-term.

It was a shame that only one patient had a voice at the conference and that she was the very last speaker. Carrie Grant gave an brilliant synopsis of her story with inflammatory bowel disease, and how hard it is to take control of your health in the current health system. It’s difficult to be a knowledgeable patient – as I know only too well.  As Carrie put it, the consultant hold the power, “and they kind of like it”.

It was highlighted again and again at the conference that the typical “healthy’ diet that many people have been following for decades (due to government guidelines) is wrong and even dangerous.  The NHS recommends you “Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates” – do NOT do this…

Top tips:

  1. Carbohydrates cause problems. Carbohydrates (e.g. flour, pasta, bread, rice etc) cause chronic low levels of inflammation that ultimately lead to disease e.g. Cancer, heart disease, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases (IBS, Crohn’s, thyroid disease, arthritis, ulcerative colitis etc). Carbohydrates therefore should NOT form the main component of a healthy diet (contrary to the NHS eat well guidelines).
  2. Fats are good. We need them – 60% of our brain is fat, what do you think happens to that on a low fat diet? But, we need the right kind of fats, ones that reduce inflammation rather than cause it. We need the omega 3 fatty acids found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish, and smaller amounts of  omega 6 fatty acids found in animal products. Processed food should be avoided at all costs as these are unhealthily high in omega 6 and trans fats, which are toxic.
  3. Fruit Juice is NOT healthy.  Fruit juice, fresh or otherwise, contains a lot of sugar. Without the fibre you get by eating fruit, this sugar goes straight into your blood and causes a stress response in the form of insulin production.
  4. Wholegrain is only wholegrain when it is the whole grain. You might want to read that again. Basically it means that a wholegrain ceases to be whole once you mill it. Milled grains are easy to digest so the sugar that it digests down into rapidly goes into your blood.  Wholegrain is more difficult to digest and so releases sugars slowly.
  5. Refined sugar alternatives are often no better. Sugar, in any form, will cause a stress response in your body. Many alternatives, like agave syrup, contain up to 75% fructose, which can alter the insulin pathway. It’s unclear exactly what sugar substitutes, artificial or otherwise, do to the body. You should avoid eating anything artificial. Natural sweetness that trick the brain are likely to cause problems with signalling.

If you’re suffering from a chronic inflammatory or autoimmune condition, making these few adjustments to your diet could have a big impact on your symptoms. There are lots of positive dietary and lifestyle changes you could make so that you can live symptom free, or even reverse your condition (as with type 2 diabetes).

Seek the information, make healthy choices, live well and feel better!

Caroline x

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

Everyone’s talking about gluten at the moment, so much so that if you mention you may have a problem with gluten you are normal met with rolling eyes or a comment like “you and everyone else…”

For those of us who genuinely react badly to gluten, this can be really tiresome and hurtful. Gluten is the root cause of many horrible symptoms in a lot of people and can cause and exasperate disease. I for one do not want to be unwell again (read my health stories here and here) and I know that eating gluten will set my health a long way back.

For those of you who brush gluten-free diets off as a fad, have a close look at the list of symptoms of gluten intolerance below and consider whether you’d like to suffer with them daily.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance:

Bloating
Abdominal pain/cramping
Diarrhea and/or constipation
Anemia
Arthritis
ADHD
Back pain
Stomach rumbling
Brittle nails
Mouth ulcers
Depression/anxiety
Dry hair
Fatigue
Flatulence
Unusually smelly stools
Hair loss
Infertility
Joint pain
Lactose/milk protein intolerance
Nausea
Numbness/tingling in hands and feet
Weight loss/poor weight management
Urticaria
Gum problems

Look out for my next post “The Truth about Gluten” – I’ll give you a run down of what gluten is and what happens when you have an intolerance to it.

Do you know you have an intolerance but are struggling to get gluten out of your C_14life?  Don’t worry! I’m launching my Go gluten-free online coaching package on June 24th 2016!  This package provides you with information, tools and strategies to go gluten-free safely and easily and to make it stick – for just £40 (US$58) and in just 4-weeks!

Not sure if you have a gluten intolerance? This package is perfect – I will guide you through the process of determining whether gluten is the cause of your discomfort.

Just think, in a few weeks you could shake all those symptoms you recognised above and finally feel better.

Get in touch now to reserve your package and receive the

Early Bird 25% discount!

Be well!

Caroline x

Dr Caroline Puschendorf

caroline@flourishwellness.co.uk

P.S. Don’t forget that I offer FREE Discovery Sessions so if you have a health concern that you want to address, get in touch and let’s see how we can work together to achieve your health goals!

P.P.S. Concerned about your diet? Have a read of my post about Sugar HERE and Fat HERE

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Sleep has always been an important part of my life, and I’ve been able to sleep in some pretty spectacular situations – from a sun-warmed stone on a mountain top to the bouncing bow of a boat in the cold, driving rain. In hindsight, my ability  – or need- to nod off was probably a symptom of my thyroid disease.

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Recently I have met a lot of people with hypothyroidism, or suspect they have it despite their blood work being normal. Many of these people have a long list of symptoms that they have never associated with their thyroid condition and have lived with them for years. They are are used to feeling less than optimal and easily put these, often non-specific, symptoms down to age or lack of sleep.

But what if you could feel better? What if you could get rid of those aches and pains?  Today I want to give you a more comprehensive list (but by no means exhaustive) of the symptoms you may experience with hypothyroidism – there may be more than you may realise.

Chronic symptoms of hypothyroidism can be reduced or eliminated through changes in eating habits and lifestyle.

I’m walking proof of this. I have gone from being bedridden, aching all over and barely able to move to, on the whole, being fully functional!  I still get the odd flare-up, but there is usually a clear cause, such as over working, catching a horrible bug or letting my sugar consumption creep up. When this happens I know I have to go back to basics and “Reboot“, to get back on track. And it works.

If you have hypothyroidism, particularly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and suffer from chronic symptoms it’s important you know that they are an indication that your body is not functioning at it’s best. You have those symptoms for a reason.

Masking symptoms with pain killers and supplements without addressing the cause can compromise your long-term health.

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If you have these symptoms please know that you can feel better. It may take time. It may take effort, but it is possible! With no help or guidance from medical doctors as to how to manage my diagnoses (first CFS and then Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), just a prescription for Thyroxine, for a long time I thought I was going to be virtually house-bound for the rest of my life. Thank goodness I took control of my health and made the necessary changes to feel better.

I read and researched. I used my background in Immunology to understand the science behind my disease, then I listened to my body and used my knowledge of nutrition to heal and get as healthy as possible.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms you may have, even if you’re taking thyroxine. How many of these do you have?

  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Slow speech
  • Slow movements
  • Brain fog/confusion/forgetfulness
  • Liver tenderness
  • Insomnia (yes, even with hypothyroidism)
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Muscle and joint stiffness
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pins and needles
  • Puffy, itchy, scratchy eyes
  • Puffy hands and feet
  • Cold extremities/ low basal body temperature
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Tinnitus/hearing problems
  • Restless legs
  • Hair loss
  • Eczema/ dry skin
  • Migraines
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to cope with stress

I had more than 75% of these symptoms and I was misdiagnosed for 5 years. Now I live largely symptom free!

Get in touch to hear how we can work together to improve your health and get rid of your symptoms.

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If you have some of these symptoms and haven’t got a hypothyroidism diagnosis, then it’s advisable to talk to your doctor. These symptoms don’t mean you DO have hypothyroidism and are not meant for diagnostic purposes. If you are at all concerned about your health, then make an appointment to see your doctor.

I am happy to help you make positive dietary and lifestyle changes alongside your medical doctor.

Take control of your health and feel better!

With warmth,

Caroline x

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Fat is not the problem

For years heart surgeons, doctors, the government – anyone you can think of – have advised us against eating fat. It has been drummed into us that saturated fat is particularly bad, and that if we eat a lot of it we will get fat and also develop heart disease. Eating too much fat was considered the primary cause of heart disease, the theory being that high fat results in high blood cholesterol, which clogs arteries.  The advice was to switch to a low-fat diet, and take statins.

Now doctors, even heart surgeons, are admitting they were wrong.

There is NO link between saturated fat intake and heart disease, even in patients who already have coronary artery disease (Puaschitz et al. 2015)!

Heart disease is not about fat, its about inflammation.

With the advice to cut dietary fats came a boom in obesity, diabetes and other metabolic syndromes. Low-fat products flooded the market and we all felt virtuous when we consumed them. But what were, and are, we consuming? In an attempt to make these products appealing in the absence of flavoursome fat, low-fat foods are usually laden with sugar and additives. And this is a big part of the problem – these substances cause inflammation and don’t fill us up like fats do (so we often go back for more).

Inflammation is the underlying cause of chronic disease. It is a normal, natural and vital part of our immune system – we need inflammation to protect us from harmful bacteria, viruses, toxins and to seal our wounds. It needs to be activated quickly, contained locally and suppressed effectively – otherwise it becomes harmful. It is designed to be short-lived so that it doesn’t go on to harm our own body. When it is not short lived, and becomes chronic, we become diseased.

Our Western diets are largely based on refined carbohydrates e.g. white flour and sugar, and too much of the wrong fatty acids, plus we are surrounded by new and synthetic chemicals, that can also trigger the inflammation response.

Reduce Chronic Inflammation and feel better

Cutting fats from our diet robs us of vital nutrition and usually leads to an increase of foods and substances that are detrimental to our health, like processed low-fat foods.  We need fat for vital body processes. Here are some examples:

  • Blood cell formation
  • Hormone production
  • Vitamin transport (some are only soluble in fat)
  • Protection of nerves and conduction of nerve impulses
  • Cholesterol (yep, we need cholesterol – it carries vital fats and vitamins around our body and helps produce hormones)

Some fats, such as Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid) are vital to our health and need to be taken in through our diet. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are extremely beneficial for optimal brain function and in preventing disease like cancer, heart disease and arthritis. You’ll therefore be compromising your health if you avoid this form of fat!

Omega-6 is another essential fatty acid, but unlike omega-3, we tend to over consume it because it is present in high quantities in many processed foods. Over consuming this fatty acid causes inflammation – which is what we want to avoid!

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What fats should you eat? 

Of course, what your body needs is entirely unique, and so, therefore, are the types and amounts of fats you need (read more about my health philosophy HERE), but in general it is all about balance – or regain balance if you are currently unwell. Yes, have some saturated fat in your diet, but ensure it is from a good healthy source – butter and coconut oil are good options – and don’t go mad with it. Ensure you only cook to a high heat with oils that are stable at high temperatures (i.e. saturated fats; coconut oil, butter, lard). My preference is coconut oil as I can’t tolerate dairy due to my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Use olive and nut oils on salads and generally where you are not using a high heat.

Ensure you are getting your Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish (well sourced)  as well as from nuts and seeds (Chia is particularly good – I always include this in my Omega-3 Super seed mix and sprinkle on breakfasts, soups, casseroles etc). You will not get fat from eating nuts and seeds as part of a whole foods, balanced diet (i.e. not based on processed foods). The additional minerals and fibre you will gain from adding nuts and seeds will help you feel even better.

Avoid packaged, processed foods, which are often high in trans-fats (usually artificially created to promote shelf life), refined flour and sugar.

Consult a doctor before making major changes to your diet, particularly if you have a chronic conditions. Remember you are the expert of your body.  You can read some scientific articles about fats and heart disease HERE and HERE.

Want to decrease your chronic inflammation in a safe and sustainable way?  Make a great start by completing The Reboot!  The Reboot is an online health coaching package designed to help you get your energy back, take control of your health and embrace your life in just 4 weeks. Click HERE  and HERE for more information.

Think you might want something more personal? Get in touch HERE for a FREE no obligation Discovery Session to learn how I could help you.

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Be well,

Caroline x

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The Reboot

It’s officially Springtime! Hooray!

I love Spring – it is so full of colour and hope, especially after a long, grey winter (which they usually are here!). I find this change of season inspiring and optimistic.  After being in hibernation mode for winter,  I’m ready for the gorgeous sunshine we have had in recent days here in Devon – long may it last! It makes me want to grab life with both hands and go out and live it!

If only I had the energy and time (right?)

As you may know, I’ve had my health problems in recent years, and I know what it is like for your brain to want you to do something, but your body to outright refuse. I have been there, held captive by exhaustion and fatigue – willing my eyes to stay open long enough to read a book, or to stay focussed enough to make a serious phone call. Getting myself out of that state required a major Reboot. A focus on myself and my health. Read more about it HERE.

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Even now I know when I have been overdoing it. When I haven’t been getting my 7-9hours of sleep (I have two young kids, so this is pretty much a given), when I have been rushing from A to B and sorting everyone else out.  I notice that I am less focused, tired all the time and readily feel overwhelmed – I’m not functioning my best. I know that I am putting my health second, which is not sustainable and is not a good thing!

To battle tiredness I get tempted by sugary foods and caffeinated drinks to get me through the day. We all know that this is a temporary fix, and it usually leaves me feeling worse, not to mention the longer term consequences. But how many of us get stuck in this cycle?  I know I’m not alone in this!

It is time to break the cycle! Reboot NOW

There is no better time for change than Spring – shake off that winter lethargy and refocus on your health. Feel Better!

Give yourself the best chance at making positive changes and making them stick.

Check out my new health coaching package: The Reboot

Are you ready to have:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Less chronic inflammation
  • More control of your health

And more!

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My Thyroid Story – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

We all have a story – something that has led us to where we are today. My health, and that of those around me, has repeatedly shifted the course of my life, changed my perspective and led to some serious personal development.

I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism.

This diagnosis came after I had been gluten-free for about 6 months, having put the family on a gluten-free diet because of symptoms my son had (dry skin patches, distended stomach etc). One day I came across a lonely packet of normal (full of gluten) biscuits. Being human, I couldn’t resist and I tucked into them. The next day my thyroid was the size of a tennis ball (or there abouts!).

Aside from “Gerty the Goiter” I also had or developed these lovely symptoms:

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome

A blood test showed that my Thyroid Stimulatory Hormone (TSH) was ridiculously high at 96 (normal levels are approximately 4). My TSH was so wildly out of range because my immune system had been attacking my thyroid gland and preventing it from producing adequate amounts of the hormone Thyroxine (T4). As a result my pituitary gland was churning out TSH to tell my thyroid to produce more T4, but to no avail. I also tested positive for thyroid auto-antibodies.

Hence, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Finally I had a reason for feeling tired and cold my WHOLE life (or at least since I was 15).

So, I was put on Thyroxine (replacement T4 hormone).

It occurred to me prior to taking it that Thyroxine stimulates metabolism. I was already struggling to maintain my body weight and, sure enough, as soon as I took the Thyroxine my body crashed. I became bedridden within 24hours and all my symptoms had worsened – it felt like my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) days.

At the time I was caring for our two kids and my husband who had Cancer (read about our Cancer story here), so I simply couldn’t afford to be ill.

I had to take control of my health immediately. I did so by radically, but safely, adjusting my diet and lifestyle. Within two weeks I had more energy than I had had for years and my thyroid/CFS symptoms disappeared.

Looking back, I now know I was right to go to the doctor as a teenager with fatigue, as a student with exhaustion, anxiety and muscle aches and as a post graduate with persistent colds and lethargy. Each and every time I was dismissed as needing more sleep or for just being “a student”. In reality my body was struggling to deal with an autoimmune disease.

I don’t blame the doctors for this. Yes, it’s frustrating, but really it is a reminder that we need to be proactive and tenacious about our health – reconnect with our body, listen when something is wrong and then take action.

I’m being proactive about my health by concentrating on reducing the effects of this incurable disease so that I stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible!

Do you have thyroid issues? What are your symptoms and how do you keep them under control?

 

10 things I learned from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / ME

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in 2010.  I had been struggling to function for nearly a year and been told repeatedly that nothing was wrong with me – all tests were normal. I got CFS as I was writing my doctorate thesis and after having a really bad stomach virus that my body simply couldn’t recover from.

I was bedridden and/or housebound on and off for about 18months. I had extreme fatigue, brain fog, headaches, fibromyalgia – muscle aches and pains. I was uncontrollably losing weight, despite a voracious appetite, and my digestive system was playing up. At one point I also lost my vision.

It was a really hard time, though in amongst it all I completed my doctorate (yep, with brain fog…) and got married (albeit in slow motion)!  Despite those achievements, I faced the terrifying possibility that I wouldn’t ever be able to work or to have a family – how could I have kids if my arms were too weak to hold them?

It was time to take control of my health. I slowly managed to get myself functioning again by making significant changes to my diet and lifestyle. I have to keep a close eye on my health, particularly in light of a new diagnosis, but I am now able to have a busy, full life and I have two kids (who I can hold, cuddle and run around with!).

Here are 10 things I learned from CFS

  1. We don’t have an infinite supply of energy – diagnosed as a twenty-something this was news to me! It shouldn’t have been – I had spent a lot of my life feeling exhausted, but I had never really acknowledged or accepted it. It wasn’t good enough to be tired all the time – “I shouldn’t need to rest”, “I should keep going”, “naps were a waste of time” etc. I inevitably would pour another coffee or eat something sugary to see me through, then crawl into bed at 9pm.
  2. Energy should be spent wisely – Once you realise you only have a certain amount of energy to spend in a day, and that that amount is somewhat limited, you have no time for people and things that waste it – and that’s ok.
  3. Who gives energy and who takes it away – I realised that I invested a lot of energy into people. When I had CFS those who contributed to my life in some positive way and those who drained my energy became strikingly apparent. This was a really important life lesson. I stopped following-up with the “takers” and I felt immediately better. This was a clear lesson in self preservation.
  4. I am an introvert – and proud! – Despite having a keen interest in psychology, I hadn’t previously dwelt on, or investigated, which area of the various personality continuums I fall into. A very good friend of mine recommended I read “The Introvert Advantage”, by Marti Olsen Laney. For me it was life changing! I strongly related to this description: “Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions – they are energy conservers”. I realised that I had been living under the guise of an extrovert – perhaps to “fit in” to the extrovert world of science (which is bizarre as many scientists are introverts!).
  5. Physical activity doesn’t have to be high energy – many people with CFS are told that exercise is good – and for some a staged exercise regime works well. For a many years before CFS I would push myself into going to the gym, to swim or go to aerobics classes. In all honesty I hate the gym. I find nothing pleasurable in going at all, and now that makes sense. I much prefer being physically active outside, surrounded by nature or by positive non-judgemental people – its energising. I also realised that I don’t need to keep up with other people’s expectations of what a healthy exercise regime should be – its unique to me.
  6. My biggest energy drains – small talk, rubbish television, sugar, caffeine, anxiety, anger and stress.
  7. My biggest energy sources – one to one conversations with interesting people, time alone being creative and thinking, taking the time to enjoy and savour a really good cup of tea (caffeine-free), yoga, warm and nourishing food.
  8. My body knows what it needs – I just have to listen. For a long time my body had been giving me signs that things were not going well, but I did not acknowledged them. Had I been more connected with they way my body felt, and had a higher respect for it, my dip into the world of CFS may not have been so dramatic.
  9. Epsom salt baths are amazing – I believe everyone can benefit from bathing in Epsom salts! It rebalances magnesium deficiencies, soothes aching muscles, helps with sleep and is thought to encourage the elimination of waste and toxins (sip water while you bathe).
  10. What matters in life – who and what deserves my precious energy. I decided that I deserved my energy – my health was worth fighting for, that I wanted kids and opportunities to live a full life. My kids and family are worth my energy and so are the unique and beautiful people that I am lucky enough to call friends.

This is my experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I believe it was directly related to my recent Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis. Everyone’s is unique – from the triggers to the symptoms and the factors that help or hinder recovery.

Want to regain your energy and take control of your health? Get in touch for a FREE Discovery Session to find out how!

Do you have experience with CFS? Do you know someone with it or who has had it? What did your experience with CFS teach you?

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10 signs your thyroid is struggling

Tired in bed

It turns out I’ve had an under-active thyroid for the past 17 years. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease –  my immune system attacks my body.

Your thyroid is pretty important. It’s responsible for producing hormones that control metabolism, digestion, heart, brain development, muscles… the list goes on and on.  It’s therefore unsurprising that when it goes wrong the list of signs and symptoms is pretty lengthy – and it can be very debilitating.

Like so many people, my signs and symptoms were put down to “being a teenager” then, “being a student” then just “working too hard” or “not getting enough sleep”…

Tired, cold and in pain became my norm.

I wish I’d known about these 10 signs when I was 15:

  1. Fatigue/exhaustion. We’ve all been a bit over tired, but the fatigue I am talking about is on a different lever.
  2.  Anxiety – triple checking the car is locked or suddenly being nervous about leaving the house or driving the car.
  3.  Muscle and joint aches, pain and weakness (fibromyalgia-like)– Oh the pain!
  4.  Scratchy, full and sensitive eyes – Mine felt full of sand and about to pop out.
  5. Brain fog – yep, I had brain fog throughout school, my degree and my PhD – brilliant!
  6. Depression, lack of motivation and difficulty handling emotions – It’s hardly surprising with this list of symptoms, but it is more than that.
  7. Being cold, especially hands and feet – there was a reason I moved to the tropics!
  8. Weight problems – uncontrollable weight gain, or in my case weight loss.
  9. Sleep problems – wakefulness due to anxiety, being wakeful in the night and being unrestored by sleep.
  10. Hair loss and thin, grey hair – beautiful!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of thyroid signs and symptoms.

The good news is that many if not all of these signs can be managed through diet and lifestyle!

I am now fully functional, having been housebound for about 18months a few years back. I’m on thyroxine and I have made some dietary and lifestyle changes that me I no longer have aches and pains and my hair is slowly growing back.

Want some help getting your thyroid under control? Get in touch here for a FREE Discovery Session to find out how I could help you.

What are your thyroid signs and symptoms?

Photo credit: LichtCatchingToby via Foter.com / CC BY-NC