Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized as extreme fatigue that is not relieved with rest. This illness must continue for at least six months and be accompanied by four of the following symptoms in order to be defined as chronic:
- Loss of concentration or short-term memory
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the underarm or neck area
- Muscle or joint pain
- Headaches that are unlike those commonly experienced
- Adverse reaction to exercise or physical activity
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Recurring high fever
According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 1 and 4 million Americans reportedly suffer from CFS. This illness afflicts twice as many women as men, and the ability of all sufferers to perform daily tasks is often reduced by 50 percent. The cause of CFS is largely unknown, although medical professionals do attribute it in part to extreme stress. CFS is also known to result after a prolonged illness or a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one.
Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Essential Fatty Acids
A number of treatment options are available to sufferers of CFS, and one of the most effective is the use of essential fatty acids. These acids are commonly found in nuts, seeds and cold water fish, and increasing daily intake of them is linked to higher energy levels with reduced physical pain. Another alternative for CFS sufferers is to take essential fatty acid supplements. In 1990, a double-blind, placebo-based study was conducted in which two groups of patients with CFS were monitored. One group was given essential fatty acids consisting of evening primrose oil and fish oil concentrate. Over a three month period, that group demonstrated total improvement in CFS symptoms. Those individuals also physically performed better than the placebo group, which received paraffin as a means to control CFS. In 2006, an updated study was conducted regarding CFS and the combined use of essential fatty acids supplements with magnesium. The patients used in that review also demonstrated positive results, with decreased symptoms and higher energy levels. Evidence therefore supports that essential fatty acids can positively impact CFS and help manage this illness.
How Essential Fatty Acids Work with the Body
In general, holistic health experts believe that CFS is attributed to two key elements: a general weakening of the body and chemical imbalances in the brain. Again, why or how this happens is not yet determined. For treatment, however, evening primrose oil and fish oil both contain essential fatty acids that can enhance the immune system. This is critical to the well-being of CFS sufferers, who often suffer cold and flu-like symptoms throughout their illness. In addition, a recent CFS study conducted by doctors in London suggests two important findings: essential fatty acids supplements can correct chemical imbalances of the brain and also restore phospholipids. Phospholipids are critical to cell composition and are protected by some fatty acids. CFS sufferers often demonstrate decreased levels of fatty acids because of increased choline. Choline is a chemical in the brain, and responsible for controlling fat levels in the brain. Its imbalance is associated with CFS. One of the doctors involved with the London research case stated, This study suggests that if patients with CFS take a high-EPA fatty acid supplement, then this should have a beneficial action on the chemical imbalances in the brain. Moreover, evening primrose oil is known to contain gamma-linolenic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory. This acid has the ability to reduce aches and pains commonly experienced by patients with CFS. Thus, patients who opt to use evening primrose oil and fish oil supplements may enjoy a greater overall feeling of health. Physical afflictions that can inhibit daily activities are also likely to be reduced with continued use of essential fatty acids.