Chronic fatigue syndrome is a devastating disorder that can last for years and seriously affect your quality of life. The main symptom is intense fatigue, but sufferers may also experience weakness, impaired memory and concentration, muscle pain and insomnia. In addition to the other debilitating symptoms, some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome also experience autonomic dysfunction.
Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system controls important functions in the body like blood pressure, digestion, breathing and heart rate; the unconscious bodily functions. It is divided into two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system increases your heart rate, blood pressure and the flow of blood to your muscles. It controls the "fight or flight" reactions in the body, which are triggered by stress and danger.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system slows your heart, relaxes the sphincter muscles and increases the activity in your intestines and glands. It controls the quiet body functions and gets you ready for rest.
When you are healthy, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are balanced. When you have chronic fatigue syndrome or other conditions that affect the autonomic nervous system, your nervous system loses that balance, which causes unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of Autonomic Dysfunction
If you have autonomic dysfunction, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Tingling and numbness
- Blurry vision
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inability to exercise
- Aches and pains
Chronic fatigue syndrome and autonomic dysfunction are different for everyone. You may experience some or all of these symptoms. You may experience them one at a time or all at once. They may be triggered by specific situations or seem to come at random times. This can be frustrating, because if you don't know when the symptoms will happen, you may appear perfectly healthy when the doctor examines you.
Some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and autonomic dysfunction have benefited from adding certain extracts and vitamins to their diet:
- Ginko biloba
- Blueberries, grapes and cranberries
- Folic acid
- B vitamins, like B10
- Vitamin C
- Essential fatty acids
Treating autonomic dysfunction in chronic fatigue syndrome
There is not a standard treatment plan for treating autonomic dysfunction or chronic fatigue syndrome. While these conditions are better understood now, their causes and cures remain a mystery. Chronic fatigue syndrome and autonomic dysfunction affect different people in different ways and with varying levels of severity.
To treat your CFS and autonomic dysfunction, one must treat specific symptoms. It is important to find a doctor that is familiar with the disease and feels comfortable treating you. Not all doctors can treat chronic fatigue syndrome and autonomic dysfunction because they are either not familiar with the condition or they don't believe it exists.
Photo Credit: Sybren A. Stuvel