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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Star foods for chronic fatigue syndrome: apricot, avocado, banana, barley, beansprout, beetroot, blackcurrant, blueberry, broccoli, brown rice, butternut squash, Carrot, duck, egg, fresh tuna, garlic, kale, kiwi fruit, lettuce, mango, orange, papaya, parsley, salmon, shiitake mushroom, sweet potato, tomato, venison

Exactly how chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME) develops is not known, nor is there any cure for the condition at present. However, most sufferers do recover over time. There has been great controversy over CFS in the medical profession, and it was not until the mid-1990s that doctors agreed to make the diagnosis if there were a number of specific symptoms present.

Chronic fatigue syndrome rarely affects children before their teens. It is more common in females than males and appears to be more likely to occur where there is a family history of allergies. CFS can often be traced back to a viral infection from which the sufferer never properly recovered. This could simply be the flu or, more commonly, another virus such as Epstein-Barr, a member of the herpes group of viruses, which is responsible for glandular fever. It has been found that 40 per cent of CFS sufferers are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus.

One characteristic common to the herpes group of viruses is their ability to lay dormant after the initial infection. A healthy immune system will keep this dormant virus in check but, if the immune system is compromised, the virus can be reactivated.

In an attempt to define the disease, researchers in Australia proposed a table of symptoms that is now widely recognized to help in the diagnosis. The three major signs of CFS are:

  • Fatigue - either intermittent or persistent, which has lasted for longer than six months and is made worse through exercise
  • Mental impairment, such as poor concentration and short-term memory loss
  • Decreased immune function with a reduction of the body's white blood cell count

    Other supporting symptoms might include muscle and joint pain with swelling and tenderness, headaches, sore throat, tinnitus, enlarged glands, insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome.

    Medicinal foods for chronic fatigue syndrome
    If your child does contract chronic fatigue syndrome, the focus must be on building up the strength of her immune system. Start by eliminating any foods that are likely to put an additional burden on the body. Processed children's meals and snacks, laden with chemical additives, will only further tax an already depleted immune system. Foods high in sugar, colours and artificial sweeteners, such as fizzy drinks, jellies and sweets, are another source of strain. A good diet for chronic fatigue syndrome consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meat and fish. Rather than large, heavy meals, try making soups, smoothies, juices and broths that are easy to eat and supply all of the nutrients required to assist recovery.

    Focus on foods that will help to fight the virus. Garlic has strong antiviral properties and can be a useful addition to your child's diet. Foods full of vitamin C also display antiviral properties by enhancing white blood cell activity. White blood cells are the key fighters in the immune army and work to engulf and destroy viruses. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, guava, peppers and blackcurrants. Beta-carotene is another nutrient that demonstrates antiviral properties. It can stimulate white blood cell production and enhances the activity of interferon, an antiviral protein created by the body to help contain the spread of disease.

    Foods rich in beta-carotene are brightly coloured, especially red and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apricots, mango, papaya, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes and squash. In addition, vitamin C and beta-carotene are powerful antioxidants, which means that they give a general boost to the immune system by mopping up harmful free radicals.

    The shiitake mushroom has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to enhance resistance to disease and to fight viruses. It contains the immune-boosting phytonutrient lentinan, which appears to be able to prevent virus replication as well as induce interferon production.

    If your child is diagnosed as being infected by the Epstein-Barr virus, there are specific additional dietary measures you can take to help. The Epstein-Barr virus is nourished by an amino acid called arginine, which is found in large concentrations in beans and nuts. However, arginine has a natural antidote in the form of another amino acid, lysine, which prevents arginine's viral-nourishing effects. A diet high in lysine and low in arginine has been shown to help prevent recurrent infections caused by the herpes family of viruses. Foods high in lysine are eggs, cheese, fish and poultry. Arginine-rich foods are chocolate, beans, nuts and tofu, and are best avoided.

    Chronic fatigue sufferers have been shown to have low supplies of magnesium in their bodies. Magnesium is required for energy production as well as muscle function and low levels can cause general as well as muscle fatigue. Offer broths, stews and stir-fries containing plenty of magnesium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables and wholegrains, to help redress this imbalance.


    Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.


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