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Having had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) since I was 18, I’ve dabbled in lots of nutritional fads and special diets in my time. Now having fully recovered, I can say there are a few dietary tips I would always recommend people consider if they have this frustrating illness.
1. Flaxseed oil, you little beauty!
I started taking flaxseed oil years ago, and now I really feel the difference when I don’t take it. I take 1000mg of flaxseed oil a day, and all those omega-3s and -6s are fabulous for getting the blood flowing and easing creaky joints. You can also buy it in a bottle and use it in recipes; I put it on porridge, in smoothies, in soups—you name it. It’s a versatile creature.
2. Put the coffee down!
For goodness' sake, I know it smells good, but you know you’d be better off without it. Sydney, where I live, has a thriving coffee culture and it’s so hard to resist, but even the decaf makes me feel jumpy and gives me a huge comedown afterwards. Don’t go cold turkey straightaway though; do it gradually and don’t be too harsh on yourself. CFS is bad enough. Chamomile tea and dandelion chai are amazing substitutes.
3. Don’t reach for the junk food.
I know, it’s rubbish—I’ve been there. If you’ve got the energy to eat properly at all, you’ll probably go for the easy junk food, the ones that you don’t even have to cook: chips, chocolate, bread, and cheese. Your body knows you’re out of whack, your mind is telling you constantly that you’re ill, so you deserve it, right? But maybe try substituting chocolate with a piece of fruit once in a while. Some might argue that fruit is still pretty sugary, but it’s packed full of nutrients and it’s got to be better than what you have in your hand right now.
4. Limit your dairy intake.
I’ve never had huge problems with dairy, but good grief, my energy has soared since giving it up. My skin is clearer and I’m able to move around more during the day. Not a bad claim for a former CFS sufferer! I would say that within a few weeks I was firing on all cylinders. Try substituting cow milk with rice milk or almond milk, for example (the non chemical-laden kind if possible, or make your own). Coconut yogurt is completely dairy-free and is the closest I’ve got to heaven on earth through food. Trust me—you’ll feel better.
5. Eat your greens.
Yep, it’s an oldie but a goody, and it doesn’t have to be boring. There are sneaky ways around getting more greens and vegetables in your diet. At my worst with CFS, I was sleeping for about 22 hours a day and was barely eating. Even the thought of sitting up to eat was unfathomable, never mind eating solid food. There are some delicious recipes out their for green soups, juices, and smoothies. This was pretty much the only way I could stomach food, and they're still my go-to staples every day.
These are just five tricks that work for me, but you have to be patient and find what works best for you. If you’re suffering from CFS, investing in good nutrition is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences. In the meantime, you will get there.