Customers who seek advice for a chronic lack of energy often confront retailers. Something as simple as eating a healthy diet and supplementing with the very best nutrition can help you manage many health challenges, and that includes the persistent fatigue and mental strain of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). I know it doesn’t sound sexy. But it couldn’t be truer.
CFS is characterized by severe, disabling fatigue, as well as other symptoms, including musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbance, impaired concentration and headaches. This is not a new disorder. Back in the 19th century, symptoms surfaced in many people but were largely ignored. In the 1930s through the 1950s, outbreaks of the disease marked by prolonged fatigue were reported in the United States and many other countries. Beginning in the early- to mid-1980s, there was renewed interest by health professionals worldwide because of increased reports of outbreaks of long-term debilitating fatigue. And for good reason.
Between one and four million people in the United States—about 2.5 percent of the population—have chronic fatigue symptoms. Interestingly, often, your health care professional has difficulty diagnosing CFS because they first have to rule out other possible maladies, including sleep disorder, anemia or depression. That said, according to the Mayo Clinic, you must also have four of the following symptoms:
• Loss of memory or concentration
• Sore throat
• Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
• Unexplained muscle pain
• Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
• Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
• Un-refreshing sleep
• Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
Effects from this illness can range from moderate to debilitating, and can substantially impact everyday functioning. Routine daily activities, such as cooking, walking and even lifting light objects, can become difficult. Additionally, sensitivity to environmental factors, including noise, light and various household chemicals, may force many with CFS into isolation.
The onset of chronic fatigue may be sudden and occur immediately after a viral illness such as the flu. However, it can also be gradual, with no distinct association to a specific event or time. The economic burden of CFS, including annual health care costs, is estimated to be between $1.9 billion and $7.2 billion. Retailers can truly lend a hand.
What CFS Feels Like
CFS differ between patients, but severe fatigue or chronic tiredness that interferes with work or daily activities is common. Patients may also complain of pain and achiness and a kind of brain fog that makes it hard to concentrate or remember recent events or details.
If you’ve been exhausted for months, can’t carry out your daily activities, and nothing you have tried makes you feel better, it’s time to see a doctor. Studies suggest that close to 80 percent of people who are living with chronic fatigue syndrome have never been formally diagnosed and are not getting the treatment they need. Data also implies that getting a diagnosis early in the course of the disease—before you’ve had it for two years—gives you the best chance of improving your symptoms through treatment.
Believe it or not, the best advice retailers can give their customers who may have CFS symptoms is the age old adage of avoiding processed, refined carbohydrates, such as the sugar or white flour found in white bread, crackers, cookies, cakes and soda.
Sugar will wreak havoc on the body. It suppresses the immune system, increases inflammation, and stimulates yeast overgrowth in the intestines. It also causes a rapid rise in blood sugar, followed by hypoglycemia, which causes fatigue, anxiety and sugar cravings. This creates a vicious cycle. In fact, according to FoodBeast.com, in 2012, the average American consumed 130 pounds of sugar per year. That is three pounds of sugar per day or 3,550 pounds of sugar over the average American lifetime. That equates to 1,767,900 Skittles. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. The average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons per day. The average American child consumes 32 teaspoons per day. The most alarming fact is that according to brain scans, sugar is as addictive as cocaine. Many believe sugar alone is the main contributor to CFS.
That said, retailers’ shelves are full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other supplements that are not only good for overall nutrition but can also have powerful nutritional impact on people with CFS. Many of the following are best used synergistically to help improve energy levels and overall health.
• Amino Acids: Glycine, taurine, carnitine, tyrosine and others are essential for the production of energy in the body. They are also essential for brain function.
• D-Ribose: This compound is needed to increase the synthesis of cellular energy in muscles. Muscle energy synthesis has been found to be lower in those with CFS. When taken as a supplement, D-ribose has been shown to enhance muscle cell energy and recovery, improve fatigue and other symptoms in individuals with fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome in several studies. In fact, one group of researchers found that 3 grams of D-ribose twice daily for three weeks in adults over 50 years of age who complained of tiredness for at least one month lessened physical fatigue. This was demonstrated by statistically significant improvements in tests of cardiopulmonary exercise testing. The subjects also had significant subjective improvements in mental outlook and vitality.
• Fructooligosaccharides (FOS): The presence of “good bacteria” in the intestinal tract is vital for improving digestive health, central to overall health.
• Inositol: Enhances immune function by increasing natural killer cells and increasing arterial blood flow.
• Magnesium: Nutritionists believe that many CFS sufferers can significantly improve their symptoms by supplementing with magnesium. This is because magnesium has the ability to increase the body’s production of DHEA, a hormone that has beneficial effects on memory, stress, sleep and depression. It also enhances immune function by increasing natural killer cells. Furthermore, magnesium is critical for the relief of muscle pain.
• Vitamin E: Helps to relieve pain in CFS patients. It can also improve leg cramps at night, which interfere with sleep.
• Selenium: Supports immune function by enhancing antibody production.
CFS is a very complex and often mysterious condition. The unrelenting symptoms of fatigue, pain and mental fogginess can be overwhelming. Retailers can partner with their customers in formulating a plan to combat CFS. Eating a healthy diet and supplementing with the very best nutrition specifically for CFS can help your customers navigate the many health challenges associated with this condition. The objective is to find a combination in your customers’ diet and supplement regimen that will help boost their energy or help that person get a good night’s sleep. This will ultimately give your customer critical control over the outcome of their illness and set him or her on the road to recovery. VR
Flanigan R, MacCarter D, et al. D-ribose improves fatigue in aging adults. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(5):529-530.
Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Becker has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 102 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at Facebook.com/marklbecker and on twitter at Twitter.com/becker_mark. For more information, visit www.vivioninc.com or www.energyatlast.com.