In very simple terms the food we eat is broken down into simple sugars, which are then converted into energy. In a person with chronic fatigue the normal breakdown of sugar to energy does not work correctly and instead toxins are created, which are dumped in the muscles, major organs and the brain, causing all sorts of symptoms, many of which are not only unpleasant but also very frightening. There are four things here, which we need to understand. The first is to make sure we eat as much pure food as possible and the ones which are most easily digested and utilised, and to eliminate from our bodies anything which is a toxin. Secondly, we need to know which natural supplements will help our bodies return to balance. Thirdly, we need to understand the importance of drinking enough water, which I deal with more fully in a separate article. Then, fourthly, we need to investigate the symptoms our bodies are throwing out at us in the light of the understanding that our body is not the enemy we feel it is, but that it is doing its best to alert us to and to get rid of the toxins, which are causing us so much distress. The body uses an enormous amount of energy in detoxification, so, since we have none to spare, we can help save energy by purifying what goes into it and that spare energy can be used for healing. I once read that sixty per cent of the energy we eat in our food is used up in digesting it, so it is vital that we are aware of ways to help ourselves as much as possible. I feel it is important to eat organic food whenever possible. There are no chemicals to eliminate, which takes a lot of strain from the liver and the kidneys, not only saving energy but preventing blockages of energy in those organs, when toxins build up. Yes, it is more expensive, but as the diet moves away from costly foods like meat, fish and cheese, one counterbalances the other. The next step is to look carefully at which foods are classified as alkaline and which are acid. This has nothing to do with taste but with what residues are left behind after the food has been metabolised. If the diet has too many acid producing foods in it, the deposits are left in our blood and our tissues and congestion is created in various parts of our body. If no exercise is being taken, then the lymphatic system becomes blocked and toxins remain in the body making us feel very unwell. Sometimes we have fluid retention, and additional weight gain as well. Foods can be classed as alkaline, balanced and acid. In the spring and summer time we need 70 - 80% of alkaline or balanced foods, but in the winter, particularly when it is cold, 65-70% should be fine as the body may need the extra heat generated by acid foods to keep it warm. By and large giving the body lots of vegetables and whole grains will keep the body balanced. "But," you say to me, "I am allergic to wheat, rye, oats and barley so how can I eat grains?" There is one "grain" which is unlikely to affect you in this way and that is quinoa (pronounced "keenwa"). This is because it is not technically a grain, although it is used as one and tastes like one, but actually it is a seed. This means it has the added benefit of providing you with essential fatty acids. When you consider that it has more calcium than milk, is a very good source of iron, phosphorous and B vitamins, has the highest protein content of any grain and contains more optimal levels of the eight essential amino acids than most other vegetable sources, making it many would say the perfect food, you will see it is a useful addition to the diet. It also tastes very nice. Buy it at health stores and cook it in the ratio of one cup of quinoa to two cups of water. I stir fry onions, peppers and garlic, plus any other vegetables that take my fancy, in olive oil, until they are softened a little, and then I add a cup of quinoa, two cupfuls of boiling water and put the lid on for 15 minutes and the meal is done. Sometimes I add some chopped spinach or chard or other dark green leafy vegetable at the end of the cooking time and cook for a further 5 or 10 minutes until it is softened. Some chopped parsley added at the end adds to the flavour and the dish can be seasoned with Tamari (wheat free soy sauce) or Nori Flakes (a sea vegetable, rich in minerals) if you like. This is a very enjoyable meal and cheap to make. The above quantities will serve two huge portions or three normal ones. There are procedures to follow that will make other grains more digestible, so that you may find you tolerate them more easily. After rinsing them in clean water soak them for 8-12 hours. If you put them into soak the night before you want to use them, this is ideal. This begins the sprouting process, activates the enzymes, releases nutrients and generally makes the grains more digestible. To make the grain even more alkaline, roast it either in the oven or in a dry pan over a flame until brown and if you have a slow cooker or an Aga, cook it for several hours or overnight. This slow method will preserve some of the enzymes. Below is a chart, based largely on Elson M. Haas' book 'A Diet for All Seasons', which shows the main acid, balanced and alkaline foods, so that you can adjust your diet accordingly. Alkaline Balanced Acid all vegetables brown rice wheat butter most fruits corn oats milk millet almonds white rice cheese buckwheat sunflower seeds pomegranate eggs sprouted beans Brazil nuts strawberries meats sprouted seeds most dried beans & peas cranberries fish olive oil vegetable oils breads poultry soaked almonds refined flour refined sugar cashews & peanuts * Please note that in some lists of acid and alkaline foods, milk and its products, like butter and cheese, are placed in the balanced column, although they are in the acid column in others. However, so many people with M.E. feel better without dairy products that I have left it in the acid forming column. I noticed a difference when I cut them out. It is interesting to go through this list and look at the diet of the normal man in the street and see how many products come from the right hand column. You may see that it is most of them! Breakfast: wheat or oat cereals, porridge, milk, toast, butter, marmalade, eggs, bacon, sausage. Lunch: sandwich, which is bread, butter, and generally a filling of meat, fish, cheese or egg. Dinner: meat or fish, wheat pasta, potatoes and two vegetables and a pudding. Add to these mid morning, mid afternoon and evening snacks of tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes and you will see that the vast majority of people eat an acid forming diet and that is partly why there are so many degenerative diseases in the developed world. This is not to say that no acid forming foods should enter our bodies. They are important to generate heat, particularly in cold weather, but they should be in the minority. Think in terms of one third acid forming foods and two thirds alkaline and balanced foods. There are several things, however, which should not go near a body of an M.E. patient and those are alcohol, caffeine, sugar and refined foods like white flour, white rice and non wholemeal pasta. Alcohol is immediately turned into a toxin and we feel this when we develop a hangover. In M.E. in its chronic stages we have a perpetual hangover and alcohol simply accentuates the brain fog, as toxins build up in the brain, the liver and the kidneys. Putting simple carbohydrates, like sugar, into our bodies is lethal. It comes pouring into the bloodstream, where the pancreas is alerted and it uses up energy in producing insulin to combat it. The insulin counteracts the high levels of sugars in the blood, using yet more energy and for good measure it takes out more blood sugar than was there in the first place and suddenly the little energy we had in the first place plummets. If we are in the middle of overtaxing ourselves and cannot get home to rest we may find ourselves in the middle of a very unpleasant panic attack as adrenaline tries desperately hard to bring to our muscles the energy we need. Twice it happened to me while driving and I had to be brought home. On the first occasion I was close to my destination and I lay completely inert on my friend's settee, ashen faced, totally unable to even speak. Had breathing not been an involuntary action I feel I would have been too tired to do it! On a third occasion, fortunately among Friends at a Quaker Meeting, I was given only a few seconds warning as I momentarily passed out when my blood sugar obviously became too low for my body to function and my brain foreclosed on me. At the same time as insulin is poured into the bloodstream, the breakdown of complex carbohydrates in the body stops and the liver begins to store sugar as glycogen, because it thinks it has a ready store available in the form of the neat sugar which has just arrived. When the sugar is eliminated by the insulin, the body now needs more sugar and because it has ceased to manufacture it from the complex carbohydrates it makes you hungry in order to get some more. Be aware next time you have a piece of cake or a biscuit how soon you want something else to eat, and how you suddenly get a drop in your energy. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand break down so much more slowly, are more sustaining and are more gentle on the body's metabolism. Had you had a complex carbohydrate in the form of a cereal like brown rice, millet or quinoa, you would not have had this desire to eat. Don't think that you can get away with artificial sweeteners in drinks or foods either. The brain cannot distinguish the difference and still sends out insulin, which clears all the present sugar there and makes you tired and hungry even faster than if you had had the real thing. In this way diet drinks can make you put on weight, because they make you hungry faster. In addition, caffeine also has a similar effect to sugar. Although it is a stimulant and therefore initially may give you a boost, when the adrenal glands are stimulated, adrenaline pours into the bloodstream, blood sugar is used up at an alarming rate and there follows a drop in energy. Remember that caffeine is nothing but a toxin, so the body has to use up energy detoxifying the body after you have drunk it, and the nervous debilitation M.E. sufferers experience is exacerbated by the caffeine intake as well. I gave up coffee very early on, because it gave me terrible headaches, but was drinking a lot of tea, which I know now has as much as two thirds of the caffeine of coffee. When the specialist I saw suggested that the constant panic attacks I was getting might be due to caffeine intolerance, I gave up tea and within forty eight hours the attacks halted. I have never drunk any tea or coffee since that day. There may well be other things which affect you. In my own case wheat and dairy produce also left me with a fuzzy head. Basically I suppose I follow the diet that someone needs to follow if they have arthritis, so hopefully I should prevent that in later years. When the body digests its food it needs enzymes to do it. If you constantly ate a diet of raw organic plant food, the enzymes it contained would help you to digest what you were eating. But if you cook your food or buy fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, which have not only been sprayed with pesticides, but also may have been irradiated, then the enzymes will have been destroyed. So your body has to set to and manufacture its own. To do it, it has to use .... guess what? ... energy! But here you can help quite easily. You can do one of two things. You can either buy digestive enzymes and take one with each meal, or you can manufacture your own by sprouting seeds in a jar on your window sill. Alfalfa seeds, considered the perfect food by some nutritionists, can be bought inexpensively at the health food store, soaked in a jar overnight and then drained and rinsed daily until it sprouts chlorophyll rich shoots five or six days later. It contains vitamins A, B complex, C, E and K as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium and zinc all ready and available for your body to absorb. In addition to alfalfa there are are dozens of seeds you can sprout, including various forms of whole beans and peas and lentils (not split) all of which have different food values. The sprouting increases the food value by a colossal amount and can help digest anything up to 75% of the food within which it finds itself, without any help at all from the body's enzymes. Nature provides the perfect food for the newly developing and incredibly fast growing plant, as soon as it sprouts and we can cash in on that by eating them at their best. There is a wonderfully inexpensive book called 'The Sprouters Handbook' by Edward Cairney which is easy to read and gives you an A-Z of sprouts and how to grow them. It is very easy indeed. I sprout my own seeds and eat them every day and take a digestive enzyme as well and I intend to continue doing this in the future even though I eat a very "clean" diet. You can also help your body to digest its food by chewing every mouthful twenty to thirty times before swallowing. Get used to putting down your knife and fork between each bite to slow yourself down. The food in your mouth needs to be broken down as much as possible and mixed with saliva before you swallow it. Look at your finger nails and if they are heavily ridged and/or your skin is dry or flaky in parts you probably have too little stomach acid and you need the supplement Betaine HCl with pepsin. This will ensure that your food is more properly digested in its initial stages, particularly if you take time to chew it adequately. There is much written about supplements and although there will be certain important ones, which all M.E. sufferers should have, and which I will outline, I feel that each person needs to go to a highly qualified nutritionist, such as those trained by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition for a personal programme. On the whole doctors do not seem to have the faintest idea about the importance of nutrition and supplements for those with any kind of Chronic Fatigue, which is very sad, as I feel it constitutes a fairly large percentage of the answer. A good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement, such as those produced by Quest, Solgar or Lamberts, with adequate levels of nutrients is important as is a B complex, again at a high level. Solgar's VM 2000 or VM 75 give 100mg and 75mg respectively of all the B vitamins. B vitamins work better in a complex rather than individually. Some of the signs of deficiency of the various B vitamins are as follows:- fatigue, apathy, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, loss of memory, headaches, tingling, burning skin, sore tongue, digestive disorders, feelings of anxiety and stress, depression and mood swings. If you have M.E. you probably have most of these symptoms so you can see how important it is to take a good quality B complex formula. If you are particularly anxious and know that your adrenaline is triggered at the least sign of stress, take extra B5 at each meal to support the adrenal glands as well as the B complex. If there is a blood sugar problem chromium is very important. This was a very important supplement for me because it stabilised my blood sugar levels, which sometimes did not even register first thing in the morning, when I tested it on the monitor I borrowed from a diabetic friend. After a few months on this supplement I no longer required it and have not used it since. Vitamin C I feel is also important. Dr. Linus Pauling, the twice Nobel Prize Laureate advocated large doses of Vitamin C. There was and still is great controversy over this view, but it is interesting to note that virtually all animals, except primates, manufacture four to five grams of Vitamin C every day within their own bodies. Do we not need the same? In these days, when we do not take our food supplies direct from the garden onto the table, and with our liking for cooked food, the amount of Vitamin C entering our bodies is severely limited and so we need to supplement. The controversy is about how much? Linus Pauling says we need the same as other animals, that is 4 or 5 grams, but other researchers say it just disappears out of your body in expensive urine. Linus Pauling died aged 90, was working until the end if his life and has probably outlived many of his critics, so you can take your choice as to who is correct. Generally speaking if you suffer from M.E. your brain may seem to be perpetually in a "fog". Coupled together with cold hands and feet this indicates that your circulation is not working well enough. There is a herbal supplement which can help a great deal and that is Gingko Biloba. There has been an enormous amount of research done with this supplement and is efficacy is well documented. Cold hands and feet taken alongside twitching muscles, when the body is at rest, indicate a lack of magnesium. Magnesium taken both at the evening meal and just before bedtime helps to relax the muscles and promote more restful sleep. A herbal supplement like Passiflora (Passion flower) also relaxes the body and with no side effects. I found Valerian based products left me with a strange feeling of sadness, which I did not like. Those with any sort of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often have Candida Albicans and sometimes this is the major cause of the symptoms. Normally the bacteria in the gut are divided into 80% good bacteria and 20% potentially harmful. One of these harmful ones is a yeast called Candida Albicans, which, as long as the ratio of good bacteria to bad is high, does not trouble us. Unfortunately, because of the high amount of sugars and other refined foods we ingest, this yeast thrives and multiplies. Add to this the antibiotics which many M.E. sufferers take because of a weakened immune system and constant infections, which not only destroy the harmful bacteria, but the good ones as well, and you can see how Candida begins to get a hold. Once this happens then the Candida begins to make the wall of the intestines porous and minute undigested particles of food begin their escape into the bloodstream, causing multiple allergies. There is an excellent book called Beat Candida Cookbook by Erica White, which outlines a comprehensive treatment using diet, caprylic acid, as well as anti fungals from your doctor. It is well worth buying. One supplement I have found extremely effective is Colloidal Silver, not only to eliminate Candida, but to keep in your medicine cabinet as it is a natural antibiotic and is known to kill all sorts of viruses and bacteria as well as fungi. Its great advantage is that if the silver is no more than five parts per million, it does not kill the useful bacteria in your gut, which help to digest your food, but only those which are harming you. It is used widely in the States and is now beginning to be used within the N.H.S. in the U.K. It is already used by the major airlines in their water filtration system. It can be use both internally and externally, on the skin, in the eyes and ears. It curbs irritation, stops burning and itching, heals sore throats among many of its uses, besides getting rid of Candida. I get mine from Linzi Day, a lady who cured her Candida after twelve years of illness in a period of fourteen weeks. She was so impressed she recommended it to friends, who in turn recommended it to their friends and now she has a thriving business by word of mouth and sells mail order. She even publishes a newsletter several times a year, which is very interesting. Her prices are very competitive, compared with others I have seen. If you ring this number she will send you some information, Tel: 01204 706967 Fax: 01204 406394. Email: email@example.com One supplement which is really vital, and especially so when you are taking antibiotics, is Acidophilus. Each capsule contains several billion good bacteria to help redress the balance. I was recommended to take this with the evening meal and at bedtime along with the magnesium to help relax the gut. I still take this combination, even though I am fully fit, because I definitely sleep in a more relaxed way and feel more rested when I do. The third point I made was the need to drink lots of water. I investigate this more fully in a different article, as I think it is absolutely crucial to getting well from M.E. for a number of reasons, but at the very least it flushes toxins out of your body and helps the kidneys and the liver to do their jobs properly. The fourth point I made was the need to investigate the symptoms our bodies are throwing out at us in the light of the understanding that our body is not the enemy we feel it is, but that it is doing its best to alert us to and to get rid of the toxins, which are causing us so much distress. Our body desperately needs to warn us that it is toxic and that this is dangerous to our health. When we do not respond to the feelings of chronic fatigue and override them by moving into nervous energy, we find increasing anxiety states as our cortisol and DHEA try valiantly to cope with the rising levels of stress we are putting onto our bodies. Adrenaline rushes in our blood sugar in a final panic attack and eventually our adrenal glands become totally exhausted and every single thing in our life becomes a stressor. Our skin, which is the largest organ of detoxification, sends us night sweats as it desperately tries to eliminate the poisons in our body. This is a really important job our body is doing for us. Help the toxins to be eliminated by drinking three or four pints of filtered water a day. This helps to support the kidneys, which use up an enormous amount of the energy we have. We tend to want to pass urine more often because the bladder is also helping to get rid of the poisons and it is irritated by the strength of its contents, often alerting us before it is anywhere near full. Drinking a lot of water is helpful, and eventually our bladder ceases to alert us until it is truly full. Do we thank our bodies for doing this job for us? Certainly not... at least not until we understand what is happening. Unable to appreciate the wonderful information we are being given, we resort to hatred and criticism. I imagine how I would feel if I were doing my best to alert someone to a danger and all that was heaped upon me was vitriolic and abuse. Our body hates our criticism of it and it now begins to do its best to show us its feelings of sadness, grief, anxiety, anger and it makes itself more and more sensitive in the hope that at last we will tune in and listen.