Several people have written to us recently expressing their concern over the high price of the supplements they take for their ME/CFS and FMS. One gentleman complained that he spends close to $400 per month on this cause, none of which is covered by medical insurance. He did not know how he could keep going at that pace, and I don’t blame him for complaining.
I think now is a good time to take a step back and ask ourselves how important supplements are in supporting the health of patients suffering from ME/CFS and FMS.
First, let me make it clear that nutritional supplements are intended to supplement your diet. This means that the vast majority of your nutrients should come from the food you eat – not from a vitamin bottle. It’s your diet that provides most of the minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, co-enzymes, fatty acids, and countless other nutrients that your body needs and craves. They are not all going to come from those expensive supplements you take!
Let’s put supplements in perspective. A successful self-treatment program for ME/CFS/FMS must include sleep, diet, exercise, and stress reduction. Together, these are the pillars of health and healing.
Ignore Sleep, Lose the Battle
First, and I know this is easier said than done: You must get at least eight hours of sleep every night and get plenty of rest during the day. Most of us feel ‘wired’ late at night, and the thought of sleep evaporates into thin air; but sleep is the most important weapon in our battle against ME/CFS/FMS. Ignore the sleep component, and you have already lost your battle.
No Low Grade Fuel
The second weapon in your arsenal is diet. You need to eat mostly vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, lean meats and fish. Your diet is critically important, and my bet is that your health won’t improve if you feed it a bunch of junk food – sugary soft drinks, desserts, processed food, fast food, and food laden with preservatives. No, I am afraid that in order to fight a disease as serious and complex as ours, we need to provide our bodies with nutrient-rich food devoid of chemicals, concentrated sugars, and hydrogenated fats.
You wouldn’t feel comfortable if you knew that the airplane you were flying in was running on cheap, low grade fuel; and you won’t feel good if you put cheap, low grade food into your body’s fuel tank. Guaranteed.
The Invisible Line
Your third tool is exercise – and it is a powerful and fast acting weapon against ME/CFS/FMS. Exercise, for most of us, however, is the quickest path to relapse and most patients avoid it like the plague. It seems logical to avoid something with such significant downside effects. But because you have these diseases, you have a greater need for exercise than someone who is completely healthy. Hear me out.
One of the hallmarks of ME/CFS is exercise intolerance; you exercise, you get sick. This is absolutely true, but only if you go over the ‘invisible line.’ The invisible line is the point at which the intensity and duration of your exercise exceeds your body’s ‘relapse threshold.’
Go over that line, and you relapse. Go up to it, and you benefit your body in countless ways, including: improved blood flow (especially brain blood flow – a big problem for ME/CFS sufferers); elevated levels of the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals – endorphins, enkephalins, and dynorphins – and these can be a great way to deal with the depressive aspects of chronic disease; improved lymphatic flow for improved immune function; increased bone density; improved muscle tone; improved joint flexibility; better posture; a healthier complexion; improved digestion and regularity; and the list goes on.
For patients, exercise does not necessarily mean running, jogging, swimming, bicycling, or other vigorous forms of movement. Those are great for non-patients, but for us, well, we’re talking relapse city. No, the exercise I am talking about is movement exercise – just moving your body, whether it’s stretching or flexing your muscles, moving your arms or legs, or walking slowly for short distances. The point is that you need to move and stretch your body…but always, always, respecting the invisible line..)
The Benefits of Chilling
Your fourth tool is lifestyle. Our endocrine systems are fatigued and dysfunctional – burnt out adrenals, low functioning thyroid glands, stressed pancreases, and a pituitary gland that is constantly receiving mixed signals and working doubly hard to keep up. Rock the boat with a stressful, overactive lifestyle, and you end up sick.
Like it or not, we need to recognize and honor the predicament that our fragile body is in. We need to adopt a lifestyle that includes stress avoidance and plenty of rest, relaxation, and quiet time.
In a nutshell, you have to be compassionate with yourself, and realize that you and your body are partners against a monstrous enemy that wants to wear you down and beat you into the ground. Be good to yourself, avoid stress, and pace yourself – always.
Supplements as Defensive Backers
And finally, we have supplements – which are very important for supporting our health in countless ways, especially in a time of health crisis. They can help with digestion, energy, sleep, joint health, mood, memory, endocrine function, and an almost never-ending list of other supporting roles. But as a weapon against a disease as complex and serious as ours, they are in no way as important as sleep, diet, lifestyle, and appropriate exercise.
It would be a mistake to rely solely on supplements, thinking that they are ‘good enough’. Supplements, alone, don’t cut it. Your most powerful ally in your battle against ME/CFS/FMS is yourself. It is your body, and you must honor and empower it by giving it the basic building blocks to carry on the fight and speed you to victory.
Wishing you abundant health,
PS: There are effective ways to make the ‘invisible line’ obvious. One way is to monitor your own breath rate while exercising – fast or labored breathing indicates that you’ve crossed the line. Another technique, which is even easier and more accurate, is to use an inexpensive heart rate monitor such as the one available in our store, which measures your heart rate and sounds an audible alarm if you are overdoing it and nearing that invisible line. I use mine all the time and I wouldn’t exercise without it. (Note: This Founder's Corner first ran in February 2007. It is repeated in this issue by reader request.)