“You’re tired already? Why?”  “How can you be so tired? You haven’t DONE anything?”  “Why are you walking so slow? Would you HURRY UP?”  “It’s funny how you want me to close the computer and pay attention to you, when all you’ve done for 5 years is go take a nap.”    “Maybe you should just go to bed earlier, instead of falling asleep on the couch all the time.”   ~ These are all quotes from my family members.  I am just sooo tired, I don’t know why.

While on Facebook yesterday, I saw a post from Jo at “Supporting Life with RALF” that asked “How do you deal with fatigue”?

I was tempted to just respond:

 Well, I just meditate in the morning, drink a full glass of water before every meal, do gentle yoga, and eat healthy by going Paleo.

But, then I got curious… Why do these things actually help with the chronic fatigue associated with fibromyalgia? So a researching I went. And I found out some great explanations as to why the things I do work, as well some other things that I didn’t know about before that I’m going to add to my repertoire.

Medical Findings 

Fibromyalgia and fatigue seem to go hand in hand.  According to a study done by Mary Rose, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep specialist, improving a patient’s sleep is an important part of easing fibromyalgia fatigue.

“Fibromyalgia fatigue was described as an overwhelming feeling of tiredness that was not relieved by sleep or rest and is often not in proportion to the effort exerted (i.e., participants described becoming tired after doing very little), fibromyalgia-related fatigue was not just “normal tiredness.”

Rose says that the first thing to address when seeing a doctor is to ensure common causes of fatigue are addressed, such as anemia or thyroid problems.  During Rose’s study she found that sleep improves mood, pain, and in general how people feel during the day. Regardless of the reasons for the chronic fatigue, if we can get some control over quality of sleep, we’re likely to see positive benefits to mood, fatigue, concentration.” The chronic lack of sleep affects a patient’s overall health as well as their pain, Rose adds. “They feel lousy, exhausted, and their immune system can be damaged.”  Sleeping pills aren’t the answer, says Rose. They are not intended for chronic long-term use. (1)

Another related study shows that detailed interviews of 40 fibromyalgia patients from three countries (United States, Germany and France) reveal that fatigue is the second most bothersome symptom after pain. In this study it was found that the average duration of fibromyalgia symptoms for the 40 participants was 6.6 years, their average age was 49, and 70% of them were female.  When asked about their experience with fibromyalgia, they reported the following symptoms, without prompting:

  • pain (78%)

  •  fatigue (43%)

  • sleeping difficulties (18%)

  • mobility problems (10%)

Remember, this was based on their unsolicited comments about fibromyalgia. When asked to rate the top three symptoms, the order was basically the same but the percentages were much higher.  The participants further described their fatigue in the following eight categories that many of you can probably relate to:

  • Overwhelming feeling of tiredness (43%) – sometimes to the point that they were unable to do anything

  • Not relieved by resting or sleeping (38%) – the fatigue persisted even after what the patient felt was a good night’s sleep

  • Not proportional to effort exerted (63%) – it doesn’t take much at all to trigger this symptom

  • Feeling of weakness or heaviness (28%) – body feels heavy, weak, or lacks any strength

  • Difficult to get motivated (83%) – it takes a large amount of effort to do things, such as just getting out of bed and “getting going” in the morning

  • Difficulty doing the things they want to do (60%) – the fatigue/tiredness makes it difficult to do what they want or need to get done

  • Having to do things more slowly (38%) – it takes longer to get things done and some patients felt it was related to the feeling of heaviness or weakness

  • Difficulty to concentrate, think, or remember things (68%) – fatigue/tiredness affects ability to concentrate, difficulty remembering things, trouble thinking clearly or staying focused (2)

So, what can I DO about it?

You can see what I do in the posts I’ve written about meditation, water, and gentle yoga here and how going Paleo has helped me here.

  • Reduce stress
    • Meditation is very helpful in reducing stress.  If you go to bed with increased stress or with the idea that there is much more you still need to do, chances are that you will not get enough sleep.  Meditation boosts melatonin, a naturally occurring compound that is often reduced because of stress.(3)  When we quiet ourselves, we create a space for more energy,” says Deb Shapiro, meditation expert and co-author (with her husband, Ed Shapiro) of “Be the Change.”During an eight-week University of New Mexico study, a mindfulness-based stress reduction program that included meditation showed effectiveness in increasing energy and reducing pain.(4)  In my post, Gnats are a good thing, you can see step-by-step instructions for what I do to meditate.
  • Start stretching
    • Start with very low intensity exercise and build up very slowly.  When people feel good, then they tend to do too much — then pay the price later. Others give up on exercise altogether, because they don’t sleep well, feel fatigued, and exercise makes the fatigue worse.  Start with very low intensity exercise and build up very slowly, says Martin Grabois, MD, chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “I’m not saying run around the block three times. I’m saying walk around the block one time — and do it on a regular basis, seven days a week for two weeks.  Then walk around the block two times seven days a week for two weeks, etc.” With daily activities, it’s good to set up a scheduled routine.  Be careful about overdoing it, so you don’t deplete your extra energy.  Learning moderation, not only in exercise but in all things you due during a day,  is a skill that can help you get things done despite discomfort and fatigue.(5)  In my post, Moderation is the key, you can see step-by-step instructions for what I do to stretch with moderation and low intensity.
  • Drink more water
    • Dehydration is one of the most common fatigue-causing culprits, because most of us don’t realize when we need to replenish our fluids. If you wait until thirsty, you’re already partially parched so drink up! Try adding lemon juice to your water to get you that extra boost of energy. Water is the most important nutrient—we last only a few days without it. With enough water, you can survive and thrive, feeling more energetic. And drinking enough water doesn’t just make you feel better physically. It makes you feel more alert, helps you concentrate, and even improves your short-term memory, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. (6)

  • Eat foods know to boost energy
    • 1. Bananas – According to Natural Health Advisory.com “The nutrients found in bananas include B vitamins, vitamin C, fiber, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. But, bananas best fight fatigue due to the amount of electrolytes they contain: potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium and phosphorus. Your body needs the right balance of electrolytes to function properly.

    • 2. Spinach – Spinach is a very nutrient-dense food. Most importantly, spinach is loaded with iron and B vitamins which are key ingredients for feeling more energized! And, it too contains a good supply of chlorophyll. To get out of an afternoon slump, try eating a spinach salad for lunch or add it to your favorite smoothie.

    • 3. Wild Fish – Fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fat that helps you fight fatigue (and chronic illness). It is important that the packaging says “Wild caught” or “Wild”.  Farm raised fish contain less omega-3’s than wild fish and are often injected with hormones or dyes.  The fish highest in omega-3 content include:

      • Salmon

      •  Caviar

      • Sardines

      • Herring

      • Tuna

    • 4. Nuts – Just a handful of these fiber and protein powerhouses can keep your engine humming all afternoon. Almonds are rich in magnesium, which help turn sugar into energy. Get an extra wallop of energy by adding raisins to the mix.
    • 5. Oranges – Citrus and other vitamin-C packed produce, like pineapple, boost production of norepinephrine, a stimulating chemical in the brain. Its sugar content makes fruit a natural energy source. If you choose to drink orange juice rather than the fruit, make sure to read the labels.  Additives such as sugar, corn syrup, flavor, dyes and preservatives can have the opposite effect.
    • 6. Green Tea – Green tea is  loaded with antioxidants and a terrific addition to any weight-loss program, it also contains natural caffeine that fights fatigue. It also 2 nutrients that offer a wide range of positive health benefits: polyphenols and L-theanine. These nutrients have been fairly well-researched and is believed to:
      • Boost energy levels
      • Decrease stress and anxiety (provides relaxation without drowsiness)
      • Increase alertness and improve memory and concentration
      • Protect brain cells
      • Increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (feel good hormones in your body)
      • Lower glutamate activity (which can be high in fibromyalgia)
      • Boost T cell production (which can be low in chronic fatigue syndrome)
      • Help regulate the sleep-wake cycle
  • Protein –  Eating the right amount of protein helps to balance blood sugar, which in turn avoids energy fluctuations.  Optimal sources of protein are those that are lower in saturated fat, such as chicken, fish, turkey and eggs.  On average, men need approximately 5 to 7 ounces of protein per meal while women need approximately 4 to 6 ounces of protein per meal. (7)