Chronic Fatigue - a holistic approach

Chronic Fatigue - a holistic approach

Dr Rosy Daniel shares her advice on coping with chronic fatigue.

Chronic fatigue – a holistic approach

Dr Rosy Daniel, Weleda's Integrative Health Consultant, shares her advice on coping with chronic fatigue.

Fatigue is a problem affecting huge numbers of people at this time. In the medical world it is given a title – ‘TATT syndrome’ which stands for ‘Tired All The Time’. Have you ever experienced that feeling of being as tired in the morning as you are at night, feeling that no amount of sleep is improving things? Apparently 47% of visits to the GP include people saying that they feel tired all the time. And many of us will admit to using stimulants of one sort or another to give our energy a boost or to kickstart our day, rather than taking a good look at our lifestyles, stress levels and nutrition.

At the heart of all holistic health models is the concept of our ‘life energy’. In homoeopathy it is called our vital force; in yoga prana; in acupuncture Chi; in shiatsu Ki. And in these sensitive modalities an assessment is made of the strength of our life energy and the degree to which its component elements are in or out of balance.

From an integrative healthcare perspective, we look at the different types of fatigue as coming from:
  • The body as a result of:
  • viral infections resulting in post viral fatigue or ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis)
  • metabolic fatigue when we are toxic, deficient in key nutrients, or when our energy producing mitochondria are impaired
  • lack of exercise, light and oxygen
  • cancer and other long-term illnesses
  • disturbed sleep
  • the ‘energy thieves’ alcohol and drugs
  • The environment, when we are living or working in ‘sick buildings’ or areas of environmental or electromagnetic pollution
  • The mind, when our habits, behaviour, mindset, and self-stressing tendencies push us over into adrenal fatigue and onwards into thyroid deficiency
  • The soul, when we have become ‘soul weary’ or ‘broken spirited’


Perhaps the most severe form of fatigue is post viral fatigue. This can last for months or even years, leading to intense frustration and disruption of normal life. When working in an ME clinic I met one lady who could not even lift her head off the pillow and a man who had to lie down in someone’s garden on return from a shopping trip as he was simply too exhausted to make it home. Worst of all, at the time many doctors were saying that ME was a form of depression. However, it is very clear that this problem has a very physical basis. By comparison with people that are depressed, those with ME usually have abundant mental energy and a great desire to get on with life. The symptoms can include photophobia, hyperacusis (over sensitive eyes and ears), dizziness, aching muscles after any sort of exertion, and extreme tiredness, allowing very limited activity. Usually making greater effort results in worsening of symptoms and the challenge is to accept the limitations and adopt the crucial ‘60% rule’. The idea here is that you only use 60% of available energy at any time, never allowing yourself to completely drain your energy battery. This is because once completely drained it takes far longer to restore, with often days of payback.

There are several approaches to treatment of this condition, and one of the UKs top experts in the subject is Dr Sarah Myhill who has put a great deal of her knowledge onto her website. Sarah and other functional medicine doctors will do extensive testing of metabolic and energy production mechanisms and create nutritional, detoxification and supplement regimes to assist the ailing energy production systems.

This approach overlaps significantly with the question of environmental tiredness. Some of us are particularly sensitive to environmental chemicals and electromagnetic fields. Many functional medicine doctors are also members of the British Society of Environmental Medicine and are very tuned in to these issues. It is possible to be tested for the presence of genetic ‘chemosnips’ which cause limitations in our abilities to detox particular chemicals. This can lead to individual or multiple chemical sensitivities which may need handling through detoxification, desensitisation or simply avoiding the problem chemicals.

chronic fatigue sugary drinks

Another type of infection that causes fatigue is candida within our gastrointestinal tract. After we eat sugary foods that feed the yeast, it produces a primitive form of alcohol which can cause a state of ‘brain fog’, or ‘white out’ as people describe it. This can coexist with post viral fatigue and it can be important to treat this, once identified through stool or urine tests.

Less complex forms of physical tiredness result from lifestyles with lack of light, exercise and oxygen. When we are in natural light, we create vitamin D. This is the substrate for our adrenal sex hormones and corticosteroids. The adrenals are the powerhouse of our bodies and this was understood in Oriental medicine where the kidneys are talked about as the seat of our ‘Jing’ or life force. Exercise puts demand onto our systems, resulting in increased red blood cell production, muscular strength and vitality. Most of us feel much better after exercising and it is now proved that along with nutrition, exercise is the best way to prevent cancer, diabetes, obesity and depression. Oxygen is central to all metabolic energy production processes. So, a life spent indoors sat at a desk will always lead us into fatigue and health risk, sometimes referred to as ‘Sitting Disease’ in the USA.

chronic fatigue and exercise

The main form of fatigue that is caused by our minds is when we are permanently stuck in sympathetic nervous system overdrive. In this state we are using up our precious neuropeptides and placing continual demand on the adrenal glands to keep us pumped up mentally and physically. When this becomes habitual, we can go into a state of adrenal fatigue and become unable to respond to challenge, finding ourselves burnt out. When this happens, for a period, the thyroid gland can compensate, pumping us up by raising our basal metabolic rate. However, this can in turn result in hypo or hyper thyroidism. The other risk is that we become depressed mentally and fatigued in a different way, as we become flat emotionally and drained of mental energy. Clearly here the key is to tackle our patterns of behaviour, thinking and self-stressing in order to develop a much gentler and more compassionate way of being.

And finally there is the fatigue that comes from deep within us when we are simply ‘soul weary’; when life has been so hard and the going so tough that we feel broken, lost or dispirited.

The best approach to combat these mental and soul types of fatigue is holistic health coaching. The Health Creation coaching model that I have developed is ‘Life Energy Management’. In this approach we look at where we are losing our precious life energy in all areas of body, mind, spirit and environment and crucially where we can build it to experience new levels of vitality, strength and empowerment as we come to live in the right relationship to ourselves, each other and the planet. If you would like to know more about this form of mentorship, do please contact me.

Weleda’s range contains natural products that can support our energy with better sleep, stress reduction and support for our nervous systems.

Prunus Spinosa 6x Oral Drops 
Formulated for the symptomatic relief of fatigue following stress or illness, these natural drops are made from the fresh leaf tips of biodynamically grown blackthorn, hand-picked from hedges at Weleda’s Derbyshire gardens. Blackthorn, or Prunus spinosa, is recognised for its remarkable vitality, and is traditionally selected to help strengthen and stimulate the life forces where these have been depleted through ill health. Take 5-7 drops in a little water, three times daily, until symptoms improve.
Stress Relief Oral Spray
Sometimes a healthy level of stress can become unhealthy, leaving us feeling weary and depleted. This homeopathic oral spray is formulated to ease mild stress, irritability and tension, and is a combination of Pulsatilla together with calming Chamomile from our own Weleda gardens.
Arnica Muscle Soak 
If over exertion has left you feeling weary and achy, this aromatic bath soak will soothe mind and body while your muscles and tired limbs relax. Made with organic arnica flower extract together with rosemary leaf oil and lavender oil.
Rosemary Invigorating Bath Milk
If you wake up feeling as tired as you went to bed, an invigorating bath with the stimulating fragrance of Rosemary Bath Milk will help counter feelings of weariness or brain fog. If you prefer to shower, pour a capful onto a flannel and lay it flat in the shower tray, and let the aromatic vapours rise as the water cascades down.
Pine Reviving Bath Milk
If fatigue has you feeling wobbly, mentally or physically, try this restorative and uplifting bath milk at the end of the day before retiring to bed. Its tranquil pine forest scent will centre you and help you regain inner balance, paving the way for a good night’s sleep.
Energy Aroma Shower
If you are feeling weary after a poor night’s sleep, the energising upbeat natural fragrance of this shower gel - with cedarwood, citronella and ginger - will kickstart your day. Turn the warm shower to cool for an invigorating finish, to give your immune system a boost.
Prunus Elixir
Made with the juice from blackthorn berries or sloes, sweetened with organic raw cane sugar, for a certified organic elixir to bring you natural energy. If you are feeling depleted and lacking vitality, Prunus Elixir can support you back to better health.
Not suitable for diabetics
Prickly Pear Cactus Hydrating Facial Mist
Whilst this won’t directly address chronic fatigue, if you are feeling weary after a poor night’s sleep or stressful period, or if your day is proving extremely draining, this refreshing spray can help you awaken and refocus, to finish the task in hand.

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