Finding Relief from Chronic Fatigue with Ayurveda

Chronic Fatigue syndrome is an illness that consists of a constellation of symptoms lasting for many months. These symptoms are fatigue, joint problems, muscle tissue pain, trouble focusing, and trouble concentrating. It is sometimes related to a preexisting viral illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. While there is no established, effective treatment in Western, allopathic medicine, we have seen guests who have generally done well with an Ayurvedic approach and have had good results from Panchakarma treatments.

From an Ayurveda perspective, chronic fatigue is often related to a disturbance of the digestion and an accumulation of ama, or toxins, in the physiology. This causes clogging of the shrotas—or channels—through which energy flows throughout the body. This blockage, or clogging, results in a lack of energy and enthusiasm. Those suffering from this condition should first have a work-up by their physician to make sure that there are not other causes, such as thyroid imbalance or adrenal imbalances. But in the absence of those factors, Ayurveda looks toward the accumulation of ama and poor digestion.

Specific diet recommendations according to one’s doshic balance, together with measures to strengthen digestion, or agni, are the first steps in helping eliminate some of the backlog of ama. Specific herbs can also be used to increase the power of digestion.

Perhaps the most effective means of mobilizing and eliminating toxins is Ayurveda’s traditional purification therapy, Panchakarma. These powerful treatments open up the possibility for many chronic fatigue sufferers to find relief. The herbalized heat treatments such as swedenapizzichilli, and pinda-swedena, open the channels and allow ama to become dislodged from the tissues. The elimination therapy, or basti, then removes the ama from the lower digestive tracts.

Often there is a mental stress that resulted from dealing with on-going chronic fatigue. In this case, we recommend an approach from the level of consciousness, the Transcendental Meditation technique. In conjunction with Panchakarma and appropriate diet, this can help create an effective and complete program to revitalize the entire mind/body system.

While seeing an expert is best for those with any kind of chronic disorder, here are some simple Ayurvedic tips to improve digestion and strengthen Agni. 

  1. Eat only when hungry—when your digestive fire is strong. If you do not feel hungry, try eating a small slice of ginger with salt as you first sit down. This stimulates the digestive process.
  2. Avoid cold foods and cold drinks while eating or immediately after meals. These will “douse the fire of digestion”.
  3. Eat in a settled and quiet atmosphere. Avoid the telephone, television, reading material, and over-stimulating conversation during meals.
  4. Avoid eating when upset.
  5. Avoid eating when standing (or walking).
  6. Savor each mouthful and chew your food well. When you chew your food, your body releases digestive enzymes in the stomach that help to break down the food. Saliva also contains digestive enzymes, so the longer you chew, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down food, making digestion easier. When large particles of improperly chewed food enter your stomach, they may remain undigested when they enter your intestines. This may lead to gas, bloating, constipation, cramping and other digestive problems.
  7. Eat until you are satisfied—but not full. Avoid overeating.  Leave room in your stomach for the digestive process to take place.
  8. Sip small amounts room temperature or hot water during your meal. Sipping hot water throughout the day is also helpful for digestion and elimination.
  9. After you are finished eating, sit quietly for at least 5 minutes. Don’t immediately jump up from the table.