It is estimated that over 50 percent of Americans experience chronic fatigue. The most common causes are stress, overwork, insomnia, depression and major body system malfunctions. It can also be a sign that you are not in control of your life. Perhaps you are in a marriage that is not working or a job that feels stagnant. Maybe you never have time for yourself because you are too busy caring for others. Or maybe you have financial problems that make life feel like a burden. Whatever the issue is, it steals your energy. Modern medicine typically tries to treat fatigue with drugs such as Prozac, Paxil or Wellbutrin. Rarely are patients offered lifestyle counseling. But acupuncture and alternative treatments like herbs, nutrition, and exercise can decrease and eliminate chronic fatigue.
How Acupuncture Can Decrease and Eliminate Chronic Fatigue
The majority of patients who complain of fatigue suffer from a deficiency of vital energy (Qi). Qi is the basic energy that manages optimal physiological and neurological function. Acupuncture is highly effective in healing fatigue because it can supplement the body’s energy.
Moxibustion, a topical warming therapy, is typically used as a nourishing complement to the needles. This involves burning mugwort on top of the needles or directly on the skin. This treatment is typically applied weekly for 4-6 weeks (then assessed for next steps).
Herbs and Chronic Fatigue
Qi deficiency primarily affects 4 organs: the spleen, kidney, heart, and lungs. Here are the symptoms and herbal treatment options for each:
Spleen: Diarrhea, loose stools, bloating, bruising, fatigue, prolapse, laconic speech, internal cold
Herbal Formula: Bu zhong yi qi tang
Kidney: Low back pain, low libido, fatigue, internal cold, frequent urination
Herbal Formula: Jin gui shen qi wan
Heart: Restless sleep, worry, fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath
Herbal Formula: Gui pi tang
Lung: Chronic cough, weak immunity, allergies, fatigue, shortness of breath, asthma
Herbal formula: Bu fei tang
Rhodiola Rosea, ashwagandha and ginseng are also helpful herbs.
Supplements and Chronic Fatigue
The following supplements can also help revitalize you:
B Complex: B vitamins are warming and energizing. They build Qi and blood.
Tyrosine: Precursor to norepinephrine (often deficient in chronic fatigue)
5HTP: Precursor to serotonin; for deeper sleep, weight loss and anxiety
Adrenosen and Adrenotone: Effective adrenal tonics for fatigue due to adrenal burnout
Exercising the Fatigue Away
Getting 20-30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week can be a wonderful cure for fatigue. At first, this may be difficult because you won’t want to exercise when you feel tired. But after a few days, your body will begin to love the endorphin release and serotonin boost that exercise provides. Your program should be a combination of cardio (running, biking, swimming, hiking, etc.) and restorative exercise (yoga, tai chi, or qi gong).
The Fatigue Addict
Some people can become addicted to their chronic fatigue. Over time, it can cause people to use passive behaviors like giving up responsibilities and letting others take over. As a result, it can give you a lot of attention from others, which may seem nice at first, but can cause a codependent relationship down the road, where you give up your power in exchange for attention. It’s necessary, to be honest about chronic fatigue to see if it has a hold on you psychologically. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to see what your “relationship” is with your fatigue:
- What is your belief system around your fatigue?
- What do you tell yourself that supports and sustains the fatigue?
- What would your life look like if the fatigue weren’t an issue?
Taking Your Life Back
There are many wonderful treatment options for chronic fatigue. This article is not intended to cover this issue in its entirety, as there can certainly be other factors involved in fatigue (immune dysfunction, low-level pathogenic influences, etc.) The key is to be proactive in treating this condition. It’s important to identify what is stealing your energy and set an intention to heal it.