A while ago I wrote about how I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME). Since then I have been contacted by many fellow sufferers and that article has become the most popular on my blog.
Recently I was lucky enough to be sent a book to review. It’s called Dr. Susan’s Solutions: The Chronic Fatigue Cure and is written by Dr Susan Lark, MD.
The book is long (about 400 pages) but is very well written and easy to read. Curiously the book is aimed firmly at women. Dr Susan refers repeatedly to her women patients and readers, a fact that as a male reader I found increasingly irritating. I assume that the book applies equally to men, although certain chapters focus on PMS and the menopause. But if you’re a man, you can’t be sure if all the advice is relevant, especially anything related to hormones.
Putting that complaint to one side, Dr Susan’s enthusiasm and eagerness to help her patients comes across right from the outset. The book covers a variety of conditions that result in fatigue – CFS/ME, depression, fibromyalgia, PMS, menopause, hypothyroidism, anaemia and others. Dr Susan describes each of these in some detail. The picture she paints is that a significant number of people may suffer from one of these conditions even if their symptoms are mild. The implication is that her treatment is very widely applicable, not just to acute cases. Symptoms such as tiredness, allergies, depression, stress, vaginal infections, headaches, joint aches, food cravings or addictions can all be symptoms of an underlying medical condition of this type.
The book includes a useful worksheet to enable you evaluate your symptoms. I used this to identify myself as most likely to be suffering from CFS/ME, but medical diagnosis of these conditions seems to be imprecise as many of the symptoms overlap.
The core of the book is dedicated to Dr Susan’s treatment for chronic fatigue. This consists primarily of dietary changes, stress reduction and light exercise. Her proposed dietary rules are surprising and very thought provoking. Some of what she says is unquestionably good advice and uncontroversial. For instance, you must eliminate:
- Energy drinks and fruit juices
- Refined grains/carbohydrates
- Processed foods
This is probably already very challenging for a lot of people, but I eliminated these from my diet some years ago (curing hayfever and dust allergy as a result.) However, Dr Susan’s rules are much stricter than this! She also proposes the elimination of (amongst other things):
- Red meat
Whaa! That is, like, half of what I eat! Changing my diet to that extent would be a huge challenge. But I am a driven and determined kind of guy and I intend to try this out. The book includes plenty of recipes to help with this, and advice on what to eat and drink instead.
As well as the dietary section, there are detailed chapters on stress reduction, relaxation, positive thinking and breathing exercises. There are also a few chapters at the end of the book devoted to light therapy, acupressure and drugs.
All in all, this is a very comprehensive and well-written book. It certainly presents some challenging but intriguing ideas backed up with medical justifications and practical help. I intend to put at least some of these suggestions to the test and then report back on this blog.