I will always remember the father who said that, within 10 minutes of giving his son a strawberry milkshake, he could see his son’s whole system speed up, and he “could… feel… his… brain… slowing …down”. This was the beginning of my realization that food could cause hyperactivity in one family member and hypo-activity in another. Having food producing opposite effects is not as unusual as you might think. We know that foods (milk is the best example) can produce diarrhoea in one child, and constipation in another child in the same family. Some food sensitive people complain of needing many hours of sleep, while others complain of children, or adult relations who need only five hours a night! And these people are very busy all day! I have now helped many women who wanted to investigate diet because they feel lethargic, or what they call “hung over”, feeling tired all the time, could fall asleep any time, may wake often and get back to sleep, but the waking often is affecting overall sleep, so they are tired the next day. Some say they have “brain fog”, “confused thinking” or they may call their condition “chronic fatigue”.
Sometimes they may attend with some completely different symptom, such as reflux, or eczema, and not emphasize the fatigue. They would report with delight that one of the best outcomes of the diet was that they no longer felt lethargic, or that their thinking was sharper, and mood changes decreased. I heard more and more stories as I conducted clinical research in over 3,000 families.
Do you, or someone you know, have chronic fatigue? New thinking on chronic fatigue was discussed on the ABC Radio National Science Show on 13th May. It was interesting to hear new research is looking at how energy is delivered in the body, at the cellular, and biochemical level. Like many other conditions chronic fatigue includes different sub-groups and causes. One that should be considered is food sensitivity. How would you know if this applies in your family? Take a Family Sensitivity History http://foodintolerancepro.com/category/food-intolerance/the-family-sensitivity-history/ and see whether family members have the usual bunch of symptoms that food sensitive people have. This includes if their sense of smell is better than most people. If you do discover that family members have migraine, eczema or IBS or any of the other symptoms, diet can be investigated using Are You Food Sensitive? http://foodintolerancepro.com/buy-food-sensitivity-products/ When thinking about chronic fatigue, the trick is to replace the word “hyperactivity” which we all know, with “hypoactivity” as you read the book about managing the diet trial.
There are no specific suspect foods that relate more to chronic fatigue. It can even be more tricky as the foods you may feel give you a “lift” may be the ones that produce the fatigue 24 hours later. If possible do get the help of an accredited practicing dietitian. Using the clues you get from the Family Sensitivity History you may decide to also limit or exclude wheat or dairy, but not without first lowering the bunch of usual suspect foods on the low chemical diet. The man in my story above was lucky as he saw a clear connection between one food and his fatigue. Excluding some food, when you hope the food will give you energy, feels strange. But it may be worthwhile if after a month you feel improvement. Food sensitivity is strange in that where a symptom is due to food sensitivity it can get worse or better over weeks or months for no apparent reason, and even greatly increase or decrease over years.
Chronic fatigue is a complex condition so diet should not be the first option considered. You do need to have all possible medical conditions investigated. But after you have been reassured that you have no serious illness, it is worth investigating diet.