Fatigued.

By Malcolm Blaney on
This is a personal story about my journey and recovery from chronic fatigue. I feel like it's worth sharing in case someone searches the internet one day looking for help. If that's you, welcome!

I was diagnosed with glandular fever in October 2015. I was so tired I could barely get out of bed, so that ended up with a hospital visit and blood tests. The good news is that the blood tests will tell you if your body is currently fighting the glandular fever virus. (It can also tell you if you've had it in the past, but is no longer active.) The bad news is there's nothing they can do for glandular fever, and will quickly send you home to free up hospital resources.

I then waited patiently to recover from the virus. After a few weeks of no progress, you start thinking about how chronic fatigue is often triggered by something like glandular fever. In fact, there's a particular type of chronic fatigue called "post viral fatigue". After a month or two, you admit to yourself that your fatigue does in fact, appear to be chronic.

At this point, a few months in to 2016, I would get up in the mornings and try and follow a normal routine, but would end up asleep again for a few hours later. I might've done the same again in the afternoon. I also had severe neck pain but tried to avoid strong pain killers in the hope of getting some work done. The one positive I had during these months was I felt that I was getting better, little by little.

By the end of 2016 I was more functional but still hadn't got back to any regular exercise. In fact stairs were still a struggle. It was no where near a recovery and things were starting to plateau. It was pretty disappointing but by now I had spoken to enough people; doctors, friends who had suffered from chronic fatigue, that I knew no one had any answers. Those who had been through it said it just took time.

I also have Type 1 Diabetes. At the start of 2017 I read about some research that had cured type 1 diabetes in mice. I love reading these sorts of papers and read all I could. The initial story is here: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39070183 and it links to this paper: https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(17)30130-7

If you read it you will notice what I did: it's possible to test this research on yourself. As a good net citizen I will now say, the researchers explicitly state you shouldn't do this. And you should always seek medical advice before drastically modifying your diet.

Luckily my partner is a nurse, so I had good supervision. If you haven't read the links above it basically says this: Fasting for 5 days in a row with minimal calorie intake will put your body into Ketosis. Ketosis is a fasting state where your body breaks down fat to provide itself with energy. The researchers believe that going back to your normal diet after being in Ketosis resets some complex systems within us that evolved during feast and famine situations. Their research specified doing this 5 day fast once a month for 3 months to really kick start whatever reset process was going on. The idea was that during this reset, your body was capable of creating new insulin producing cells.

So that's what I did in February, March and April 2017. Even though I still had pretty low energy levels from the chronic fatigue, I couldn't resist a chance at curing diabetes just by fasting! What I learned is that a 5 day fast makes you feel terrible, and knowing you have to do it again in a month doesn't help either. After the first 5 days I felt no changes, but after the second fast I curiously felt pretty good. By the end of the 3rd fast I hadn't noticed any changes in my diabetes, but my energy levels were back!

After this experiment I don't think I had any symptoms from chronic fatigue at all. I was quite happy to tell anyone that I had recovered thanks to the fasting. I felt great for pretty much the rest of 2017, and got back into regular exercise. Then at the start of 2018 I was very suddenly, totally floored. I ended up at the doctors because I couldn't work out what was wrong with me. As I sat there not getting any answers, I realized that they were my old fatigue symptoms back again. It had been so long since I felt them I couldn't remember how bad it had been!

I left the doctors knowing what to do, and started another set of 5 day fasts for the next 3 months. The same thing happened as the first time, by the second fast I could feel an improvement. By the end of the 3rd fast I was back to normal! It's now August, and I feel better than ever. How long will it last this time? I don't know, but I'm glad I found the research, even if it was totally unrelated to the illness that it worked for.
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