Chronic fatigue syndrome and Ayurveda

Tired when you go to bed, tired when you wake up, tired at work and tired when you get home. It is a familiar story and even if you are not a habitual victim of chronic fatigue, you probably know someone who is. It is one of the most common complaints for which we seek help.

There are different types of fatigue. Most of us have experienced fatigue after a period of hard and fruitful work, and then noticed a return in our energy after a good night’s sleep or a relaxing holiday. Some of us, however, suffer from fatigue day in and day out, despite the amount of sleep or rest we have. The cause of this problem varies, from the physical to the psychological, and both aspects need to be considered in most of those suffering from significant fatigue.

There are many possible causes for CFS and these can be generally divided into two categories: serious and not so serious. Hence it is important to determine which category an individual falls into:

What may cause fatigue 

Some non serious causes are:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress or overwork
  • Lack of physical fitness
  • Poor quality diet

Some serious causes are:

  • Physical illness (heart, liver or kidney disease)
  • After a viral infection or after any other infection, e.g. glandular fever or flu
  • Depression
  • Rarely a continuing infection e.g. tropical

Several of the following features should be present with Myalgia encephalomyelitis or Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Fatigue that gets worse after exercise
  • Headaches
  • Forgetfulness or poor concentration
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Recurrent sore throats
  • Painful enlarged glands in the neck or elsewhere
  1. CFS can accompany any acute infectious illness, such as flu or a cold. Occasionally, an infection is hidden, and this can be the cause in some tropical illnesses or parasitic infections.
  2. Fatigue can be also following an infection. After the acute episode has resolved, the individual can be left with fatigue, which instead of resolving in a week or so, drags on for months and even years. This condition is called Myalgia encephalomyelitis, which simply means inflammation of the muscle and nervous tissue. It can cause damage or alter either the muscles, nervous system or the immune system.
  3. Fatigue can be caused by a variety of physical illnesses, including heart conditions, arthritis, conditions affecting the immune system or nervous system, kidney problems etc.
  4. Fatigue of varying degree is often caused by nutritional factors. This can either be a lack of vitamins, minerals or can sometimes be due to other dietary problems. Iron deficiency, deficiency of B group vitamins and magnesium may often accompany.

Aurveda view

Accumulation of Ama (toxin) and aggravation of vata dosha are the primary causes and should be treated mainly. Associated weak digestion, constipation, insomnia and effects of chronic stress should also be tackled.

A person’s agni or digestive fire converts food in the form of energy, which is responsible for all the vital functions of our body. Therefore Ayurveda considers that agni is the cause of life, complexion, strength, health, nourishment, ojus and life energy.

When agni is vitiated, the whole metabolism in body would be disturbed. Dhatus does not get properly nourished, which in turn leads to deprivation of ojus or immunity. Resulting in ill health and disease. A person’s strength (bala/immunity) is dependent on his digestive fire strength (Agni Bala).

Ayurveda and chronic fatigue

The following is a text book view of how ayurveda proposes to manage chronic fatigue. This is not an advice or a recommendation. Ayurvedic practitioners generally customise their approach to match an individual’s specific situation.

Initially Jwara chikitsa should be adopted. Acharya charaka introduces jwara as a disease entity causing deha indriya manas santapa. (increased temperature of body, impairment of sensory functions and mental functions).

Following Jwara chikitsa steps are important for rebuilding agni and strength.

Step one:

  • Agni deepana (digestive fire improving)
  • Ama pachana (toxin removing, energy and tissue channel purification)

Step two:

  • Dhatuposhana (tissue nourishing and body strength improving)
  • Ojus boulding (improving Immunity)
  • Manaprasdana (stress reduction treatment)
  • Nidrajanana (treatments for insomnia)

Panchakarma Therapy

  • After attaining proper agni, pre-purification measures, namely ‘snehana’ and ‘swedana’ must be done to balance ‘Vata’ and to loosen up the toxins.
  • Snehana is the herbalised oil massage. This oil is applied to the entire body with proper massage.
  • Swedan is sudation or sweating and is given immediately following the snehana. A herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further the enhancement of the effect.
  • Daily herbalised oil massage also provides a deeply soothing and balancing effect to the entire nervous system. The motion of massage creates heat and friction which enhances circulation and helps cleanse the areas of bodily toxins that could be aggravating and hyper-sensitizing nerve tissues.
  • Nasya is very beneficial for pacifying “prana” vayu and pranavahasrotha.
  • Shirodhara, thakradhara and thalam are also effective in managing stress and insomnia.
  • Panchakarma includes the cleansing methods such as vamana, virechana and basti.

Lifestyle and Daily Routine

One of the most important factors for balancing Vata and maintaining stability in the nervous system is to have a lifestyle that does not disturb natural bodily rhythms.

When we eat, sleep and exercise in constantly fluctuating and disturbing patterns, the body loses its natural balancing cycles. Therefore, regularity in our daily routine can be extremely effective in reducing Vata imbalances.

One should follow a regular exercise pattern, a well-balanced diet, adequate sleep and should avoid a sedentary lifestyle.


 Swimming in heated pool

  • Yoga
  • Pranayama
  • Walking, especially in park