Diet is the first area to pay attention to when ME is suspected. Cut out all simple sugars and refined foods, and concentrate on whole unprocessed foods (Dr Anne Macintyre, ME How To Live With It, Thorson, 1993). Coffee and tea should be replaced by herb and fruit teas and plenty of spring or filtered water. Dairy products are a common problem for those with ME, as is wheat.
Vitamin and mineral supplementation free from gluten, sugar, yeast, grains and colourings. Two scientifically validated treatments for ME are magnesium supplementation and the use of Essential Fatty Acids, (EFAS) in the form of Efamol Marine, which contains omega-6 fatty acids as well as omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils. The concentration of gamma linoleic acid from evening primrose oil is not as high as from other sources, so that patients may prefer to take GLA derived from such new sources as borage oil. This can be combined with flax seed oil, a more concentrated source of the benefits gained from fish oil.
Other deficiencies commonly found are zinc, chromium, vitamin B6, pancreatic enzymes, and low stomach acid. Biolab in London (The Stone House, 9 Weymouth Street, London W1N 2FF Tel 071 636 5959) can help practitioners test for all these possible problems.
Food allergies or candida albicans. Action for ME's experience concurs with the results of the German study of chronic fatigue dysfunction syndrome (p 2) showing that nearly 50 per cent of patients with ME have Candida albicans. After having this diagnosis confirmed through a detailed questionnaire and possibly a biological test (Biolab have developed a preliminary means of testing for it), find an experienced, qualified practitioner (check his or her success rate in curing candida) who will place you on an anti candida diet and prescribe anti fungals; many patients report success with time released caprylic acid, herbal formulations and grapefruit seed extracts, if you don't want to take drugs like Nystatin.
Intestinal parasites. Noted American nutritionist and WDDTY panel member Leo Galland found in a study of over 200 ME patients that 28 per cent were infected with Giardia lamblia, an intestinal parasite (J Nutr Med, Vol 1 No 1). Galland tests for giardia with with a rectal swab test or multiple stool examinations and treats it with artemisia annua, a Chinese herb classically used for malaria, rather than with the more toxic drug Fasigyn (Flagyl in the US).
Alternative therapies. According to a questionnaire, sufferers have found relief with herbs (to cleanse the lymphatic systems, and support the liver, adrenals and nervous system), acupuncture, massage with essential oils, homoeopathy and healing. Deep relaxation, autogenic training, meditation and counselling can alleviate the stress of living with ME.
Find an experienced ME practitioner. No diet and supplementation programme or therapy regime should be embarked upon without the guidance of a qualified practitioner. Don't be shy about seeking out the most experienced practitioner and asking about his success rate in curing patients.