Chronic Fatigue

“I am going to argue that the problem with the diet and health of most Americans is wheat—or what we are being sold that is called ‘wheat.’”  William Davis, Cardiologist and Author of “Wheat Belly”

“Oh Dear … I’m so tired.” This was my mother’s mantra for years before she and my dad moved in with us. She slept 12 hours at night and took naps during the day. And still she was exhausted.

Symptom: Exhaustion

While my parents lived in their own home, my sister took Mom to a well-respected geriatric clinic for answers. All the usual lab tests were performed … thyroid, complete blood count, electrolytes, etc. They were all normal.

A Sleep-study was proposed to ascertain whether Mom was suffering from sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea. This proposal was nixed since the logistics of putting her through something like that with her Alzheimer’s behavior seemed impossible.

Diagnosis: Chronic Fatigue

So when Mom and Dad moved in with us in 2010, Mom arrived exhausted. After the initial settling in, I took her to a physician here who repeated all the usual lab tests … again with normal results. It was the typical picture of Chronic Fatigue: Extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition.

This syndrome, coupled with Alzheimer’s disease, sometimes made it difficult to be within hearing distance of my mom. Mealtimes were especially difficult. Mom would forget that she had already said how tired she was. Her mantra “Oh Dear, I’m so tired” could be repeated 20-30 times during one meal. Watching and enjoying a television program with her was pretty much impossible.

Treatment: Dietary Changes

I took notice then, when a good friend talked to me about dietary changes. My friend had suffered with fibromyalgia for over 10 years and her symptoms included chronic fatigue. She embarked on an anti-inflammatory diet and within just a couple of weeks she noticed a dramatic change. She felt so well, she was able to return to full time employment.

I wondered if such a change in diet might be helpful for my mom. I decided to give it a try. I removed all dairy, gluten and sugar from her diet. Each of these is known to cause inflammation. It was not difficult for me to do since I rarely use prepackaged foods anyway. But I learned that gluten was hidden in many things one would not even think about – Soy sauce, chicken and beef bouillon, most canned soups, and fake crab (used in many sushi establishments) were just a few of the surprises to me. Tomato soup … really???

I know that the gluten free debate is a hot topic. Honestly, I have not really researched it that much. Most of my knowledge is anecdotal. It helps so many people that I know, especially those with gastric difficulties.

The literature I have read points to the change in the wheat crops during the last 50 years to make them more bug and disease resistant. It makes sense to me. Celiac Disease is becoming commonplace … these individuals become extremely ill if they ingest even the smallest amount of gluten.

About 4 weeks later, we noticed that Mom was not verbalizing anything about fatigue. And we have not heard the mantra since.

I had joined the gluten free bandwagon at the same time as my mother. A few months later, my husband saw the light as well. His immediate physical response was the elimination of the 45-60 minutes of throat clearing after every meal. Both of us lost weight and our cholesterols dropped 30-40 points. We felt so much better and had more energy.

After 3 years without gluten, I do not feel deprived. I am able to make pancakes, pies cookies and cakes for special occasions without wheat. Although I still try to keep refined sugar at a minimum.

And my mom at 90 may take a short snooze in her chair during the day. Otherwise, she is up from 8:30 am until 10:00 pm and if she does say she is tired, it is bedtime and she retires for the night!



6 thoughts on “Chronic Fatigue

  1. Wonderful, and food for thought, too. Yup, never too old to learn. So glad it improved your mom’s health & mind, (that she’s not repeating “I’m so tired….” Thanks so much for writing it.

  2. So interesting, Jane, so glad this dietary change has been a blessing for you and John and your mom! I know others I’ll be sharing this info with……thanks.

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