ASD And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Hi. On January last, in a previous post, I suggested there was a link between ASD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Today, I am convinced.
Throughout my life I always felt ‘different’ from those around me and at the age of 49 I discovered why. Due to autism spectrum disorder I saw life through a different lens and all the challenges of my past suddenly made sense, and a new understanding of ‘me’ came to fruition.
Note: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is ‘chronic unexplained and profound tiredness that is worsened with exercise.
Life With ASD
One of the biggest challenges faced as a person with ASD is social interaction and non-verbal communication. Much of our energy resources are used up reading people and situations that most folk take in their stride. Learning to read body language and facial expressions can feel next to impossible but, definitely improves over time as we learn the hard way through constant repetition.
Years ago it was believed that someone who was autistic couldn’t feel empathy and were more likely to become attached to buildings or toys rather than people. The fact is, a toy or a building won’t let you down but, people frequently do. A person on the spectrum is so sensitive they like things to be predictable, they like to know what’s coming next. That said, this is not realistic, things change, life changes and we must learn to manage these changes.
Confusion and sensory overload in social situations is common. We would frequently feel hurt by things others would say, do, or not do. Every word matters, and understanding why someone would say or do something if they didn’t intend it can be baffling. Needless to say this can be extremely stressful and anxiety provoking for those on the spectrum.
Although many people with ASD crave human interaction they are scared of it. Not knowing how to be with, and read, others causes much distress to the point interaction is avoided where possible. As a result, many people on the autism spectrum find making and keeping friends difficult due to the stress and anxiety it causes. Ultimately, constant mental and emotional processing can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome.
So what can we do, we can’t just zone out and forget the world around us.
There’s Always A Way Forward
In December 2016, before realizing I had Asperger syndrome (high functioning autism), chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia left me bed and couch bound. The ability to communicate with my wife and young children was almost non-existent. Heartbreak and despair became my new ‘normal’. More on my journey in this blog.
Even though respected doctors and specialist CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) consultants told me there was nothing could be done about my condition, I refused to give up hope of one day being ‘normal’ again.
Change – Step 1
We can drastically improve our condition without it costing an arm and a leg; as the saying goes “the best things in life are free”. The first thing we must realize is that for something to change, we must change something. But, where does one start?
Firstly, if you’re experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome, sit in whichever room of your home has the most sunlight during the day and put on your favorite uplifting, not sad, music. Sounds simple but, it has the power to make you feel good inside and, lift your mood enough to want more. Feeling good prompts positive thoughts which in turn brings more things to feel good about. More about our thoughts here.
Change – Step 2
Next, step toward recovery is healthy nutrition. Our bodies are an accumulation of food, so if we want a healthy body we must eat healthy food. But, when you suffer profound fatigue it can be difficult to prepare healthy meals. Most of my days were spent alone at home while my wife worked and the kids were in school so, I had to find a quick and easy way to get the nutrition needed. A friend recommended purchasing a smoothie maker, which I did. In a matter of weeks I was up and about, and within months my memory and cognition greatly improved.
Today, almost three and a half years and an ASD diagnosis later, I understand better why making smoothies dramatically helped my condition. Having ASD, for me, means certain tastes and textures of food makes me gag (gross I know). But, when I eat I produce excessive amounts of saliva and this makes me chew little, and swallow fast, so I don’t get sick.
Up to 30% of digestion begins in our mouths. We all must chew our food really well before we swallow so that our bodies can easily digest the maximum amount of nutrients from the food. This explains why the smoothie maker made such a difference to my energy levels so quickly.
Blending fruits, nuts, seeds, berries and some spinach or kale together with water on a daily basis can really make a huge difference. Better to check with your doctor or a nutritionist before you make any drastic changes to your diet. Maybe write down what you eat each day and, listen to your body. Pay attention to how you feel after each meal, did it make you feel better or worse?
Personally, I avoided meats because a portion of red meat can take up to 72 hours to digest, which uses up valuable energy resources. I always feel sleepy afterwards and need rest. Now I’m not suggesting this is the case for everyone, only you can decide what works best for you. What I would suggest is getting a food allergy test and consulting with an open-minded doctor, or naturopath, as this can really fast track your progress.
Some top athletes in the world today, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Connor Mc Gregor, have changed over to a plant based diet with amazing results. If you wish to know more about this, watch a program on Netflix called ‘The Game Changers’ and another called ‘What The Health’. These are very eye-opening programs backed by science.