Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
2 Nov

How the Primal Blueprint Helped Me End My Struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

In 2000, after an exhaustive round of tests, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Basically, I had deep and never-ending fatigue with no identifiable cause.  Not knowing I had any other choice, I resigned myself to a life limited by my illness. I had to weigh each activity against how long it would take me to recover from it. Something seemingly simple, like taking a hike, could result in days of recovery time. I went from a highly active person who loved hiking and tennis to someone who had to take a nap after weeding for a half hour. In a nutshell, it sucked.

For nine years I let myself accept that my life would have to suck. Then, in 2009, I came across information from a doctor in the UK who specializes in treating CFS. She had a detailed supplement plan…and she also highly recommended eating Primally to feed our mitochondria. Everything she said made perfect sense to me, so I set about following her plan. I started taking the numerous supplements, and I gave Primal eating a try. Unfortunately, I didn’t educate myself properly about how to eat Primally, so I just gave up the bad stuff and didn’t replace it with the good stuff I was missing. Needless to say, my Primal eating ended quickly. I had crazy cravings for bread, and because I hadn’t paid attention to how my new way of eating was making me feel, I simply gave up the Primal eating. I did keep on the supplements, though, and they helped enormously! I went from not knowing if I could get out of bed in the morning to at least being able to get up without wondering if I was really sick or just having CFS issues.

Jump forward almost three years – this past March. I embarked on a food elimination plan for 28 days, just to see what would happen. After about two and a half weeks, I noticed a HUGE difference in how I felt. I actually had  – gasp! – ENERGY. The brain-fog vanished. I could concentrate on tasks for long periods of time. When I got home from work, I didn’t collapse into a puddle of exhaustion on the couch. What could possibly be in my diet to have caused me to suffer from chronic fatigue for so many years?

When I started the food-testing part of the plan, I got my answer: gluten and sugar. My reaction to them was almost instant, with the return of the brain-fog, sore muscles, headaches, and fatigue. There was no way to argue with my experiment: gluten and sugar had to go! So I started researching Primal eating again. Thank goodness, this time I found sites like MDA and Balanced Bites…resources to help me understand where I went wrong the first time and how to do it properly this time.

Since March, I’ve lost about 15 pounds – mostly inflammation weight, according to my doctor – and have gone from wearing size 10/12 to size 4/6…and some of those size 6s are starting to feel big now, too!

But the best part?? ENERGY! I genuinely had forgotten what it felt like to not be in a fog of exhaustion all the time. Pre-Primal, I could manage to work a full day and *maybe* run an errand after work (I generally made excuses for myself about why I could skip the errand, though). Now? Well, here’s an example of what I did one day last week: worked all day, ran two errands, came home and took care of my cats, mowed my lawn, fixed dinner, and put together breakfast and lunch for the next day! That would have been utterly unthinkable for me 6 or so months ago. Now, it’s normal.

Going Primal has absolutely given me my life back! When I was first diagnosed, I never would have thought that my diet was to blame. Such a simple fix to make my life worth living! I do wish I’d been successful going Primal three years ago, but I am so very grateful that I finally discovered my cure. Thank you, Mark, for all you do to help people like me make amazing changes in their lives! Now that I understand what Primal can do for me, I’ll never look back.


You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Definitely jealous. I did the primal diet (with the help of a practitioner who understood it) for two years and saw NO improvements in my autoimmune disease. It was incredibly disappointing. I don’t think it’s a cure-all for everyone unfortunately. I love reading stories like this though…gives me hope.

    Beth wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  2. I, too, would also love more information. What supplements are you taking? What do you mean when you say you’re avoiding sugars… refined sugars? ‘Natural’ sugars? Fruit? I felt my best when I was avoiding all added sugar but am wondering if I would benefit from lowering my fruit-sugar intake as well.

    Sarah wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  3. Wonderful, inspiring news! YOU GO girl!

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  4. Well done Amy. I too suffer from ME/CFS and can empathise with you. After lots of tests for different things my doctor said that I had CFS and that there was no treatment for it. After researching on the internet I found MDA and the Primal Blueprint. I wish I had known about primal eating years ago, as I am 69 years old and it is taking longer for me to recover. My weight is coming off slowly (22lbs in a year) but until recently I could not manage much exercise because of the CFS. However in the past few weeks, since the weather has been cooler, my energy levels have been improving and I don’t have to drag myself about now to get things done. I will go eating primal as it definitely works. More power to your elbow Mark.

    Annakay wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  5. That’s one of the biggest things that people underestimate about the paleo diet/primal eating– you really do gain your energy back. I think this should be emphasized more by paleo proponents.

    Paleo Dinner wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  6. Can we see Amy’s AFTER PHOTO as part of the article above?

    DEBRAKADABRA wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  7. WOW! You look stunning, vibrant, and healthy. Congratulations. I am so happy for you.

    Debrakadabra wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  8. Thanks for all the great comments, folks! :) I apologize for not yet replying to each person with a question, but I’m traveling Down Under with very limited internet access – normally need to use the slloooowwww free connection at McDonald’s (hey, they have to be good for something, right?!), but I’ll get to each one ASAP.

    The people who have made comments about Primal not necessarily being a cure-all for CFS are absolutely right. I only discovered what my triggers were via a scientific experiment. CFS is caused by a number of different things – my doctors originally thought I basically had a lifelong case of Mono. So glad that turned out not to be the case!

    Amy wrote on November 3rd, 2012
  9. Hiya….

    What a great story and just more evidence that primal does work in looking, feeling and performing better.. :)

    Very well done!!

    Garvin Walker wrote on November 4th, 2012
  10. Great story, Amy. I’m always stoked to hear about someone becoming well by going Primal and avoiding the treadmill of medication. How wonderful that you were able to eliminate your symptoms just by dropping sugar and gluten! Congratulations are in order. Oh, and some smaller jeans, girlfriend! Those are looking baggy on your new bad self.

    Tina wrote on November 4th, 2012
  11. Thanks for sharing, Amy. I was diagnosed with Epstein Barr a few years ago and had similar dread each morning, wondering if I would make it through the day. It hit me in spells. I’ve been eating mostly primal for about a year and feel more energetic, with fewer migraines. I’m now giving up dairy to see if it will help even more. Your post has encouraged me.

    Michelle wrote on November 5th, 2012
  12. I got healed from CF(id)S eitehr, only by eating no gluten and casein any more. First results i got after two weeks, one year later i was better than ever before.
    That time i did not loose any weight, since i am additional primal (March 2012) i lost 19 Kg. Maybe you will read my story in March 2013. 😉

    Vollzeitvater wrote on November 7th, 2012
  13. Great story, Amy! I have a mother-in-law who has fibro who gave primal a half-hearted attempt a few months ago. Hopefully, like you, she’ll try it again and find that it really is life changing and not boring like she claimed. I wish you continued success with your illness. Congratulations!

    Jenn wrote on November 9th, 2012
  14. Such an empowering story!! I too cured my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, hypoglycemia, IBS, and dandruff all with the primal diet. I really wish more people out there would bite the bullet and follow this plan as well. It’s DEFINITELY not easy, but I wouldn’t trade all the cookies, cereals, popcorn, etc. for the way I feel now!!!

    Promise wrote on November 20th, 2012
  15. Thank you so much for posting your story. I’ve had fibromyalgia for the last two years and tried giving up gluten and dairy to help. I’ve had theories that sugar might be affecting me as well. Now I think I’m going to seriously cut it out to double check.

    Rachel wrote on November 27th, 2012
  16. Old post, I know, but it deserves to be said. Chronic fatigue is not the same as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not the same as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

    Chronic fatigue can have many dietary causes or contributors, including undiagnosed celiac disease or a B12 deficiency.

    Amy, as many have said, had a very mild form of the illness–although I am sure it did not feel mild to her! Mild==still at work full-time or part-time or any time, Moderate==homebound, Severe==bedbound. My experience of the illness ranges from moderate to severe. I generally use a wheelchair when I am out of the house, and can sometimes go for weeks when I cannot sit in a chair.

    All of the interventions mentioned in the comments here have helped. I was already gluten-free before I got sick, but I know that certainly helps. Completely avoiding casein has helped. Supplementing with B12, CoQ10, Vit D, alpha lipoic acid, and several other antioxidants I can’t recall at the moment has helped. Drinking lots of turmeric and olive leaf tea (to quite inflammation and keep my viral load down) has helped. DHA has helped. Reishi mushrooms have helped. D-Ribose has helped. Magnesium has helped.

    None of these interventions have brought me anywhere close to returning to even half my normal life.

    As in every disease, there’s a range of causes and complicating factors, as well as a range of severity. It may be that in MS, as in CFS, some people have just taken more damage, such that it can be difficult or impossible to return to normal, even though there is always room for improvement. I think what I’m trying to say is that not every MS patient who tries a primal diet is going to be Terry Wahls. Not every patient who tries a primal diet is going to be Amy. But ever 5% will help.

    Jen wrote on April 7th, 2013
    • Let me put it this way–most of the people I have spoken to who self-identify as having CFS have nothing like the illness I and many of the other severely ill people in that amorphous category have. I tend to be suspicious of the “I eliminated gluten” or “I took B12 shots” and all was well stories.

      Myalgic encephalomyelitis is not being tired all the time. It’s having severe neurological, GI, endocrine, and cardiovascular symptoms that get worse with exertion.

      Jen wrote on April 7th, 2013
  17. Oops ignore me I’d missed the earlier comments where you mention the doctor!

    Laura spoor wrote on April 22nd, 2013
  18. What a wonderful story, Amy. I’m so glad you got better. being free of the ‘fog of fatigue’ must be sooo liberating.
    Unfortunately I am still struggling with the fatigue. As been said before: CFS can have many causes. Mine are (among others) POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardic syndrome) which is a lowering of the blood-pressure when sitting and standing and the body trying to compensate by a higher heartrate. Very heavy medical tights give some relieve. One other thing the doctor at the Chronic Fatigue Centre in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) found out is that the levels of pyruvate in my blood are too high. Pyruvate is a substance that comes before the last step in generating energy in the cells. This could mean not all the energy that could be generated in my cells is actually generated (this description is a very simplified version of a complex process)
    I was hoping going primal would help me but so far after 4 months nothing significant has happened. ( though a have less heartburn and itching skin) I will continue though, hoping it may still come……

    Helene de Winter wrote on July 10th, 2013
  19. Thanks for sharing your story Amy. Likewise, when I hit day 3 of primal eating I suddenly felt like another engine was added to my body. I had suffered from chronic fatigue for about 25 years. Saw a 80% cure in 3 days of avoiding grain. Saw another 10% improvement when I stopped eating fruit and honey. The remaining 10% seems to be coming slowly.

    John C. A. Manley wrote on November 7th, 2013
  20. Paleo eating is such a wonderful tool for CFS recovery! I have a similar story as Amy…15 yrs with CFS recovered with diet & targeted supplementation to heal the mitochondria. It works yet few CFS doctors give dietary advice to their patients.

    Dr. C wrote on May 1st, 2014
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