ME/CFS: Why Aren’t The Supplements Working?

In this post, former ME/CFS sufferer and Coach Simon Pimenta explores why supplements might not have a noticeable effect on health and wellbeing for ME/CFS sufferers.

Someone asked me “Why do some people get better just by taking supplements, but others don’t?”

This is a question that Doctor John Briffa, who had degrees in Nutritional Medicine and Immunology, asked me after I had recovered.

I went to see him soon after I developed ME/CFS.

He prescribed supplements and advocated dietary changes to address leaky gut, candida, and adrenal fatigue.

During the 8 years when I was unwell, one prominent theory was that adrenal fatigue was the cause of ME/CFS.

Lots of people I knew were following the protocol for adrenal fatigue devised by the late Doctor Poesnecker.

Sadly, some of these people remain unwell.

I have no doubt that adrenal fatigue was an issue for me.

Looking into symptoms of adrenal fatigue, Doctor Briffa’s diagnosis made sense to me.

Any stress left me feeling utterly drained and feeling ‘wired’.

It was as if my body didn’t have any resources to deal with even the slightest amount of stress.

Anyway, I took the supplements.

I still remained unwell.

I do think that some of the supplements I took helped, particularly an adaptogen called ashwagandha, which helps the body deal with stress.

Note: if you are thinking of taking any supplements, please discuss with your Doctor, as well as with a qualified Naturopath etc. Ashwagandha is not suitable for pregnant women.

 ME/CFS And Energy

At the moment, a prominent idea is that Mitochondrial Failure is the cause of CFS, due to the excellent work by Doctor Sarah Myhill*.

There is research that backs up this idea.

Her book ‘Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ details the supplements she recommends, which help feed the mitochondria.

Yet I know of people who have been following this regime who still remain unwell.

I also know of people of who followed the approach of Doctor Jacob Teitelbaum*, another ME/CFS expert doctor, whose advice overlaps with Doctor Myhill, who again, still remain unwell.


The Body/Car Analogy

Doctor Myhill likens the body to a car.

In this analogy, the mitochondria are the engine.

The diet is the fuel.

Sleep acts as the service and repair function.

Antioxidants are the cleaning system and engine oil.

There are other elements to this analogy, but let’s focus on these elements.

If the car is running well, then the fuel is used efficiently, the car is properly serviced, cleaned etc.

However, if the car is driven with the gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor, then the fuel and engine oil are going to be used inefficiently and used up more quickly.

It is known that when driving, there is an optimal driving speed (55mph) in terms of fuel efficiency.

If you drive the car faster than this speed, then fuel efficiency declines rapidly.

For example driving at 75mph can result in a 20% increase in fuel consumption.

Fight Or Flight V Rest And Digest

In relation to the body, we are driving at full speed if the body is frequently in an aroused state of fight or flight.

When the body is in a state of fight or flight,  research tells us that:

1. The body’s fuel is used inefficiently.

2. Our sleep function is sub-optimal: important repair functions are not carried out.

3. The digestive system is not working efficiently.

In my free report ‘ME/CFS A Piece Of The Jigsaw’, I discuss the ways in which the fight or flight mechanism can be activated.

Our thoughts and feelings can be a trigger.

So it is possible that any nutrients that the supplements are providing are also being absorbed and are being used up inefficiently.

Subsequently, the person taking them are not noticing the benefits.

If the person is able to switch off the fight or flight response, the body starts to:

1. Use the fuel efficiently
2. Achieve restorative sleep
3. Absorb nutrients efficiently

Something else to consider.

If a person does get better by taking supplements, is it still useful to address any factors that may have contributed to getting sick in the first place?

For each person, those factors will be different.

In the post ‘Why I Got Sick’, I identify some of the personality traits and lifestyle patterns and behaviours that I believe contributed to me becoming unwell.

You can read the post here

I believe that addressing these factors was important to my recovery.

Closing Thoughts

Do you think that over-activation of the fight or flight mechanism- being in a state of stress is a factor is:

1. Hindering your recovery?
2. Perhaps reducing the benefit to your body of supplements you are taking?


Do leave a comment on how useful you found this article.

I’d be interested to hear what things you are doing/have done that you have found helpful.

If you found the article useful, feel free to share.

Contact Me

Feel free to contact me here for a free consultation* to find out more about how I work, or if you have any questions.

I do 3 free coaching sessions each week.

I promise that I won’t sell anything.

During the session, we will work together to:

  1. Clarify your current situation
  2. Identify a number of clear, reasonable goals
  3. Identify what is stopping you from achieving them
  4. Identify practical steps to help you achieve these goals.

*One session per person.

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simon  SIMON PIMENTA is a hypnotherapist, coach and trainer working with people to boost resilience and performance, and minimise stress.

After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.

He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.

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