Anti-Inflammatory Diet for CFS/ME: Foods to Eat & Avoid

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An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on eating foods that may reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). This diet emphasizes nutrient-rich, whole foods high in antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber.

Foods to Eat:

  • Fruits (berries, citrus fruits, cherries)
  • Vegetables (leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, tomatoes)
  • Whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice)
  • Lean proteins (fatty fish, legumes, poultry)
  • Healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds)

Foods to Avoid:

  • Processed foods (chips, cookies, fried foods)
  • Refined carbs (white bread, pasta, rice)
  • Sugary drinks (soda, juice)
  • Red and processed meats
  • Unhealthy fats (trans fats, excessive saturated fats)

Other tips:

  • Gradually introduce anti-inflammatory foods
  • Meal prep and batch cook for convenience
  • Personalize the diet with professional guidance
  • Incorporate lifestyle factors like exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep
  • Track progress with a food and symptom journal

By reducing inflammation, this diet may ease CFS/ME symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and muscle pain, potentially improving overall well-being.

CFS/ME and Inflammation

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a condition marked by severe fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest. People with CFS/ME also face muscle pain, cognitive issues, and sleep problems.

Research shows that low-level inflammation is linked to CFS/ME. Higher levels of inflammatory markers, like cytokines, are found in those with CFS/ME, indicating an immune response and inflammation.

This inflammation may cause the fatigue, muscle pain, and cognitive issues seen in CFS/ME. Reducing inflammation might help manage these symptoms.

An anti-inflammatory diet can help by focusing on foods that reduce inflammation and avoiding those that increase it. This diet may help:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Reduce fatigue and muscle pain
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Support a healthier immune system

While this diet won’t cure CFS/ME, it can be a helpful way to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Starting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet should be done gradually. Start by cutting out highly processed and inflammatory foods, such as:

  • Processed snacks like chips, crackers, and cookies
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary drinks like soda and juice
  • Fast food and pre-packaged meals

Replace these with anti-inflammatory whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Introduce these foods slowly, one meal or snack at a time.

For example, start your day with a smoothie made with berries, spinach, and almond milk. Swap your usual lunch for a salad with greens, veggies, beans, and salmon. Have an apple with nut butter for an afternoon snack. Gradually increase your intake of these inflammation-fighting foods.

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat
White bread and pastries Whole grains like oats and quinoa
Processed meats Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
Fried foods Nuts and seeds
Sugary drinks Berries and colorful veggies
Refined vegetable oils Extra virgin olive oil

Making the switch slowly allows your body to adjust and makes the changes feel more sustainable long-term. Be patient and keep adding more anti-inflammatory items to crowd out inflammatory ones.

Foods to Include


Berries like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are great choices because they have lots of antioxidants. Cherries and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits also help fight inflammation. Apples contain quercetin, which can reduce inflammation.


Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are full of vitamins and minerals that help reduce inflammation. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have sulforaphane, which fights inflammation. Tomatoes and bell peppers are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids, which can help lower inflammation.

Whole Grains

Whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, and barley are high in fiber and nutrients that help control inflammation. They also have plant compounds like lignans and phytosterols that reduce inflammation.


Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are strong anti-inflammatories. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans provide plant-based protein and fiber, both of which help reduce inflammation. Lean poultry and tofu are also good protein options.

Healthy Fats

Extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts (like almonds and walnuts), and seeds (like chia and flaxseeds) are good sources of healthy fats that reduce inflammation. These fats also provide antioxidants and other helpful compounds.


Foods to Avoid

Certain foods can promote inflammation and worsen symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME). It’s important to limit or avoid these foods to help manage your condition.

Processed Foods

Highly processed snacks, sweets, and fast foods are often high in trans fats, added sugars, and artificial additives, which can trigger inflammation. Examples include:

  • Chips, crackers, and other packaged snacks
  • Candy, cookies, and baked goods
  • Fried foods like french fries and chicken nuggets
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats

Refined Carbs

Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta, and white rice have a high glycemic index, meaning they can spike blood sugar levels and promote inflammation. Opt for whole-grain alternatives instead.

Sugary Drinks

Sodas, energy drinks, and sugary fruit juices are loaded with added sugars, which can fuel inflammation. These beverages offer little to no nutritional value and should be minimized or avoided.

Red and Processed Meats

Consuming large amounts of red meat and processed meats like bacon, sausages, and salami can increase inflammation, especially for those who are overweight or obese. Limit your intake and choose leaner protein sources instead.

Unhealthy Fats

Trans fats and excessive saturated fats found in fried foods, baked goods, and certain processed snacks can promote inflammation. Opt for healthier fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, and fatty fish.

Meal Planning Tips

Meal planning and preparation are key to following an anti-inflammatory diet for CFS/ME. Here are some helpful tips:

Batch Cooking and Meal Prepping

  • Cook larger portions of anti-inflammatory meals on your free days, then portion them out for easy reheating throughout the week. This saves time and ensures you always have healthy options on hand.
  • Prep ingredients like chopped veggies, cooked grains, and marinated proteins in advance, so you can quickly assemble meals.

Anti-Inflammatory Recipe Ideas

  • Start your day with a smoothie packed with anti-inflammatory fruits like berries, avocado, and spinach.
  • Enjoy salads with leafy greens, anti-inflammatory proteins like salmon or chickpeas, and healthy fats like olive oil or avocado.
  • Try grain bowls with quinoa or brown rice, roasted veggies, and a lean protein source.
  • Make soups and stews with bone broth, veggies, and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger.

Utilize Resources

  • Look for anti-inflammatory recipe books, blogs, and online meal plans to get ideas and inspiration.
  • Many apps and websites offer grocery lists, meal planners, and recipe suggestions tailored to an anti-inflammatory diet.

Personalizing Your Diet

Personalizing an anti-inflammatory diet is important for people with CFS/ME because everyone’s needs are different. A one-size-fits-all approach may not work, so it’s essential to tailor the diet to your specific needs.

Work with a Professional

  • Healthcare Professional: Consult a doctor or dietitian to create a diet plan that suits you.
  • Identify Triggers: They can help find foods that might cause inflammation or worsen symptoms.

Elimination Diet

An elimination diet can help find foods that cause problems. This involves:

  1. Remove Certain Foods: Temporarily stop eating foods like gluten, dairy, soy, or specific fruits and vegetables.
  2. Reintroduce Foods: Add these foods back one at a time to see if they cause any issues.

Keep a Food Journal

  • Track Your Diet: Write down what you eat and how you feel.
  • Identify Patterns: Look for foods that might trigger symptoms.

Be Patient and Consistent

  • Lifestyle Change: Remember, this diet is a long-term change, not a quick fix.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how different foods affect you.

Find the Right Balance

  • Nutrient-Dense Foods: Focus on foods that reduce inflammation and support your health.
  • Experiment: Try different foods and see what works best for you.

Lifestyle Factors

Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is a key step in managing CFS/ME symptoms, but other lifestyle changes can also help support your well-being.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Regular, low-impact exercise can help reduce inflammation and improve energy levels. However, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid overexertion, which can worsen CFS/ME symptoms. Gentle activities like walking, swimming, or yoga can be beneficial.

Stress Management

Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation and worsen CFS/ME symptoms. Incorporating stress-reducing techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness practices can help promote relaxation and improve overall well-being.

Adequate Sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for managing CFS/ME symptoms and reducing inflammation. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and establish a consistent sleep routine. Avoid screen time before bed, and create a calming sleep environment.


Drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins and support overall bodily functions, including reducing inflammation. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, and consider incorporating herbal teas or infused waters for added flavor and variety.

Social Support

Maintaining strong social connections and seeking support from loved ones can positively impact mental health and reduce stress levels, which can indirectly influence inflammation. Consider joining a support group or connecting with others who understand the challenges of living with CFS/ME.

Tracking Progress

Monitoring your progress on an anti-inflammatory diet is key to understanding which foods may trigger inflammation or worsen your CFS/ME symptoms. Keeping a detailed food and symptom journal can help you make necessary adjustments.

Food and Symptom Journal

  1. Track Your Food Intake: Write down everything you eat and drink, including portion sizes and preparation methods. This helps identify potential inflammatory triggers.

  2. Note Your Symptoms: Regularly document your CFS/ME symptoms, such as fatigue, brain fog, muscle or joint pain, and digestive issues. Rate the severity of each symptom on a scale of 1 to 10.

  3. Look for Patterns: Review your journal to find any links between the foods you eat and your symptom severity. This can help you identify which foods might be causing inflammation and which ones seem to help.

Be Patient and Consistent

Remember, everyone responds differently to dietary changes. Some people may see improvements in a few weeks, while others may take several months. Consistency is key. Stick to the dietary guidelines and give your body time to adjust.

Seek Professional Guidance

If you’re unsure about interpreting your food and symptom journal or need personalized advice, consider consulting a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who specializes in CFS/ME and anti-inflammatory diets. They can provide insights and tailor the diet to your needs.


An anti-inflammatory diet can help manage the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). By reducing inflammation, this diet may ease fatigue, brain fog, muscle, and joint pain.

Key Principles

  • Eat More: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Limit or Avoid: Processed foods, refined carbs, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and anti-inflammatory beverages like green tea.

Additional Tips

  • Exercise: Engage in low-impact activities like walking or yoga.
  • Manage Stress: Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Seek Support: Connect with loved ones or join a support group.

Work with a Professional

Consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to tailor the diet to your needs. They can help address any nutrient deficiencies or food intolerances and provide personalized guidance.

Summary Table

Do’s Don’ts
Eat fruits and vegetables Avoid processed foods
Choose whole grains Limit refined carbs
Opt for lean proteins Cut down on added sugars
Include healthy fats Reduce unhealthy fats
Stay hydrated Skip sugary drinks


What foods flush out inflammation?

Here are some foods that can help reduce inflammation:

Food Benefits
Tomatoes Rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may help lower inflammation.
Olive Oil Contains oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Green Leafy Vegetables Spinach, kale, and collards are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Nuts and Seeds Almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds provide healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants that combat inflammation.
Fatty Fish Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation.
Fruits Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges are high in antioxidants like anthocyanins and vitamin C, which can reduce inflammation.

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