Recovery: The influence of lifestyle

Dr. Martina Melzer, published: 09/25/23


Important notes in advance:

  • In so-called mind-body syndromes, abnormalities are often found in special examinations, but there is usually no organ or tissue damage.
  • Always have new symptoms thoroughly clarified by a doctor. It may be mind-body syndrome, but it may also be another disease, or it may be a combination of both.


A healthy lifestyle is important for everyone who wants to stay healthy or become well. Above all, diet, exercise, sleep, a healthy gut and pacing (especially for people with ME/CFS and post-Covid syndrome) are central. An unhealthy lifestyle puts stress on your body. And that's counterproductive to your recovery journey because it triggers survival mode.


Our bodies need macronutrients, which are protein, fat and carbohydrates, to produce energy. But it also needs micronutrients for that - vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Ideally, our food provides these. But our food can also rob us of energy, especially by causing blood sugar to spike and then drop rapidly.

Only you can figure out which diet is right for you. We are all different. One person's medicine is another person's poison. No one can tell how you will react to a food but you.

A balanced and anti-inflammatory diet is composed of lots of vegetables, some fruit, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and fat, protein and carbohydrates in individual tolerance.

gut health

Closely linked to food is the intestine. It not only digests our food. It also performs many other tasks. For example, it houses 70 to 80 percent of all immune cells. This makes sense, for example, to be able to examine all food components and microorganisms before they are absorbed into the body. Each meal thus triggers a tiny inflammatory reaction in the gut that we normally don't notice. If we are out of balance, the immune system can suddenly overreact, which plays a role in leaky gut syndrome, for example, but also in food intolerances.

The gut also has its own intestinal flora, also called the gut microbiome. These microorganisms help digest food, influence our mood, sleep, seal the intestinal wall against harmful microorganisms, form short-chain fatty acids as an energy substrate for the intestinal cells, produce brain messengers and have an anti-inflammatory effect. A disturbed intestinal flora seems to play a role in many diseases.

There is a lively exchange between the gut and the brain via the so-called gut-brain axis. The intestinal nervous system and the central nervous system communicate with each other in this way. If the gut-brain axis is disturbed, this can lead to far-reaching problems in the body. Not only irritable bowel syndrome, but also inflammatory processes in the intestine, brain and other organs or tissues. The dysfunction also has an emotional effect.


Movement is important, also for people with ME/CFS and Long Covid. This is because it helps to reduce stress hormones, among other things. It's just very important not to be afraid of exercise or movement and to listen well to your body. Also, movement doesn't just mean jogging or going to the gym, but any form of physical activity. Maybe for you right now that means doing some stretches in bed. Maybe it also means going for a little walk. That's something that's very individual.

To avoid overloading yourself with movement or crashing afterwards, pacing is helpful, good self-awareness - and brain training.


Our sleep is divided into different stages, sometimes we sleep lighter, sometimes really deep, sometimes our eyes move (REM sleep), sometimes not (non-REM sleep). Approximately every 90 minutes we go through all stages once. After that, we wake up briefly, whether we notice it or not. Deep sleep seems to be particularly important for our recovery and probably takes place in the first four to five hours of sleep. After that, we begin to toss and turn more.

During sleep, some of our body systems switch to the pause button to regenerate. But not all of them. Some are highly active, for example the brain. Digestion also runs at full speed, the liver detoxifies, hormones are formed, cells renew themselves, and the immune system fights pathogens.

People with chronic fatigue are familiar with this: They sleep for 12 hours, get up and feel like they're dead. Or they are actually dead tired, but still can't sleep. In mind-body syndrome, an autonomic nervous system in survival mode is usually behind this.

If you get your brain and nervous system out of survival mode, your sleep will improve. Otherwise, it is important to follow the general tips for sleep hygiene.


Pacing means something like: Know your daily energy limit. Plan your activities in such a way that you do not use more energy than you have available in a day.

Pacing is actually useful for everyone. It helps to not overload yourself and then lie exhausted on the couch in the evening. Instead, you divide your day in such a way that there is always enough energy. Pacing helps to stabilize your condition, or as more and more people say: to find your own baseline.
For pacing to succeed, it's important to find the biggest energy drainers. Not only physical activity costs energy, but also mental and emotional as well as environmental stimuli. Then it's helpful to plan well, set priorities and accept help.

Translated with the helpf of DeepL

Important: The statements in this text are the result of my research from scientific studies, professional articles, books, courses, education and training as well as my own recovery process. I have done the best possible research, but nevertheless make no claim to accuracy. In science, something is considered a hypothesis until it is clearly proven (or disproven). That is then evidence, a fact. The statements in this text are a combination of hypotheses and facts.

Also, the content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for talking to your doctor or other therapist. Please talk to your doctor or therapist before making any decisions about your physical or mental health. Every way into a mind-body syndrome is something individual, and every way out.