Fibromyalgia is a common but widely misunderstood disorder. People often associate it with widespread muscle and joint pain, stiffness, disrupted sleep and fatigue. Fibromyalgia sufferers frequently complain about struggles with memory or “fibro fog”, anxiety and depression. Symptoms can begin suddenly, after trauma or infection, or gradually develop. Women are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men, and even more so as they get older.
Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, there is no specific test to definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. Often people are diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after other causes of a persons symptoms are ruled out. The most common diseases that primary care providers, rheumatologist, and neurologists screen for are autoimmune conditions and neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis. There are other causes of Fibromyalgia symptoms that are generally not investigated by mainstream medical providers. Here are the six most common underlying causes that can be addressed if they exist, and your symptoms drastically improved.
There are several types of chronic infection that can cause Fibromyalgia. The first is Candida overgrowth. Candida is a fungus or yeast that naturally lives in your intestines in small amounts. When your body overproduces this yeast, it can break down the wall of your intestines and penetrate the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts. These byproducts cause a host of unpleasant symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues and pain. The second is chronic bacterial infections, particularly Lyme disease cause by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The third is chronic viral infections, including Epstein-Barr, HHV-6 (Roseola), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and the herpes viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes. Over 90% of the adult population has HHV-6, EBV, and the virus that causes cold sores. These viruses take up lifelong residence in our bodies. The immune systems of some people aren’t able to keep the virus under control. When your body is constantly using its energy to fight an infection, there isn’t enough left to meet all your bodies demands. Some virus’s set up residence in your mitochondria, where your energy is made, and cause them to not work properly, further exacerbating your energy problem.
It is important to identify address infection through testing and treat with pharmaceutical and nutraceutical options where appropriate.
Vitamin and Nutrient Deficiencies
Magnesium, Vitamin D, and B12 are common vitamin deficiencies in people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Some people will find amazing relief by supplementing with magnesium alone. There are many nutrients critical for your cells to produce enough energy. The reality is our diets are poor in these nutrients. The nutrients are like fuel for your engine. If you don’t fuel up, the engine can’t run.
A good place to start is with a good high quality multivitamin, multi-mineral, fish oil and CoQ10. Additional testing can help determine what your body might be missing.
Chronic stress often results in adrenal fatigue. Exposure to toxic substances, food intolerance can cause stress. And there is emotional stress related to poor relationships or stress from our crazy hectic lifestyle. Chronic pain is also a form of stress. When your body is chronically stressed, your body diverts pregnenolone to make cortisol at the expense of making progesterone, which disrupts the balance of your hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone. This condition, commonly referred to as estrogen dominance can lead to the overgrowth of yeast and other problems.
Stress is part of our daily life and most times, we can’t escape it. What we can do is learn to manage it and manage our response to stressful situations. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, prayer, exercise and other activities you find relaxing can have a positive impact on your ability to manage stress in a healthy way. There are also nutritional and herbal remedies that can help reduce the impact of stress on your body.
Hormones, including thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, all play a vital part in how our body communicates with itself. Hormones are our body’s messengers. Hormones control our heart rate, metabolism, reproduction, growth and repair, among many other functions. When our hormones are out of balance, it can cause serious health problems. Hormone imbalances happen for many reasons, including nutrient deficiencies, chronic stress, and exposure to toxins. Some toxins are endocrine disruptors, which means they can mimic our natural hormones and disrupt the messaging system or even result in failure of the body to produce certain hormones.
You may need hormone replacement therapy to help get your body back on track. If you are post menopause, you may require long-term hormone replacement therapy. Premenopausal women may need temporary support of specific hormones while the underlying cause of hormone imbalance is addressed and corrected.
We are being exposed to chemicals and heavy metals almost daily. Chemicals are in our personal care and cleaning products. Mercury is in amalgam dental fillings, which many people have. Problems occur when either we have an excessively high exposure that overwhelms our system or when your body cannot adequately clear “every day” exposure to environmental toxins. Some people have a genetic make-up that makes it difficult for their body to detoxify.
The most important thing you can do is to reduce your exposure to toxins found in household products, personal care products and food sources. Purchasing organic foods when possible and non-toxic personal care and household products is an important step in reducing your overall toxic exposure. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource to help you identify non-toxic personal care goods and which fruits and veggies you should buy organic.
As much as 50% of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia have small fiber neuropathy. This is a condition where the small fiber peripheral nerves are damaged, causing widespread pain. The most common cause is endocrine or metabolic disorders including diabetes, but other causes include vitamin B-12 deficiencies, autoimmune conditions, Hepatitis C, HIV, Lyme disease and any of several herpes viruses, including the ones mentioned above.
The most important thing you can do for neuropathy is to address the underlying cause to stop further decline. Alpha Lipoic Acid has been shown to reduce the painful symptoms of neuropathy. There are some complementary therapies, like Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency (PEMF) that may help relieve pain and stimulate nerve growth.
As you can see from the above list, there are many interrelated root causes, with one condition resulting in, or exacerbating another. There is a standard basic protocol you can follow that will help your energy level. To address the cause(s) you will need a thorough evaluation by a clinician with training in Functional or Naturopathic Medicine. Clinicians trained in Functional Medicine are trained to evaluate a people holistically, considering the body is interconnected. It is unnecessary to continue to suffer or mask your symptoms with pain medications and antidepressants. As a clinician who has personally suffered these symptoms and experience recovery, I’m here to support you on your own journey toward health.