What Is Fibromyalgia And Can I Recover?
I have been asked time and time again, can you recover from fibromyalgia? Is this something you can overcome? The answer is, just like other chronic health issues, yes, yes you can! There isn’t a quick fix in the sense that a pharmaceutical drug has been created that can be taken as a single ‘magic pill’ to rid you of all the symptoms, no.
There isn’t a sticky plaster approach. HOWEVER, the condition can be reversed so that you heal from within, alleviating yourself completely of the symptoms. To do this, we need to find the underlying root cause.
WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA?
Fibromyalgia is a condition of chronic pain, and it is associated with widespread skeletal pain as well as other accompanying symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, psychological stress, morning stiffness, tingling and numbness in hands and feet, IBS, brain fog, painful menstrual cycle, and chronic fatigue. It is far more likely to occur in women, especially middle-aged women.
Why do people with a fibromyalgia diagnosis experience so much pain? The condition is associated with the brain’s ability to process pain – if this is hindered or ‘broken’ in some way, then they will feel greater pain. This does not mean that the brain is the root cause!! Just because the brain is implicated, it does not mean that this is where the issue started – it is just part of the pathophysiology. So, what was the catalyst?
FINDING THE ROOT CAUSE
Ok, so to start we need to look at the chemicals that the nerves are releasing and how that is implicated in the “disease”. Whilst this is not the angle that we would usually look at it from a naturopathic perspective, it does help us understand the end-result. We need to work backwards!
This is why the educational content that I create is very much focused on ‘how’ it takes place, rather than just the ‘what.’ This enables us to understand how you ended up here, with fibromyalgia, so that we can continue to peel back the onion until we get to the root cause, whether this through trial and error and/or functional lab testing.
Functional lab testing is a quicker approach because it takes the guesswork out of the equation, however, I understand that this is not financially viable for all.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL ROOT CAUSES?
The body’s perception of pain doesn’t just randomly decide to go wrong one day! There is always a reason. Below are some of the processes that can result in a fibromyalgia diagnosis:
POOR MITOCHONDRIAL FUNCTIONING
Poor mitochondrial functioning is commonly seen in fibromyalgia cases. Mitochondria are the cell organelles, which produce energy. These are most likely to be damaged through a process caused oxidative stress. What causes oxidative stress? Usually due to lots of free radicals and not enough antioxidants to fight them off.
We are exposed to free radicals DAILY! This can be from x-rays, the ozone layer (excess free radicals in the atmosphere are what is causing the ozone layer to break down – obviously this will impact our bodies too!), smoking, air pollutants, industrial chemicals, chemicals from cosmetics and beauty products, processed food, cooking oils… the list goes on. Free radicals are derived from normal essential metabolic processes in the human body, but the body is not designed to deal with the sheer quantity of these external free radicals.
ALTERED STRESS RESPONSE
Individuals with fibromyalgia might be in a state of adrenal fatigue. This occurs when you have gone through long periods of stress, resulting in high cortisol levels for an elongated period of time. As a result, the immune system becomes compromised, cortisol levels will become imbalanced with either too much or too little, and the adrenal glands are exhausted. When the adrenal glands cannot keep pace with the demands placed upon them by the total amount of stress, it produces a condition known as adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue may well be the predecessor of a chronic illness as the majority of those with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia diagnoses show symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal hormones involved in fibromyalgia (and chronic fatigue syndrome) are cortisol, DHEA, testosterone and norepinephrine. Those with fibromyalgia usually have significantly decreased levels of DHEA, and hyposecretion of DHEA are more pronounced in those overweight. Sympathetic hyperactivity (i.e. fight or flight state) may be the cause for low levels of DHEAS.
Adrenal dysfunction is often overlooked in fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses when it comes to healing, however, it is almost always present in these cases. So, why are conventional doctors not suggesting to people with chronic illness to work on rebalancing their hormones and healing their adrenals, rather than prescribing heavy painkillers to numb the symptoms and overlook the imbalances within?
TOXICITY OVERLOAD & LEAKY GUT
The fibromyalgia sufferer may be suffering from toxic overload, from chemicals, plastics or heavy metals. Symptoms of toxic build-up can show up as fatigue, digestive issues, mental health problems, skin issues, muscular/joint pain, brain fog, blood sugar imbalances, ‘unexplained symptoms’, body odour, headaches and migraines, insomnia, irregular periods, autoimmune conditions… sounds scarily similar to fibromyalgia, doesn’t it?!
Toxic build-up occurs when your body is overwhelmed by toxins and pollutants. It is now impossible to avoid toxins and environmental pollutants, as there are hazardous products everywhere you look – even in brands, products and foods that we trust and label themselves as “natural”!! Remember the Olaplex scandal recently? That’s just a drop in the ocean!
Toxicity overload is especially apparent in those who have Leaky Gut because toxins are more able to escape through the increased permeability of the intestinal lining into the rest of your body.
Toxicity can show itself in all sorts of uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms, but it’s not just a sudden reaction, this occurs over a period as toxins are, slowly but surely, poisoning your body. This will cause an increased and extended immune response, which isn’t sustainable. Your immune system may become depleted or start attacking its own tissue. As a result, your body will become fatigued and run down, eventually leading to symptoms of fibromyalgia.
You need to be doing a functional medicine detox at least twice a year to help your body remove toxins. The 21 Day Reset is backed by a huge amount of research and has helped hundreds of people already overcome chronic health issues and prevent further problems down the line.
VIRUSES OR INFECTION
Fibromyalgia might come after your immune system has used up a huge amount of energy fighting off a virus or infection. The symptoms of the virus may have gone, but your left with an achey body, stiff joints and fatigue – this is a signal that your body experienced a huge amount of stress from the virus, and as a result may be experiencing a depleted immune system or adrenal fatigue.
If you have found yourself experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms post virus, the doctor may have given you steroids or strong painkillers to help with the pain, or antidepressants to cope with low moods. These drugs are important in life-threatening circumstances, however, if this isn’t the case, then these are the worst things that you can take to try and get back to full health! These drugs are only putting a band aid over the symptoms, and not dealing with the root case and are actually causing further toxicity because the liver needs to metabolise them!
Your body is crying out that it is imbalanced, and the medication will only imbalance the body further. You need to focus on rebalancing your hormones, helping the liver to reduce toxicity, healing your gut and boosting your immune system, all of which will have taken a hit when fighting off the recent virus or infection.
There’s been a lot of talk about long covid, which is when symptoms continue for months after someone has been infected by Covid-19. The symptoms of long covid are almost identical to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
SEROTONIN & THE GUT
Serotonin helps dampen the pain signalling that travels to the brain, so when serotonin is present in good quantities, it will supress excessive pain signalling, thus increasing your pain threshold.
Conversely, not enough serotonin means that you are less able to supress the pain signalling and therefore will experience pain on a greater level. Serotonin is known as the ‘happy hormone’ because a lack of this hormone can lead to low mood and depression. There is a reason why a symptom of depression is ‘sensitivity to pain’!
Did you know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut? If you have poor gut health, then your serotonin manufacturing processes are inhibited. Therefore, poor gut health can be a root cause of fibromyalgia.
The best way to heal the gut is following the GI protocol, which is designed to rebalance the gut and restore the gut lining.
The vicious cycle of pain and sleep regulation is associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome; however, sleep dysregulation can affect anyone and is way more common than you might think. If you are not sleeping well, you become fatigued. When you are fatigued, pain is amplified, but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes…
Sleep dysregulation can be triggered by a number of things, poor sleep itself can be the catalyst for a cycle of pain and sleep disturbance!
Pain is an indicator that something is wrong in your body. Those who suffer with chronic pain experience less deep sleep, wake up more often and find it more difficult to fall asleep. Why? Pain makes the nervous system more active, which keeps the body in a more alert state. As a result, it is more difficult to fall into a restful sleep and stay asleep for a full sleep cycle, which includes REM and deep sleep.
Additionally, neurotransmitter signalling can be affected by pain, such as dopamine receptors, this is another reason why sleep can be disrupted as your body is literally signalling you to wake up to feel the pain, because it needs to somehow alert you that there is something wrong.
So, pain makes it harder to experience quality sleep, but lack of sleep can increase pain and make you more sensitive to that pain. Studies have shown that during brain scans, those with insufficient sleep were less able to pick up pain signals, evaluate them and activate natural pain relief when exposed to pain, than those who had benefitted from sufficient sleep.
Lack of sleep reduces the activity in the nucleus accumbens, which, amongst other functions, increases dopamine levels to relieve pain. Therefore, your body is less able to deal with the pain that you are experiencing.
Poor sleep not only increases your sensitivity to pain, amplifying the feelings of pain, but it also inhibits your body’s natural ability to reduce the pain.
This causes all sorts of issues, as people can become reliant on painkiller medications, leading to further health issues. If you are stuck in this pain and sleep dysregulation cycle for an extended period, it is likely that you could result in a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
See this recent post to learn more about this topic.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE FIBROMYALGIA OR CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
- Check your gut. Do you have dysbiosis, leaky gut, parasites, h. pylori?
- Complete the 21 Day Reset. A functional detoxification will help remove toxicity overload. You could also use an infrared sauna and ensure you are limiting your EMF exposure to keep toxic build-up at bay. Check out my website to see my recommendation on a low EMF portable infrared sauna.
- Look at your mitochondrial markers on an OAT functional lab test – do you need mitochondrial support?
- Try and reduce overall stress on the body, whether that is internal or external.
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