How Can Functional Medicine Help With Fibromyalgia?
Have you been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia? Read below how Functional Medicine can help you.
How Can Functional Medicine Help With Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is characterised by ongoing pain in your muscles. Myalgia means muscle pain, while fibro refers to fibrous tissue.
It’s not clear how many people in the UK suffer from fibromyalgia, but the NHS estimates around one in 20 may be affected. It’s around seven times more common in women than in men, and although it can occur at any age, the most usual onset is between 30 and 50 years of age.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
- Chronic pain, aching and stiffness, particularly in the muscles, as well as painful tender spots all around the body
- Severe fatigue
- Brain fog, difficulties in concentrating and thinking
- Sleep disturbances, feeling tired on wakening
- Digestive issues like constipation and diarrhoea
- Heightened sensitivity to light, smells, noises and food.
Symptoms often fluctuate unpredictably. Fibromyalgia frequently occurs alongside chronic fatigue syndrome but is seen as a distinct condition.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
People suffering from fibromyalgia appear to have increased levels of a brain chemical called ‘substance P’, which heightens the sensitivity of their nerves to pain. This means stimuli not normally causing discomfort feel extremely painful.
At the same time, sufferers have low levels of the hormones serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline in their brains. These hormones regulate mood, motivation and sleep and are responsible for regulating pain perception.
There is no one single cause of fibromyalgia, but it is often connected with:
- Gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of the bacteria living in your digestive system. Many people affected by fibromyalgia also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Some bacteria and fungi taking up residence in the digestive system produce and release toxic substances which can be toxic to nerves, causing pain.
- Poor energy production by the mitochondria in your smooth muscle cells. This can occur because of increased production of free radicals from oxidative stress.
- Food sensitivities, especially to gluten grains.
- Thyroid issues. Studies have found a link between fibromyalgia and disorders of the immune system resulting in the body attacking the thyroid gland. Antibodies produced against your thyroid aren’t always picked up by conventional thyroid tests.
- Nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium, Vitamin D and B12. Supplementing Vitamin D has been found in research to decrease muscle pain and fatigue.
- SIBO and leaky gut can not only reduce nutrient absorption but also lead to other toxic substances, which should remain in the gut, being absorbed into your body, potentially causing pain.
- Adrenal fatigue from long term stress. Your adrenal glands regulate your response to stress, and if they’re constantly on red alert, they will continually pump out the stress hormone cortisol. Fibromyalgia is often triggered by a stressful life event.
- You may be sensitive to substances called mycotoxins produced by moulds, sparking off inflammatory reactions in your body.
- Toxic metals like mercury, lead and cadmium deplete brain chemicals involved in reducing pain sensations. You may be genetically less able to remove these toxins effectively from your body, and you’ll need extra nutrients such as vitamin B6 and B12 and glutathione to allow your detoxification pathways to work properly.
- Latent viral infections, not producing overt symptoms, have been linked to fibromyalgia and can cause problems in your nervous system.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
There is no one test to identify fibromyalgia, and it’s usually diagnosed after all other illnesses have been ruled out as being responsible for your symptoms.
Conventional Treatment of Fibromyalgia
Conventional treatment focusses on reducing pain with painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, along with the use of antidepressants. Unfortunately, these medicines can adversely affect your gut.
You may be offered talking therapies such as CBT and counselling, as well as relaxation techniques and exercise recommendations.
Functional Medicine and Fibromyalgia
Functional medicine always concentrates on finding the causes of your symptoms. Fibromyalgia is an inflammatory condition having its roots in imbalances in your digestive system and your detoxification system, particularly your liver.
Functional testing can detect any deficiencies in your essential nutrients and determine the health of your gut and microbiome. Tests can reveal at which stage in the stress cycle your adrenal glands are currently, and find out if your immune system is attacking your thyroid. Other tests can discover if mycotoxins, viruses or toxic metals are an issue for you, or whether you’re genetically predisposed to experience problems with detoxification.
The goal of treatment will be to:
- Support gut healing and a healthy bacterial balance in your microbiome.
- Correct any nutrient deficiencies, and provide plenty of antioxidants in your diet to combat free radical inhibition of your muscles’ energy factories.
- Support adrenal function using herbs and supplements, and manage stress.
- Reduce the toxic load on your liver by avoiding environmental toxins, plastics and by supporting your liver with herbs, foods and nutrients.