embracing nutrition and functional medicine

How Functional Medicine may help With Fibromyalgia

Have you been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia? Read below how Functional Medicine may be able to help you.

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
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues like constipation and diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • 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. 1

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. 2
  • Poor energy production by the mitochondria in your smooth muscle cells. This can occur because of increased production of free radicals from oxidative stress. 3
  • Food sensitivities, especially to gluten grains. 4
  • 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. 5
  • Nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium, Vitamin D and B12. Supplementing Vitamin D has been found in research to decrease muscle pain and fatigue. 4
  • 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. 6
  • 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. 7
  • 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. 8
  • Latent viral infections, not producing overt symptoms, have been linked to fibromyalgia and can cause problems in your nervous system. 9

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 our support plan will be to:

  • Support gut healing and a healthy bacterial balance in your microbiome. 10
  • Correct any nutrient deficiencies, and provide plenty of antioxidants in your diet to combat free radical inhibition of your muscles’ energy factories. 3,4
  • Support adrenal function using herbs and supplements, and manage stress. 11
  • Reduce the toxic load on your liver by avoiding environmental toxins, plastics and by supporting your liver with herbs, foods and nutrients. 12


  1. Clauw DJ. Fibromyalgia: an overview. Am J Med. 2009 Dec;122(12 Suppl):S3-S13. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2009.09.006. PMID: 19962494.
  2. Minerbi A, Fitzcharles MA. Gut microbiome: pertinence in fibromyalgia. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2020 Jan-Feb;38 Suppl 123(1):99-104. Epub 2020 Feb 12. PMID: 32116215.
  3. Meeus M, Nijs J, Hermans L, Goubert D, Calders P. The role of mitochondrial dysfunctions due to oxidative and nitrosative stress in the chronic pain or chronic fatigue syndromes and fibromyalgia patients: peripheral and central mechanisms as therapeutic targets? Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2013 Sep;17(9):1081-9. doi: 10.1517/14728222.2013.818657. Epub 2013 Jul 9. PMID: 23834645.
  4. Pagliai G, Giangrandi I, Dinu M, Sofi F, Colombini B. Nutritional Interventions in the Management of Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 20;12(9):2525. doi: 10.3390/nu12092525. PMID: 32825400; PMCID: PMC7551285.
  5. Park S, Kwon JS, Park YB, Park JW. Is thyroid autoimmunity a predisposing factor for fibromyalgia? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2022 Jun;40(6):1210-1220. doi: 10.55563/clinexprheumatol/y3gfva. Epub 2021 Jul 26. PMID: 34369360.
  6. Silva AR, Bernardo A, de Mesquita MF, Vaz-Patto J, Moreira P, Silva ML, Padrão P. An anti-inflammatory and low fermentable oligo, di, and monosaccharides and polyols diet improved patient reported outcomes in fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial. Front Nutr. 2022 Aug 15;9:856216. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.856216. PMID: 36091254; PMCID: PMC9450131.
  7. Wyns A, Hendrix J, Lahousse A, De Bruyne E, Nijs J, Godderis L, Polli A. The Biology of Stress Intolerance in Patients with Chronic Pain-State of the Art and Future Directions. J Clin Med. 2023 Mar 14;12(6):2245. doi: 10.3390/jcm12062245. PMID: 36983246; PMCID: PMC10057496.
  8. Bjørklund G, Dadar M, Chirumbolo S, Aaseth J. Fibromyalgia and nutrition: Therapeutic possibilities? Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jul;103:531-538. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.04.056. Epub 2018 Apr 24. PMID: 29677539.
  9. Buskila D, Atzeni F, Sarzi-Puttini P. Etiology of fibromyalgia: the possible role of infection and vaccination. Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Oct;8(1):41-3. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2008.07.023. Epub 2008 Aug 13. PMID: 18706528.
  10. Haddad HW, Mallepalli NR, Scheinuk JE, Bhargava P, Cornett EM, Urits I, Kaye AD. The Role of Nutrient Supplementation in the Management of Chronic Pain in Fibromyalgia: A Narrative Review. Pain Ther. 2021 Dec;10(2):827-848. doi: 10.1007/s40122-021-00266-9. Epub 2021 Apr 28. PMID: 33909266; PMCID: PMC8586285.
  11. Sancassiani F, Machado S, Ruggiero V, Cacace E, Carmassi C, Gesi C, Dell’Osso L, Carta MG. The management of fibromyalgia from a psychosomatic perspective: an overview. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;29(5):473-488. doi: 10.1080/09540261.2017.1320982. Epub 2017 Jul 6. PMID: 28681628.
  12. Lamb JJ, Konda VR, Quig DW, Desai A, Minich DM, Bouillon L, Chang JL, Hsi A, Lerman RH, Kornberg J, Bland JS, Tripp ML. A program consisting of a phytonutrient-rich medical food and an elimination diet ameliorated fibromyalgia symptoms and promoted toxic-element detoxification in a pilot trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011 Mar-Apr;17(2):36-44. PMID: 21717823.

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