Naturally Manage Fibromyalgia Pain
Do ongoing muscle pains, aching and stiffness make your life a misery? Are areas around your body incredibly painful even from the slightest pressure? Do routine tasks like putting on clothes or drying yourself with a towel, or even the feeling of your socks on your legs suddenly become painful with no warning?
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you’ll be all too familiar with the pain and discomfort randomly coming and going with no obvious pattern.
Read on to discover more about why some people suffer from fibromyalgia and what can be done to help.
What is Fibromyalgia?
More common in women than men, the NHS estimates around 1 in 20 people are affected by fibromyalgia. However the condition is often missed because it’s usually only diagnosed once other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis have been ruled out, meaning many more people than this may be suffering. It’s sometimes diagnosed by looking at the number of painful areas a person has had over the past few months. Fibromyalgia often occurs alongside chronic fatigue syndrome, but not always.
The symptoms of pain and tenderness are usually accompanied by fatigue, brain fog, sleeping problems, digestive issues and headaches. Not surprisingly, fibromyalgia can seriously frustrate you and get you down.
Because the condition is associated with many different symptoms, not everyone will experience fibromyalgia in the same way. You might have dry eyes, restless legs, period problems, sensitive bladder and swelling of your hands and feet.
There are no specific medical treatments for fibromyalgia beyond painkillers, antidepressants, sleeping pills and muscle relaxants, but these don’t address the underlying causes of fibromyalgia.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Functional medicine practitioners believe a complex set of circumstances combine to cause fibromyalgia to develop. Many sufferers have above-average levels of a brain chemical called substance P. This causes nerves to be more sensitive to pain signals, meaning stimuli not normally perceived as being painful will cause pain. In effect, substance P turns up the volume on your pain signals.
Substance P also provokes inflammation, dilates your blood vessels and puts your immune system on high alert, as though you had actually injured yourself.
Science has discovered sufferers have less of the communication chemicals serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline in their brains. These together influence sleep and mood as well as regulating pain perception, acting as natural analgesics, so you’ll be less able to naturally moderate pain.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia it seems your brain is super-sensitive to electrical stimulation, constantly on red alert and primed to overreact to minor stimuli. Areas of inflammation in sufferers’ brains correlate with the severity of their symptoms.
Your Gut and Fibromyalgia
Many people with fibromyalgia are affected by digestive issues. Your gut constantly talks to your brain via a network of nerves and by using messenger substances released by the bacteria living in your gut microbiome. Your gut bacteria are involved in serotonin production, too.
If the balance of your gut microbiome is disturbed, disease-causing organisms can multiply. They then release substances capable of irritating nerves in your brain. Research has found fibromyalgia sufferers have less diverse gut bacteria, with imbalances in certain species.
If you’ve been prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to help you cope with the pain of fibromyalgia, these can damage your gut lining, leading to leaky gut. Disturbances in your gut microbiome can irritate your digestive lining too, meaning toxic substances are allowed to pass over into your blood, irritating nerves. A damaged gut lining can lead to food sensitivities, with gluten found to be a common culprit in sparking off fibromyalgia symptoms.
Stress and Fibromyalgia
The release of substance P is triggered by stress, and it seems chronic stress plays a role in fibromyalgia. You might have noticed your symptoms appeared after a stressful period in your life. If your adrenal glands are constantly reacting to stress, they’ll be pumping out cortisol, and over time will burn out.
Your Thyroid and Fibromyalgia
You may have had a thyroid test with your GP with your results coming back normal, but this doesn’t mean your thyroid isn’t struggling. In many cases of fibromyalgia there are issues with thyroid function which aren’t picked up by conventional tests.
Sometimes your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid, meaning it can’t function at its best, while it may be your body’s cells have become resistant or deaf to the instructions thyroid hormones are bringing them.
Discovering the Causes of Fibromyalgia with Functional Medicine
Functional tests can peek into the world of your microbiome and reveal if you have the types of bacteria capable of irritating nerves, as well as examining your thyroid health in greater detail than with a conventional test.
Personalised dietary recommendations can address any nutrient deficiencies – low magnesium, vitamin D and B vitamins have been implicated in fibromyalgia.