What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes a broad spectrum of symptoms.
- Memory issues, including brain fog
- Sleep problems, including poor sleep quality and restless legs
- Stiff joints, especially on waking
- Lower abdominal cramping,
- Numb or tingling extremities
- Heightened sensitivity to noises, bright lights and temperature changes
What causes Fibromyalgia?
Even though there is no definitive cause of Fibro, there are a number of potential possibilities such as;
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Chemical sensitivities or allergies
- Viruses including; Epstein-Barr, Ross River, influenza, hepatitis B & C, Herpes, Lyme
- Hormonal imbalances (such as hypothyroidism)
- Poor digestion
- Candida overgrowth
- Spinal misalignments
- Stress; physical or emotional
- Drugs; pharmaceutical and recreational
- Neurotransmitter deficiencies
- Being female (80 – 90 % of sufferers are women!)
- Family history
- Genetic defects including MTHFR
- Rheumatoid conditions such as; R.A and Lupus
- Excess blood vessels and extra nerve fibres known as Arteriole-Venule (AV) Shunts in the hands, legs and feet. AV shunts regulate body temperature and blood flow. In sufferers of fibro, there are not only up to 2-8 times more nerve fibres but the AV shunts are up to 4 times larger. This may be why fibro sufferers feel worse in the cold.
There is no definitive test for Fibromyalgia, but 100% of sufferers have pain at multiple sites (see diagram). Other specific symptoms for diagnosis include; 87% have general fatigue, 76% suffer from stiffness, 72% have sleep disorders, 62% feel they hurt everywhere, 60% feel anxiety and stress and 52% feel swelling in tissues.
How to Treat Fibromyalgia;
- Address previous virus issues.
- Remove any foods that may be causing sensitivities. If these are unknown, I recommend a hair analysis test by Naturopathic Services which tests for 500 foods and household items. For more information check out this article; https://equilibriumnaturalhealth.com/2016/11/23/nightshades-food-sensitivities-pain-autoimmune-disease-ibs-and-leaky-gut/
- Avoid foods that cause inflammation, check out this list; https://equilibriumnaturalhealth.com/2015/06/17/inflammation-and-how-foods-and-drinks-can-exacerbate-it-or-improve-it/
- Improve digestive function, particularly if there’s bloating and excess wind.
- Improve gut bacteria with a practitioner only brand probiotic.
- Repairing gut lining.
- Support liver function as well as adrenal function and work on stress reduction techniques.
- Natural supplements that may help to reduce the severity of the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia. These will be assessed on an individual basis, but may include; Acetyl L-carnitine, magnesium, EFA’s, vitamin D, anti-inflammatories, herbs for pain and inflammatin and to address any virus infection.
- Address lifestyle changes such as; exercise, massage (including Lymphatic drainage as well as Remedial, depending on the individual), acupuncture.
The hypothalamus produces vasopressin and corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH). The hypothalamus is also responsible for the body’s circadian rhythm, internal temperature and energy levels.
Vasopressin and CRH are peptides that stimulate the pituitary gland (known as the master gland of the body) to produce and release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The pituitary gland is also responsible for producing and releasing other vital hormones such as; growth hormone, anti-diuretic hormone and luteinizing hormone.
ACTH in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol which is the hormone that releases glucose into your bloodstream which is preparing your body for the high-energy ‘fight-or-flight’ response that it is expecting. Your adrenals also release adrenaline, which raises your heart rate and increases your blood pressure, all physiological responses in preparation for ‘fight or flight’. Other physiological effects of ‘fight or flight’ include; diverting blood from your gastro-intestinal tract and brain to your hands and feet, suppressing your immune system and increasing your blood’s clotting ability.
Normally, when enough hormones have been produced, a message is sent back to the hypothalamus and pituitary to stop producing more hormones.
The more stress the body is exposed to, the less effective the negative feedback loop becomes.The adrenal glands start to show signs of overuse such as the feeling of wired but tired. The glands themselves may be starting to thicken as a way of attempting to produce more hormones. The adrenal glands are still pumping out cortisol and adrenaline, but they’re struggling. Becoming more reliant on coffee to get you up and going or staying awake later in the day is a classic sign that your adrenal glands are starting to suffer.
After repeated, ongoing exposure to stress, the return negative feedback loop, doesn’t swtich off the hormone release from the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, yet the adrenal glands are really struggling to produce hormones and other hormones such as pregnenolone (precursor to sex hormones as well as cortisol), DHEA and testosterone are affected. Pregnenolone is stolen for the production of cortisol at the expense of producing sex hormones. The rest of the endocrine system start to try to compensate for the weakened adrenals, but this only leads to lower hormone and neurotransmitter levels elsewhere. Typical symptoms, at this stage, may include ongoing fatigue, a lack of motivation, lowered immune system (and therefore more risk of infections) and a lower sex drive. The adrenal glands may be starting to shrivel. This stage can go on for several months or even years.
If stress continues, unabated, you will enter the final stage of adrenal fatigue, known as adrenal burnout. The body simply runs out of ways to manufacture stress hormones, and cortisol levels finally begin to drop. Now, the levels of both the sex hormones and the stress hormones are low. Levels of neurotransmitters are often also low. You may suffer from extreme fatigue continuously as well as a total lack of sex drive, irritability, depression, anxiety, weight loss, complete lack of motivation and apathy in hobbies and interests that previously brought joy. By this stage, the lack of hormones has major implications for almost every part of the body. Recovering from this stage needs considerable time, patience and often a total change in diet and lifestyle.
If you feel you’re suffering from any of these stages of adrenal fatigue, please come and see me, it’s much easier to resolve in the earlier stages than putting off until you’ve reached burnout.