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.
Prep Time: 15 minutes • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 1-2 non-oily fish carcasses from cod, sole, haddock, hake, etc.
- 1 Tbs. ghee or butter (use coconut oil for dairy free option)
- Vegetables: 1 onion or leek, 1-2 carrots, 1-2 celery stalks diced finely
- 1 cup dry white wine, optional
- Herbs, optional – 3-4 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves, ½ -1 tsp. peppercorns
- Cold, filtered water, to cover
- 1-2 fish heads, gills removed
- Simmer veggies in Ghee, butter or oil over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes. Place fish carcasses, fish heads (if using), herbs and peppercorns over veggies, cover and simmer 5-10 more minutes. This will stimulate the fish to release their flavours before adding the water.
- Add wine (if using) and water to cover the carcasses and bring to a simmer and skim scum that forms on the surface. The scum won’t hurt you! It’s just some impurities that get released. This happens in all types of bone broths.
- Simmer gently 45-60 minutes.
- Strain broth from carcasses and veggies.
- Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freeze, whatever you won’t use in that time, and use within 3 months
Non-oily fish is necessary because the fish oils in fatty fish such as salmon become rancid in cooking.
The cartilage in fish bones breaks down to gelatin very quickly, so it’s best to cook broth on the stove top.
Make sure you use the carcasses from non-oily whitefish such as cod, sole, snapper, haddock and hake. Any non-oily fish works fine. Avoid oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring and swordfish (though their flesh works great in chowders and other fish-based soups).
Also, if possible, try to get some fish heads in addition to the carcasses. Generally speaking, you probably won’t get much gelatin from just fish carcasses.
Finally, as opposed to other types of bone broths, be sure to dice the veggies finely. This allows them to release their flavours more efficiently with the shorter cooking time.
Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cholesterol, and saturated fat, are not necessarily bad for you, especially in moderation with a balanced diet. The problem comes from trans fats, refined grains and carbohydrates such as; margarine, pasta, bread, pastry, pizza, fast food, desserts. Cutting these out of the diet can lead to a significant drop in bad cholesterol; LDL’s and VLDL’s (Low density lipoproteins and very low density lipoproteins) and triglyceride’s despite continuing to eat cholesterol-rich foods like red meat, eggs, cream, and butter. In fact, there’s good reason to question the popular theory of “lipid hypothesis” which suggests that dietary cholesterol clogs the arteries and leads to heart disease. LDL (bad) and VLDL (very bad!!)cholesterol builds up in the arteries not because you’ve been eating too many eggs, but in response to inflammation. This is triggered by a diet high in trans fat and processed carbohydrates, not a small amount of saturated fat. Cholesterol is the body’s bandaid, it is sent to repair damage to arteries caused by inflammation. When LDL’s are high, the concern is that it will be oxidised, by free radicals, and again that is due to inflammation.
Foods to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol and help reduce inflammation;
- Eliminate trans fats from the diet
- Avoid excessive saturated fats (coconut oil is the exception to this)
- Pulses such as beans and lentils (they’re not pro-inflammatory like grains are)
- Nuts (walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and macadamia’s) & seeds (sunflower and pepita’s)
- Olive oil (only cold as a salad dressing as it oxidates on moderate heat)
- Cook with coconut oil or rice bran oil
- Fish and other omega 3 fatty acids
- Fruits such as apples, pears, grapes, citrus fruits (such as red grapefruit, just make sure you have it a few hours away from any BP medication), peaches, nectarines, plums and berries
- ALL vegetables, try raising your daily intake to 9 serves a day. To do this, add veggies to meat dishes (such as grated carrot and zucchini to meat sauces and then have a huge mixed salad on the side)
- Vary your veggies as much as possible, but have plenty of leafy greens, and raw salad items, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts are great, snow peas, capsicum, grated carrot and beetroot. Lightly steamed veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cooked veggies such as; eggplant, okra and pumpkin.
- Foods rich in soluble fibre such as; skins on vegetables, celery, asparagus, artichoke hearts, chia seeds, psyllium husks, linseeds (also known as flax seeds). Soluble fibre forms a complex with cholesterol, that captures it and helps move it out of the body.
- Onions, garlic and leeks
- Green tea
- A glass of red wine (but any more will have the opposite effect)
- Raw Cacao
If you want to lower your cholesterol, you really need to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of heart disease, by addressing inflammation. So be sure that along with lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol you boost good (HDL) cholesterol and control inflammation by avoiding pro-inflammatory foods found here;
Foods high in soluble-fibre;
Whole oats, oat bran
Soluble fibre can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fibre a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oats provides 6 grams of fibre. make sure they’ve been soaked overnight for added benefits including easier digestion and balancing the gut microbiome. If you add fruit, such as bananas, or grated apple (with the skin on) you’ll add about 4 more grams of fibre. To mix it up a little, try steel-cut oatmeal or bircher muesli.
Pulses and Legumes such as Lentils
Beans, peas, lentils, split peas, lima, kidney and navy beans, black eyed peas and peanuts are also wonderful sources soluble fibre: for example; every half-cup of cooked lima beans provides 3.5 grams. One study in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a half cup of cooked dried pinto beans (2 grams of soluble fibre) daily for 12 weeks decreased LDL cholesterol by about percent.
Eat whole fruit, not fruit juice (even freshly squeezed)
If you are going to eat something sweet, first make sure it’s fruit instead of sugar, pastries and desserts. But choose fruit, not fruit juice. The benefit of fruit comes from the fibre, so if you drink juice, you’re losing that wonderful benefit and essentially drinking water that’s high in fructose.
The soluble fibre in pears and apples is mostly in the form of pectin, and it is great at reducing LDL levels. Surprisingly, fresh pears contain even more pectin than apples do. Pectin binds with cholesterol and ferries it out of the body before it can be absorbed.
For every 30gms of chia seeds, you will be getting 10.7gm of dietary fibre (both the soluble and insoluble type) and 5 g of alpha-linolenic acid (alpha-linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid). They also provide anti-oxidants which help reduce free radicals not only in the body, but are stabilise the omega-3 fatty acids in the chia seed itself.
Getting 10 to 12 grams of psyllium per day can decrease LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10 percent.
The outer husks from the seeds of Psyllium (Plantago ovato) are effective at lowering both the total cholesterol and the ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol, as it’s very concentrated in soluble fibre (it contains a whopping 70 per cent soluble fibre!) Soluble fibre helps to lower cholesterol by binding to the ‘bad’, LDL, cholesterol and taking it out of the body.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
Eat wild, fatty, cold-water fish and consider a fish oil supplement. ( wild caught salmon, wild mackerel and sardines.) Fish is the richest source of Omega-3 fatty acids, so aim for two or three portions a week. Make sure you choose wild, cold-water fish to reduce exposure to chemicals like mercury.
Eating fatty fish can be heart healthy because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. In people who have already had heart attacks, fish oil — or omega-3 fatty acids — may reduce the risk of sudden death.
Although omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL levels, because of their other heart benefits, it’s recommended that you eat at least two servings of fish a week. The highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids are in:
You should bake or grill the fish to avoid adding unhealthy fats. If you don’t like fish, you can also get small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as ground flaxseed or chia seeds.
Organic or truly Free Ranging Eggs
Make sure you eat organic eggs (if from the supermarket) or locally sourced, truly free ranged eggs as they contain omega 3 fatty acids whereas caged eggs and supermarket “free range” contain only omega 6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory in excess.
You can take an omega-3 or fish oil supplement to get some of the benefits, but you won’t get other nutrients in fish, such as selenium. If you decide to take a supplement, choose a quality brand such as Metagenics, to minimise mercury exposure, and talk to me about how much you should take.
What else to do;
Most cholesterol-lowering guides will recommend that you switch refined carbohydrates to whole-grain carbohydrates (such as whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread). This can help to a degree to lower your cholesterol especially if your diet has been high in starchy carbohydrates. But to really lower your cholesterol as well as reduce inflammation, which is just as significant to heart health and more significant for overall health it would be better to eliminate processed grains entirely.
Garlic is wonderful for your cardiovascular system and as part of the allium family of plants it’s a natural anti-inflammatory. Other great foods that reduce inflammation are: ginger, curry (particularly turmeric), and chilli’s.
Whether it’s leeks, chives, white onions, red onions, spring onions or shallots, these flavourful bulbs are great for reducing inflammation and healing your arteries. Onions also contain high levels of quercetain an important flavonoid that reduces cholesterol. Try to eat some every day.
Olive oil doesn’t just make food taste better. The unsaturated fats found in olive oil have the added benefit of helping to cut LDL cholesterol levels without affecting HDL. Aim for about 2 tablespoons a day in place of other fats. Have cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil on salads, but don’t heat it up or cook with it as it becomes rancid at a low heat point. This means it oxidises and that means inflammation.
Walnuts, almonds and other nuts
Eating about a handful (about 45 grams) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. Make sure the nuts you eat are raw, unsalted and aren’t coated with sugar.
All nuts are high in calories, so a handful will do. To avoid eating too many nuts and gaining weight, replace foods high in saturated fat with nuts. For example, instead of using cheese, meat or croutons in your salad, add a handful of walnuts or almonds.
Tomatoes are a significant source of a plant compound called lycopene, which reduces levels of LDL cholesterol. Research shows that the body absorbs more lycopene if the tomatoes are cooked, so tined tomatoes are good or add tomatoes to your minestrone soup and stews as well.
Try adding avocado slices to salads, use it in place of butter on sandwiches or eating them as a side dish. Also try guacamole with raw cut vegetables, such as carrot sticks and cucumber slices, the kids love it!
Green tea has been shown in a meta-analysis of 14 studies, to significantly reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels (by 7.20 mg/dL and 2.19 mg/dL, respectively). In some studies participants drank tea; in others, they took green tea supplements.
Red Wine and Grape Juice
A moderate amount of alcohol can raise levels of good HDL cholesterol by as much as 5 to 15 percent, research shows — and red wine is particularly beneficial because its polyphenol antioxidants may also lower LDL levels. If you’re not into red wine, grape juice can provide some of the same heart-healthy benefits, otherwise a supplement called resveratrol is the element in red wine and grapes that is responsible for lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation and protection against arterial damage.
Cacao polyphenols may also lower your LDL’s or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your HDL’s or “good” cholesterol levels.
In good news for chocoholics, a meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that raw cacao consumption lowered LDL cholesterol by more than 5 mg/dL in people at risk of heart disease.
- Has someone in your family had heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, or other cardiovascular conditions and you’re concerned what that means for you?
- Are you concerned about high cholesterol or high blood pressure?
- Do you worry about about the side effects of medications prescribed for blood pressure, high cholesterol, or insulin resistance?
- Has your doctor told you to lose weight and exercise more, yet you don’t know where to start?
Starting with Prevention
Preventing a problem is by far better than trying to undo the damage done by years of an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Naturopathic medicine can really help to reduce risk factors for heart disease and give you some really beneficial skills to minimise your chances of developing cardiovascular problems.
There have been plenty of studies demonstrating how diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can prevent and treat the heart and cardiovascular system. Being simply told to “eat better and exercise more” by their doctors, with no support or strategies about what exactly that means, isn’t really going to help.
You may not realise that the wrong diet (and specifically, the wrong diet for your particular blood type), stress and lifestyle have a huge impact on heart health.The right type of food can make such a difference to reducing blood pressure and inflammation which is one of the main causes of heart disease, hypertension and high (oxidised) cholesterol.
Effective Natural Solutions
In addition to diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, there are many specific nutritional supplements or herbal medicines that can be beneficial for heart health. These supplements can help reduce the side-effects of your current medication, and can help you reach your heart health goals.
At Equilibrium Natural Health all the products available, including “Practitioner Only Prescribing” products, have been researched to ensure they have the right amount of each of the ingredients, as well as the most absorbable variety of each ingredient, so that you can be assured that what you think you are taking, is actually what you are taking.
Common heart health conditions helped by naturopathic medicine:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Metabolic Syndrome / Insulin Resistance / Pre-Diabetes
- Heart arrhythmias, palpitations
- Peripheral arterial disease, venous insufficiency
Heart Healthy Foods to include regularly in your diet;
- Foods rich in potassium are good for reducing blood pressure. These include bananas (don’t over do these as they’re high in fructose), potatoes, yoghurt, avocado, fish, mushrooms, mixed leafy greens and spinach are high in potassium.
- Beetroot is also fantastic for reducing blood pressure. If you have a juicer, juice these daily and drink plenty of the juice as well as eating the vegetable either grated raw (really nice with grated carrot in salads) or boiled and sliced. Throw some in the oven (skins on) next time your baking something. Once cooled they’re so easy to peel and can be used chopped up in a salad or reheated with other roasted veg for a really tasty lunch.
- Colourful fruits especially kiwifruit, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches and nectarines.
- Oats (soaked overnight for porridge or Bircher muesli is best), pulses (especially white beans), quinoa, kale, celery, capsicum, sweet potato and broccoli are all good for helping reduce blood pressure.
- Garlic can reduce blood pressure by up to 4mg/Hg which is the same as blood medication. Beetroot can do the same. Onions and leeks are also good, just not as effective.
- Reduce grains (as they’re pro-inflammatory) and refined carbohydrates, such as pasta and regular bread. Try zucchini pasta as an alternative. Much lower in calories than regular pasta, it reduces inflammation and adds more nutrients and all important soluble fibre.
- Chia seeds, psyllium husks and linseeds are good sources of fibre and other nutrients (omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds).
- Nuts and seeds
- Fresh food, prepared from scratch, minimise packaged foods that contain a multitude of flavourings, preservatives and salt.
- Avoid foods that are labelled as “low fat” as they’ll be higher in sugar
- Foods labelled as “low or no sugar” usually have artificial sweeteners added instead.
- Green tea
- A glass of red wine (but any more will have the opposite effect and avoid if you have high histamine levels)
Supplements that help;
- Magnesium supplementation can change the shape and condition of heart valves.
- B vitamins can help rebuild the heart.
- CoQ10 can re-energise every cell in the heart and can literally remould the size and shape of the heart after the onset of congestive heart failure.
- The use of Omega-3 fatty acids can help in reversing heart damage caused by NEFAs (non-esterified fatty acids) caused by an imbalance of omega 6: omega 3 faty acids.
- N-Acetylcysteine (also known as NAC) prevents damage from oxidised LDL cholesterol, increases nitric oxide (which opens up the blood vessels for improved blood flow), lowers homocysteine levels (raised homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease as it damages arteries, causing hardening of the arteries and blood clots.
- Digestive enzymes can provide nutritional support for your body as it works to clean out the coronary arteries and repair damage to epicardial tissue surrounding the heart.
- The use of heavy metal chelators such as coriander and chlorella can reduce the risk of an acute coronary event.
- Regular supplementation of a tonic made with Motherwort, garlic, Ginkgo, cayenne and Hawthorne berry can rebuild the strength of the heart.
- Proper dental care and the use of avocado oil, coconut oil and enzymes can reduce the incidence of periodontal disease, which reduces the chances of an acute coronary event.
- Regular use of immune stimulators and anti-virals such as garlic decreases the risk of most inflammatory heart disease and the incidence of viral and bacterial infections that can adversely affect the heart.
- Regular exercise can strengthen the heart and improve its efficiency even in your eighth and ninth decade of life.
Other things to do to help your heart;
- Dealing with any insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome and imbalanced blood sugar levels is critical for heart health
- Pilates is a great form of exercise for visceral fat around the middle. Other forms of exercise are also good to help reduce abdominal weight and at the same time all exercise will help improve and stabilise blood pressure.
- Vitamin D status is important for heart health. Vitamin D is important to reduce inflammation and minimises calcification (which stiffens) the arterial walls, and did you know that those deficient in vitamin D have a higher risk of cancer?
- Krill oil, fish oil and fatty fish consumption are really important for heart health due to the omega 3 fatty acids by lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
- Deal with stress with yoga, meditation or abdominal breathing techniques. Another effective stress reducer is; Meridian tapping or EFT. Psych K is a great technique that can address subconscious issues that may be causing ongoing stress, that just won’t go away.