Naturopathic medicine, though never directly treating any disease, works wonders in resourcing the body’s ability to restore balance and harmony. An example of this is the power found in applying nutrition, energetic balancing, and detoxification to those who suffer with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a common cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Over the past few years, awareness of this syndrome has increased, yet we all remember the days when those suffering from the plethora of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia were told that, “It’s all just in your head”. Indeed fibromyalgia syndrome is a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. The most common complaint of fibromyalgia sufferers is that they ache all over. Their muscles feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Sometimes the muscles twitch and at other times they burn.
Fibromyalgia occurs mainly in women aged 30 to 50. Some clinicians believe that fibromyalgia may be induced or intensified by physical or mental stress, poor sleep, trauma, exposure to damp or cold, and occasionally by a systemic and usually rheumatic disorder. People often report a traumatic event that triggered the initial symptoms, such as severe infectious illness such as lymes disease. Here are some common symptoms:
Pain –The pain is a deep muscular aching. It can be throbbing, shooting, or stabbing. Also intense burning may be present. Fatigue – Fibromyalgia is often described as “brain fatigue” that totally drains your energy. Sleep disorder – Fibromyalgia sufferers often wake up at night with a feeling of stiffness, fatigue, and aches all over. People with fibromyalgia appear to have abnormal brain waves in stage 4 sleep, the deepest stage of sleep. Stage 4 sleep is important for tissue repair, antibody production, the formation of growth hormone, and muscle and bone health. Irritable Bowel Syndrome – As a naturopath I am constantly looking at digestion, liver support and energetic balance to aiding the body’s ability to heal itself. Roughly 40 to 70% of Fibromyalgia patients suffer with constipation, diarrhea, frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas, and nausea. Acid reflux or gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GRED) also occurs with the same high frequency. Thus, a comprehensive treatment plan must address these issues.
Chronic headaches – Recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches are seen in about 70% of FMS patients
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome – TMJ causes tremendous jaw-related face and head pain in one quarter of Fibromyalgia patients. Typically, the problems are related to the muscles and ligaments surrounding the jaw joint and not necessarily the joint itself.
Other common symptoms – Premenstrual syndrome and painful periods, chest pain, morning stiffness, cognitive or memory impairment, numbness and tingling sensations, muscle twitching, irritable bladder, the feeling of swollen extremities, skin sensitivities, dry eyes and mouth, dizziness, and impaired coordination can occur. Patients are often sensitive to odors, loud noises, and bright lights.
People with fibromyalgia have increased amounts of neurotransmitters that cause pain responses, such as substance P, decreased number and function of immune system “natural killer” cells. Plus they have lower than normal levels of the hormone cortisol, which affects the body’s response to unpleasant stimuli. In addition, the levels of natural painkillers are depressed, such as serotonin and growth hormone. Lower levels of serotonin are also involved in depression.
Many fibromyalgia sufferers are seeking a single “magic” remedy that will fix all their problems. Certainly the use of a single supplement may bring some relief, but a total program is usually necessary to bring true healing to people with fibromyalgia. A naturopathic doctor or other qualified health practitioner can assess the symptoms and develop a customized health plan. This plan should include the correction of digestion disorders, liver function, detoxification, energetic balance and nutritional support. The primary treatment goals in fibromyalgia are to raise serotonin levels, improve sleep quality, and assure adequate magnesium levels. With energetic medicine we need to increase “Source Energy” which improves all the vital energy in the body and remove blockages to energetic pathways. Sleep is like a battery charger. If the body is not being recharged, especially the muscles, the result is pain. The use of 5-HTP (short for 5-hydroxytryptophan), which is converted to serotonin will not only improve sleep but will also help with depression associated with fibromyalgia. Magnesium also comes into play because low magnesium levels are common with fibromyalgia patients. Magnesium participates in more than three hundred enzymatic reactions in the body; particularly those processed that produce energy. When magnesium levels are low, energy is low. Low magnesium levels cause muscles to cramp. The best food sources of magnesium are legumes, tofu, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. However, fish, meat, milk, and most commonly eaten fruit are low in magnesium. Most Americans are on a low-magnesium diet.
The key in dealing with fibromyalgia is not to lose hope. There are many wonderful stories of those finding complete relief when applying the comprehensive approach found in naturopathic medicine.