Getting to the Root Cause of Your Condition
If you have fibromyalgia you may look healthy on the outside but feel very different on the inside. Fibromyalgia is known as an invisible illness. It’s characterised by non-local body-wide pain.
That’s the defining feature but it also comes with a smorgasbord of additional disorders that you may have to contend with. These include but are not limited to chronic fatigue, digestive issues, hormonal issues, cognitive issues, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances.
Chronic fatigue is extremely common and a constant battle for fibro warriors. Simple tasks are a huge effort. You may feel like collapsing after coming home with the shopping. You might miss out on physical activities or social situations with friends.
Ironically, despite feeling so tired, you may not get much sleep. It can be hard for a lot of sufferers to switch off at night. Tense and tight muscles can prevent restorative sleep while the mind seems to be incapable of settling into a deep slumber. A poor night’s sleep makes pain so much worse the following day.
If you have fibromyalgia you may feel misunderstood by others. It can be hard enough getting a diagnosis, but still, other people may not understand what you are going through. They may tell you to just get on with it or that it’s all in your head.
There is no one treatment for Fibromyalgia. Many people are on a cocktail of drugs but still experience pain and still feel tired. Many people are using alternative treatments such as acupuncture and while these treatments can provide great relief, they are temporary. Before long the symptoms resurface.
Dealing with fibromyalgia daily is tough. You’re struggling with all these health issues and meanwhile, others around you may be lacking any understanding or sympathy, expecting you to just get on with it. You may have children or others depending on you and so you sometimes may feel like a failure.
You may even question your own sanity at times in moments of overwhelm and dishearten. Despite seeing various medical experts, there appears to be no end in sight. You may have read about someone who has recovered from fibromyalgia, but for most people, it’s an ongoing lifelong struggle.
But there is hope. You can improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia; it just takes the right approach. There are many contributing factors that can be improved upon with the right nutrition, herbs and lifestyle changes.
You’ll also find recovery is possible when you get to the root cause of your condition. This is going to be different for everyone. But there a reason why you have fibromyalgia which is only beginning to be understood by science.
Recent research points to the cause of fibromyalgia. Scientists have discovered that the Central Nervous System (CNS) of fibromyalgia patients is inflamed which leads to an imbalance in neurotransmitters®. This leads to miscommunication in the CNS and is at the root cause of the symptoms experienced.
The question then is what’s causing this CNS inflammation? This will be different for everyone. For one person a gut issue may be causing the CNS inflammation. For another, there may virus lurking in their body that needs to be addressed before the inflammation issue can be resolved.
Inflammation – the Central Theme of Fibromyalgia. What You Need to Understand
Up until recently, the cause of Fibromyalgia was not understood. As there is often no discernible inflammation in the muscles or joints, it seemed as though the pain was unexplainable. For that reason, patients were originally dismissed and discounted.
In recent years scientists have discovered that there’s inflammation in the central nervous system of fibromyalgia patients. Using PET (positron-emission tomography) scans they have found large numbers of microglia in the CNS, which are the immune cells of the brain and nervous system. This shows that the brain and spinal cord of Fibromyalgia patients are indeed inflamed ®.
It’s well established that inflammation affects levels of neurotransmitters® which affect your levels of pain and fatigue. Without the correct balance of neurotransmitters, the nervous system is in a state of miscommunication.
Neuroinflammation causes substance P and glutamate to become high in the central nervous system®®. Substance P enhances pain signalling. High substance P will cause otherwise ordinary sensations to become painful.
Glutamate amplifies the sensitivity of sensations experienced, including pain. This means any sensation of muscle pain or tension becomes more exaggerated and uncomfortable. Also, high glutamate makes the mind restless, anxious, and depressed. Together, substance P and glutamate create and amplify sensations of pain.
Both dopamine and serotonin are suppressed by neuroinflammation. Dopamine is responsible for smooth muscle movement and without it, muscles become tense and tight. Without this vital neurotransmitter, they are not sure how to orchestrate themselves correctly.
Dopamine is the precursor to noradrenaline, so noradrenaline becomes low too. Serotonin and noradrenaline together are the key neurotransmitters used to switch off and limit pain perception.
With increased substance P and glutamate, pain is triggered and amplified and because serotonin and noradrenaline are low, the pain cannot be switched off.
Dopamine and noradrenaline are also important for motivation and alertness. When they are flat, you will feel lethargic and low, like there is no gas in the tank.
As you can see, inflammation induces changes to neurotransmitter levels, which creates the perfect storm for pain and fatigue. They also account for some of the other symptoms you may be experiencing like brain fog, confusion, forgetfulness, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Medication for fibromyalgia includes antidepressants which boost levels of serotonin and noradrenaline. By boosting these two neurotransmitters, pain can be decreased.
However, this does not address the cause of the inflammation in the first place or deal with all the other unbalanced neurotransmitters. These drugs also come with unwanted side effects such as fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and loss of sex drive.
Another drug which is beneficial is naltrexone. This works by reducing CNS inflammation thus improving neurotransmitter levels. It’s a step in the right direction and tremendously helps some people but the side effects can be too much to bear for others. These include nausea, headaches and insomnia.
Drugs offer short-term relief but are an ongoing expense and come with side-effects. It’s better to find the root cause of your inflammation and deal with that. That way your nervous system can make a full recovery.
While there are various genes which are associated with fibromyalgia there is no need to go into them here. You can’t change your genes. But you can change how they are expressed through nutrition, environment, and lifestyle habits. Changing these will have a profound effect on your health.
Let’s take a look at the various health factors which create neuroinflammation. This way you can identify the areas of your health that need to be addressed to recover from fibromyalgia.
Gut Issues – Far More to Do with Fibromyalgia Than You think
Gut issues are incredibly common for people with Fibromyalgia. In fact, they are a driving factor of the condition. Remember Fibromyalgia is caused by inflammation of the central nervous system. 70% of your immune system is in your gut, so if the gut is inflamed then other places that are prone to inflammation will flare up too.
For a lot of Fibromyalgia sufferers, the gut is in a constant state of inflammation. Symptoms like bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea are all too common. As if pain, tiredness and sleep issues weren’t enough!
A major source of gut inflammation is an imbalanced microbiome. Your microbiome consists of all the bacteria and fungi that coinhabit your gut. In a healthy gut, their species are diverse, and they live symbiotically.
A healthy microbiome heals the gut wall, lowering inflammation and improving tolerance to various types of foods. It is detoxifying and promotes healthy motility.
Unfortunately, modern life takes its toll on our microbiome. Our diets have changed significantly in the past few thousand (even in the last one hundred) years. We have gone from a diet rich in soluble fibre to one full of processed and refined carbohydrates.
This leads to an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria and fungus and a diminishment of others. As a result, there is a loss in biodiversity and our inner ecosystem suffers. Certain microorganisms which carry out specific functions are lost while the numbers of opportunistic microorganisms increase.
These “bad” bact