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” bacteria feed off sugars instead of fibre. They create toxins which irritate and inflame the gut wall. Instead of being a source of detoxification and healing, the microbiome becomes a source of toxins and inflammation.
Also making things worse is the use of antibiotics which are indiscriminate. Antibiotics kill off both good bacteria and bad. This leaves room for yeasts and fungi like Candida to overgrow which left unchecked becomes pathogenic.
An unhealthy microbiome is bad news for someone with fibromyalgia. Not only will it trigger inflammation of the central nervous system, but it also leads to fatigue, brain fog, depression and anxiety along with all the digestive problems already mentioned.
This many sound familiar to you. The good news is that the microbiome can be restored, and the gut healed, though it does take some work. It’s essential if you have fibromyalgia to deal with this.
At the very least this is adding to the inflammation of the central nervous system. But for many people, it’s the actual cause of it. I’ve seen people completely recover from fibromyalgia having fixed their gut issues.
Oral Tolerance – How Food is Triggering Your Symptoms
Food intolerances are another source of gut inflammation that can create inflammation in the central nervous system. If protein molecules are not properly broken down into amino acids, they can be absorbed by the gut as undigested proteins.
These may trigger the immune system, as it mistakes the proteins for invading pathogens. The alarm is raised, and chemical messengers called cytokines are released to warn the immune cells all throughout the body.
Any area that the immune system is active in will become more inflamed. And for people with fibromyalgia, this means the central nervous system.
The immune system remembers these proteins and anytime food is consumed that contains them, a cascade of inflammation is set off.
As the gut becomes more inflamed, the intestinal barrier is weakened, and more undigested proteins get across triggering inflammation. The person loses oral tolerance to these foods. Sadly, this means that these foods will now make symptoms much worse.
A loss of oral tolerance is a key factor in developing an autoimmune condition, but it’s also highly relevant to other inflammatory conditions, including fibromyalgia.
Don’t worry though, the situation is reversible. It is possible to restore oral tolerance and improve digestive health. This means it will be safe again, in time, to eat trigging foods. It takes a combination of a specialised diet and specific nutrients to achieve this.
If digestive issues are a part of your fibromyalgia, as they are for many, then it’s essential that you work with a skilled practitioner who can help you restore oral tolerance and improve your microbiome.
Why Balancing Brain Chemistry is Crucial for Symptom Relief
Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are very common for people with fibromyalgia. Inflammation in the brain unbalances levels of the neurotransmitters which regulate mood, sleep and cognitive ability.
Clearly getting to the root cause of the inflammation is critical. In the meantime, using natural anti-inflammatories such as CBD oil and curcumin can be useful.
Stress is a huge trigger for fibromyalgia flare-ups and in some cases, a traumatic event can be the initial cause. Adverse childhood experiences are quite common in those with fibromyalgia.
Inflamed brains are easily triggered by stress. Activity in the amygdala, which triggers fear and anxiety, is revved up, while there is less activity in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the rational executive of the brain whose job it is to rein in the amygdala’s emotional responses.
This leads to a heightened state of anxiety, brain fog, memory issues and confusion.
Inflammation throws out levels of the various neurotransmitters needed for a healthy nervous system. The serotonin pathway is blocked along with dopamine and noradrenaline. This can lead to low mood and increased pain.
It’s GABA’s job to calm a stressed brain. It’s also important for deeply restful sleep. This becomes very depleted in the inflamed nervous system, further increasing anxiety and insomnia.
Neurotransmitters act in symphony with each other. Nutrients boost them and while in recovery, the fibromyalgia patient should take the appropriate supplements to improve levels and balance their brain chemistry.
This promotes better mood, better sleep and improved cognition while lowering stress and pain levels. The right nutritional therapy can greatly improve nerve function and relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia while allowing the brain to reorganise and heal.
Stress and Trauma – How Your Psychology is Affecting Your Physiology
For some adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are at the root cause of their fibromyalgia condition. A traumatic experience can trigger lifelong inflammation in the central nervous system.
Unresolved trauma leads to significant changes in the brain both in terms of brain chemistry and in terms of structure. It also leaves the person more prone to anxiety, depression and stress.
The initial ACE’s study from 1998 looked at 17,000 middle-income adults ®. It found that the more adverse challenges a person experienced as a child, the more serious physiological disorders they would develop as adults.
Adverse childhood experiences include poverty, parental death, abandonment, incarceration, domestic or neighbour violence, substance abuse, bullying and the like.
Repeated incidences of toxic stress affect the development of a child’s nervous system, creating an overactive stress response which persists into adulthood. The person becomes sympathetically dominant, which means they are in a constant state of fight or flight mode.
Numerous studies show that stress activates the inflammatory response in the brain ®. Microglia, the brains immune foot soldiers, are sensitive to cortisol levels and are activated by stress.
Chronic stress also depletes levels of cortisol and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). Low cortisol means constant fatigue while low norepinephrine leads to increased pain perception.
So, for the person with fibromyalgia chronic stress is both a root cause and a trigger of their symptoms.
Of course, AGE’s are not the only cause of chronic stress. A post-traumatic stress disorder would have the same effect on an adult. Many people with fibromyalgia can track the onset of their symptoms to a car accident, botched operation or some other terrifying experience.
It could also be that a person feels constantly challenged or threatened at work or at home. And of course, there is the possibility that a person is exercise addicted and is pushing their body beyond its physical limits.
Whatever the cause, chronic stress has seriously negative effects on the regulation of the central nervous system, which could result in fibromyalgia or make a person with pre-existing fibromyalgia feel a lot worse.
Recovering from chronic stress or trauma can take time. There may be many associated problems that complicate recovery such as sleep issues, constant fatigue, anxiety or depression.
Nutrition and lifestyle changes can allow you to balance brain chemistry and achieve a sense of balance, calm and wellbeing.
This is something I specialise in and it’s an important part of recovery for a person with fibromyalgia. Diet, the right nutrients and daily activities will reduce stress, support your neurotransmitter levels, lower neuroinflammation and reduce pain.
Balancing Sex Hormones – a Vital Resource in Your Pain Management
It’s no secret that fibromyalgia affects more women and then men. It’s been found that low levels of progesterone and testosterone increase pain in women with fibromyalgia®. Both progesterone and testosterone have an anti-inflammatory effect which may help protect against fibromyalgia pain.
Women with fibromyalgia will testify that the pain is worse during their period when sex hormones are at their lowest. Studies indicate that sex hormones affect the activity of pain receptors, the central pain-processing pathway in the brain, inflammation in the CNS and opioid pain processing ®.
Many women with fibromyalgia have hormonal imbalances which lead to greater levels of pain. For that reason, it’s common for women with fibromyalgia to also have sex hormone-related conditions such as endometriosis, PMS, uterine fibroids, breast tenderness and polycystic ovaries.
Do you have any of these issues going on? If so, they are not only impacting your sexual health, but they are also increasing the likelihood of you experiencing fibromyalgia pain.
Hormones can be balanced and optimised using, diet, herbs and specific nutrients. This will not only improve your sexual health, but it will profoundly affect your fibromyalgia condition.
By identifying your hormonal imbalances and creating a specific plan, I can help you improve your hormonal status which leads to better pain inhibition.
Toxins from the Environment – Silently Setting Off Inflammation
Have you heard of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and aluminium? These toxic metals can easily accumulate in the body over time if you’re exposed to them. Paint fumes, car exhausts and dental fillings are just some of the sources. They are neurotoxic and lodge themselves in the nervous system, setting off the inflammatory response and trigging unwanted symptoms.
Moulds (that might grow in your home) also produce neurotoxins that also inflame the central nervous system. Moulds can grow under floorboards and behind walls. The toxins they produce are inhaled and can lead to all sorts of neurological conditions including fibromyalgia. You can have your house tested for moulds with a special kit.
Pesticides, on the other hand, are on the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Similarly, to toxins found in moulds, they can infiltrate the nervous system creating inflammation there. It can be a trigger and possible cause, so it may be worth looking into.
Lurking Viruses – the Pesky Critters that May Be Root Cause of Your Condition
For some people, their fibromyalgia is caused by viruses like Lyme Disease, Influenza, Hepatitis B & C, and Epstein Barr-Virus. There may have been a time when you were diagnosed with one of these.
Perhaps your symptoms began soon after the infection. Perhaps they began years later. In any case, there is a strong association with these viruses and fibromyalgia.
These viruses can lurk in your system after the original infection and cause miscommunication in the immune system which can lead to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
They can produce immunosuppressive proteins that prevent the immune system from detecting them. While not causing a full-on infection, they do create constant low-grade inflammation that may affect the central nervous system and hence produce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The good news is that you can be tested to see if these viruses are still present and if so, you can deal with them with natural medicine.
This involves a two-prong approach. Firstly, strengthen the immune system with diet, herbs and nutrients as well as though supporting the gut. Sometimes this is actually enough by itself to fully recover.
The second prong involves using a specific protocol for the virus that you have. This consists of nutrients, herbs and other natural substances which weaken and remove the virus.
With the help of a skilled practitioner, you can remove the offending post-virus and restore your health. This holistic approach means that other areas of your health will benefit too so that you can live your life symptom-free and full of energy.
Hypothyroidism – The Hidden Link to Fibromyalgia
There is a lot of crossover of people with both fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. Although they are separate conditions, it is quite common for people who have one to have the other. Both conditions tend to hit women more so who are their late thirties to middle-aged, though anyone can get either.
For some, it might be a case of incorrect diagnosis. Their body-wide pain and chronic fatigue may be because their thyroid hormone is too low.
For others, having both conditions are because the same underlying causes lead to the manifestation of both. For example, a loss of oral tolerance can inflame the CNS, but can also cause anti-thyroid antibodies to form which attack the thyroid and lower thyroid hormone (Hashimoto’s).
Stress can aggravate CNS inflammation, and it can also cause the thyroid to burn out, as it tries to compensate for weakened adrenal glands.
In either case, I’ll be able to help you get to the root cause of these conditions so that you’ll see improvement in both. And the same goes for any other autoimmune conditions or energy issues you might have.
How Nutritional Therapy Can Help Improve Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is caused by inflammation of the central nervous system. As you’re now aware, there are different causes and triggers for this. So, a one size fits all type of protocol is not going to work for everyone.
For each person, different factors are going to be affecting their condition. It could be a food intolerance at the root cause of this, then again, it could be something else.
A Nutritional Therapist can help untangle these overlapping conditions and create a protocol that will work with the underlying issue.
Nutritional Therapy is an evidence-based approach which focuses on diet, targeted nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes to improve your health. It resolves issues by bringing your biochemistry back into balance.
Your digestion, sleep, immune system, mood and stress levels can all be improved, and inflammation of the CNS can be resolved. You can have your life back!
Working Together We Can Make You Better
I work online by Skype or Zoom. At a time when social distancing is a priority, it makes sense to work this way. It also means I can work with you regardless of where you are.
I’m sure you can identify with the various conditions outlined above. Hopefully, you are beginning to see how they are impacting on your CNS inflammation and thus your fibromyalgia. By working on your specific issues with you I can help you overcome them.
We’ll meet once per month, over five or six months and in each consultation, we’ll focus on a specific area of your health. We’ll target the area that has the most profound overall effect on your health, helping you become well.
For this reason, you’ll see relief from symptoms quite quickly. Not only that, but you’ll gain an understanding of what created your condition in the first place. This way you’ll be able to look after yourself and stay healthy for the rest of your life.
During each consultation, I’ll ask you many questions about your health. From what you tell me, I’ll make connections and put together the jigsaw puzzle of your health condition.
I’ll let you know what I learn from each consultation so you can become empowered and understand what’s going on with your health. We’ll create a bespoke protocol for each session that will lead to dramatic improvements.
If required I have access to diagnostic testing. I’m partnered with serval medical labs. Test kits can be sent to your home and samples sent to the lab by courier. Owing to my depth of experience I can usually infer most things, but having tests available can be useful if needed.
Your health is the most important asset. Without it, you can’t properly enjoy anything in life or live up to your potential.
What would you be able to do if you recovered from fibromyalgia? How would it affect your relationships? What would you do with your energy and time?
If we work together, I’ll help you with the best natural medicine can offer. Together we can create a better future for you.