Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic condition characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, with varying degrees of additional symptoms including fatigue, sleep disturbances, musculoskeletal stiffness, cognitive dysfunction and high levels of distress.
Historically, fibromyalgia was considered either a muscular issue, or a psychiatric illness, and sometimes a mix of the two. In fact, even today there is confusion in the medical field around correct diagnosis of this condition, and ineffective treatment options.
Now we know that fibromyalgia is a brain and central nervous system disorder – not a muscle problem.
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Central sensitisation syndromes (CSS) are a collection of disorders where the central nervous system misfires and amplifies sensory input resulting in pain, fatigue, brain fog, and sleep problems. These include;
Fibromyalgia presents as chronic widespread pain experienced in the muscles, ligaments and/or tendons, that lasts for at least 3 months, in at least 3 areas of the body. These are the most common shared symptoms:
Up to 15% of people with hypothyroidism suffer from fibromyalgia while most fibromyalgia patients have low-functioning thyroid glands.
Many experts believe that hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia have the same root cause – so it is not surprising that both disorders are commonly seen together. These root causes include:
When the thyroid is even slightly low, it can be a slippery slope with FM.
The body actually stores a reservoir of thyroid hormones in the lining of the gut, and it will use that to try and keep your body in the best state possible. But once the reservoir is gone, symptoms quickly start to accelerate.
A very common issue we see in the clinic with FM patients is that they appear to have the correct amount of thyroid hormone in the blood, but due to the amount of inflammation throughout the body, the hormones are not reaching their target tissues. This will usually coincide with other hormone imbalances – all our hormones struggle in the face of inflammation.
An increased production of reverse T3 (rT3) is often seen in patients with disorders such as fibromyalgia.
RT3 is an inactive form of T3 that is produced in the body, particularly during periods of stress, starvation (excessive fasting), liver disease, chronic inflammation, and some nutrient deficiencies.
Reverse T3 becomes a problem when it is too high. RT3 competes with T3 as a substrate for the 5-deiodinase enzyme. This inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3, with more T4 being converted to more rT3.
When iron levels are low, your red blood cell numbers reduce, and their structure changes. Red blood cells carry thyroid hormones via your blood, so when numbers become inadequate, thyroid hormones start to pool in your blood – essentially, they are going nowhere. The body responds by converting it to RT3 to clear out the excess T4.
When stress is chronic from the ongoing pain and other factors, your adrenals will eventually tire and produce less cortisol. This leads to fatigue all day long that does not improve with sleep.
Low cortisol drives your pain levels higher, as cortisol is potently anti-inflammatory. This is why stress, fatigue, and exercise can make symptoms worse.
Low levels of adrenal hormones can cause anxiety, poor coping skills, paranoia, nausea, sensitivity to light or sounds, mood changes, and more. When you don’t make enough cortisol, thyroid hormones can pool in your blood. Your body responds by converting the T4 to RT3.
Fairly recent studies have possibly identified a link between fibromyalgia and autoimmune disease.
Fibromyalgia has many similar presentations as an autoimmune disease, but science has refuted the link to autoimmunity for decades. However, new studies are proving and exploring data that suggests that an autoimmune response may be the driver for the illness.
People with fibromyalgia have inflammation in the microglial cells of the brain. One study has discovered auto-immune antibodies that bind to satellite glial cells that live in the dorsal root ganglia which are alongside our spinal columns.
If this is true, it helps explain why gentle aerobic exercise and drug therapies, like antidepressants, don’t work for many patients as they might not be getting to the root of the problem.
The question over whether fibromyalgia is neurological or immunological is still under debate, but this new evidence is casting doubt over previous beliefs. (Link)
From a functional health perspective, our approach is not to diagnose a disease but to understand what the cause of your symptoms is in order to provide a personalised treatment. Therefore, in-depth testing is used to understand the complete picture behind your Fibromyalgia symptoms.
This panel tests 8 markers which is essential to understanding the function of your thyroid, your metabolism and any inflammation that is present in the body. This test is critical for sufferers of fibromyalgia, especially seeing Reverse T3 readings and antibody activity.
Bromide blocks iodine absorption in the body creating a state of ill health. Iodine has proven a useful supplement when given appropriately to relieve pain caused by viral overload. Iodine is also essential for optimal thyroid hormone synthesis and function, plus supports better immune system health.
Non-restorative sleep is a major concern for Fibromyalgia patients. Typical EEG pattern of “alpha wave intrusion” during non-REM delta wave sleep drives the stress response, disrupting diurnal and noctural patterns. Our Sleep and Stress test will identify how impacted you are by this, and help us offer more appropriate support.
Most people with Fibromyalgia suffer with blood sugar swings and are more prone to diabetes. Low blood sugar and insulin resistance cause adrenal problems, as well as yeast overgrowth, all of which ultimately worsen symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is associated with cardiovascular problems by interfering with the regulation of the autonomic nervous system.
Metabolic Markers assess energy, metabolism, and detoxification – all areas that Fibromyalgia sufferers need assessed for correct therapeutic guidance.
Lower cellular function associated with Fibromyalgia impacts the body’s ability to naturally detoxify by slowing down production of key enzymes. This leads to toxin and hormone accumulation and impacts all-over health and wellness. This profile assesses your liver function, allowing us to properly support better toxin clearance from your body.
Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels can affect pain sensitivity, inflammation and can also contribute to mood and sleep disturbances common to fibromyalgia patients. Testosterone levels can impact pain levels, muscle strength and overall energy levels, which are also common concerns of this condition.
Patients with fibromyalgia commonly develop food intolerances to even everyday healthy foods. A simple blood test will identify what is triggering you and what is safe to eat. The long-term goal of this test is to eventually correct the intolerance to safely consume trigger foods again.
Management is a mixture of medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments. A few drugs have been approved specifically for Fibromyalgia. Many medications are trial and error and many fibromyalgia sufferers are sensitive to medications.
Discuss potential side effects and long-term consequences with your doctor.
Fibromyalgia and any CCS disorder treatment can be combined with natural medicine treatments for potentially better patient outcomes. Patients that combine approaches report experiencing fewer side effects to medical treatments, and experience better symptom management.
Some patients wish to try natural medicine first, before resorting to medications, in which case a fully holistic treatment model is designed for them based on current pathology, symptom picture, and history.
However you wish to proceed with your health is respected, and our trained and experienced practitioners will guide you each step the way.
Common deficiencies that contribute the symptoms and disease progression of fibromyalgia include zinc, vitamin D3, magnesium, B12, and active folate (L-Methylfolate). A functional health practitioner can test for vitamin and mineral deficiencies so these can be correctly treated.
A healthy diet and lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight is the best approach to improving chronic disease symptoms and managing long-term health.
Weight loss when there is a metabolic disorder becomes seemingly impossible, yet all too often people with FM are told to “just lose weight”. They reduce their calorie intake, and still find they don’t get the results. It takes a specialised approach to shift this type of hormonal weight – not just over doing exercise and starving yourself – in fact, this makes it worse.
The Lucy Rose Clinic specialises in helping people lose weight in hormonally changing conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Botanical medicines assist in supporting the organs and systems in the body. Often many systems are out of balance with fibromyalgia – digestion (constipation), circulation (hair loss, feeling cold), blood sugars (sugar cravings, “hangry”), mood (depression, low motivation).
Adrenal support is essential to treat with every case, as chronic pain is stressful to the body and overtaxes the adrenal glands. We run 3-point saliva testing to assess adrenal hormone function, and sleep/insomnia – then formulate a botanical medicine liquid specific to your needs.
This ebook discussed the latest research into Fibromyalgia, what it is and its symptoms. It also outlines treatment options to help you heal it naturally, reducing your pain and getting your life back.
Find out how we can help you to reduce your symptoms with natural medicine. We can work alongside your current healthcare plan and medication to fine tune your plan even further - and get you feeling better!