Fibromyalgia: 5 Underlying Causes

Fibromyalgia affects millions of people, with little to no help provided by mainstream medicine. This debilitating condition is known for symptoms such as chronic fatigue, depression, painful muscular points and sleep disorders. People struggling with fibromyalgia are typically given pain medication, antidepressants and are told to learn to cope with their symptoms. The problem is that a fibromyalgia diagnosis tells you the symptoms of the disease, not the underlying causes. Because of this, a diagnosis is a starting point, not an answer to your problems.

Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks to uncover the myriad underlying factors that cause chronic conditions like fibromyalgia. This process begins with running labs that typically aren't used in the conventional model, which is largely concerned with diagnosing a disease and matching it with a corresponding drug.

Functional medicine is also called "systems medicine" because it looks at all the different systems of your body and their complex interactions. Let's look at some of the systems I examine in my patients who are suffering with fibromyalgia:

1. Gut

The majority of your immune system resides in the sophisticated gastrointestinal system. The trillions of bacteria that live in your gut make up a delicate environment called the microbiome. When this system is thrown off balance, it can wreak havoc and cause or contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms. Many people struggling with fibromyalgia have unnoticed gut issues:

  • Chronic yeast or fungal Infections, such as excess candida
  • Bacterial infections or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Food intolerances
  • Gut hyperpermeability (Leaky Gut)

These are some common conditions in the gut system that people with fibromyalgia have and they don't even know it. Addressing these issues is a piece of the puzzle to feeling like themselves again.

2. Detox

We're inundated with toxins every day. From our food, environment, cleaning and beauty products — toxins come at us from every direction, and they take a toll on our health. Our bodies are resilient and can handle a certain level of the toxic onslaught, but toxicity is another potential tipping point for fibromyalgia. Heavy metals such as mercury and lead, or mycotoxins from mold are some common things that I see with people dealing with fibromyalgia symptoms. We also need to look at your body's ability to get rid toxins. Impaired detoxification pathways and genetic weaknesses can make it extra difficult for some people to eliminate toxins properly. This toxic buildup can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms.

3. Hormonal

Our body communicates and operates with an intelligent system of hormones known as the endocrine system. When there is an imbalance, deficiency or dysregulation to your hormones, it may cause fibromyalgia symptoms. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid disorders, DHEA levels, estrogen and testosterone imbalances are some of the pieces of the puzzle to understanding fibromyalgia symptoms.

4. Nutrients

Not a true system in the conventional sense, but as a system within all systems, your body's nutrient levels are essential to understanding fibromyalgia. Deficiencies in magnesium, vitamin D, selenium and glutathione are all potential factors in the development of fibromyalgia.

5. Biomechanical

Your nervous system supplies energy to all other systems of your body! That's why you may hear your neck referred to as "the arc of life." Injuries to your neck or bad posture can bring a perpetual source of chronic inflammation and stress to your body's systems.

As you can see, you would be hard pressed to find a "magic pill" that dealt with all the underlying factors of fibromyalgia. A comprehensive health program that addresses all these issues should be customized for anyone struggling with fibromyalgia.

Feeling a little fatigued? Feel like something's just not right, but Western Medicine tells you, "you're fine"? Jason Wachob, founder & CEO of mindbodygreen, tells all in his health story. Sign up now for FREE!

William Cole, D.C., IFMCP

Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole, leading functional-medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam at and locally in Pittsburgh. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing health programs for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, and brain problems.Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional-medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the author of Ketotarian in which he melds the powerful benefits of the ketogenic and plant-based diets.
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William Cole, D.C., IFMCP

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