Fibromyalgia: What It Is & How To Heal

mbg Contributor By Katherine Leonard, M.S.
mbg Contributor
Katherine Leonard, M.S., is a San Diego-Based Holistic Nutritionist and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.
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Image by Leandro Crespi / Stocksy

Do you ache all over? Are you tired? Can’t sleep? You might have fibromyalgia, and the good news is: you can heal your body with nutrition!

Fibromyalgia affects major control areas of the body and can manifest as a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms. People have widespread pain in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue areas. In addition to pain, people with fibromyalgia also suffer from digestive problems and insomnia.

The cause of fibromyalgia is uncertain. Some cases are caused by a physical or emotional trauma from which the individual has not healed. There's a dysfunction in the way the central nervous system processes pain, leading to increased pain and increased stress.

Fibromyalgia is usually associated with periods of high stress, insomnia, hypervigilance, anxiety and worrying. Energy depletion causes health problems and health problems cause energy depletion, thus making causation difficult to determine without a holistic perspective.

Conditions of fibromyalgia include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Pelvic pain
  • Food reactivities
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea

Research indicates that individuals with fibromyalgia exhibit cellular mitochondrial dysfunction and therefore their body does not have enough energy to carry out all actions.

Additionally, dysfunction of the hypothalamus, a brain region that requires high amounts of energy, results in hormonal, sleep, and autonomic control issues.

Reduced muscular energy creates shortening and pain that can often prevent deep sleep. Consequently, disrupted sleep contributes to the muscle pain and inability to clear away inflammation.

Individuals with fibromyalgia have symptoms, including:

  • Muscle stiffness upon waking, pain eases throughout the day, pain worsens at night.
  • Cognitive decline
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Fatigue
  • TMJ
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Tooth grinding

How Is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Fibromyalgia is typically diagnosed if the individual has experienced widespread body pain for three months and demonstrates pain at 11 of 18 tender points on the body.

These points are located on the shoulders, neck, chest, rib cage, buttocks, lower back, shins, knees, thighs, and elbows.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

The allopathic approach to fibromyalgia is to treat with antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anti-seizure drugs, sleeping pills, and pain medications such as anti-inflammatories, and even opiates for severe cases.

Physicians may also use exercise and behavior therapy in conjunction with medications. The allopathic belief is that fibromyalgia is a long-term disorder and that patients will deal with their pain and symptoms for the rest of their life.

Doctors believe healing is unlikely, although may recommend eating a “healthy” diet, avoiding caffeine if they have trouble sleeping, and getting plenty of sleep. The patients will also have to remain on medication permanently in order to treat the symptoms.

Unfortunately, the patients exhibit disabling psychological effects from the psychotherapeutic drugs and heavily addictive and toxic opiate pain relievers. Often, the people will not be able to be contributing members of society. They will fall into a depression, stay at home, and live in an environment unfit for healing.

What does the holistic approach do differently?

Thankfully, there is hope for individuals suffering from fibromyalgia. The integrative approach to healing is to look for underlying causes of the pain and correct them with diet and lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes include stress management techniques like acupuncture, massage, meditation, journaling, deep breathing, etc.

Healing through nutrition is also a key facet of the integrative approach to fibromyalgia. Balancing nutrients and hormones while reducing inflammation is the underlying foundation of all healing therapies.

Another idea is to consider supplements. Nutritional deficiencies, especially B12, iron, CoQ10, and magnesium are common in individuals with fibromyalgia or similar conditions. Without proper nutrients, mitochondria are less efficient at producing energy. Nutritional testing and organic acid test can help understand the client’s nutritional needs.

Increasing sun exposure is another good idea because Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread health issue and is especially prevalent in individuals with fibromyalgia.

Sensitivities should also be assessed in a holistic treatment. Consider factors such as nutritional sensitivities, toxicity, yeast infections, parasites, and food/environmental.

Testing for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, adrenal and hormonal saliva tests, food allergy testing, and heavy metal toxicity may all provide insight into a client’s symptoms and help develop a healing protocol that will target the underlying causes of the client’s pain.

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