By Kristi Hawkes, N.D.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by generalized musculoskeletal pain and stiffness, chronic aching, fatigue, and multiple areas of local tenderness that can be identified during physical examination. Research studies suggest that fibromyalgia pain may be the result of a combination of factors affecting the activity of muscle cells and the central nervous system. Various conventional treatment modalities have been tested in fibromyalgia patients; unfortunately, these are often ineffective and may result in adverse side effects. A natural approach that incorporates nutritional support for the body processes implicated in the pathogenesis of fibromyalgia holds great promise for the millions suffering from this chronic syndrome.
How if Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia can be diagnosed by a tender point examination. Mildly irritating to completely debilitating tenderness in at least 11 of 18 defined points, such as in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips, signifies FM.
What Causes It?
The cause of FM has yet to be determined. But research suggests that abnormalities in the muscular, endocrine, nervous, or digestive systems should be addressed, and exposure to toxic substances should be reduced.
Muscular System: Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Mitochondrial dysfunction is thought to be a primary cause of FM. Mitochondria are found in all cells of the body, but a re highly concentrated in muscle cells. They are responsible for cellular energy production. Decreased cellular energy production in muscle cells can result in increased muscle stiffness, pain, and fatigue in FM patients.
Nervous System: Toxin Exposure
Every day we are exposed to numerous toxins such as pesticides, food additives (e.g., MSG, aspartame), and chemicals that can adversely affect various bodily functions, including nervous system function. Excessive toxin exposure can result in increased and prolonged pain sensation by the nervous system, contributing to the chronic pain associated with FM.
Digestive System: Intestinal Tract Abnormalities
Data suggest that up to 70% of patients with FM complain of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as chronic abdominal pain, alternating diarrhea and constipation, morning stiffness, and fatigue. Since IBS and FM have overlapping symptoms, it has been suggested they may have a common cause.
It is further theorized that dysfunction in nerve pathways between the intestinal tract and the brain help to explain the increased pain sensitivity and fatigue in FM.
Endocrine System: Hormone Imbalance
Many patients with FM have experienced significant amounts of stress, which can contribute to abnormalities in the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates hormone (e.g., serotonin, cortisol, thyroxine) production by portions of the brain, as well as by the adrenal and thyroid glands. Imbalanced hormone production caused by stress can contribute to the increased fatigue, sleep disturbances, and psychological distress experienced by FM patients.
How is it Treated?
Conventional Medical Approaches
Doctors may prescribe antidepressants, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, and/or pain-relief medications. Unfortunately, none of these medications have been shown to be of significant benefit and they can cause adverse side effects (e.g., headache, nausea, stomach bleeding).
A Natural Treatment Approach
In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise program as prescribed by your healthcare provider, incorporating a basic nutritional regimen that addresses the abnormalities previously discussed may be of benefit.
Table 1. What a Basic Nutritional Supplement Program for FM Patients May Include.
Nutritional Supplement / Area of Support
Multivitamin/Mineral Formula / Overall health and energy levels
Mitochondrial Antioxidant Formula / Muscular system: comprehensive mitochondrial support
Malic Acid/Magnesium Complex OR Magnesium/Potassium Aspartate Complex / Muscular System: mitochondrial energy production
Bifunctional Detoxification Support Formula / Nervous system: elimination of toxins
L. Acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacteria / Digestive system: intestinal health and function
If stress is an issue, then add:
Traditional Ayurvedia Holy Basil Combination / Endocrine system: hormone balance and stress response
B6/Pantothenic Acid Complex / Endocrine system: adrenal hormone production and energy
Injured tissue has altered electrical dynamics as compared to healthy tissue. These altered electrical dynamics can cause changes in cellular function, resulting in impaired healing and painful inflammation. Frequency -specific microcurrent therapy is the application of an extremely low frequency of electrical current (approximately one millionth of an amp) to control pain and stimulate healing of injured tissue, such as muscle, on a cellular level. This “bio-electric therapy” supports the natural healthy electrical current flow in tissue, which is important to mitochondrial energy production, the transport of nutrients to cells, and the removal of wastes from cells. The actual electrical current administered is so small that it cannot be felt.
Because FM has been associated with abnormalities in multiple body systems, treatment that addresses each of these systems may be of benefit. While medications commonly prescribed for FM complaints may provide temporary relief, they may not address the underlying factors involved and can cause undesirable side effects such as headache, nausea, or stomach bleeding. On the other hand, good nutrition, exercise, and dietary supplements that support the muscular, nervous, digestive, and endocrine systems and facilitate the elimination of toxins may assist in the healing process.
By Kristi Hawkes, N.D.