Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome, is a long-term condition which causes muscular aching, tenderness and fatigue. Other symptoms may include difficulty sleeping, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and muscle stiffness.
Diagnosis is by symptoms as lab tests are typically negative
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Research into people with fibromyalgia has identified a number of changes in the way their body functions. However, what causes these changes, and how these cause fibromyalgia, is still not clear, although it may include disturbed nervous function, low levels of hormones such as noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine (involved in mood, sleep, stress response and learning) and sleep problems
Triggers or risk factors for fibromyalgia may include any kind of stress, trauma, infection, impaired liver function, low immunity, food allergies, hypoglycaemia, nutritional deficiencies and mitochondrial abnormalities.
Holistic treatment may involve:
- Reducing inflammatory and oxidative processes in muscle and connective tissue using herbal anti-inflammatories / antioxidants such as liquorice, turmeric and gingko (Altindag and Celik, 2006)
- Aiding healing using herbs such as gotu kola
- Supporting blood supply to tissues by enhancing circulation with circulatory stimulants such as ginger, gingko, chilli
- Increasing elimination of toxic metabolites that cause inflammation using herbs such as celery seed and burdock
- Reducing stress and the effects on the body using nerviness such as skullcap and adaptogens such as nettle seed (which act at the level of the hypothalamic -pituitary-adrenal axis to support the body’s resilience to stress. High cortisol (from the adrenals) is associated with fibromyalgia (Catley et al., 2000) and therefore the body should be supported to reduce this stress on it.
- Addressing sleep problems with relaxing herbs such as skullcap and passionflower
- Addressing pain with anodyne and antiinflammatory herbs such as white willow
- Promoting balanced immune response with immmunomodulators such as Echinacea and pro/prebiotics to enhance healthy gut flora
- Promoting good digestion and gut function with prebiotics, probiotics and bitter herbs that support healthy digestion. Gut health is fundamental to general health and may be the trigger for chronic inflammatory conditions where undigested food molecules pass across the gut wall and the immune system is dysregulated.
- Diet should focus on vegetables and high quality proteins and fats (such as fish and oily fish, eggs, meat) avoiding processed foods and processed carbohydrates such as white bread and sugars and also excitatory toxins such as monosodium glutamate and aspartame (Holton et al., 2012; Smith et al., 2001). Bioflavonoids found in red and purple berries and green tea aid healing and support healthy connective tissue health. Many beneficial plants such as ginger, chilli and turmeric can be included in the diet. A raw vegetarian diet has also been shown to improve symptoms of fibromyalgia (Donaldson et al., 2001)
- Supplements: Dysregulated Coenzyme Q10 has been implicated in fibromyalgia (Cordera et al., 2008;2009) and magnesium may help with relaxation if tense muscles are a problem secondary to impaired energy production (Sendur et al., 2008; Eisinger et al., 1994). B vitamins may help with energy production, stress response and high homocysteine levels and zinc supplementation may also be useful (Sendur et al., 2008).
- Moderate exercise
- Heat treatment
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