| By Dr. Lulu Shimek |
Who gets Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a debilitating chronic disease that affects about 1 in every 50 people and 90% of those are women aged 19-60. Patients with fibromyalgia have an impaired quality of life and their health care costs represent a substantial economic burden. The traditional medical diagnosis says, “there is no cure from the never ending pain and fatigue” and “it’s all in the patient’s head.” I am going to open the doors to truth and discuss how you can finally feel empowered and let go of the endless sea of pain.What are the symptoms?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease with widespread muscle pain and tenderness of 11-18 specific points, but there can also be many other associated symptoms: gastrointestinal distress, whole body fatigue, sensory sensitivity, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, insomnia and painful menstruation. The pain patients experience is frequently worsened with fatigue and is exacerbated by chronic stress.
How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia has the medical society stumped! The cause is unknown but it is thought to involve a combination of several factors, including: environmental, genetics, psychological, and neurobiological. The development of fibromyalgia may also be precipitated by a viral or other systemic infection (such as Lyme disease) or a traumatic and stressful event. Fibromyalgia is a complicated puzzle where many pieces come together to create a collage of co-causes, and in order to heal the body, each of the causes must be identified and treated methodically.
Unfortunately there are also no specific laboratory tests that can definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. Are you beginning to see how this disease is challenging to treat? That’s where naturopathic medicine shines because we use a wide variety of tools and modalities to ignite healing from within.
How is Fibromyalgia traditionally treated?
Traditionally, fibromyalgia is treated with prescription drugs, including NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers and antidepressants). Many patients feel like they are treated as guinea pigs and given numerous pharmaceuticals, like Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella with no success. That’s because these Rx drugs are not addressing the root cause but are suppressing the true pathology of the chronic disease. What’s worse, these drugs contribute to even more complex chronic diseases that become even harder to treat and may cause very serious side effects. By replacing these drugs with natural medicines, there is a reduction of strain on the entire system and the individual is able to begin healing from within.
From a comprehensive viewpoint, the individual’s terrain (internal environment) must be assessed for all of the co-causes, which are most likely related to: heavy metal toxicities, bacterial presence, sugar imbalances, food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, fatty acid imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, neurotransmitter depression, emotional trauma, and genetic imbalance.
Breaking the Pain Loop
What is pain? Pain is often described as a nervous system response to stimuli. One of the hardest aspects of fibromyalgia is the hidden pain that is most often only visible to the patient and not to their friends, family members, or doctors. It becomes very difficult for the patient to relate to others about this hidden pain and they often feel victimized.
I have found with most of my patients that this pain cycle is often rooted back to a traumatic event that has embedded itself in the nervous system. So how do we break this vicious pain cycle? First, I work together with my patients to dive deep into their memories and traumas to allow these pain patterns to start to dissolve. Then the real healing of the nervous system begins by creating a new message and breaking the old pain loop.
How is Fibromyalgia linked to Gene Expression?
Let’s take a moment and look at the genetic aspect of fibromyalgia. The cells in the body replicate every 20 minutes to 24 hours. Once an altered gene starts replicating, the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and other diseases begin to manifest, leading to nervous system malfunction at a cellular level. Once the body is living in a toxic cellular state, not only physically but also emotionally, the genes become susceptible to toxicity, triggering future alterations in gene expression.
There are many reasons that the cells can divide and grow out of control, including nutritional deficiencies, infections, or exposure to environmental causes, such as carcinogens or ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. The big question is how this altered gene can be stopped from replicating? First, the toxic cellular environment needs to be changed to allow the DNA & RNA to send the correct message for replication of a vital and healthy cell. Then the focus shifts to breaking the pain pattern.
Are Neurotransmitters Playing a Key Role?
A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that transmits information from one cell to another. In fibromyalgia, dopamine is the key neurotransmitter involved in modulating pain perception and in the descending inhibition of pain. So it makes a lot of sense that a deficiency in dopamine and other neurotransmitters would cause a communication breakdown and an endless loop of pain. A simple neurotransmitter test can reveal an imbalance. But remember that fibromyalgia is a combination of imbalances so healing the entire body physiologically must be part of the bigger picture.
Treating Fibromyalgia Naturally
We must begin by establishing a solid foundation to create a long-term resolution of symptoms. A few of these simple foundations are: improving hydration, anti-inflammatory diet, re-programming stress, gentle movement every day, optimal sleep, and de-acidifying the body. We then strengthen the immune system by optimizing digestion and balancing sugar intake because fibromyalgia patients frequently have hyperinsulinemia, which ends up aggravating serotonin depletion and pain perception. It is also very important to address possible underlying infectious agents that are stressing the immune system: Epstein-Barr, streptococcus, staphylococcus, chlamydia, mycoplasma, and coxsackie are very common with Fibromyalgia patients.
If a toxic environment is the primary source of inflammation in fibromyalgia patients, how do we decrease the toxicity? First we have to ensure that the pathways of elimination are functioning properly. By providing proper nutrients to the body, these elimination pathways will be able to excrete the metabolic waste that has built up in tissues. Then we have to lower the overall toxic burden. Heavy metal toxicity sometimes also plays a large role as it decreases neurotransmitter balance, which often triggers chronic myofascitis in fibromyalgia patients. Lastly, we reduce oxidative stress by repairing DNA and improving ATP(Adenosine Triphosphate) production. This facilitates energy at a cellular level and decreases fatigue.
The Emotional Truth of Fibromyalgia
The most important phase of healing and breaking the pain loop with fibromyalgia patients is balancing the energetic body, which is often the root of the disease. First the patient has to recognize the true obstacle that is holding them back or contributing to the entanglement of fibromyalgia. Emotional blockages play an enormous role in influencing symptoms and the underlying cause of the chronic disease. Patients need to recognize the emotional landscape they are living in, release past experiences, restore their personal power, and raise their vibrational frequency.
The road to freedom from fibromyalgia is not an easy one but it is also not a hopeless one. Take a moment to envision what your life would be like to feel empowered and finally free of the pain and fatigue? Can you envision this new you? Can you dream the healthiest version of yourself? When you are living in a loop of pain, even envisioning tomorrow can be a great challenge, but your body’s ability to heal is extremely powerful when given the necessary means and tools from many different complementary modalities.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Dr. LuLu Shimek is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in beautiful downtown Asheville, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Bastyr University’s doctoral program in Naturopathic Medicine in Seattle, Washington. Dr. LuLu specializes in chronic disease such as Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, Eczema, Insomnia, Chronic Fatigue, Anxiety, and Depression. Dr. LuLu is the solution to your inner pollution!