This is a term used to describe the tender tissue, fatigue, muscle aches and other vague symptoms that don’t fit into any other traditional medical diagnosis. It’s taught as a “diagnosis of exclusion”, meaning the doctor’s job is to rule out, or exclude, known illnesses first. If none can be identified, you are left with the word Fibromyalgia. Literally, it means pain of fibrous and muscle tissue.
Typically, the treatment has ranged from trying antidepressants to regulate pain, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, sedatives and muscle relaxers, off-label uses of older medications and most recently, nerve medications, such as Lyrica and Gabapentin. Even with all these treatments, many people get minimal, if any, relief. Daily exercise, good hydration and plenty of sleep have helped, despite worsening of pain preventing many from exercising.
From an alternative medical view, there can be many contributing causes to Fibromyalgia.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Muscles and nerves depend on a constant supply of nutrients that are no longer in our food supply. Processed foods are mostly lacking these nutrients. It is estimated by some that even today’s organic food has one quarter of the nutrition of non-organic food of 80-100 years ago. America has brought soil depletion to a new level and almost no one can get enough nutrients without taking them as a supplement. Common important minerals are Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium.
- Inflammation. We normally have more bacteria in our colon than cells in our bodies. But, due to antibiotics in our food supply and from doctors, these beneficial bacteria which should colonize our gastrointestinal tracts are deficient. Bacteria help break down food, help with absorption and help feed the cells lining our colon. Also, up to 80% of our immune system resides in the colon and is kept quiet by beneficial bacteria and nutrients. Without these helpful bacteria, many people get “leaky gut syndrome”, leading to delayed reaction food sensitivities to common foods in our diet. This causes our immune system to rev up to fight invaders every time we eat. How many people complain of feeling gas, bloating, fatigue, heartburn, diarrhea and other symptoms after eating meals? Many! Getting food sensitivity testing can find and help us eliminate some of these common causes of inflammation. Stool tests can also help to identify bad versus good bacteria, a lack of digestive enzymes, yeast overgrowth, the presence of parasites, and more.
- Hypothyroidism. Even borderline low thyroid can lead to significant symptoms. In medicine, we are taught to test the TSH to assess the thyroid. This is not always a complete answer. T3 and T4 fractions of thyroid hormone can be tested many ways and the available parts, called Free T3 and Free T4 are the best indications of hormone available to the tissues. If these are low, despite a normal TSH, natural thyroid hormone can replace both of these. Also, frequent deficiencies like Iodine, Selenium, Zinc and others, can contribute to low thyroid. Toxins to the thyroid can include Fluoride, Chlorine, and Bromine. These are found in toothpaste, water and baked products in the U.S. They block essential Iodine and can stop conversion of one thyroid hormone into the more helpful one.
- These are just a few of the common things I find regularly that contribute to the symptoms we call Fibromyalgia, but there are many more. Each person is unique and has their own set of circumstances. Seeing a provider trained in Functional Medicine (looking for causes) can be a step toward the non-traditional testing and treatment sometimes needed to help people with this and other difficult conditions.
For more information on Functional Medicine you can visit www.functionalmedicine.org to find a provider near you. To be seen by Dr. Gilmore for these and other challenging conditions, you can call The Maine Center for Functional Medicine in Bangor, Maine at (207)941-0080.
33 Penn Plaza suite A
Bangor, Maine 04401