Preventative Guide: Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition associated with widespread muscle pain, tenderness, and stiffness. In clinical practice, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made if a person experiences widespread pain and tenderness for a period of longer than 3 months and if all other tests come back negative. It is thought to be a condition of the nervous system where the body’s pain receptors are over-reactive or overstimulated. The symptoms are different for everyone, but they always include long-standing pain.
Fibromyalgia is a bit of a mysterious disease. Only truly recognized as a syndrome in 1990, fibromyalgia is still greatly misunderstood and often dismissed as something the patient is imagining (psychosomatic). A part of the reason for this is that there are no tests to measure for fibromyalgia, and so diagnosis is based on subjective symptoms only.
Long-lasting pain throughout the body
Pain that comes in waves
Fatigue and sleep problems
Memory problems and mood changes
Stiffness in the joints
Anxiety and/or depression
Chemical and temperature sensitivities
Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of fibromyalgia is still greatly unknown, however, onset has been associated with a trigger such as a traumatic event, accident, or injury. Genes and infections may also contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia, as well as food sensitivities and leaky gut.
Women are at a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia than men, particularly in mid-age, therefore it is important we do what we can to reduce our risk. Having an autoimmune disease can also put you at greater risk for fibromyalgia. It is also more common in people who have other conditions such as IBS, migraines, and joint disorders.
Other risk factors can include
Chemical toxicity (often the result of a high toxic load)
Type A personalities (perfectionist mentality)
A Lifestyle for Prevention
The following are preventative tips to decrease your risk of developing fibromyalgia.
Reduce stress – chronic stress is a common cause of autoimmune conditions, which can sometimes lead to fibromyalgia.
Try: practicing daily meditation, doing yoga, walking in nature, and eliminating negative or chronic stressors from your life.
Seek support for emotional pain – emotional trauma is often linked with the development of fibromyalgia.
Try: seeing a therapist or seeking other alternative therapy or healing support to foster emotional healing if you believe you may have repressed trauma.
Eat a whole foods diet – eating a whole foods diet full of a variety of vegetables, fruits, protein, nuts, and seeds promotes overall systemic health, reduces inflammation, and provides antioxidant support. Particularly helpful are anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, which help to alkalize the body, and healthy fats, which provide anti-inflammatory support. Bone broth is an excellent source of collagen and helps to repair leaky gut and other GI issues caused by allergy and inflammation.
Try: incorporating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, avocados, and bone broth into your diet and avoiding packaged and processed foods.
Remove food sensitivities – common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs.
Try: adopting an elimination diet if you suffer from regular digestive distress
Ensure proper hydration – adequate hydration is key to overall health and disease prevention.
Try: consuming at least 8 glasses of water each day. This should be even more if you are consuming caffeine or other diuretics.
Repair leaky gut – leaky gut has been associated with the development of fibromyalgia. If you suspect you have leaky gut, it is important to find the cause and work to heal the digestive tract.
Try: removing food sensitivities, supporting the bacteria in the gut with a probiotic supplement and/or probiotic-rich foods, and taking supplements like L-glutamine to help repair the lining of the gut.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine – excess caffeine places stress on the adrenals, can reduce absorption of nutrients by speeding up elimination, and may also cause mineral depletion as the body tries to neutralize the acidity of coffee.
Try: eliminating coffee altogether or reducing your consumption to 1 cup per day on a full stomach.
Support adrenals – by reducing stress and adopting supportive practices that help your body to rest and digest.
Try: activities such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and Reiki.
Get regular exercise – regular exercise reduces stress, lowers inflammation, and helps to detoxify the body via sweating. However, exercise just to tolerance and increase the intensity gradually as your symptoms diminish. Ensure you are engaging in both weight-bearing exercises to build strong bones and cardio exercise to improve and normalize metabolism and cardiovascular function.
Try: getting 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise daily, whether this is through walking, yoga, weight training, cycling, dancing, or another activity you enjoy.
Get enough sleep - there is some evidence suggesting that ongoing sleep disruption may contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia. In any case, optimal sleep duration and quality are essential for health.
Try: getting at least 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep each night.
The following herbs all have supportive actions in the body that help to prevent the development of fibromyalgia
Turmeric – anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, turmeric is a superfood for the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases.
Try: adding turmeric to your foods or blending up a golden milk latte with coconut milk, turmeric, black pepper, and honey.
Ginger – anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, ginger is excellent for easing and supporting digestion.
Try: a fresh lemon and ginger root tea, steeped for at least 20 minutes. Drink often.
Ashwagandha – is a powerful adaptogen which can help to balance hormones in the body and help the body adapt to stress.
Try: Taking it as a tincture 1-3x per day as desired.
Nettle – a wonderfully nutritive herb, nettle supports detoxification and general health.
Try: Sipping on a warm cup of nettle tea for at least a month at a time.
Certain supplements can also be beneficial in supporting the body to prevent the painful onset and/or symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Vitamin D – deficiency is seen in 50% of people with fibromyalgia. Vitamin D is also one of the most common vitamins that Americans are deficient in.
Try: spending more time outdoors and taking a vitamin D supplement (it is recommended to get your levels tested before supplementing, so that you can take the appropriate dose).
Magnesium citrate – promotes relaxation of the neuromuscular system.
Try: taking a daily magnesium supplement of 1,000 mg per day in divided doses.
Fish oil – the omega-3s found in fish oil provide support to all cells in the body through their anti-inflammatory action.
Try: taking a daily omega-3 supplement that contains both EPA and DHA (1,000 to 2,000 mg EPA + DHA per day).
CoQ10 – provides cellular support for energy levels, the immune system, and the maintenance of tissues.
Try: supplementing with 60 mg daily.