By Michael Gaeta, DAc, MS, CDN
For years, Helen suffered badly from chronic pain, stiffness, fatigue and depression. She didn’t sleep well, was overweight, and couldn’t exercise because her muscles became painful and tired with just a little exertion. She wasn’t happy with what her doctors offered, which was little more than drugs for her symptoms, without “giving me any real answers other than to take the drugs for the rest of my life.” In desperation, she sought acupuncture and nutritional care, coming to our clinic on the advice of a friend who we had helped with asthma and diabetes. With a combination of compassionate listening, acupuncture, Amma therapy (Asian bodywork therapy), dietary improvements, whole-food supplements and herbal medicine, Helen felt “like a new person” within nine weeks of beginning care. She had much less pain, slept well most nights, lost 10 pounds, had more energy and could walk several blocks without much fatigue or pain. And she was drug-free, much to her delight. Improvements gradually increased over the next few months of care, until she was ready for a maintenance/wellness schedule of monthly visits. On one of these visits, Helen shared, with tears in her eyes, that “I feel like myself again.”
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), literally “muscle and connective tissue pain,” is a chronic multisystem disease of widespread musculoskeletal pain for at least three months, fatigue, poor sleep, headache, morning stiffness, digestive complaints, depression and/or anxiety.1 Many of those with FMS also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), lupus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).2 The requirement of 11 or more out of 18 tender points for a diagnosis of FMS was abandoned by the American College of Rheumatology, in favor of a greater emphasis on patient symptoms.3
Estimates are that 6-9 million Americans (2-3%) suffer from this condition.1, 4 It is seven times more common in women than in men, especially those middle-aged.
FMS is often thought of as being of an unknown cause, though altered (excessive) pain sensitivity and peripheral nerve damage seem to be part of the pattern. FMS is now considered part of what is called “central sensitivity syndrome” (CSS), which also includes CFS, IBS, jaw tension and pain (TMJ), chemical sensitivity and chronic bladder irritation (interstitial cystitis, or IC).5, 6 Interestingly, “There is no evidence of abnormalities in muscle and tendon.”7
From a wholistic perspective, the endocrine, or hormonal, system plays a large part in FMS, as does chemical toxicity, early childhood trauma, emotional crises and shock, and nutritional deficiencies.7 Specifically, low thyroid, adrenal fatigue, weakened immunity, impaired circulation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, liver toxicity and/or low-level chronic infections play a role in the cause or source of the FMS pattern.
As is typical, conventional medicine focuses primarily on drugs to manage the symptoms of FMS, without much emphasis on improving nutritional status, endocrine function, or detoxification. The primary drugs used are antidepressants, especially amitriptyline, though only pregabalin (Lyrica®), duloxetine (Cymbalta®) and milnacipran (Savella®) are FDA-approved for FMS. The other drugs commonly used are pain relievers (e.g. tramadol) and lidocaine injections. This drugs-for-symptoms approach is part of why we in the US have 5% of the world population, and consume 40-50% of the world’s pharmaceutical drugs.
What we can say is that, like its sister, CFS, FMS is a pattern of depletion and toxicity. Toxins (chemicals that cause harm if not eliminated), emotional trauma, vaccines (which have little or no benefit, do not prevent infections, did not eliminate any epidemics and are quite dangerous 8, 9), and nutritional deficiencies lead to a state of overall devitalization and weakened immunity. Other factors such as allergies, an unhealthy intestinal environment (dysbiosis), blood sugar imbalance and autoimmunity play a role in many with FMS.
Lifestyle factors are a significant part of the healing process. Exercise, very small at first then gradually increasing duration and intensity, improves circulation and muscle strength. Regular sleep patterns, with a steady schedule, dark and quiet bedroom (or ear plugs and eye mask), and a consistent routine leading to sleep, are essential. Life-centered counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy and support groups can provide real assistance, to the extent that they compassionately help the FMS patient face underlying issues and trauma, encourage a sense of personal power, responsibility and potential, face and let go of the past, and shift identity from illness to wholeness.
Whole-foods diet and whole-food supplements are critical, for providing restorative nutrition for repair, detoxification and resilience. The whole foods diet emphasizes food quality in the context of the human, or omnivore, diet. Local, preferably organic, foods which provide healthy protein, fats and vegetables form the basis of the diet for supporting FMS and others to heal, and prevent future illness. Avoiding the commonly-eaten evils of refined flour, sugar, genetically-modified and pasteurized foods is key. Some of the worst foods include pasteurized and homogenized dairy, white flour, wheat, (high-fructose) corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, most soy foods, and sugary foods such as soda, candy and pastries.
What works is to mostly eat the ideal diet, of simple, natural, organic, locally-produced foods from family farms. Such foods that support your health include vegetables, seasonal fruits, grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, eggs, raw grass-fed dairy products, coconut oil, olive oil, lacto-fermented foods, sea salt, raw nuts and seeds, wild fish and buckwheat.10
Is it important to avoid synthetic vitamins, which are man-made isolated chemicals which act as drugs, not foods. Some of the worst of these are the synthetic antioxidant supplements, which include beta-carotene, alpha tocopherol, alpha lipoic acid and ascorbic acid. Intravenous vitamins and chelation are also synthetic, drug-like interventions which cannot provide a nutritional or restorative effect, since only foods and plants are nutritional to the human body. If it’s not a food or plant, or a supplement concentrate of those, it’s a drug.
As the brilliant scholar, philosopher and mystic Rudolf Steiner wrote, “For every human illness, somewhere in the world there exists a plant which is the cure. I believe that there is a healing potential locked inside plants which is integral with their evolution, just as it is part of human evolution to learn to tap this wonderful gift of Nature.” Steiner was the remarkable creator of Waldorf education, anthroposophic medicine and biodynamic farming.11
The first and best supplements available are those made by Standard Process (SP), formulas which have the greatest body of accumulated clinical experience and success over 84 years, based on foods organically-grown at their own farm in southeastern Wisconsin. SP also distributes Mediherb herbal formulas, the finest and most therapeutically-relevant Western herbs in the world.
Guided, personalized protocols which I have found helpful include purification, gut flora restoration, leaky gut healing, endocrine support, immune enhancement and toxic metal detoxification.
If you would like a live or phone consultation on the appropriate use of these formulas to support well-being, vitality and resilience, click here. As one of the top speakers and trainers for SP nationally, I have a great depth of understanding and experience in the intelligent and effective application of these formulas.
If you or someone you know has FMS, have hope. There is much that you can do, supported by caring practitioners, to heal and recover. And you can stay or become drug-free in the process. Remember—nature first, drugs last.
Take the Next Step
Learn more at my upcoming live seminar October 13th, 2013 on fibromyalgia—its causes, and how to support healing and repair using diet, exercise, whole-food supplements and botanical medicine. Join us live at CSTCM in Denver, or by live internet stream from your home or office. Second topic that day is Digestive Health. For the live CEU event in Denver, click here. For the live stream (8 places left at a 50% discount – only $50 for the full day), click here.
- Chakrabarty S, Zoorob R. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jul 15;76(2):247-54.
- Weir PT, Harlan GA, Nkoy FL, Jones SS, Hegmann KT, Gren LH, Lyon JL. J Clin Rheumatol. 2006 Jun;12(3):124-8. The incidence of fibromyalgia and its associated comorbidities: a population-based retrospective cohort.
- Wolfe F, Häuser W. Fibromyalgia diagnosis and diagnostic criteria. Ann Med. 2011; 43(7): 495-502
- British Journal of Rheumatology 1997;36:1318±1323
- Smith HS, Harris R, Clauw D. Fibromyalgia: an afferent processing disorder leading to a complex pain generalized syndrome. Pain Physician2011; 14(2): E217-E245
- Clauw DJ. Fibromyalgia: an overview. Am J Med 2009; 122(12 Suppl): S3-S13
- Brückle W, Zeidler H. Internist (Berl). 2005 Nov;46(11):1188-97. Fibromyalgia–an update.
- Radio show archive, http://feeds.feedburner.com/MichaelGaeta
- Blog archive, http://gaetacommunications.com/site/?m=201309, http://gaetacommunications.com/site/?cat=22