To the outside world, someone with fibromyalgia could look just like anyone else. In reality, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes – from headaches and fatigue to painful, tingly joints and depression, symptoms that plague your entire day and even your sleep.
About 2-4 percent of the American adult population currently find themselves at the mercy of this chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder.1 Because this condition is so often misdiagnosed, there is currently no safe way to completely cure this condition. And since life doesn’t stop just because the body hurts, people with fibromyalgia end up having to carry an arsenal of antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and painkillers. While these do provide temporary relief, long-term usage may end up leading to a drug overdose that could not only trigger a series of dangerous health-related side effects but could even result in death.2 3
For this reason, the need to find the underlying cause of fibromyalgia becomes increasingly urgent, so we may find a solution that’s both effective and safe in the long run. And while we’re yet to have some clarity on what really causes fibromyalgia, scientists suspect that a chronic buildup of toxins may be to blame.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a complex chronic pain disorder that causes muscle and joint tenderness, pain, and fatigue that may either remain localized or spread throughout the body. Depression, recurring headaches, poor concentration, and sleeplessness are other common symptoms.
Fibromyalgia may manifest as a response to a variety of events and stimuli. As such, different people may experience different symptoms of this condition.
Doctors Are Still Not Sure As To What Causes Fibromyalgia
One of the strange things about fibromyalgia is that there’s no definitive cause. Some researchers are of the opinion that having a genetic relative who also has fibromyalgia can raise one’s own risk of getting it. Others, however, find that it can also be related to both mental and physical trauma; where the patient reports developing fibromyalgia for the first time after a severe shock or accident.
There Are More Women Fibromyalgia Patients Than Men
Fibromyalgia is as much a man’s disease as it is a woman’s. However, doctors find more female fibromyalgia patients than male ones. According to estimations made by the Office On Women’s Health, between 80 and 90 percent of all patients with current fibromyalgia diagnoses are women.4 Once again, doctors are not too sure why this is, though there is a theory that the genetic conditions behind this condition are probably more likely to be passed down the female line.
Fibromyalgia Is Also Very Difficult To Diagnose
There are no specific lab or imaging tests available for diagnosing fibromyalgia. Hence, doctors find themselves relying purely on the patient reporting his symptoms. And because the symptoms are so non-specific, understanding and diagnosing fibromyalgia becomes even more difficult for doctors.
What Are Toxins?
Toxins are chemical compounds that collect in your body through the food we eat and the environment elements we expose ourselves to. Given the highly polluted environment we live in these days, toxin buildup shows up in just about anyone and everyone, no matter how “clean” their lifestyle is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of these chemicals include:5
- Acrylamide: formed when foods are fried or baked at high temperatures, and also as a byproduct of cigarette smoke
- Arsenic: found in most home-building products
- Bisphenol A: found in epoxy resins, plastics, and food packaging
- Triclosan: often used as an antibacterial agent in personal care products like hand soap and toothpaste
- Perchlorate: used in fireworks, airplane fuel, and explosives
- Perfluorinated chemicals: used to create non-stick cookware
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers: used in fire retardants found in consumer products like mattresses
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s): found in air fresheners, paints, cosmetics, cleaning products, upholstery fabrics, carpets, dry-cleaned clothing, wood preservatives
What Is A Toxin-Overload?
As seen above, we end up subjecting ourselves to hundreds of toxins and environmental pollutants on a daily basis. All of these put together can potentially present a huge toxic burden to the human body after prolonged periods of accumulation in your body’s blood, urine, and tissue.
Of course, our body does a great job in cleansing itself throughout the day and as long as you have a functioning gut, liver, and kidneys – you’re always in an auto-detox mode. But over time as we grow older, these organs too, can start failing if we continue exposing ourselves to such high levels of toxins.
Our liver, especially, is put under a great deal of stress every day because it is literally our body’s main dumping ground. All our organs end up flushing out their waste into the liver, which ultimately works for long, hard hours at filtering this waste and sending it out of our body through the urine, excreta, and sweat.
With so many years after the industrial revolution, the toxins in our environment have only increased in number while our bodies haven’t evolved to balance out that pressure. Therefore, it is only natural that our organs may not be able to function as well as they used to if we continue to afflict our body with so many chemicals and toxins on a day to day basis. When this happens, our body’s immunity can get severely impaired, thus, giving rise to a series of ailments and diseases.
How Toxin-Overload May Be A Possible Cause Of Fibromyalgia
As our body continues to accumulate multiple chemicals and toxic matter, our organs start failing. This gives rise to a variety of symptoms such as:
- Constant fatigue: a sign that your body is working too hard to get rid of the toxins you’re pouring into it or that your immunity has gone for a toss
- Stubborn weight gain: a sign that toxins (that often behave like endocrine disruptors) are wrecking havoc on your natural hormonal function
- Consistent muscle aches and pains: a sign of inflammation triggered by toxin-accumulation and that the chemicals are eating away at your tissue, bones, and joints
- Regular headaches: a sign that your body is reacting to the oxidative stress released by the toxins in your bloodstream
- Insomnia: a sign that the toxins are weakening your liver which, in turn, affects the histamine levels in the brain that regulate your sleep-wake cycle
While there is no concrete proof that toxin-overload may be a definitive cause of fibromyalgia, health experts believe that the symptoms and presenting patterns shared between fibromyalgia and a toxin-overload are beyond coincidental.
The medical world believes that illnesses don’t begin in the head, rather, in the gut. A toxic gut and a toxic liver can hinder the proper functioning of the rest of the organs, thus impeding healing and recovery, while triggering a whole new range of problems like a weakened immunity, low energy levels, fatigue and depression, and obesity.
Plus, the way you deal with your problems could also be making your condition worse. For instance, do you use caffeine to cope with fatigue? Do you binge on processed sugary snacks when you’re stressed out? You can bet that’s only adding to the list of toxins that are already collecting in your body. The more the toxins, the slower your organs are going to function, and the more worse your symptoms are likely to get.
The Dangers Of Conventional Fibromyalgia Treatments
In order to cure any disease successfully, it’s important to tackle the underlying cause of the condition first. However, since no one has been able to pinpoint what actually causes fibromyalgia, the medical system continues to prescribe drugs such as antidepressants, painkillers, and anticonvulsants to manage the symptoms of this condition.
However, as mentioned earlier, the long-term use of these drugs can cause you more harm than good. For instance:
- Lyrica: an anti-convulsant that’s commonly prescribed to fibromyalgia patients can cause side effects like weight gain, blurry vision, and sleepiness 6
- Cymbalta: an antidepressant that’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can trigger suicidal thinking and behavior 7
- Paracetamol: a common pain-killer often prescribed to fibromyalgia patients can cause nausea, abdominal pain, and even death especially when taken in large doses. 8
- Opioids: also called narcotics, are often prescribed to help fibromyalgia patients deal with pain. Chronic opioid use can lead to sleep disorders and even hyperalgesia, a condition characterized by a heightened state of pain sensitivity.9 10
Natural Ways To Treat Fibromyalgia
Unlike conventional medicine, functional medicine looks at finding the root cause of fibromyalgia. Many sources have claimed to see improvements in their condition after tackling the problem of toxin buildup in their bodies. The best part? This doesn’t even require any drugs!
Turn to the following list of natural remedies to help cleanse your system naturally, and you may be surprised to find your symptoms improving with time.
- Clean up your diet: fibromyalgia has been linked several times to various nutritional deficiencies, namely vitamin D, magnesium, and iron deficiency. 11 12 13 Focus on a diet that includes plenty of fruits and veggies, fiber, protein, healthy fats, and probiotics to keep your nutrition levels on point.
- Involve yourself in moderate exercise: while it may seem like the last thing you want, gentle, engaging in moderate exercise on a regular basis can help you manage your symptoms. Start with something that resonates well with your joint pain; some good options include aerobics, tai chi, water-based activities, yoga, gentle walking, and stretching. These will also help regulate your sleep and mood, two other factors which can also influence the intensity of fibromyalgia.
- Get yourself regular massages: sure, massages can help dial down the stress, but there’s also another benefit. Massages, especially hot oil ones are the best possible remedy to help relieve tense muscles and the associated muscle soreness that fibromyalgia is so notorious for causing.
- Keep a symptom-diary: different people will have different trigger points when it comes to experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia. Some common triggers include physical exertion, stress and anxiety, allergies, and changes in the weather. If you’re not aware of what yours may be, try keeping a ‘symptom diary’ to record your triggers. Being mindful of your triggers can help you tackle them and in turn, manage your symptoms.
- Experiment with hot and cold packs: hot water bottles, heat packs, saunas or hot baths can reduce joint stiffness and muscle soreness. While heat works wonders for some people, others may find that cold packs are more effective in curing their symptoms.
- Get yourself enough rest and sleep: getting plenty of good-quality sleep can be one of the best medicines to help restore your health. Not only will this help build resilience to stress, but will also help bring down your pain.
|↑1, ↑6, ↑7||Living with Fibromyalgia, Drugs Approved to Manage Pain. U.S. Food & Drug Administration.|
|↑2||Ferguson, James M. “SSRI antidepressant medications: adverse effects and tolerability.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry 3, no. 1 (2001): 22.|
|↑3||[ref]Bourdeaux, Chris, and Jeremy Bewley. “Death from paracetamol overdose despite appropriate treatment with N-acetylcysteine.” Emergency Medicine Journal 24, no. 5 (2007): e31-e31.|
|↑4||Fibromyalgia. Office on Women’s Health.|
|↑5||Crinnion, Walter J. “The CDC fourth national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals: what it tells us about our toxic burden and how it assist environmental medicine physicians.” Altern Med Rev 15, no. 2 (2010): 101-9.|
|↑8||Bourdeaux, Chris, and Jeremy Bewley. “Death from paracetamol overdose despite appropriate treatment with N-acetylcysteine.” Emergency Medicine Journal 24, no. 5 (2007): e31-e31.|
|↑9||Cheatle, Martin D., and Lynn R. Webster. “Opioid therapy and sleep disorders: risks and mitigation strategies.” Pain Medicine 16, no. suppl_1 (2015): S22-S26.|
|↑10||Volkow, Nora D., and A. Thomas McLellan. “Opioid abuse in chronic pain—misconceptions and mitigation strategies.” New England Journal of Medicine 374, no. 13 (2016): 1253-1263.|
|↑11||Wepner, Florian, Raphael Scheuer, Birgit Schuetz-Wieser, Peter Machacek, Elisabeth Pieler-Bruha, Heide S. Cross, Julia Hahne, and Martin Friedrich. “Effects of vitamin D on patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.” PAIN® 155, no. 2 (2014): 261-268.|
|↑12||Eisinger, J., A. Plantamura, P. A. Marie, and T. Ayavou. “Selenium and magnesium status in fibromyalgia.” Magnesium research 7, no. 3-4 (1994): 285-288.|
|↑13||Pamuk, Gülsüm Emel, Ömer Nuri Pamuk, Turan Set, Orbay Harmandar, and Nesibe Yeşil. “An increased prevalence of fibromyalgia in iron deficiency anemia and thalassemia minor and associated factors.” Clinical rheumatology 27, no. 9 (2008): 1103.|