By Dan Gleason, DC
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by painful muscles (fibro means stringy or fibrous, myo means muscles and algia is pain). It can be identified by poking the patient on specific points of the body to determine if a significant number are painful to pressure. If so, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. For many years, mainstream medicine denied the existence of this painful and often debilitating condition. Now, it is accepted as a real condition even though it is typically labeled idiopathic, meaning “we don’t know what causes it.”
Medical doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseizure, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications; which may or may not provide some symptomatic relief. Functional medicine practitioners look for causal factors, including pro-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, multifocal dysbiosis, psycho-emotional stressors, physical stressors, toxic exposure and accumulations or hormonal imbalances.
In order to assess these possible contributing factors, a functional practitioner may conduct the following tests: CBC with differential, CMP blood chemistry, inflammation markers, ANA and other tissue antibody tests, celiac and other food allergy/sensitivity panels, comprehensive stool testing and/or ION testing for individual nutritional and toxicity status.
Armed with this information, the next step in functional medicine is an individual program of diet and supplementation designed to address some of the underlying causative factors.
If it is not possible to undertake this comprehensive functional approach, there are several general approaches that may be helpful. Various inti-inflammatory diets (gluten/dairy free, anti-estrogenic, plant-based and even carnivore have worked for some patients). Short-term fasting may give significant relief. Fasts can take the form of daily (eat within a six-hour window), weekly (e.g., fast every Saturday), monthly (fast the first week or weekend of every month) or yearly (one to two weeks per year). Fasting offers a distinct anti-inflammatory effect and may help re-calibrate the inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatory supplements including omega-3s, curcumin, ginger, glucosamine, chondroitin, boswellia and rosemary may be helpful.
If there are associated digestive issues several supplements can be tried. These include oil of oregano, berberine, artemisia, bismuth, peppermint, betaine hydrochloride or vinegar and/or probiotics.
In addition, dealing with blood sugar imbalance, including pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and overweight, often reduces inflammation of the body related to elevated insulin levels.
While physical measures such as massage and exercise might be too painful or aggravating, cold laser has been shown to be helpful in many cases and has been recently cleared by the FDA for treatment of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is painful and can significantly reduce quality of life. To improve quality of life, seek out a functional medicine practitioner or try some of the general approaches for more relief.
Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410.