Fibromyalgia is a painful and debilitating disorder that has moved from being officially labeled psychosomatic to one that has now received widespread acceptance by the medical establishment. It now has its own CPT codes and diagnostic criteria. This has allowed patients who suffer from this painful syndrome to receive a more sympathetic ear when reporting their symptoms to conventional medical providers. The downside to this acceptance is that patients are now often only offered treatment that involves a lifetime of analgesic and immunosuppressant medication.
For some time now functional medicine has approached fibromyalgia using a comprehensive model for understanding the cause(s) of fibromyalgia. Applying these principles can lead to dramatic improvement in symptoms where sufferers often describe their status as “cured”.
At his presentation at The Epic Conference in Houston, Texas Dr. Alex Vasquez laid out a model for understanding the underlying pathology that leads to fibromyalgic symptoms. Dr. Vasquez has written extensively in the field of Functional Medicine, most recently completing the fourth edition of his massive text Inflammation Mastery. Recently he has released an excerpted portion of that book called Brain Inflammation. These books go to the heart of the triad of Pain, Inflammation and Fatigue.
In 1990 the criteria for a diagnosis of Fibro was based on a physical examination where 18 points on the body were investigated and if more than 11 were very tender the diagnosis was made. In 2010 the diagnostic criteria changed to one based solely on a patient’s reported pain level and locations; there was no longer the need for a physical exam to make the diagnosis. This diagnosis could then be added on to any arthritic diagnosis and the indicated medications prescribed. This change was at the behest of the pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Vasquez’s studies have led him to a causative model that is much more in line with a functional medicine approach. The three primary causes of fibromyalgia are:
Dysbiosis, Mitichondrial dysfunction and Neural inflammation/ central sensitization.
Dysbiosis translates as “Bad Bugs”. This is a condition when the normal intestinal flora has been disturbed. A common cause is the overuse of antibiotics in food production and medicine. Another is the standard American diet that is full of preservatives and toxins and nutritional deficiencies due to diet choices and the production, processing and transportation of food. Dysbiosis can also lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome and SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
The second major factor that contributes to fibromyalgia is Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Mitochondria are the “power plants” of our cells. The causes of mitochondrial malfunction fall basically into two categories. The first being toxic exposure and nutritional deficiency. In addition to the environmental toxins that we are all familiar with, dysbiotic compounds from the intestines are major sources of mitochondrial damage. Typical symptoms of these toxins include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. Mitochondria require nutrition for optimal function. Also, Coenzyme Q10, Carnitine, essential fatty acids as well as normal insulin and glucose function.
The third contributing factor for fibromyalgia is Neural Inflammation. These nerves are responsible for the pain, depression, fatigue, psychosis, seizures and degeneration. Certain nerves known as microglia become activated leading to up-regulation of the glutamate receptors. These nerves are responsible for the pain, depression, fatigue, psychosis, seizures and degeneration. This excess glutamate can be converted to the “good” neurotransmitter GABA using P5P supplementation with the help of magnesium and B2. (P5P is the natural form of vitamin B6).
The general, comprehensive treatment includes a paleo diet low in fermentable carbs; constipation solutions to reduce intestinal toxin absorption; a quality multi vitamin; vitamin D supplementation at 4-10,000/day; magnesium malate @ ~600 mg/day (with vit C to control constipation); high quality essential fatty acids including ALA, EPA, DHA, GLA, Oleic acid; probiotics &/or antimicrobials; exercise, sleep and relaxation.
Thanks to doctors of Functional Medicine like Dr. Vasquez we have a science-based, safe and effective approach to understanding and treating Fibromyalgia.
In addition to being a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and an Applied Kinesiologist, Dr. Gleason is a 4th generation home builder and engineer— he correlates the two sensibilities in his approach, “A person’s health is similar to that of building a house- good planning, good science, good materials make for good health as well as a good home”.
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. See ad page 29.