Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a neurological condition characterized by a variety of symptoms, but most pertinently, by widespread pain in “tender points” throughout the body. The causes of the syndrome are largely a mystery, which makes both diagnosis and treatment a challenge. Nonetheless, the syndrome is widespread, affecting more than 10 million people in the United States alone.
Because conventional medicine hasn’t discovered how fibromyalgia works, treatment has to be a little bit of “trial and error.” Diagnosing the syndrome in the first place can even be a challenge, and then it’s likely that your health care provider will combine drugs, natural remedies and other measures to give you some relief. Below we also list some other causes of the syndrome that both you and your doctor might overlook.
1. Gluten intolerance
Intolerance of gluten is called celiac disease and is actually an autoimmune disorder. Gluten is the protein in wheat and other grains, and intolerance is almost completely determined by genetics. You are far more likely to have celiac disease if it is prevalent in your family.
While the disease is obviously related to what you eat, it doesn’t necessarily present as a digestive issue. Rather, as it is autoimmune in nature, so it presents as a neurological condition. Patients might have pain, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, fatigue and depression. These are often the same kind of symptoms as fibromyalgia, so it can often be confused with that condition.
In fact, gluten intolerance has been linked to 55 different diseases, which can mean that your symptoms might be determined by a dietary issue.
2. Candida overgrowth
Candida is a natural and helpful part of the natural fauna of our intestines. Usually, a very small amount of it lives in our intestines. However, when you get too much sugar in your diet, this yeast gets overproduced. Living in North America, getting too much sugar in your diet can be very difficult to avoid. Not only do you have to be aware of the sugar you add, but many foods already have a great deal of sugar added.
When there’s too much of candida, this normally beneficial yeast breaks down the wall of the intestines and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic by-products into your body and causing a host of unpleasant symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues and pain. These symptoms will no doubt sound very familiar to anyone suffering fibromyalgia. Again, your suffering might just be a result of diet.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia can be very similar. Many of the neurological complaints that come with fibromyalgia also occur in hypothyroidism, including brain fog, sleep issues and depression. The major difference, of course, is that fibromyalgia sufferers also have pain, while hypothyroid patients do not.
Nonetheless, it’s important that your doctor make certain your thyroid is working properly, so that hypothyroidism can be ruled out. Thyroid function is checked through a blood test, and this will often come back negative for a person with fibromyalgia. What that might mean is that the hormone levels in the blood that the test is measuring might be just little outside of the norm. Therefore, your doctor will need to check for “optimal” levels rather than the standard levels.
4. Vitamin deficiencies
Fibromyalgia sufferers may also be deficient in various vitamins and minerals. Any of these levels are readily available from a standard blood test. The most common vitamin deficiencies are magnesium, vitamin D and B12 among fibromyalgia sufferers. Any of these can be easily supplemented by pills bought in a grocery or drugstore.
5. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Leaky gut
Our bodies play host to more bacteria than we have cells. The vast majority of these bacteria are beneficial and, indeed, essential to the proper function of our body. When bacteria get either over- or under-populated through antibiotics or too much sugar in our diet, we have difficulty absorbing nutrients.
An imbalance in intestinal flora or bacteria can lead to SIBO or a condition called leaky gut. Both can be caused by too much gluten, and these conditions can lead to gluten and other food intolerances. These can, in turn, cause you to suffer from fibromyalgia. Along with problems caused by candida overgrowth, this shows the importance of dealing with digestive issues in anyone with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia can be brought on by environmental factors as well as issues within the body itself. Mycotoxins are toxic substances released by molds in the environment. These toxins can also cause you to begin suffering fibromyalgia symptoms. Elevated levels can be determined from a simple blood test.
If it’s found that this is the issue in your case, the solution might be as simple as moving from your office to a less moldy area, and getting treated for the toxins you’ve already been exposed to. Of course, if the mold is in your home, it might be a more complicated process to remove it from your environment.
7. Mercury toxicity
Many people have silver fillings in their teeth. These fillings are actually about half mercury, and every time you chew, grind your teeth or have a cleaning, they release some mercury into your body. There are also sources of mercury in other places in the environment. Mercury can be found in fertilizers, pesticides, car exhaust, drinking water, fabric softeners, fish, paint pigments, floor waxes, polishes, batteries, mascara, body powder and air conditioning filters.
Mercury poisoning can cause fibromyalgia among a variety of other diseases and syndromes, including Alzheimer’s, asthma, arthritis, ALS, Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, acrodynia, emphysema, eczema and autism. Unfortunately, testing for levels of mercury in the body isn’t as simple as a blood test, since mercury is locked in tissues, rather than floating in the blood. However, if you have silver fillings, it’s worth investigating.
8. Adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a slowing down of the adrenal glands to levels which cause you difficulty. It is often the result of long-term stress, but it can also arise because of long-term infections. It results in a feeling of chronic exhaustion and so a patient will often self-medicate with coffee, colas or other stimulants to get themselves going.
Fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue often go together, and people who suffer from FMS will often also have at least a certain amount of adrenal gland malfunction. It isn’t clear whether the prolonged stress of FMS pain has caused the adrenal fatigue, or whether the fatigue caused the FMS in the first place, but what is clear is that the two syndromes often go together. Measures to support adrenal function can help with some aspects of FMS.
9. MTHFR mutations
Mutations to a particular gene called the MTHFR gene. The gene regulates the production of an enzyme that processes folate so that the body can use it. Dysfunction in this gene disrupts your normal process of “Methylation,” which affects many essential bodily functions and can thereby lead to FMS.
However, this mutation can be worked around to some extent. Dietary supplements can be taken to substitute for some of the nutrients that you aren’t getting because of problems with your MTHFR gene.
You can find out about the condition of the MTFHR gene through a genetic test that any conventional lab can provide.
10. Glutathione deficiency
Glutathione (pronounced “gloota thigh own”) is an essential part of the body’s immune system. It is the primary agent responsible for detoxification and is also the most important antioxidant in cells. It is a small protein produced naturally by the cells, and is the basis of a healthy immune response and the ability to control pain. Unfortunately, it is common for FMS sufferers to be deficient in this protein.
This protein cannot simply be supplemented in pill form, but needs to be produced in the cells themselves. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the glutathione precursors in the diet. This can be done either through the food you eat, or by consuming supplements of the necessary nutrients.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of things that may be causing your fibromyalgia. Because FMS doesn’t have a simple test to diagnose, it will be incumbent on you and your doctor to investigate different options. Also, what many of these conditions are dependent on are dietary issues. Either too little of an important nutrient is missing, or too much of a harmful substance. Either way, it is obvious that regulating your diet is as important as anything your doctor can do for you. Obviously, diet is not the only concern, but it plays an important part in dealing with FMS.
“What Primary Physicians Should Know about Environmental Causes of Illness.” by William J. Rea, MD. Virtual Mentor. American Medical Association. Vol. 11, No. 6. pp. 473-476. http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2009/06/oped1-0906.html.
“Glutathione(GSH).” By Jimmy Gutman, MD. American Healthcare Foundation. http://www.americanhealthcarefoundation.org/fibromyalgia-md/GSH.cfm.
“10 Causes Of Fibromyalgia Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About.” by Dr. Amy Myers. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10103/10-causes-of-fibromyalgia-your-doctor-doesnt-know-about.html.
“Adrenal Function in Fibromyalgia.” AdrenalFatigue.org. http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/fibromyalgia.