If you’re one of the estimated 6 to 18 million people in the U.S. with fibromyalgia, you already know how easy it is to feel tired and run down. Once you have what’s called a fibromyalgia “flare,” when your symptoms are at their worst, it can take quite a while to recover. The key to recovering from a flare is prevention, because there’s little you can do to stop a flare once it has started. Here are some points to consider about how your immune system plays a role in fibromyalgia flares.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia Flares
Experiencing a fibromyalgia flare is very similar to feeling like you have a virus. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and a general feeling of being run down.
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include digestive complaints including irritable bowel syndrome, depression, chemical sensitivities, allergies, and yeast/candida overgrowth.
Is Fibromyalgia an Immune System Disorder?
Fibromyalgia shares most of its symptoms with autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. However, researchers do not yet agree on a definite cause for fibromyalgia and therefore it is unknown if it’s an immune system disorder.
What we do know is that a fibromyalgia flare is more likely to occur at times when your immune system is already run down. It is unknown whether the weakened immune system is the cause of the fibro flare or is just occurring at the same time, but ultimately the goal in either case is prevention.
The Role of Stress in Fibromyalgia
Stress is one of the possible triggers for fibromyalgia flares. If you have fibromyalgia, you already know that flares often follow periods of great stress at work, at home or in your finances. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a history of stress is strongly linked to fibromyalgia. Physical and emotional stress both put you at greater risk of having a fibro flare so it’s important to take steps to reduce your stress response.
Tips for Boosting Your Immune System
The techniques that promote a healthy immune system are many of the same ones that help us to deal with stress. If we can address stress in a productive manner and try to lead a balanced life, fibromyalgia flares may be less likely. Here are some of the best self-care techniques you can take:
- Get some exercise every day. Exercise can be an intimidating thought when you have fibromyalgia. Since you’re already fatigued, it sounds like exercise will make you even more tired. However, the opposite is true. Even 10 minutes of gentle walking is better than no exercise. The goal is to just get your body moving and the result is that your symptoms will likely improve.
- Sleep tight. Sleep deprivation is almost like a badge of honor in American culture. Although too little sleep takes its toll on everyone, people with fibromyalgia are more vulnerable than most to its effects. Make a serious effort to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, good fats, and lean protein. Fibromyalgia patients are more affected by a poor diet than average, so eating well plays a major part in actually feeling well.