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Fibromyalgia, like most modern day 'syndromes,' is considered 'idiopathic' – a fancy word for "we don't know," and often times used as an excuse for not looking deeper into the root causes of the patient's suffering. Conventional treatment is palliative at best, and harmful at worst -- all the more reason why natural approaches are so greatly needed.
Thankfully, a significant body of research has accumulated on natural approaches to fibromyalgia that focus on dietary modification, avoidance of chemical exposures and the use of orthomolecular nutrition, i.e. vitamins, biological co-factors, minerals, etc.
The Gluten-Fibromyalgia Connection
A recent study indicates that the consumption of wheat can play a significant role in fibromyalgia (FMS), a condition mainly characterized by long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues, but which has also been linked to fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and headaches.
Published in BMC Gastroenterology and titled "Clinical impact of a gluten-free diet on health-related quality of life in seven fibromyalgia patients with associated celiac disease,"[i] the researchers describe their most relevant finding as follows:
"[T]he remarkable improvement achieved for all outcome measures after one year of uninterrupted GFD [gluten free diet] in 7 CD [celiac disease] females previously categorized as severe IBS/FMS patients recruited through case-finding among IBS and FMS patients."
The researchers pointed out that fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a condition whose causes remain enigmatic, with no currently available imaging technologies or analytical tests available for an objective diagnosis. All the more reason why their findings hold great promise in the treatment of FMS patients through gluten removal, and perhaps the indentificaiton of the condition as one of hundreds of possible extra-intestinal manifestations of celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
"The striking results of the present trial suggest that a triggering gluten-related autoimmune inflammatory process within the gastrointestinal tract may end up contributing to the onset or increasing the well-documented central nervous system sensitivity responsible for FMS disorder in some CD- or gluten-sensitive individuals . This hypothesis appears to be consistent with the increased prevalence of FMS described in women with different chronic inflammatory processes within the gastrointestinal tract [31,32], and with the fact that our patients reported a long-term history of gastrointestinal complaints preceding the onset of generalized FMS symptoms by decades. Specifically, the comorbid triad of IBS, chronic fatigue and musculoskeletal pain has been considered striking, and other authors have suggested that it may point to an underlying common food hypersensitivity-related mechanism ."
Additional Evidence-Based Natural Interventions For Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia research has expanded significantly over the past two decades, with many natural interventions now gaining attention and increasingly, clinical validation. These include:
- Magnesium: It has been known since at least 1994 that fibromyalgia patients have lower levels of magnesium in their red blood cells than normal subjects.[ii] [iii] Additionally, a 2008 study found that fibromyalgia patients have an association between fatigue and serum magnesium levels.[iv] As far back as 1995, researchers confirmed in double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study that a combination of malic acid (200 mg) and magnesium (50 mg) is an effective treatment for patients with primary fibromyalgia.[v] A 1999 study found that fibromyalgia patients had higher levels of calcium and magnesium levels in their hair, and that supplementation with these minerals reduced the number of tender points, indicating their potential therapeutic role in treatment.[vi]
- Vitamin D: Deficiency of vitamin D is common in fibromyalgia patients and occurs more frequently in patients with anxiety and depression.[vii] A 2009 study found that vitamin D treatment in fibromyalgia patients resulted in mild short-term improvement in the overall fibromyalgia impact score.[viii] A more recent 2014 study found that the optimization of vitamin D levels in fibromyalgia patients had a positive effect on the perception of pain.[ix]
- Cellfood: A 2007 single-blind, cross-over, randomized placebo-controlled trial involving 320 subjects found that a supplement known as Cellfood (deutrosulfazyme), believed to increase oxygen levels while simultaneously reducing oxidative stress in the body, improved symptoms of fibromyalgia and quality of life.[x]
- Coenzyme Q10: A 2007 study found that levels of the antioxidant and mitochondrial cofactor coenzyme Q10 are about 40% lower in fibromyalgia patients versus healthy controls, indicating a possible therapeutic role in its use to address this deficiency.[xi]
- D-Ribose: A 1985 study found that D-ribose significantly reduced clinical symptoms in 66% of patients suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.[xii]
- Vitamin C and Broccoli: A 2000 study found that a combination of a food-derived vitamin C (100 mg) and broccoli (400 mg) supplement resulted in a 20.1% decrease in pain and a 17.8% decrease in fibromyalgia impact scores.[xiii]
For additional research on 20 natural substances that may be of value in fibromyalgia, visit our research page on the topic: Fibromyalgia Natural Interventions.
In addition to these palliative remedies and dietary changes, it should be brought to the attention of the reader that preventable environmental exposures are top on the list of contributing causes of fibromyalgia. The following should be kept in mind:
- Breast Implants: In a previous article titled, "Implanted: The Myth of the Cancer-Free Breast Implant," we touched upon the clearly defined link between autoimmune disease and breast implants.[xiv] Indeed, fibromyalgia and chronic pain has been discussed as a possible adverse consequence of them.[xv] [xvi]
- Statin Drugs: Linked to over 300 adverse health effects in the biomedical literature, this class of chemical, cholesterol-lowering drugs can devastate human health. Muscle pain and damage, of course, is one of the most well-known side effects of statin drugs. It is no surprise, therefore, that research points to their link with fibromyalgia as well.[xvii]
- Aspartame and MSG: A 2001 case study established the therapeutic value of removing aspartame and MSG from the diets of fibromyalgia patients.[xviii] MSG and dietary glutamate were shown again in 2012 to be particularly problematic for fibromyalgia patients.[xix]
- Vaccine Adjuvants: It has been hypothesized that the use of aluminum-based adjuvants such as aluminum hydroxide in vaccines to stimulate the TH2 pole of immunity may result in musculoskeletal pain consistent with conditions such as fibromyalgia.[xx]
Over 20 Complementary Modalities for Fibromyalgia
Finally, and most interestingly perhaps, is the fact that there have been over 20 different therapeutic actions studied for improving fibromyalgia patients, including:
- Mindfulness Training: A 2007 study found that mindfulness training improved depression in fibromyalgia patients, [xxi] as did a similar 2009 study.[xxii] A 2009 study found it reduced their psychological distress.[xxiii]
- Yoga: A 2007 study found that yoga practice has therapeutic effects in fibromyalgia patients, [xxiv] as did a similar 2010 study which resulted in improvement in "standardized measures of FM symptoms and functioning, including pain, fatigue, and mood, and in pain catastrophizing, acceptance, and other coping strategies."[xxv] A 2011 study found an eight-week yoga intervention resulted in improvement in pain, psychological functioning and mindfulness, and changes in cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia.[xxvi]
- Guided Imagery: A 2006 study found that guided-imagery improved functional status and sense of self-efficacy for managing pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.[xxvii] A 2008 study showed relaxation in combination with guided-imagery improved the condition of fibromyalgia patients.[xxviii]
- Raw Food: A 2001 study found that 19 out of 30 fibromyalgia patients experienced significant improvement in their condition after the implementation of a mostly raw food diet.[xxix]
We hope this article reveals the promise of a functional, naturally oriented medical model. Identify the root causes, i.e. dietary triggers, chemicals, nutritional deficiencies and remove them, instead of pretending like hiding behind a relatively newly named syndrome is anything less than a cop out.
[i] Luis Rodrigo, Ignacio Blanco, Julio Bobes, Frederick J de Serres. Clinical impact of a gluten-free diet on health-related quality of life in seven fibromyalgia syndrome patients with associated celiac disease. BMC Gastroenterol. 2013 ;13(1):157. Epub 2013 Nov 9. PMID: 24209578
[iii]G Moorkens, B Manuel y Keenoy, J Vertommen, S Meludu, M Noe, I De Leeuw. Magnesium deficit in a sample of the Belgian population presenting with chronic fatigue. Magnes Res. 1997 Dec;10(4):329-37. PMID: 9513929
[iv] Omer Faruk Sendur, Engin Tastaban, Yasemin Turan, Cevval Ulman. The relationship between serum trace element levels and clinical parameters in patients with fibromyalgia. Rheumatol Int. 2008 Sep;28(11):1117-21. Epub 2008 May 22. PMID: 18496697
[v] I J Russell, J E Michalek, J D Flechas, G E Abraham. Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study. J Rheumatol. 1995 May;22(5):953-8. PMID: 8587088
[vi] S Y Ng. Hair calcium and magnesium levels in patients with fibromyalgia: a case center study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Nov-Dec;22(9):586-93. PMID: 10626702
[vii] D J Armstrong, G K Meenagh, I Bickle, A S H Lee, E-S Curran, M B Finch. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia. Clin Rheumatol. 2007 Apr;26(4):551-4. Epub 2006 Jul 19. PMID: 16850115
[viii] David S Arvold, Marilyn J Odean, Maude P Dornfeld, Ronald R Regal, Judith G Arvold, Gene C Karwoski, David J Mast, Paul B Sanford, Robert J Sjoberg. Correlation of symptoms with vitamin D deficiency and symptom response to cholecalciferol treatment: a randomized controlled trial. Endocr Pract. 2009 May-Jun;15(3):203-12. PMID: 19364687
[ix] Florian Wepner, Raphael Scheuer, Birgit Schuetz-Wieser, Peter Machacek, Elisabeth Pieler-Bruha, Heide S Cross, Julia Hahne, Martin Friedrich. Effects of vitamin D on patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Pain. 2014 Feb ;155(2):261-8. PMID:24438771
[x] M E Nieddu, L Menza, F Baldi, B Frediani, R Marcolongo. [Efficacy of Cellfood's therapy (deutrosulfazyme) in fibromyalgia]. Reumatismo. 2007 Oct-Dec;59(4):316-21. PMID:18157288
[xi] M D Cordero, A M Moreno-Fernández, M deMiguel, P Bonal, F Campa, L M Jiménez-Jiménez, A Ruiz-Losada, B Sánchez-Domínguez, J A Sánchez Alcázar, L Salviati, P Navas. Coenzyme Q10 distribution in blood is altered in patients with fibromyalgia. Clin Biochem. 2009 May;42(7-8):732-5. Epub 2008 Dec 25. PMID: 19133251
[xii] Jacob E Teitelbaum, Clarence Johnson, John St Cyr. The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study. Vopr Pitan. 1985 Jul-Aug;(4):51-4. PMID: 17109576
[xiii] B Bramwell, S Ferguson, N Scarlett, A Macintosh. The use of ascorbigen in the treatment of fibromyalgia patients: a preliminary trial. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):455-62. PMID:11056415
[xiv] W Peters, D Smith, V Fornasier, S Lugowski, D Ibanez. An outcome analysis of 100 women after explantation of silicone gel breast implants. Ann Plast Surg. 1997 Jul ;39(1):9-19. PMID:9229086
[xv] S L Brown, G Pennello, W A Berg, M S Soo, M S Middleton. Silicone gel breast implant rupture, extracapsular silicone, and health status in a population of women. J Rheumatol. 2001 May;28(5):996-1003. PMID:11361228
[xvi] Ruud C W Vermeulen, Hans R Scholte. Rupture of silicone gel breast implants and symptoms of pain and fatigue. J Rheumatol. 2003 Oct;30(10):2263-7. PMID: 14528527
[xvii] Kari Soininen, Mikko Niemi, Esa Kilkki, Timo Strandberg, Kari T Kivistö. Muscle symptoms associated with statins: a series of twenty patients. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2006 Jan ;98(1):51-4. PMID: 16433891
[xviii] J D Smith, C M Terpening, S O Schmidt, J G Gums. Relief of fibromyalgia symptoms following discontinuation of dietary excitotoxins. Ann Pharmacother. 2001 Jun;35(6):702-6. PMID:11408989
J D Smith, C M Terpening, S O Schmidt, J G Gums. Relief of fibromyalgia symptoms following discontinuation of dietary excitotoxins. Ann Pharmacother. 2001 Jun;35(6):702-6. PMID:11408989
[xix] Kathleen F Holton, Douglas L Taren, Cynthia A Thomson, Robert M Bennett, Kim D Jones. The effect of dietary glutamate on fibromyalgia and irritable bowel symptoms. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2012 Jul 4. Epub 2012 Jul 4. PMID: 22766026
[xx] R K Gherardi. [Lessons from macrophagic myofasciitis: towards definition of a vaccine adjuvant-related syndrome]. Rev Neurol (Paris). 2003 Feb;159(2):162-4. PMID: 12660567
[xxi] Sandra E Sephton, Paul Salmon, Inka Weissbecker, Christi Ulmer, Andrea Floyd, Katherine Hoover, Jamie L Studts. Mindfulness meditation alleviates depressive symptoms in women with fibromyalgia: results of a randomized clinical trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2007 Feb 15;57(1):77-85. PMID: 17266067
[xxii] Sahana D'Silva, Cristina Poscablo, Racheline Habousha, Mikhail Kogan, Benjamin Kligler. Mind-Body Medicine Therapies for a Range of Depression Severity: A Systematic Review.Psychosomatics. 2012 Aug 14. Epub 2012 Aug 14. PMID: 22902090
[xxiii] Tara Sampalli, Elizabeth Berlasso, Roy Fox, Mark Petter. A controlled study of the effect of a mindfulness-based stress reduction technique in women with multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. J Multidiscip Healthc. 2009;2:53-9. Epub 2009 Apr 7. PMID: 21197347
[xxiv] Gerson D da Silva, Geraldo Lorenzi-Filho, Lais V Lage. Effects of yoga and the addition of Tui Na in patients with fibromyalgia. J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Dec;13(10):1107-13. PMID:18166122
[xxv] James W Carson, Kimberly M Carson, Kim D Jones, Robert M Bennett, Cheryl L Wright, Scott D Mist.A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia. Pain. 2010 Nov;151(2):530-9. PMID: 20946990
[xxvi] Kathryn Curtis, Anna Osadchuk, Joel Katz. An eight-week yoga intervention is associated with improvements in pain, psychological functioning and mindfulness, and changes in cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia. J Pain Res. 2011 ;4:189-201. Epub 2011 Jul 26. PMID:21887116
[xxvii] Victoria Menzies, Ann Gill Taylor, Cheryl Bourguignon. Effects of guided imagery on outcomes of pain, functional status, and self-efficacy in persons diagnosed with fibromyalgia. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):23-30. PMID: 16494565
[xxviii] Victoria Menzies, Sunny Kim. Relaxation and guided imagery in Hispanic persons diagnosed with fibromyalgia: a pilot study. Fam Community Health. 2008 Jul-Sep;31(3):204-12. PMID:18552601
[xxix] M S Donaldson, N Speight, S Loomis. Fibromyalgia syndrome improved using a mostly raw vegetarian diet: an observational study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2001;1:7. Epub 2001 Sep 26. PMID: 11602026