Fibromyalgia Natural Treatment Options
Posted on September 11, 2013
Fibromyalgia, also known as Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), or "fibro" by its closest friends, is a debilitating, chronic disease characterized by:
- Body aches
- Pain in specific pain points around the body
- Difficulty concentrating (the so called "fibro fog")
- Mood disturbances, especially mild depression, but also anxiety
Historically, many doctors did not think fibromyalgia was even a real disease. But over the past few years, fibromyalgia is becoming increasingly recognized as a real disease, especially since the cause of the disease is somewhat better understood.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed
There are now official criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. They include:
- Widespread muscle pain
- Specific tender points on the body, especially around the shoulders
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
There is increasing evidence that trauma increases the probability of developing fibromyalgia.
By trauma we mean something like a fall, a car accident, surgery, or a sports injury. It is likely that fibromyalgia patients are born with a hereditary predisposition towards the disease.
But then the traumatic event somehow triggers the disease to come forward and develop.
Food allergies, especially undiagnosed food allergies, are another potential cause of fibromyalgia.
Some researchers speculate that gluten intolerance, for example, can trigger the immune system to over-react, and in turn triggering widespread chronic inflammation, and the disease we call fibromyalgia.
Similarly, environmental allergies, such as allergies to mold, food additives, and other allergens are believed to trigger widespread inflammation, and in turn trigger fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fibromyalgia Treatment Options
Looking at the list of symptoms above, it's clear that fibromyalgia is extraordinarily difficult to treat.
The basic goals for treating fibromyalgia are:
- Decrease pain/increase overall comfort
- Improve mood
- Improve sleep
- Improve energy levels
As a result, the exact treatment strategy depends a lot on the actual symptoms experienced by the FMS sufferer.
While there are prescription options, such as pain killers and anti-depressants available, these drugs are fraught with side effects. So natural fibromyalgia treatments are highly sought after by patients.
What are some natural fibromyalgia treatment options?
Again, there is no single magic fibromyalgia treatment that will work for everyone. It really depends on the overall symptoms and treatment goals.
Inflammation - As mentioned earlier, the root problem with fibromyalgia is widespread pain caused by chronic, widespread inflammation. Prescription anti-inflammatories may help, but they have significant side effects. Some examples of safe, all-natural fibromyalgia options to fight inflammation include:
Curcumin Turmeric - Turmeric is a yellow spice with strong anti-inflammatory properties. One of the challenges with turmeric supplements is that turmeric is not absorbed well from the intestines into the circulation. Fortunately, there is one product that has solved this problem.
The other issue with turmeric is that many people give up on it too quickly. Taking it for a day or two will not provide instant relief. Rather, take it daily for a month or two before giving up on it.
Omega 3 - Fish oil supplements are being increasingly recognized as having good anti-inflammatory properties. So we would definitely include them as a member of the natural treatment options for FMS especially fish oil products which are high in EPA.
Bromelain - Bromelain is an enzyme that is found in pineapples, especially their stems. Bromelain is an excellent digestive aid which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Given the link between food, digestion, and fibromyalgia, it may be prudent to include a digestive aid as part of your natural fibromyalgia treatments. Bromelain is available either plain or in combination with other ingredients to improve its performance.
Pain - Body aches and pain are hallmarks of fibromyalgia. And, like other nerve inflammatory diseases such as sciatica, FMS pain can be difficult to treat. Taking anti-inflammatory measures mentioned previously will help. But when pain relief is needed, there are a few natural treatment options, which we divide accordingly:
Local Pain - While fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain, many patients have areas of the body where the pain is more intense than other areas, such as the shoulders or lower back.
Heating pads are also an excellent alternative.
Plus, all of these methods can be used with any oral prescription drug, non-prescription drug, or dietary supplement. In other words, the combination of an oral and a topical pain reliever can provide the pain relief you're looking for.
Systemic Pain - Traumeel tablets are the only natural pain reliever we recommend for fibromyalgia. Too many natural pain relievers are out there making claims which are not supported by clinical proof. But Traumeel is different. It has the proof, and is the only one we feel comfortable recommending.
Mood and Sleep - There is some evidence that fibromyalgia is associated with low levels of serotonin in the body. This is thought to be the reason why:
a) some FMS patients suffer from mood disturbances and mild depression
b) why many FMS patients have difficulty sleeping
c) why certain anti-depressants which block our body's ability to eliminate serotonin actually provide some benefit in FMS.
So the two, disturbed sleep patterns and changes in mood, may be linked in fibromyalgia patients from disturbances in serotonin levels.
In fact, physicians tend to label "true fibro" patients as having all of the symptoms associated with low serotonin:
- Poor sleep
- Increased pain
- Irritable bowel symptoms
- Brain fog
Unfortunately, one cannot simply take serotonin as a supplement. The side effects of taking this potent hormone are unknown. Plus, it's difficult to get serotonin into the system from an oral pill.
5-HTP provides a better option.
What is 5-HTP? Simply put, 5-HTP is the body's natural precursor to serotonin. Our bodies already make 5-HT and convert it to serotonin as needed.
So a 5-HTP supplement can help boost serotonin levels, which can improve both mood and sleep.
Similarly, melatonin is a well-known natural supplement which helps many people improve their sleep patterns. However, as with serotonin, it's difficult to get melatonin into our circulation.
With melatonin, sublingual tablets which dissolve under the tongue are the best approach. As the tablet dissolves, the melatonin passes through the thin membranes in our mouths and enters the blood stream that way.
So melatonin could be a good natural treatment option for fibromyalgia patients who are experiencing sleep disturbances.
Don't want to take a supplement to help with sleep? Try a new pillow!
Exercise - It might seem backwards to think exercise can help fibromyalgia. But for many patients, light, regular exercise, such as walking and cycling, are a great way to stay fit, elevate the mood, and relieve anxiety. Plus, getting tired from exercise can help FMS patients fall asleep faster.
Yoga is another excellent way to gain fitness while fighting FMS.
There are a number of natural fibromyalgia treatments available. This is great news because it means that the treatment approach can be highly customized, depending on the symptoms being treated.
One final piece of advice...be cautious with any natural fibromyalgia treatments which claim they can "cure" fibromyalgia.
FMS is not a disease which is easily treated, let alone cured. A cure may be in the future someday, but for now, no cure is available.
The best thing we can do now is to customize the therapeutic approach based on symptoms.