By Mandy Froelich / Life in Bloom
Did you know? Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions in the world. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, the disorder affects approximately 10 million people in the United States and an estimated 3-6% of the world population. Most of those affected are women (75-90 percent), but fibromyalgia is seen in men and children of all ethnic groups.
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), I believe that when the body is given the proper tools and support it needs, healing can occur. That is the premise of “holism.” Although the cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown and a “cure” does not yet exist, inflammation and nerve pain can be benefited by implementing some of the following recommendations. I hope they are beneficial to you and your families.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic, widespread pain. It can also encompass a variety of other symptoms, including tenderness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. Over time, fibromyalgia can make it difficult to perform simple, everyday activities, including climbing stairs, light household tasks, and walking short distances.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The cause of fibromyalgia is still being researched, but theories exist, of course. Two (of many) follow:
According to the American Chronic Pain Association, central nervous system defects are believed to play a role in the pathophysiology of the condition. Alterations in both the ascending and descending pain pathways in the central nervous system may also contribute to fibromyalgia.
Anthony Williams, the author of Medical Medium, believes that fibromyalgia is a result of stage four Epstein Bar Virus’ (EBV) neurotoxins creating chronic inflammation of both the central nervous system and nerves throughout the body. This can result in mild cracks, tears, and exposed root hairs that create sensitive spots on the nerves. In his book, Thyroid Healing, William adds that some varieties of EBV go as far as to bind to weak points, creating even more inflammation and pain.
10 tips for improving fibromyalgia and reducing nerve pain:
1. Support Your Immune System
When overcoming chronic illness, boosting the immune system is typically the first step. Elizabeth Wotton, N.D., a naturopathic doctor at Compass Family Health Center in Plymouth, Massachusetts, explained: “People with this condition often get laid out by colds and flu. They’re up, then they’re down. They just don’t have very good resistance.”
To support the immune system, Dr. Wotton prescribes the herb astragalus (in pill or liquid form), which is known as deep immune support. Some studies have found that it increases the activity of the protective cells and raises the level of antibodies in your immune system. Echinacea also helps to boost the immune system. The herb rallies or speeds infection-fighting white blood cells to the site of an infection.
2. Get plenty of sleep
To manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, being well-rested is crucial. Getting enough sleep helps combat the fatigue that accompanies the condition. For better sleep, try the following:
- Limit midday naps
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time
- Avoid screen time just before sleeping
- Avoid alcohol and coffee before sleeping
- Leave 2-3 hours between a heavy meal and going to bed
As Medical News Today reports, a 2017 review found a solid link between fibromyalgia pain and poor sleep quality.
3. Supplementation Recommendations
In addition to eating a well-balanced and healthy diet (with an emphasis on natural, plant-based foods), proper supplementation can help improve the condition. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine products, and illegal drugs are recommended to reduce stress and improve the mood.
Scientists at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) have been investigating the effects of dietary supplements. The following have been found to have the most effective in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms.
- Vitamin D
- S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)
Some people who suffer from fibromyalgia have found relief from using topical products containing capsaicin, which is the substance in chili peppers that makes them hot. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of this remedy, however. Furthermore, this treatment may not be ideal for those who have sensitive skin.
4. Get a lift with Ginseng
Deep weariness is one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia. It’s brought on by frequent pain, stress, and a lack of energy. Fortunately, ginseng can help. The herb is a tonic that helps you feel less run-down.
The idea that ginseng is an energy booster is actually false. It’s an apoptogenic herb, rather than a stimulant. In the case of stress and fatigue, the adrenal glands may be functioning erratically. If they are working too hard, pumping out too many hormones, ginseng will reduce this action. If they aren’t functioning well and aren’t releasing enough hormones, ginseng can stimulate them to produce more.
“By supporting adrenal glands, ginseng increases endurance and strengthens a person’s ability to withstand stress,” said Dr. Wotton. “In that way, it can boost energy and bolster the immune system, even though it doesn’t have a direct effect on the immune system, even though it doesn’t have a direct effect on the immune system itself.”Natures Medicines 1999
She continued: “People with fibromyalgia sometimes get in their situation because they don’t let up and either can’t or won’t give themselves and their bodies a break. Finally, their bodies just get worn down.”
5. Reduce Stress Levels
Many people who live with fibromyalgia report that high-stress levels exacerbate their symptoms. Studies have also identified links between psychological distress and fibromyalgia.
To stress less, try the following:
- Walk, jog, or do yoga regularly (or all three!)
- Journal (the good and the bad)
- Keep in touch with friends and family members
- Join a support group for people with fibromyalgia
Even the CDC states that reducing stress through yoga, massage, and meditation may help people with fibromyalgia.
6. Add Healthy Fats to Your Diet
In fibromyalgia, there is clearly inflammation in the muscles and likely in the intestinal tract. This is why consuming more anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E is essential. Healthy, fatty foods that help reduce inflammation include avocado, chia seeds, fax seeds, hemp seeds, fatty low-mercury fish, coconut oil, and olive oil.
7. Boost Enzymes and Stomach Acid
Sometimes, deficiencies are due to poor absorption of minerals and vitamins in the digestive tract. People with fibromyalgia often have low levels of stomach acid, which can lead to an incomplete breakdown of food and proteins.
To increase stomach acid (and possibly help flush the Epstein Barr Virus from your system), you can try drinking 16 oz of fresh celery juice on an empty stomach each morning. I did, and my health improved a bit (read more). You can also increase stomach acid by supplementing with betaine hydrochloride before each meal. Drinking 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar with water on an empty stomach in the morning may also improve stomach acid levels naturally.
Note: if you take betaine hydrochloride and notice a burning sensation, just take a capsule with one or two meals instead of three. You can do this for several months; eventually, your body should start producing enough hydrochloric acid to continue without supplementation.
Although it may be difficult to muster up the energy to exercise, doing so may provide pain-relieving benefits. Furthermore, as muscle strength and endurance are built up over time, discomfort should decrease. Note: Before starting an exercise program, people with fibromyalgia should consult with their doctor. A physical therapist can help set up a suitable program.
According to a Cochrane systematic review, doing regular aerobic exercise – including swimming, cycling, or walking – is likely to improve health-related quality of life for people with fibromyalgia. It can also lead to better physical function and reduced pain, fatigue, and stiffness.
Furthermore, a neurological study found that a 15-week exercise program partly reversed a usual type of brain activity that affects people with fibromyalgia when the brain is at rest. Participants also reported a decrease in the severity of their symptoms.
9. Rest Up
When you’re feeling less than your best, it may be tempting to try and check off a lot of tasks. However, doing so can actually result in more of a set-back.
Trying to do too much exercise or too many activities can increase pain and fatigue. For this reason, moderation is key. If you feel like you need a break, listen to your intuition. If you feel ready to take on the day, heed that feeling. Too many people feel as if they need to be productive 100% of the time, and this is neither healthy nor sustainable.
10. Massage Therapy, Chiropractic & Acupuncture
Alternative modalities that may provide relief include acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage therapy. Gentle manipulation can increase the range of motion, promote relaxation, and relieve pain.
In 2014, a systematic review found that 5 weeks or more of massage therapy led to significant improvements in pain, anxiety and depression in people with fibromyalgia. Furthermore, a review of studies found low-to-moderate evidence that acupuncture may provide some benefits for people with fibromyalgia, mainly the reduction of pain and stiffness. More research is necessary to confirm its effectiveness, however. Chiropractic may benefit fibromyalgia by reducing subluxation, improving nerve pain and overall wellness.
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