Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons; fatigue; and multiple tender points on the body. While no one knows what causes fibromyalgia, there is evidence that people with the condition may be more sensitive to pain because something is wrong with the body’s usual pain perception processes. More women than men have fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia tends to come and go throughout life. It also tends to coexist with sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. Fibromyalgia can be debilitating for some people, but it is not degenerative or life-threatening. You can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life with professional care and self-care.
What Causes It?
No one knows what causes fibromyalgia. Several theories and multiple factors may bring on the condition, including:
- Changes in brain chemicals – Some people with fibromyalgia have abnormal levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Specifically, they have low levels of serotonin, which affects mood, promotes sleep, and helps reduce the perception of pain. They often have high levels of substance, which transmits the “pain message” to the brain.
- Deregulation of the autonomic nervous system – The autonomic nervous system releases hormones that affect how you react to stress. Some doctors think people with fibromyalgia release these hormones differently when they experience stress, and the hormones affect the perception of pain.
- Sleep problems – The majority of people with fibromyalgia report sleep problems, and especially have trouble with stage 4 sleep, the most restful stage in which the body repairs itself. Some doctors believe that the lack of restful sleep means that the muscles of people with fibromyalgia are not able to repair the tiny tears and trauma that occur everyday, leading to muscle pain and fatigue. Other doctors believe that sleep problems are a result, not a cause, of fibromyalgia.
- Injury and infection – Fibromyalgia can be triggered by an injury, especially to the upper spine or neck, or an infection caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Genetics – The tendency to get fibromyalgia may sometimes be inherited.
Having another rheumatic disease — You may be more likely to get fibromyalgia if you have a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Nutrition and Supplements
These nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
- Eliminate potential food allergens, including dairy, wheat (gluten), corn, soy, preservatives, and food additives. Your doctor may want to test for food sensitivities.
- Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits (such as blueberries and cherries), and vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and bell peppers).
- Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
- Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy) or beans for protein.
- Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil or coconut oil.
- Reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods, such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, and limit foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Avoid foods with additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
You can address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
- SAMe may assist in fibromyalgia — including pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, and depressed mood.