I have seen many people with fibromyalgia try to get help after facing many barriers when trying to relieve their symptoms, or even get a firm diagnosis. The lack of agreement on best practices for symptom relief makes this condition difficult to navigate, and the frustration is often made worse by the wide range of possible symptoms, often without a predictable pattern. But Functional Medicine has a lot to offer.
Fibromyalgia doesn't have to hold you back, read on to learn about holistic approaches that are showing a lot of promise.
A 2010 study looking at the journey to diagnosis study found that fibromyalgia patients waited an average of about one year before even seeing a healthcare practitioner, and many had to see multiple practitioners with an average of 2.3 years before concluding they in fact had fibromyalgia.
In recent years we have seen some promising developments in fibromyalgia research, with particularly exciting developments being made regarding holistic practices that can help ease the severity of symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men, and is more likely to appear as menopause begins (as if menopausal women didn’t have enough to deal with!).
For many patients, the most pressing symptom is unexplained widespread pain in the soft tissues, the areas between the bones like fat, muscle, fibrous tissue and blood vessels. People with fibromyalgia describe the sensation as a dull, constant pain, which is often triggered by touch, and can become progressively more debilitating. Most often, this pain occurs at multiple points, called regions of pain, on both sides of the body and above and below the waist.
Other symptoms can include:
Many patients also report mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating - a symptom often described as “brain fog.”
That’s quite an extensive list of symptoms, and to further complicate matters, patients can experience combinations of different symptoms at different times.
The wide range of symptoms and their unpredictable nature make diagnosis a challenge. A definitive diagnostic test isn’t yet available, and as a result, many people struggle with symptoms for months or years before arriving at a solution. If you suspect you may have fibromyalgia, always work with a medical practitioner who doesn’t dismiss how you feel. Your concerns deserve to be heard.
Arriving at a fibromyalgia diagnosis is partly a process of elimination, since other health issues, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis or Sjogren’s disease can cause many of the same symptoms. A thorough physical and mental health exam can help narrow down the cause.
Because fibromyalgia is much more common in women, men may face additional barriers to diagnosis. It’s important to note that this condition does occur in men, and that the symptoms can greatly impact their quality of life. Men who are experiencing the symptoms above may need to be even more persistent in pursuing a diagnosis.
This is another difficult element of fibromyalgia, since studies haven’t yet identified a specific trigger. However, many medical practitioners have noticed that it often begins after a patient has experienced a physically or emotionally traumatic event, like a car accident, relationship breakdown, or injury. This connection is further supported by the fact that people who have post-traumatic stress disorder are more prone to fibromyalgia.
Some evidence points to a genetic component for a person’s susceptibility. If you’re experiencing symptoms, think about your relatives’ health history. Conventional medicine has been slow to recognize fibromyalgia, so even if a relative wasn’t diagnosed officially, having a history of fibromyalgia symptoms could be a red flag.
Hormones can play a big role in your pain and how sensitive your body is to it. Having estrogen dominance and or low progesterone levels may be one of the causes of Fibromyalgia. When you don’t have enough progesterone, you often feel tired, fatigued or sluggish which is also related to fibromyalgia. Fibro-fog and weight gain are other symptoms that also overlap and you will likely see some results when using progesterone cream. It has also been helpful to reduce other common fibromyalgia symptoms such as depression, insomnia and widespread pain. You can find out more about our Progesterone creams here. Natural hormonal balance for women and men. - Organic Excellence
To date, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, there are numerous natural ways to help relieve symptoms and restore quality of life, including:
Acupuncture can help increase blood flow to the affected areas, helping to reduce pain and tension. It may also boost production of endorphins, which can have a positive impact on mood.
When you’re tired and sore, exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do, but numerous studies have linked exercise with good outcomes for people with fibromyalgia. Yoga has been found to be especially useful in easing both physical and psychological symptoms. Other effective activities include walking, any exercise in water, and strength training. Be sure to always work with a professional trainer to get acquainted with strength work, preferably one who has treated fibromyalgia patients before.
Remember that consistency is more important than intensity. Don’t push yourself, small amounts of exercise help but you don’t want to overdo it and cause more pain.
Many patients find an anti-inflammatory diet helps ease their symptoms. In particular, a diet that is low in FODMAPs is often effective. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, but in simpler terms, FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates which may cause inflammation or digestive upsets.
Common high-FODMAP foods include:
As you can see, FODMAPs are found in a lot of foods, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients by swapping for nutritious foods low in FODMAPs. The goal isn’t to eliminate FODMAPs forever, but to find an amount that works for you.
Implementing these lifestyle changes can reduce the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia and restore your quality of life. Starting a new diet or supplement regime without support is not recommended. If you’d like some help with specific elements, or just want support in the process, give us a call. We’d be glad to help.
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