Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia
You might feel lonely, isolated, and depressed. You might feel frustrated. You might feel like the pain is never going to stop. You might not be able to remember what life without pain even feels like. You might be tired of explaining to people how you feel, because they will never understand anyway. You might be sick of everyone telling you its going to be okay. You might be tired of listening to things like think positive, have more faith, be patient. You might feel very alone even as a member of a big family or community. You might feel like a burden, a freak of nature, a ball and chain on the legs of your family and friends, redundant and useless. You might feel like there is no bright side, no silver lining, no point. Your world might lose its colors and just turn black and white. You no longer care why is this happening to you, you just want it to end. Living with chronic pain can turn the brightest days into nightmares and the happiest, most positive people, into miserable, desperate, and lonely shells of their former selves.
Overcoming chronic pain is probably one of the most difficult things to deal with. Chronic pain is a complex issue, and despite what it may sound like to people who never experienced such a thing, its not just physical. There is a huge emotional factor in the equation; living with constant physical discomfort and pain has a heavy impact on your mental well-being. Stress, poor sleep, being fatigued and at the same time hurting all the time, often without a proper diagnosis or treatment on the horizon this is something only a person who actually lived it day in and day out can understand. No wonder you can feel misunderstood, alone, and hopeless.
When it comes to chronic pain disorders, like fibromyalgia, the mainstream medical system often focuses on covering up the symptoms instead of looking for the root cause of the condition. But this does nothing more than sweep the dust under the rug. The problem is still there, you just cant see it. The main reason is most likely the difficulty in diagnosing the condition because it comes with all kinds of different symptoms, different levels of severity, and is usually accompanied by other health issues like leaky gut, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), chronic infections like Lyme, allergies, inflammation, heavy metal or mold toxicity, irritable bowel syndrome, joint pain (possibly from arthritis or Sjogrens), anxiety and depression, and other autoimmune conditions. For many people these concurrent issues may even be the underlying cause of fibromyalgia symptoms. There is no universal description of how fibromyalgia behaves. Every patient can and will have a different set of symptoms. Two people suffering with fibromyalgia may have symptoms that are nothing alike.
A set of symptoms that characterize one specific disease is usually labeled as a syndrome. When mainstream doctors use the word syndrome, they usually are describing something they have no idea HOW to treat. I get that it is difficult to look a patient in the eye and say: I have no idea what’s wrong with you and I don’t know how to help you. Its a major blow to the ego of any practitioner. But instead of admitting it, they pull out the prescription pad and that is when common medications comes in and you get prescribed drugs like ibuprofen to relieve pain, antidepressants, or anti-seizure medications like Lyrica. But once you check the list of common side effects of the last drug we mentioned, you might realize that something is terribly wrong here: headache, stabbing pain, memory problems, lack of coordination, swelling, balance problems or even nightmares and trouble sleeping those are just some of them. The question we should be asking: is there a safer, better, and more sustainable treatment for me than a drug that can cause the exact same symptoms I am trying to treat?
There are no lab tests to diagnose fibromyalgia. Patients are diagnosed based on their symptoms and medical history, and in some cases by process of elimination. The causes of autoimmune disorders, which fibromyalgia is very closely linked to, are not very clear to the medical community. Theory says that fibromyalgia can be caused by a genetic problem that is activated by viral or bacterial infections, or by physical or emotional trauma. Several studies showed connection between fibromyalgia and digestive problems (gut infections, leaky gut, SIBO, dysbiosis) these studies are available to read here, here and here.
In many cases fibromyalgia is also secondary to another autoimmune condition, such as Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s, Graves, Diabetes, etc. Here you can see that the disease you are dealing with has no general diagnosis, description, or cure. There are some common patterns, but not a lot of answers. As a fibromyalgia patient, you probably know more people with the same condition, but a different set of symptoms, and just like those symptoms can be unique for every patient, the way to approach treatment needs to be individualized.
What we are trying to do here is encourage you to find your own root causes of the disease and to help you through the process, not by adding medication, but by removing things from your life that we know will help you reduce your symptoms and improve the quality of your life. The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery reminds us that less is more with his amazing quote: Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. The approach to health and quality of life has a very similar premise. What we should focus on with treating complex health issues is removing the triggers, rather than adding more potential toxic load. Beating your head against the wall and taking painkillers when your head starts to hurt, instead of just stopping the beating that is insane and not what we want you to do. If you want to cool a fire, you don’t throw more gasoline on it!
Every pain has a cause and that cause needs to be identified and eliminated. When a body is overburdened with poor food choices, chemicals, toxins, and medications, it is hard to pinpoint the real cause of any issue, so removing all potential culprits from your life is the safest and most reliable way to find and address the problem. Its like being at an incredibly noisy and chaotic party and trying to have a conversation with a friend next to you. You have to turn down the music, settle the rowdies, and clean up the mess before you can focus and have that important discussion. Pain is a signal, it is your body trying to talk to you.
What we eat has a huge impact on our overall health, as each cell in our body is fed by nutrients we ingest; so high quality, nutrient dense foods are essential. Eliminating certain food groups that are not just nutritionally empty, but also harmful to the gut, is a great first step on your journey to managing symptoms of not just fibromyalgia, but basically every chronic disease. 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract and taking good care of our gut means building a strong defense mechanism within our bodies, without the need for medication. A healthy body is capable of fighting diseases, viral or bacterial infections, or managing inflammation.
Many foods, especially refined flour, refined white sugar, gluten (the protein present in all grains, but strongest in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, corn, and oats), refined, hydrogenated, or fried vegetable oils, and processed dairy might be detrimental to our health because of their ability to hurt our intestines. Eliminating these foods for a few weeks or months will give your body time to heal itself first, and then start restoring its original healthy state to be able to function properly again, without constant pain and inflammation.
Balancing your gut flora, the friendly bacterial colony living in your gut, means building a strong army of microscopic pathogen fighters, making your body able to better cope with viral infections even without the need to take antibiotics. A well chosen probiotic supplement and healing proteins like l-glutamine are an excellent way to speed up the healing process, support your immune system, and restore your intestinal flora. Using a natural analgesic tincture like CBD oil also helps to manage pain and inflammation, without hindering your healing process like NSAIDs do.
After removing harmful things from your plate, your next focus should be on eliminating toxins and harmful chemicals from your personal environment. These toxins are everywhere nowadays, in cosmetics, perfumes, cleaning detergents, plastics, toys, or even clothing items. The most dangerous toxins are heavy metals, especially mercury (in dental fillings). In our bodies, heavy metals displace minerals like iodine, magnesium, or selenium, making these key nutrients unavailable for us and creating mineral and enzyme deficiencies in our bodies. Supplementing with an appropriate amount of the minerals your body lacks is a wonderful option, as is getting rid of toxic chemicals around you. A natural detoxifier like Zeolite will speed up the process of detoxifying your body from all the pollution and heavy metals that likely accumulated in your system over the years. Always know what is in your body lotion or dishwashing soap; anything you put on your skin gets absorbed directly into your bloodstream, so it is better to stick to natural products, made with hypo-allergenic, toxin-free ingredients. There are a lot of options on the market, but you need to read your labels, just as with food.
Remember, you are not alone in this. Even though navigating through all these changes can be overwhelming, you can always seek support and inspiration within a community of likeminded people who are going through the same process. We created a Facebook page dedicated specifically for fibromyalgia patients as well as closed Facebook group for all of you in the need of personal support and individual help. If you have no one around to lean on, you can always share your own specific issue within the group and get advice or tips from people who experience very similar circumstances. If you just need to pour your heart out to someone who understand what you are going through, there are over 5000 people in the group offering support, and seeking supporter themselves. And for those of you who are ready to make serious lifestyle changes, but are not sure where to start, we’ve made the 7 Day Challenge, a tool to guide you through the process, to help you avoid paralysis from over-analyzing, and to make your journey less stressful by presenting information you can either read or watch in video form. The Facebook Fibromyalgia resources are updated daily and moderated to make sure you get the best quality information and support possible, so you can improve the quality of your life. There is no silver bullet, but there is a silver lining. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and you are the person who needs to take the steps. And once again, remember, you are not alone. We’ve got your back.