Conventional medicine has yet to uncover the cause of fibromyalgia and only offers management of symptoms through pain medications and antidepressants.
Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks to find the root cause of fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases, treating the problem at the root level to restore the patient to health. As a functional medicine physician, I've helped many patients recover from fibromyalgia. Below are the top ten root causes of fibromyalgia I see in my clinic.
1. Gluten intolerance
Gluten has been liked to more than 55 diseases and is often called the "big masquerader." The reason for this is that the majority of gluten intolerance symptoms are not digestive in nature, but are instead neurological, such as pain, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, fatigue and depression.
2. Candida overgrowth
Candida is a fungus, or yeast, and a very small amount of it lives in your intestines. When overproduced, Candida breaks down the wall of the intestines and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body and causing a host of unpleasant symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues and pain. Virtually every one of my patients with fibromyalgia has had Candida overgrowth.
It's vital that your doctor check all six blood markers to accurately measure your thyroid gland’s function. It’s also imperative that your doctor use the optimal levels rather than the standard reference range when assessing and diagnosing thyroid disorders. Getting my patient’s thyroid levels into an optimal range typically alleviates their fatigue, brain fog, sleep disturbances and depression.
4. Vitamin deficiencies
Magnesium, vitamin D and B12 deficiency are the most common vitamin deficiencies I see in those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I've had several patients completely reverse their fibromyalgia symptoms with magnesium alone. The best way to measure magnesium is a red blood cell (RBC) magnesium level, which can be tested through any conventional lab.
5. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Leaky gut
There are more bacteria in us and on us then there are of our own cells. When these bacteria get out of balance through use of antibiotics or a sugar-rich diet, we can lose our ability to digest and absorb nutrients, particularly B12. Gluten can cause SIBO and leaky gut and SIBO and leaky gut can lead gluten and other food intolerances. It’s a catch-22 and a vicious cycle. You must "fix the gut" first in anyone with fibromyalgia.
Mycotoxins are very toxic substances produced by molds. Conventional environmental mold testing only tests for levels of mold spores and does not test for mycotoxins. I use a urine mycotoxin test in my clinic to determine if someone has been exposed to toxic molds.
7. Mercury toxicity
I recommend that all my patients find a biological dentist and have their mercury amalgam fillings removed. Mercury is toxic to our bodies and can be one piece of the puzzle for those with fibromyalgia. I then recommend heavy metal testing using a pre- and post-DMPS urine challenge test.
8. Adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is a result of the chronic stress. Chronic pain is a stress to the adrenal glands, though it's typically not the initial adrenal stressor. The initial stressor is usually something such as food intolerances, Candida, mercury toxicity, vitamin deficiencies or mycotoxins. My goal is to support the adrenals with adaptogenic herbs while we search for the root cause of the stress and correct it.
9. MTHFR mutations
This is a genetic test you can get though any conventional lab. The more mutations you have to the MTHFR gene the less able you are to methylate and detoxify toxins, such as mercury and lead. The more mutations you have at this gene the higher your requirements for methyl-B6, methyl-B12 and folinic acid in order to keep your detoxification pathways working properly.
A Genetic Test You Don’t Need Testing MTHFR is usually unnecessary
MTHFR codes for an enzyme that helps your body convert homocysteine into an amino acid that processes proteins. People with mutations or variations of MTHFR may end up with homocystinuria, a disorder that affects the eyes, joints and other parts of the body. High homocysteine levels also have been connected to heart disease and strokes.
There is a genetic test for MTHFR variations. But there’s also a cheaper and more accurate way to test for whether MTHFR variations are causing disease. We simply check the levels of homocysteine in the blood. If levels are high, we can react appropriately. If homocysteine levels are normal — even if there is an MTHFR variation — then nothing needs to be done clinically.
In other words, the homocysteine levels determine our actions, not the MTHFR test results.
Not only is the test for homocysteine levels simple, but so are the solutions. People with high homocysteine levels typically respond well to supplementation with vitamins such as B6, B12, and folate or folic acid.
10. Glutathione deficiency
Glutathione is the most critical part of our body’s detoxification system. Glutathione gets recycled in our body — unless our toxic burden gets too high, or we lack GSTM1 and GSTP1, the enzymes needed to recycle and produce glutathione. Taking glutathione or the precursors (NAC, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle) often help dramatically with fatigue.
As you can see from the above list, many of these causes are interrelated, and often there's no single root cause of fibromyalgia. Because getting to the root can be complex, I recommend that you find a functional medicine physician in your area to help uncover the root cause for you. You don't need to suffer needlessly or mask your symptoms with pain medications and antidepressants.
Researchers just linked chronic fatigue to changes in gut bacteria
It's not in your head.
Researchers have identified biological markers in both gut bacteria and blood that can be used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome - also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS - in more than 80 percent of patients tested.
ME/CFS is currently difficult to diagnose – it was only last year that it was properly classified as a real disease, and the existing treatment options are limited and controversial.
But this new research will allow patients to be diagnosed more rapidly, and with greater accuracy - and could eventually lead to a better understanding of exactly what causes the mysterious condition.
In the new study, researchers at Cornell University used biological markers for diversity in gut bacteria, as well as blood-based inflammatory markers - such as lipopolysaccharides and C-reactive protein - to diagnose the presence or absence of ME/CFS in 87 patients.
Out of the group, 48 had ME/CFS, and 39 were healthy controls - and simply by looking at their biological markers, the team could predict which was which with an 83 percent accuracy rate.
Not only is that exciting in terms of future diagnostic tests, but it also suggests a link between gut bacteria health and ME/CFS.
"Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn't normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease," said Maureen Hanson, the paper’s senior author.
"Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin."
That’s important, because many doctors still think of chronic fatigue as nothing more than extreme "exhaustion".
But the researchers found that ME/CFS patients had less diversity in their gut bacteria than the control group - specifically, fewer bacterial species that were anti-inflammatory and more which were pro-inflammatory.
They could also identify changes and specific markers of inflammation in the blood, which the researchers think could be due to intestinal problems leaking bacteria into the blood – which triggers an immune response, and might worsen symptoms in patients.
"In the future, we could see this technique as a complement to other non-invasive diagnoses, but if we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets, using prebiotics such as dietary fibres or probiotics to help treat the disease," said Ludovic Giloteaux, first author for the new research.
This isn’t the first time that scientists have come up with a biological way to diagnose ME/CFS. Earlier this year a group of Australian scientists used SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms - which are single letter changes to DNA) to be able to detect ME/CFS in up to 80 percent of cases.
As far as we’re concerned though, the more tests the better, because that means patients can get diagnosed quicker.
As Bec Crew explained for us back in March:
"While we’re still a long way off finding a cure for the disease, the serious lack of adequate diagnostic and screening tools has made living with chronic fatigue syndrome even more difficult, because the uncertainty surrounding it has led many to assume it’s not a 'real' disease. "Patients are isolated and further stigmatised by disbelief of their condition," says Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik from Griffith University."
The more scientists understand about this disease, the more likely it is we will be able to find a way to treat it.
Already researchers have found that for some ME/CFS sufferers, a particular type of cancer drug called rituximab - which wipes out a type of white blood cell - can ease symptoms, further suggesting that this disease is linked to the immune system.
To be clear, the researchers still aren’t sure if this change in gut bacteria is one of the causes of ME/CFS, or whether it’s a symptom. And further research is required to figure out what's going on.
But with new research linking gut bacteria to things like your weight, risk of stroke, and mental health, it doesn’t seem unlikely that it might play a role in the disease.
The study has been published in Microbiome.