Prayer is always on the top of my list when it comes to healing of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person. Studies have show that prayer is an effective form of treatment and healing. There are documented changes in brain-wave patterns while a person is in prayer, thus rendering a heightened state of well-being. We feel uplifted and loved when we pray from our hearts, and that which we ask, we shall receive when the time is right! Far too often I have encountered patients with FMS willing to pray for others, but forgetting to pray for themselves.
Self-Hypnosis is also a wonderful tool to learn and practice on a daily basis. This technique is easy to learn, either by reading from a book, or taking a one-day seminar on the topic. The idea is to “re-program” our thinking, by changing how we talk to ourselves on a daily basis. By taking 5-10 minutes per day to sit in silence and perform deep breathing techniques, you will change your inner dialogue to promote healing of the mind and body by your thoughts and words you say our loud or to yourself. Unfortunately, I have encountered some resistance when attempting to promote this form of self help, due to ignorance and narrow minded religious beliefs. Some individuals do not believe it is not possible to heal your body by changing the way we think and the way we talk to ourselves. However, consider the fact that we are influencing our lives every day simply by our inner dialogue and thought process. Why not learn how to use this to your benefit, instead of your detriment? Self-Hypnosis is a simple, effective way to use the powers of words and positive suggestion to enhance our everyday lives.
Meditation is another way to calm the conscious mind and allow the unconscious mind to do its normal duties. Even though our conscious mind is wonderful at problem solving and creativity, it often gets egotistical, thinking it has the right to govern and control the functions of our bodies which are best left to be performed by that of the unconscious mind. If we had to think about breathing every time we needed to, we would certainly be in trouble if we became absent minded about this process! The same goes for the reverse scenario, when our conscious mind attempts to control the function of digestion, the immune system, musculoskeletal system, hormonal balance, and sleep patterns. The scenario is similar to sending in a Plumber to fix your BMW. Just as a plumber has no business doing mechanical repair on your car, the conscious mind has no business performing duties of the unconscious mind. Meditation allows the intuitive side of our unconscious minds to be balanced with that of the conscious, creative, logical mind, and often slows down internal dialogue. Restoring harmony and balance in the mind will restore harmony and balance within the body.
Walking, Swimming, Yoga and Pilates are all wonderful physical exercises to help condition and stretch muscles, bring increased oxygen and nutrients to the musculoskeletal system, and enhance the balance of mind and body. Performing Yoga 2-3 times per week can help reduce physical pain associated with FMS, and will also help improve quality of sleep. Attend a class in your town, or purchase a video tape to do at your own leisure. There are many wonderful instructors around, so ask some friends or family if they have heard of any good classes. If this is not of interest, then consider joining your local gym to do light aerobic activity or a light weight training regimen. If time is of the essence, simply begin walking for 10-30 minutes every other day, and this will help increase circulation and balance insulin levels. Remember, begin an exercise routine gradually and easily, or you will have increased symptoms until your body gets used to the physical activity. It is always important to discuss an exercise routine with your Doctor before getting started.
Watching a funny movie is a wonderful way to enhance your mood, and lighten the burden of heavy emotions. Laughter will increase the body’s natural pain killers and increase levels of seratonin in the brain, generating an enlightened mood and less body pain. Even if one considers depression a result of FMS, it is essential to break that cycle of pain and sleep disturbance. This is a very simple, natural way to elevate your mood and decrease physical pain.
Watching a “sad” movie, despite the fact that I have encouraged an uplifting movie, sometimes it is necessary to get in touch with our true hidden emotions, and a “sad” movie is just what is called for. This is especially helpful when one feels increased anger, due to frustration and perhaps physical pain. A good heart-felt cry will bring one in touch with the true buried emotions within. Consider the fact that the movie does not actually have to be Old Yeller kind of sad, just something that is inspiring and emotional. For example, one of my favorite “grounding” movies is The Legend of Bagger Vance. This movie is a personal favorite of mine, and always brings a tear of joy to my eyes.
Listening to music can enhance the creativity within us, and therefore promotes more “right brain” activity. The best advice I can give is to allow your intuition to be your guide. I personally have quite a collection of all different types of music, and have been inspired by many different genres. Resist the urge to logically limit yourself to “easy listening” when you feel like hearing something more upbeat or perhaps downright loud and obnoxious. Believe it or not, Metallica can even be inspiring and healing for some individuals, it just depends on how an individual interprets the lyrics and music. The power of music can help evoke feelings and moods on all ends of the emotional spectrum, but essentially the ultimate goal is to perceive the world as Louis Armstrong did in the song “What a Wonderful World”. Whether it is Metallica or Louis Armstrong, the point of the matter is the unconscious mind knows exactly what is needed to get to that state of inner peace and innocence of perception.
Additional help in dealing with the emotional aspects of FMS can be obtained through several self-help books. One of my favorite for Fibromyalgia patients is “Reinventing Your Life” by Dr. Jeff Young et al. This book will help bring better understanding of oneself, and is a good place to begin with the emotional aspect of the syndrome. Knowing yourself is the path to both healing and wisdom. Another book that is much less known about is “A Cure by Crying”, by Thomas Stone. This book takes a lay-person viewpoint about the effectiveness of crying to release old emotional wounds, by getting in touch with buried emotions and letting the pain out by crying. I have found it to be very much to the point, and also extremely effective as an aide to mind-body healing.
Essential Nutritional Supplements
Vitamin A Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin essential for maintaining cellular integrity, and also helps in the growth of tissue, bone development and helps support the immune system. In addition, Vitamin A plays a role in protein synthesis, therefore is essential for proper muscle cell repair, and other soft tissues of the skeletal system. There is also a need for Vitamin A in the absorption process of proteins and amino acids. For this reason, it is necessary for patients with FMS to supplement with this vitamin. This is a fat-soluble vitamin, and therefore absorbs best when taken with a meal, or with other fat-soluble vitamins. Typically, 5000 IU of Vitamin E is sufficient for FMS patients, but it is advantageous to also supplement with an additional 5000 IU of Beta-Carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A.
B-Complex B-vitamins are essential for energy production within the cells of the body, especially muscle cells. They provide the proper enzyme conversion of sugars into a high energy compound called ATP. Each B-Vitamin has its own role, but generally speaking, the primary role is production of energy, and proper function of the nervous system. Most of the B-Vitamins actually work in concert, so they should be taken together. It should be noted that supplementation with a “B-50” complex is recommended for FMS patients (50 mg of B1, B2, B3, B6, and 50 mcg of B12). Stress will deplete these vitamins, because of the extra usage of them. They are water soluble and therefore excess B-Vitamins will be secreted in the urine. Supplementation of B-Vitamins is essential with FMS, and also helps to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, by decreasing homocystine levels in the blood. Folic acid is mostly responsible for this function, and therefore 1 mg of folic acid is recommended, an increase from the USRDA 400 mcg.
Beta-Carotene Most of the time, beta-carotene is referred to as a “pro-vitamin”, because the body has the ability to convert it into Vitamin A, and therefore performs the same functions. Beta-carotene is slightly water soluble, and there is a benefit to supplementation with both Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A. Therefore, 5000 IU of Beta-Carotene is idea to take along with 5000 IU of Vitamin A.
Biotin Biotin is responsible for making glucose from sources other than carbohydrates. This is essential when there is increased physical demand on muscles, by simply assisting in the release of energy from the foods we eat. This vitamin also involved with oxidation of fatty acids and some amino acids. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 250 mcg/day.
Boron Boron is a trace mineral which plays a role in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus metabolism. It is not yet considered essential, but research suggests it helps bone and joint health. Recommended supplementation is 500 mcg/day.
Vitamin C Everyone is familiar with this vitamin, yet the importance of supplementation is of significant importance with FMS. Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, which can help to deter the replication of viruses within the body. It is also an antioxidant, helping to protect against cellular destruction from environmental chemicals, as well as protection against unwanted by- products of normal metabolism. Vitamin C is an essential component in formation and repair of connective tissue. In summary, if there truly is a viral cause of Fibromyalgia, vitamin C will help boost the body’s own immune system. For this reason alone, we recommend at least 1000mg of C per day. Vitamin C is water soluble, so it can be consumed in higher quantities.
Chromium Several years ago Chromium came into the supplemental spotlight due to the stabilizing effect it has on glucose levels in the body. Recall the blood sugar roller coaster we described a few paragraphs ago while talking about protein? This supplement helps to maintain ideal blood sugar levels, and therefore increases energy, enhances mood, and indirectly helps promote quality sleep through glucose stabilization. Chromium is an absolutely essential supplement for patients with for FMS. Recommended supplementation is 200 mcg/day.
Calcium (calcium citrate) Calcium is essential for many body functions, including structural stability and muscle contraction. It is one of the most abundant minerals found in the body. Hormone interactions and enzyme reactions are also dependant on sufficient levels of calcium. Low levels of calcium are also associated with fatigue and muscle cramps. Calcium citrate is a highly absorbable form, and calcium hydroxyapatite is even better. Calcium does need an acidic environment to be absorbed, and therefore taking Tums with calcium is not a good way to ensure ample daily requirements. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 1000- 1500 mg/day.
Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiency is rather common in Western New York. Although we do get so see the sun on an average of 91 days per year, it is not quite enough for some individuals to make their own vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption (and to a lesser extent magnesium absorption). The USRDA for Vitamin D is 400 I.U. per day. We recommend 800-1000 I.U. per day. Since Vitamin D is fat-soluble, it is possible to over-dose in very large amounts.
Vitamin E Vitamin E is another anti-oxidant, and a familiar one at that. Vitamin E helps our bodies maintain cellular integrity, in the midst of stress. It helps to keep the cell walls in tack and fight off unwanted free-radicals in a way similar to Vitamin C. It also helps enhance circulation (important to muscle tissue and connective tissue). Vitamin E is fat soluble, and should be taken with a meal. Patients with FMS should supplement with 200 IU of Vitamin E per day, but not to exceed 400 IU’s because it is fat soluble and can build up in the body. There is also recent evidence suggesting daily levels of 400 milligrams can actually increase the risk of heart mortality in patients over the age of 65, but it is not clear as to which form of Vitamin E was used in the study. Natural Vitamin E is more efficient and effective than synthetic Vitamin E, and is therefore the only form of the vitamin we recommend to take. Natural Vitamin E is called d-alpha tocopherol, whereas synthetic Vitamin E is dl-alpha tocopherol.
L-Carnitine Several years ago, a team of researchers performed muscle biopsies on patients with fibromyalgia syndrome, only to find normal muscle tissues. However, an interesting finding was observed in some patients with FMS, and that finding was decreased levels of L- carnitine. Decreased levels of L-carnitine lead to muscle fatigue and associated pain with mild activity. The studies showing this deficiency have been overlooked, because most health care practitioners fail to see the significance. Carnitine is found only in muscle tissue, and functions as a transport system for the conversion of fatty acids into glucose. Fatty acids just happen to be a significant source of energy for muscle cells, secondary only to glycogen or any immediately available glucose. If muscle cells are the main source of carnitine, and muscle is actually the meat many humans consume, then it goes right back to decreased protein levels. Meat is muscle, and muscle is protein with carnitine. You may also choose to supplement carnitine if you are vegan or vegetarian. Either way, carnitine is essential for patients with Fibromyalgia. Typical recommendation is 250 mg/day for FMS patients.
Lecithin Lecithin is found in every single cell membrane within the body, and helps to maintain its integrity. It also is a component of the myelin sheaths in the brain, which act as insulators for the nerve cells, and is needed for the formation of certain neurotransmitters. Lecithin helps to lower cholesterol levels naturally, and acts as an emulsifier for fats in the blood stream. It also helps hair, skin and nails, and some suggest it helps to improve memory. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 800-1000 mg/day.
L-Lysine L-lysine is an amino acid that aids in immune function and also acts to inhibit viral formation in the body. This is helpful for patients with Fibromyalgia due to its anti-viral properties. In addition, lysine is an essential component in the formation of L-carnitine, which is essential for reasons discussed previously.
Magnesium This mineral is essential for many bodily functions. Magnesium is found in bones and also in the muscles. It is necessary to supplement with calcium at the same time because they work in concert together. Insufficient intake of this mineral will produce muscle cramps, leg cramps, fatigue, and muscle spasm, because it is important for the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Magnesium is involved in energy transport, the synthesis of protein, and is necessary for the proper function of certain enzymes in the body. The recommended supplementation is 400 mg/day.
Malic Acid This supplement has been under the recent spotlight when it comes to the effectiveness in treatment for FMS. Malic acid is essential for converting sugars and fats into energy for muscles to perform their daily functions. When muscles are continually under even mild strain secondary to stress, malic acid levels are depleted, rendering inefficient energy metabolism in muscles, causing general muscle pain and fatigue. Supplementation with malic acid on a daily basis has been proven to decrease some muscle pain and fatigue in recent studies because of the function it provides. Studies indicate patients with FMS have the most relief with supplementation of between 600-1200 mg/day. It is also interesting to note that tart apples contain malic acid, which is what is responsible for the tartness in their flavor. Therefore, it is no surprise that we encourage following the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Manganese Manganese is a trace mineral and an essential component in the formation of connective tissue and collagen. It also functions in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, and is therefore essential for energy production. Manganese also works as a catalyst in some enzyme related reactions along with Magnesium. Proper healing of connective tissue depends on the presence of Manganese. Therefore, we recommend 3-5 mg/day for Fibromyalgia patients.
Coenzyme Q-10 Co Q-10 is becoming known for its effect on increasing circulation and decreasing the risks of cardiovascular disease, and has even been used to aid in the treatment of cancer. Early research found a correlation between decreased levels of CoQ-10 and certain types of cancer. This co-factor is also essential for the production of energy in the cells, in the form of ATP, and therefore helps decrease fatigue and pain symptoms with FMS. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 100 mcg/day.
Omega 3 fatty acids (Essential Fatty Acids) Here is a group of essential oils that are beneficial in so many different ways. First and foremost is the obvious reduction of “bad” cholesterol, and elevation of “good” cholesterol to help in the prevention of heart disease. These oils also help reduce the surge of insulin, thereby stabilizing blood sugar levels and decreasing fatigue, and even enhancing sleep. For this reason alone, they should be taken with every meal. In addition, what is not frequently known about the Omega fatty acids is the ability to decrease the inflammatory response in the body. Some recent studies have proven that supplementation with Omega fatty acids helps to reduce the release of prostaglandins, which are responsible for swelling and therefore pain sensation. Daily requirements are between 1.1– 1.6 grams per day, male and female respectively. Typically, we do get these essential fatty acids in our diets, especially if we are consuming fish regularly, so supplementation can be reduced to about 50% of our daily requirements. Therefore, we recommend 750 mg/day. If there is increased risk for cardiovascular disease, or a problem with blood sugar fluctuations, increase your intake to at least the RDA values of 1000-1600 mg/day. Omega-3 fatty acids come from both flax seed oil and fish oils. There is one other essential oil called Gamma Linolenic Acid found predominantly Borage Oil, and to a lesser extent in Evening Primrose Oil. In order to ensure adequate intake of these essential oils, it is recommended to supplement with Flaxseed, fish, and Borage oil.
Pantothenic Acid This vitamin is similar in function to Biotin, but also functions in the synthesis of hormones and fats found in cellular membranes, therefore helping maintain cellular integrity in times of stress. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 50 mg/day.
Potassium What more can I say in terms of diet, when it comes to potassium levels. Most people get too much salt (sodium), but not enough potassium. Muscle pain and fatigue can both stem from insufficient levels of potassium. Chest pain is also sometimes a sign of low potassium, because the heart relies heavily on it for proper contraction and function. Is it a surprise that meat contains high levels of potassium? Everyone thinks of bananas, but meat and orange juice have about four times the amount of potassium per serving. Low levels of potassium are also in part responsible for the “hazy” or “foggy” feeling patients experience with Fibromyalgia, and can also lead to inability to concentrate. One important thing to note is the fact that blood tests will not show low potassium levels most of the time. Instead, they will come out to be in the “normal” range. However, what is normal for one person may be too low relatively for another, even if levels are within “normal” limits. If potassium levels fluctuate too much, we can have serious problems, and even death can occur. Therefore it is no surprise they are “normal”, but may be mildly on the low side leading to these symptoms of fatige, haze, inability to concentrate and muscle fatigue/pain. Perhaps we should explain why potassium levels tend to be low in patients with Fibromyalgia. Recall the effect of fear and stress on blood sugar levels? Stress and low blood sugar levels can also induce the release of a hormone called aldosterone, which in turn causes the kidney to excrete potassium. Therefore, heightened times of stress often require increased protein and increased potassium. Potassium is found in meats, orange juice, kiwi, bananas, sweet potatoes, and oranges, to name a few good sources. Supplementation is also a good idea, but potassium citrate is more easily absorbed than potassium gluconate. Ideal supplementation for FMS is between 200-400 mg/day.
Selenium Selenium is known for its role as an antioxidant, and a suppressor of cancer cells. Some research suggests it also helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as well. It also helps to neutralize hydrogen peroxide (which is produced from various cellular metabolisms), and thereby helps prevent damage to cell membranes. Selenium also seems to stimulate antibody formation. It also appears to provide protection from the toxic effects of heavy metals and is sometimes used as a chelating agent. Selenium may assist in the formation of protein. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 100 mcg/day.
Zinc This mineral is essential for immune function and for many other enzyme reactions. Zinc also helps with the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Zinc also is a factor for growth and repair of cells, and often helps ward off the common cold virus. Recommended supplementation for FMS patients is 15 mg/day.
There is a tremendous amount of information contained in this site, and attempting to do everything at once is impossible, and seriously not recommended at first. Therefore, the best approach for the treatment of Fibromyalgia, is to simply begin with the basics. Ensure you are getting adequate water, protein, and reducing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet. Eliminate sugars and sweets, but allow yourself to have one day a week when you eat whatever you want. This way, when you feel like a pile of garbage the next day, you will be convinced that the dietary factor is significant. It is easy to simply increase the portion size of protein at every meal, and decrease the amount of carbohydrates. This little change can make a big difference in some instances.
Along with simple dietary changes, is to begin a program of supplements. Nutritional supplementation is an absolute must with FMS. I have also recommended protein drinks for breakfast for patients who find it difficult to get sufficient amounts of protein, and are unwilling to change their diets.
The next step is to have some physical work done on your body! Even though we have not talked much about this, spinal alignments and massage are both essential. Physical treatments to the body fulfill the 3rd and final aspect of the Triad of Health. Muscle pain and joint pain can arise from spinal fixations, trigger points, muscle spasm or muscle dysfunction. I have read a few articles stating massage and Chiropractic adjustments are not effective forms of treatment for FMS. The fact of the matter is that not one single form of treatment will cure FMS! Therefore, physical work on the body is only one component in the Triad of Health, and represents only one third of the Holistic treatment program of FMS. Spinal adjustments are helpful in reducing some symptoms of pain and soreness, enhancing digestion, as well as reducing headaches and improving sleep quality. Find a Chiropractor and massage therapist by asking friends and family. In addition, try to find a Chiropractor who uses lower force adjusting techniques, because this seems to be a benefit for FMS as well. Even if it means asking your Doctor of Chiropractic to use a little lighter force on the adjustments if you are getting mild soreness following treatment.
Another essential component is to begin a relaxation program. Follow any one of the suggestions for relaxation on the “Natural Home Remedies” page, based on your own personal preference. Allow your intuition to be your guide, even if it means relaxation activities change daily. Let go of self-criticism and accept yourself for who you are. Ironically, change is only welcomed when we realize there may be a need for it. Whatever you decide, approach it with curiosity and a desire to make a positive change for you.
Last but certainly not least, is to start a light exercise routine, even if it is simply walking every other day for 10 minutes. Remember, the best overall approach to Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a holistic, multi factor one, addressing all three aspects of the Triad of Health. Despite the fact that this requires time, dedication, and a lifestyle change, the benefits can be tremendous. After all, if what you are doing now is working, you would not have Fibromyalgia! As you make small changes, it becomes easier to make the larger, more difficult and challenging lifestyle and personality changes. I can assure you that the outcome will change your life forever…for the better. Many times we are given challenges in life to learn; learn about life, learn about ourselves, learn about others, and become self-empowered. Words cannot express the changes I have seen in patients who choose to take control of there own lives, because they are the ones who have truly healed themselves. Doctors, drugs and medicine do not heal. Only the body can heal itself. I wish you all the best in health, wealth and happiness in your pursuit of treatment for Fibromyalgia Syndrome.