FMS and CMP seem to be caused by a cascade of disturbances and resulting malfunctions. No pathogen (germ or virus) has been found that might be a cause, but that does not mean there isn’t one. It is certain that there are electrolyte disturbances . Electrolytes are minerals that carry electrical charges — some positive and some negative. Electrolytes are found in the blood stream, in body fluids, within cells, and between cells. The concentration of electrolytes on opposite sides of cell membranes is very important to health. The positively charged electrolytes – sodium, potassium, and calcium – are involved in conducting nerve impulses and must be balanced properly with negatively charged electrolytes for nerves to send messages or to rest. It is calcium that causes impulses to travel from one neuron to the next, and calcium metabolism is at the center of the problem. Muscle cells also have the ability to conduct electricity. It is nerve impulses and improperly activated muscle cells that cause the fibromyalgia sufferer so much illogical pain. It’s obvious to the victim that nerves are sending impulses without real cause – burning sensations with no applied heat, stabbing pain without the knife. Muscles are contracting, twitching, or working even when they’re supposed to be at rest. It appears that in fibromyalgia syndrome and CMP there are changes in the cell membranes’ ability to pass electrolytes. Electrolyte concentrations and movements through, within, and around cells, as well as the integrity of cell organ membranes, are regulated by hormones .
Mitochondria are small cellular structures within cells that are responsible for converting nutrients into fuel (called ATP). This process is called aerobic respiration. For this reason, the mitochondria are called the powerhouses of the cells. Mitochondria contain their own DNA, inherited only from the mother. The DNA instructs ribosomes within the cell to produce enzymes, which work as catalysts to produce energy. Some cells in the body have more mitochondria than others. Muscle cells have the most, because of the heavy energy demands of working muscles. Researchers have determined that fibromyalgia and CMP sufferers have abnormal mitochondrial function, possibly because the membranes of the mitochondria have been compromised, and electrolyte concentrations inside and outside the membrane have been disturbed. Ask a sufferer to describe what his or her muscles feel like, and the response will indicate severe muscle fatigue, tender points, trigger points, lumps, and masses. Muscle cells don’t oxygenate as they should, and exercise feels very strange and nonproductive.
Electrolyte movement, location, and concentration within and without cells, in blood, and in body fluids, are managed by hormones. Three doctors cite hormone imbalance as the possible main cause of fibromyalgia and CMP. Dr. John Lowe, who has a clinic in Colorado , has tested his fibromyalgia patients for low thyroid hormone function and has found a high rate of thyroid deficiency in his patients. Therefore, he feels that hypothyroidism (low thyroid) is the main cause of fibromyalgia. He feels that the culprit is low T-3 thyroid. People who have been diagnosed using the standard thyroid blood test have only been tested for T-4 thyroid levels. The medications called “synthroid” and “levothyroid” provide only the T-4 hormone, and many patients who take them still feel achy and tired.
Dr. Sam Yue surmises that fibromyalgia and CMP are caused by a deficiency in the hormone “relaxin.” Relaxin is the hormone that, in pregnant women, relaxes the cervix and pelvis in preparation for birth. However, relaxin receptors can be found in all the connective tissues. A relaxin deficiency could disrupt connective tissue function. Dr. Yue thinks relaxin deficiency might play a part in creating porous intestinal tissue, thereby resulting in leaky gut syndrome (see below), another possible cause of fibromyalgia. I have completely ignored Dr. Yue’s theory. The reason is that I have always had a surplus of relaxin in my system. Through six pregnancies I was often on crutches and could hardly hold a pen in my hand—my joints were dislocated, due to too much relaxin.
Another hormone, which seems to be out of control in fibromyalgia sufferers, is insulin. A high percentage of fibromyalgia victims also have hypoglycemia. Reactive hypoglycemia manifests itself when a person eats a large meal or a snack high in sugar. The body reacts by pumping out more insulin than is needful, wiping out most of the sugar in the blood, usually at the second or third hour after eating. This results in low blood sugar. The brain doesn’t store any sugar, and it needs a constant supply to function. The cells of the body also need nourishment; they break down proteins and fats more slowly and evenly than they do carbohydrates. A large dose of carbs, greeted by a blast of insulin is the opposite of a slow, sustained burn. When blood sugar suddenly drops, the mind becomes fuzzy, and the person becomes disoriented. He may develop a headache. He trembles and may break into a cold sweat. He feels weak and nauseous. Reactive hypoglycemia can be caused by insulin resistance, one symptom of “estrogen dominance.”
Dr. John Lee has done extensive research into another hormone – progesterone . Progesterone is one of the major reproductive hormones in women, and its purpose is to oppose, or balance, estrogen output. But men produce it, too. Progesterone is not only produced in the ovaries, but in the adrenals and probably the Schwann Cells in the myelin sheath of nerves. Progesterone is a steroid hormone, and is a precursor to the estrogen hormones, the adrenal hormones, and testosterone. It has many extremely important functions in the body other than reproductive functions. Its highest concentration in the human body is in the brain, because it is necessary for nerve health and function. It also comprises the myelin sheath of peripheral nerves. It manages the performance of the thyroid gland and makes the body receptive to thyroid hormone. (Some symptoms of low thyroid are also symptoms of progesterone deficiency, such as heavy menstrual bleeding.) It manages the production of insulin and solves the problem of insulin resistance. It increases greatly during pregnancy to guarantee the viability of the pregnancy, that is, to keep the baby and prevent miscarriage. Progesterone also manages calcium metabolism and uptake in the bones. Therefore, a lack of it would result in osteoporosis and unused, roving calcium elsewhere in the body. Most importantly, progesterone manages the function of mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells, and thus is necessary for energy production in the muscles. Therefore, all the possible hormonal causes for fibromyalgia and CMP listed above could go back to this precursor hormone. When progesterone deficiency (or estrogen dominance) is solved, very often thyroid, insulin, and relaxin problems are solved, too. (I am a personal witness of this. I was seriously hypoglycemic for thirty-five years, but the condition disappeared after four months of progesterone supplementation. I attribute most of my present improved health and recovery from fibromyalgia and CMP to progesterone.) Another benefit of progesterone supplementation is relief from depression. Progesterone is called the “happy hormone.” It tends to even out mood swings and lift the spirits, and can enable the patient to set aside anti-depressant medications.
As I said, fibromyalgia and CMP are probably caused by a cascade of disturbances, which result in electrolyte dumping. It is important that electrolytes, especially positively-charged calcium, are ingested and metabolized properly. Anything that interferes with calcium absorption in the gut could encourage fibromyalgia. Food allergies, celiac sprue, and leaky gut syndrome can interfere with calcium absorption in the digestive tract. Food allergies can be discovered by eliminating foods and then replacing them one by one, or by consulting an allergist or nutritionist and getting tested. Celiac sprue is a condition wherein a person cannot tolerate gluten – found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley, soy sauce, soup mixes, and elsewhere. When just a few molecules of gluten are introduced into the gut, the villi in the intestines lie down and fail to function. Calcium absorption fails, and all sorts of symptoms arise. In Leaky Gut Syndrome , the gut becomes somewhat porous. Proteins and other larger-than-normal molecules get through it, burdening the body with another abnormal situation. Both of these conditions are fairly common. Perhaps one in two hundred fifty Americans suffers from celiac sprue. Many don’t know it. People of European descent suffer from celiac more often than people of other ethnic groups.
Often, fibromyalgia and/or CMP are precipitated by an incident of physical or emotional stress. One possible reason for this is overloaded adrenal glands. The adrenals are meant to produce adrenaline in emergencies. Prolonged stress forces a person to be in a constant state of emergency, thereby putting strain on the adrenal glands. Add a sudden stressful event to constant, stressful living, and an emergency arises for the adrenals. The adrenals react by trying to make more adrenal hormone (cortisol, adrenaline). In females, this might mean shutting down the ovaries. Menstruation might continue, but ovulation ceases. Or, if ovulation continues, progesterone created by ovulation or produced elsewhere in the body is stolen by the adrenals to make cortisol. This leaves the body in a progesterone-deficient, or estrogen-dominant, state. Thus begins the cascade into fibromyalgia. In men, who produce about half the amount of progesterone as women, the progesterone is stolen by the adrenals, and testosterone production is compromised.
Periods of stress also call for extra nutritional supplementation. More vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc., are necessary to keep the body healthy. If they are not available, systems begin to fail.
Our soils are depleted. Rather than providing the necessary seventy-two nutrients for plant health, our soil is nourished with two or three minerals found in common fertilizers. We eat the plants and grains, but come away unnourished. Supplementation with vitamins and minerals is mandatory to make up the difference. Studies on patients being treated for fibromyalgia and CMP have shown that there are common deficiencies. Malic acid, B complex vitamins, magnesium, and manganese are often deficient, and may play a part in the cascade of events and conditions that cause fibromyalgia. Magnesium, especially, is necessary for the proper use of calcium, and calcium absorption seems to be central for the person who has fibromyalgia.
The foods we eat burn acid or alkaline when they are used for energy. An acidic body presents a bad environment for metabolizing nutrients. The American diet, with its emphasis on grains (bread, cereal, pasta) and meats, is highly acidic. Acid is an irritant for the body. To protect itself, the body will pull calcium from the bones to buffer the acid. A lifetime of eating an acidic diet is probably one of the factors leading to fibromyalgia. Making the dietary changes necessary to create a more alkaline internal pH is important for electrolyte balance and the proper movement of calcium. Pain from fibromyalgia seems to flare the day after highly acidic foods have been eaten.
ASPARTAME, TRANS-FATS, MSG, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
Aspartame is a dangerous collection of chemicals (phenylalanine, aspartic acid, methanol) that can seriously affect health. It is the aspartic acid that may encourage the tendency to develop fibromyalgia, because it causes calcium to stay in the cells. Trans-fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) also trap calcium in the soft tissues. MSG amplifies pain, something very undesirable for fibro sufferers. High fructose corn syrup is more a preservative than a food. It confuses the pancreas, fails to register as a nutrient (allowing us to guzzle multiple quarts of soda pop), overloads the liver, and affects insulin response, skewing other hormones. It also interferes with calcium metabolism.
Many victims of fibromyalgia are extremely sensitive to environmental irritants in the form of household cleaners, synthetic fragrances, air pollution, allergens, and chemicals in soaps and lotions. One reason women with fibromyalgia so outnumber men may be the hundreds of chemicals they use in housekeeping and personal care. Some chemicals commonly used in America (where ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products are poorly regulated) are illegal in other countries. Many environmental irritants behave like estrogens in the body and can have an “additive” effect. That is, when they encounter each other, the effect grows ever stronger. The result in the body is a collection of strange estrogens many times stronger than what the body naturally produces. (Pollutants which behave like estrogens in the body are found in pesticides, fertilizers, plastics, synthetic fabrics and carpets, asphalt, tires, car exhaust, petroleum products, and animal by-products.) Other environmental irritants cause the body to draw calcium to invasion sites as a bandaid, thus perpetuating electrolyte problems. Petrochemicals are found in a vast number of products, from motor oil and household cleaners to baby oil and cosmetics. Over time, its toxic effects can be found in every organ of the body. There are health warnings on containers of motor oil, but not on baby oil or mineral oil, where the petrochemical molecules may be more refined but chemically unchanged. Petrochemicals are neurotoxins, and the effects of exposure sound eerily similar to the symptoms of fibromyalgia – fatigue, memory loss, personality changes, headaches, sleep disturbances, muscle incoordination, visual disturbances, aches and pains. Mineral oil also coats the skin with large molecules, locking in other toxins and preventing normal skin respiration.
The tendency to develop fibromyalgia and CMP seems to run in families. There is some genetic trait that inhibits good placement and movement of electrolytes and the ability to flush them out when they dump inside cells or mitochondria. If the tendency is there, a careful and dedicated lifestyle change can thwart the development of the syndromes. As I have met people suffering from fibromyalgia, I have noticed that Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis have stricken other family members. These conditions seem to cluster in families. It’s important to remember that when the sex hormones are disrupted, the immune system is often the next to go, causing an auto-immune response. Even asthma is an auto-immune problem.