What to Do
As mentioned, fibromyalgia seems to be caused by a cascade of disturbances, and any interruption in this cascade seems to relieve symptoms. Relief of stress, using a good cleanse, improving nutrition – in every circumstance, there is someone out there who claims that his fibromyalgia is suddenly gone. It’s imperative that people like this maintain their new-found routine, since pre-disposition to enter the cascade and tumble down into fibromyalgia seems to be inherited.
Pain management and good, refreshing sleep are paramount for the sufferer. In fibromyalgia and CMP the muscles continue to work while the sufferer is trying to relax. Pain is collected during the day, and it begins to fire off when the sufferer goes to bed. Working muscles and firing pain cause the sufferer to attain only shallow, unsettled sleep. Failure to enter the realm of deep sleep keeps growth hormone from being produced by the body. Without GH, the “happy” chemicals in the brain dip very low. Depression follows. I took cyclobenzaprine (5 to 10mg) each night before bed. Cyclobenzaprine is a muscle relaxant. I never took it during waking hours, because it makes me wobbly. Driving would be out of the question. Another possible help is to chew a 500 mg. wafer of calcium with magnesium about 45 minutes before bedtime. (Or use Viactiv chews, or take magnesium alone.) I took a 550 mg. tablet of naproxin as a pain killer, but really limited my use of the drug, because constant use can cause serious bleeding ulcers with no hint of symptoms before the damage is severe. Growth hormone stimulators seem to help some people, but may cause the body to stop producing its own GH. Growth hormone itself is extremely expensive (over $1000 a month), but is a favorite “fountain of youth” for the Hollywood rich. Growth hormone and GH stimulators are unnecessary if other hormones (see below) are restored to balance. Progesterone cream, applied to the skin at bedtime, enhances the ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. When hormone balance is skewed, so is melatonin production. Melatonin, taken an hour or two before bedtime, can help the sufferer sleep.
CORRECTING HORMONE IMBALANCES
Hormones can be tested with a simple saliva test, 3 but it is important to note that hormones can fluctuate throughout the day. Very often, noting one’s history and watching one’s symptoms are enough to indicate estrogen dominance and its cure – supplementation with natural progesterone applied to the skin. In my opinion, the best progesterone cream on the market is Arbonne International’s “ Prolief .” Arbonne also makes a cream called “ Phyto-Prolief ,” which contains plant estrogens identical to the estrogens the human body produces. (Supplementing with natural estrogens can help with menopausal symptoms.) The creams come in an air-tight pump, which delivers a metered dose of 15-20 mg. of USP progesterone, the amount normally produced daily by female ovaries as necessary during menses. Arbonne’s cream has a proprietary base of botanicals with molecules so tiny that the progesterone is quickly delivered through the skin directly to the blood stream, bypassing the liver. It is wise to go to the experts for information on the use of progesterone, especially since I am not qualified to diagnose or prescribe and don’t intend to do so. (See the bibliography at the back of this booklet.) It is also important to avoid exposure to environmental estrogens (“xenoestrogens”) where possible. That means going natural with household cleaners, cosmetics, and personal care items, wearing clothes made of natural fibers (like cotton), keeping food away from plastics (never microwave in plastic), and eating hormone-free meats, dairy products, and eggs. The health food store should become your supermarket. Your good health is at stake.
Supplementation with natural progesterone made a marked difference in my symptoms but didn’t take me all the way to recovery and healing. It’s a good start, but might not complete the job. Find a medical practitioner who specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement, and have all your hormones tested. All hormones should be brought up to levels that are robustly healthy for a person in his or her 20’s. Remember that hormones are only effective when there are receptors to receive them. A peak of estrogen in the middle of the menstrual cycle creates receptors for progesterone, for example. Without all hormones acting in balance and in concert, receptors might not be there to receive the supplementation you are providing. As of 2007, I am taking 1.5 Estradiol/Estriol with 100 mg progesterone in a transdermal cream from a compounding pharmacy . This dosage was tailored especially for me. Yours could be different. My initial testing was done by blood test. When hormones are taken in cream form, applied to the skin, the added hormone won’t show up on blood tests. Saliva testing is then necessary.
Curing thyroid imbalances
Doctors must test for T-3 thyroid hormone in the following manner: If your regular blood test for thyroid comes back normal, demand that your doctor test for TRH (T-3) as well as TSH (T-4). To do this, he must draw blood and test for TSH, then give you an injection of TRH, wait 25 minutes, and then draw blood again. A score of 10 or above means you need thyroid. At this point a decision must be made as to which thyroid preparation should be prescribed. Demand Armour Thyroid, real desiccated thyroid that contains both the T-3 and T-4 hormones, or a synthetic combination of the two hormones. Find more information at Dr. John Lowe’s website, listed in the bibliography. If both T-3 and T-4 thyroid tests are normal, you might be thyroid resistant. Dr. Lee says that supplementing with natural progesterone will solve thyroid resistance. (It’s important to know that, because progesterone cleans hormone receptors and solves hormone resistance, it makes the body more sensitive to hormone supplementation. Therefore, if a person is already taking birth control pills, thyroid hormone, or insulin, the body could be satisfied with a lower dosage. Medical supervision is needed to adjust the dosage of these hormones.)
There is an explanation as to why estrogen dominance or progesterone deficiency causes thyroid resistance: In the presence of too much estrogen, the liver produces a substance called “thyroid binding globulin,” which binds to thyroid hormone and makes the body unreceptive to it. Therefore, when the thyroid gland is functioning properly, progesterone can help the body use the thyroid hormone produced.
Taking thyroid medication often increases the need for iodine . Buy Iodorol over the counter at your local pharmacy, or take Icelandic Kelp from the health food store.
CORRECTING pH PROBLEMS (ACID/ALKALINE)
A lifetime of eating like a typical American causes one to have an internal pH that is too acid for calcium absorption and metabolism . In addition, the body will pull calcium from the bones to buffer the irritating acid. Osteoporosis may accompany fibromyalgia and add to the worries of the sufferer. It is necessary to change to an alkaline diet to fix the damaging acid pH of the body. Foods have been tested to see whether they burn acid or alkaline. A common recommendation is to eat 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods. All grains are strong acid-forming foods, and a simple first step to becoming more alkaline is to relegate grains to “condiment” status and eat them in very tiny quantities. Unfortunately, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar are also acid. Meats are the next most acid-forming foods, with red meat being the most acid, then pork, then poultry, and then fish. Approaching the neutral range with slight acidity are dairy products, eggs, and nuts. Moving into the alkaline range, we find most fruits (especially figs) and cultured dairy products, like yogurt. Vegetables are the most alkaline foods and should be eaten in abundance. Books are available which present charts of acid and alkaline foods in more detail. For a good alkaline diet for general health or weight loss, go to Krystal Gray’s website. She is the author of a book called, Eat and Be Well, which can be purchased from her website, as can her “alkaline drops.” Her book can also be found in health food stores. With Krystal Gray’s diet, every meal begins with salad. This is an easy thing with today’s salad fixings, convenient and available at the grocery store. Stock up on “Spring Mix,” “Field Greens,” and spinach as a base for your salads. Make enough salad to last 3 days, and serve yourself from it at every meal. Salad dressings, especially olive oil, are fine to eat. When you go to her website, you will also find a recommended cleanse. Cleansing the gut often jump-starts the progress towards getting well For a stricter alkaline diet, especially if you are willing to “blenderize” your veggies and drink them, you can try Dr. Mercola’s “No Grain Diet.” Dr. Mercola’s website is elaborate and full of information.
GIVING UP ASPARTAME
Dr. Janet Starr Hull is a crusader, informing anyone who will listen about the dangers of aspartame (trade name – Nutrasweet). It is found in about 5,000 foods in the U.S. , and may not be advertised on the front label. Visit Dr. Hull’s website to see a list of offending foods. Aspartame is a dangerous collection of chemicals, as mentioned above. Women who are dieting and eating diet foods while living busy lives may be setting themselves up for illness, including fibromyalgia. This is what happened to Dr. Hull, and this is what happened to me. Dr. Hull was dieting and eating a selection of low-fat, artificially sweetened products. She was working, raising three young children, and exercising hard. She fell prey to Grave’s Disease (life-threatening hyperthyroidism) and given a death sentence by her doctors, unless she allowed them to kill her thyroid gland, which was running amok. Removing aspartame from her life and correcting nutritional imbalances were enough to save her and restore her to health. My story is similar. I was following a diet that was “right for everyone.” I had completely given up sugar, and was eating whole grains, a balanced diet, but with very little fat. Diet sodas and diet yogurts were part of my food regimen. I was weight training, doing aerobics, and walking in the mountains. I was under a great deal of stress because of business matters. I had a house full of teenagers, and I had just had a D & C because of an abnormal pap smear (a symptom of estrogen dominance). I had injured my muscles, and the lesions were calcified. I collapsed with fibromyalgia and chronic myofascial pain. (And I thought I was living the ultimate healthy lifestyle!) The first step to my recovery was giving up aspartame. The hardest part was avoiding diet soda. I found aspartame-free diet sodas and bubbly fruit juices at the health food store. Sucralose (trade name – Splenda) is another artificial sweetener. Some consider it unsafe. It doesn’t seem to be completely eliminated by the body once it’s taken in. Since it’s molecular structure is “off,” it should be cast away. The fact that it isn’t, could be a cause for worry. I consider it safer than aspartame, however, especially for a fibromyalgia sufferer. It can be used in cooking, especially for desserts where volume and texture is not an issue (such as in pies). In cakes, where sugar usually provides volume, use half Splenda and half fructose. (Fructose, or fruit sugar, burns at 1/3 the rate of table sugar and is sweeter.) Fructose is cheapest from the open bins at the health food store. Safe, natural sweeteners may also be found at the health food store. Stevia and Lo Han, raw sugars, xylotol, etc., burn more slowly than table sugar.
GETTING CHEMICALS OFF YOUR BODY AND OUT OF THE HOUSEHOLD
Replace your cosmetics and personal care items with botanicals. Read labels carefully. Many “botanical products” purchased from stores are mostly comprised of dangerous chemicals with a few added botanicals featured prominently in their advertising. Your safest choice, again, is to go to the health food store or order from direct marketing companies which produce pure, botanical skin care items. These products should also be free of animal by-products. Animal by-products encourage dangerous estrogen dominance. Read the labels. Choose products which contain no mineral oil or petrolatum, no artificial fragrances, no SD-40 alcohol, no animal by-products. The skin is the largest organ of the body. It respires – it breathes, releasing toxins from the system. It has a mantle that is slightly acid to protect it. Using alkaline soaps and lotions strips the protective mantle, and the skin takes 8 to 10 hours to recover. Be sure the products you use are pH correct (not pH balanced ). Mineral oil will seal in toxins as it coats the skin. It seals moisture out, making the skin dryer. Toxins in the body draw calcium to soothe their effects, encouraging the descent into fibromyalgia. Applying toxins to the skin is a very fast way to get them into the body – they can permeate every organ in less than a minute!
In the household begin to rid yourself of chemical cleaning products. You can both clean and disinfect with a 1:1 combination of 3% hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar. “Green” cleaning products are available at the health food store and online. I especially like Method™ Brand natural cleaners available at Target Stores. Avoid chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Never microwave in plastic or cover food in the microwave with plastic wrap. Instead, use wax paper or a paper towel. Choose natural fiber clothing and carpets where possible.
Flame retardants are especially hard on the thyroid gland. The next time you purchase a new mattress, go organic.
COMBATING CELIAC SPRUE, LEAKY GUT SYNDROME AND FOOD ALLERGIES
Combating celiac sprue syndrome means ridding the diet of gluten. (Learn more at Celiac.com.) Gluten is found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley, and in a number of surprising places, like soy sauce and soup mixes. Tests for celiac include looking for a marker in the blood, and finally performing a biopsy of intestinal tissue. If you can’t afford the tests, or don’t want to submit to them, try eliminating gluten-containing foods from your diet for a time and see how you feel. The health food store is a good place to find gluten-free foods. There is a wide selection of gluten-free foods available online. Leaky gut syndrome can be helped by eliminating offending foods from the diet – foods that cause digestive stress or allergic reactions. An alkaline diet also seems to help. Improving the flora of the digestive tract also helps. There are many products available to help with improving flora in the gut by adding needed enzymes and good bacteria.
Massage can especially be helpful for Chronic Myofascial Pain, and it is mostly a matter of moving electrolytes and getting lumps to release. Unfortunately, it can be extremely painful. The pain lessens as the lump releases. Gentle pressure is best. It’s wonderful to be able to enlist the services of a professional trained to treat fibromyalgia and CMP sufferers. Improper massage can irritate trigger points and make pain worse. However, a friend or family member can work on lumps, and those lumps will respond, bringing relief to the CMP sufferer.
After massage, it’s good to move the toxins from the system that are released into the lymph from the muscles. I like Arbonne’s Figure 8 Daily DeTox Tea for this purpose.
RELIEVING PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL STRESSORS
Sometimes people recover from fibromyalgia when stressors are removed. One clergyman said he had counseled two women who suffered from fibromyalgia. One recovered when her financial situation improved; one recovered when she divorced her husband. What probably happened biologically in both cases is that the adrenal glands were able to relax from their constant outpouring of stress hormones. To produce those stress hormones, the adrenals had been robbing the body of progesterone. With the reduction of stress, there was now enough progesterone available to manage mitochondrial function, nerve health, and proper function of other glands. It is always advisable to rid ourselves of emotional stressors, when higher ideals aren’t compromised in the process.
Physical stressors could be over-exercise, hypoglycemia, scoliosis (crooked spine), untreated illnesses, smoking, lack of nutrients, untreated injuries, etc. It is wise to treat them and concentrate on living a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Lee says, however, that surgeries should be saved for emergencies, because they put the body under so much stress. Many people can trace the onset of their fibromyalgia to the sudden stress of surgery.
RESOLVING NUTRITIONAL PROBLEMS
As I stated above, most fibromyalgia sufferers are deficient in magnesium, malic acid, B-complex vitamins, and manganese . Several doctors I’ve encountered in my research recommend that the daily dosage ratio of calcium to magnesium be turned around. Usually, the suggested dose of calcium is double the dose of magnesium. Dr. Lee recommends taking more magnesium than calcium. Everyone has a tolerance level for magnesium – too much will give you diarrhea. Try to take up to 1000 mg a day, if you can tolerate it. Magnesium malate will give you a combination of magnesium and malic acid. The most absorbable calcium is called Calcium AEP . It’s a patented product and highly desirable.
Other nutritional imbalances need to be corrected to support healing. Find out what you are made up of. Dr. Janet Starr Hull is the doctor of clinical nutrition who nearly died from Graves disease brought on by aspartame in her diet. She has selected a very responsible lab to do hair analysis . Hair analysis will show you what your pH is, which vitamins and minerals you are lacking, whether you have any heavy metals in your body. She will have the lab work done and analyze the results for you. Then you can take the exact vitamins and minerals you need without wasting money on unneeded supplements. If your test results show a zinc deficiency with or without an over-abundance of copper, you may have low progesterone or estrogen dominance. Zinc deficiency is a symptom.
3 The World Health Organization mandates saliva testing for estrogen and progesterone levels, since blood testing is inconclusive. One can be tested by a doctor or buy a test kit from an internet site.