Fibromyalgia has many symptoms but the main ones are flitting muscular and tendon pain; and stiffness. The pain can be aching, burning, or stabbing. It is more common in women, can affect any age, and can be very debilitating. There is, as yet, no known cause and therefore no known cure; nor is there one single test that can diagnose conclusively. The other symptoms that are frequently present are: depression; anxiety, brain fog; poor sleep; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); tingling in hands and feet; hypersensitivity to even touch, experienced as pain; and extreme tiredness.
For many years conventional medicine viewed Fibromyalgia as an emotional problem because there is no diagnostic test, because it is linked to so many other symptoms, especially as those other symptoms are depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
It has been found that people with Fibromyalgia do have low levels of serotonin which does of course account for the depression. Conventional medicine tends to look for a direct link, cause and effect, rather than a relationship, as I do. For example the long established belief was that low serotonin is the cause of depression and therefore the cause of the experience of pain, therefore the cause of Fibromyalgia; the optimal treatment being to treat the depression. The more modern view is that the depression is caused by the difficulty experienced from living with long term pain; but the depression still needs treating in its own right, with an antidepressant. My view of illness is that the body is experiencing either a lack of a nutrient (nobody has ever been deficient in an antidepressant drug) or an irritant in the form of an allergy, toxic chemical, mineral deposit, or metal. Frequently it is a combination of both which are inter-related because to get rid of toxic or irritating chemical the body requires nutrients.
The more we are exposed to toxic substances the greater the amount of nutrients the body needs. We have been exposed to about 75,000 artificial chemicals since the 1930’s. I have a whole book of 204 pages that list the chemicals commonly added to our food and drink. Some are natural substances but most are completely artificial, many made from coal tar. Who would have thought of ever eating coal tar, but they form the basis of most of the artificial colours E100 series. Then of course there are all the preservatives E200 series, the antioxidants E300-321, the emulsifiers E322-494 the sweeteners E 420-421; then there are the bleaches, the solvents, and the anticaking agents. The E number stands for European permitted additive, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Preservatives in food: pesticides used in the growing of food, which enters and remains in the substance of our food; fluoride in toothpaste; all prevent growth of harmful micro-organisms but they also destroy the good bacteria we need in out gut to help us digest food, to protect us from harmful organisms, and to make vitamins for us. Then there are the chemicals that we inhale: cigarette smoke, car fumes, smoke from factories. That’s without considering water with its chlorine, effluent from factory run offs, run off from all the chemicals used in farming, all the oestrogen from the pill excreted in urine, as well as all the drugs that we consume. It doesn’t bear thinking of really, does it?
The important point about all these artificial chemicals is twofold: A) the more artificial stuff we have inside us the more nutrients we need to break them down; and B) what we can’t get rid of we tuck away, try to hide it to stop it damaging us. The most we can do is put it where it causes least harm in the short term, doesn’t kill us, but unfortunately in the end it pokes it’s tongue out and tells us I’m here, and here, and guess what here as well.
Unfortunately we are not gaining the increased nutrients from our diet that we need; in fact, although our food, in the western world, is more abundant that at any other time in history, it is less nutritious. Modern farming practice, the use of nitrogen based fertilisers make the plants grow, which strips the soils of minerals but these minerals are not put back. The food industry removes nutrients because we prefer its look, white bread, white sugar; most of the minerals are in the husk that has been chucked away. Omega 3 fatty acid, so essential for health, is frequently removed because shelf life is improved. Double cooking because so many of us use previously cooked convenience foods; and these foods will have preservatives added and probably several other artificial ingredients such as flavour enhancers, artificial sweeteners. There are many reports to suggest that the artificial sweeteners and flavour enhancer are dangerous because they damage nerve cells. Others additives are known to cause skin problems, asthma, high blood pressure, gut irritation.
OK I’ll get off that soap box, well for now anyway. But it does confirm the saying that we are what we eat is true; if we get all the nutrients we need we remain well, if we eat rubbish, well I won’t go so far as to say that we turn into ……, but it makes it much more difficult to maintain our health.
I’d like to go back to the thought that for me symptoms are related rather than direct cause and effect; i.e. because depression coexists with Fibromyalgia, Fibromyalgia is caused by depression; or the Fibromyalgia is causing the depression. In my view they simply coexist because they share a common factor. A doctor frequently turns to the pharmacy for his treatments, an antidepressant his major tool; but the drug rarely treats the cause, it actually simply deals with a symptom. For example in prescribing an antidepressant the doctor appreciates that the level of serotonin is low, but rather than find out why, he gives a drug that stops it being reabsorbed by the nerve, an SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibiter, leaving it hanging around longer where it works. This may seem OK, but the trouble is Dopamine needs many of the same nutrients and so do lots of other chemicals, which go untreated. Another antidepressant slows down the breakdown of serotonin by blocking the enzyme that initiates the breakdown, MAOI or monoamine oxidise inhibiter. The trouble with that is dopamine and noradrenalin are broken down by the same enzyme so that the breakdown of those is also inhibited. Noradrenalin is the chemical of anxiety, that’s why a side effect of many antidepressants is increased anxiety.
I like to think of myself as more like a baker. I look for the natural ingredients, the nutrients of the recipe that make us; that make the cells, the organs, and all of the natural chemicals that drive health and life. So when we have a symptom it means an ingredient is missing.
Most people have heard of amino acids, the components of protein; minerals; vitamins; even enzymes; but few have heard of co-enzymes. An enzyme is a protein made by the body that enables a chemical reaction to happen; all reactions in the body: whether to digest food, make energy, make new cells for growth and repair, make or break down the body hormones and other chemicals, are driven by enzymes. Enzymes need ingredients to make them work. First they need the base ingredient, let’s say we’re making histamine; histamine because most people have heard of it and it’s a simple chemical to make. It only needs 3 ingredients: histadine the base amino acid, zinc and something called P5P. P5P is one of those things called a co-enzyme. Oh come on Sue don’t make it so complicated, sorry but it is complicated and the more it is understood just what the nutrients do then the more clearly it can be seen that illness is often a deficiency which can be put right. OK you don’t need to know all the biochemistry, just enough to understand how it is. I will go on a bit longer about P5P because when I say that it’s made from vitamin B6 lots of you will go Oh, I know what that is, well I’ve heard of it and I know it’s important. The important point is that the vitamins of the B group, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and Folic acid can’t be used by the body in the form that they come in food, they have to be changed by the body, using specific enzymes; the process is called activation. To activate the vitamin B’s the enzymes need several minerals and other activated vitamins. So P5P is activated vitamin B6, and it’s the only way the body can use B6. To activate vitamin B6 the body needs zinc, magnesium and activated vitamin B2.
The activated vitamins don’t go running around our body creating health in their own right; they create health because they are part of the recipe in the making what is of the body, the stuff of us. So let’s look at another chemical which is the stuff of us; serotonin, it’s a more complicated chemical made from the base ingredient the amino acid tryptophan. To turn tryptophan into serotonin there are 2 enzymes. The first enzyme needs activated B6, activated B3, and activated folic acid. The second enzyme needs zinc, magnesium, and P5P, or activated B6. To activate vitamin B3 you need magnesium, to activate folic acid you need activated B2, B3, B6, and B12. To activate B2 you need iodine, and to activate B12 you need selenium. Zinc, magnesium, iodine, selenium are all minerals so I hope you begin to see just how important those minerals are. I don’t find that many people have a vitamin deficiency, what I find, time and time again, are people who have mineral deficiencies which are preventing the B group vitamins from being activated. Zinc is an essential ingredient in a known 250 enzyme reactions in the body: blood sugar metabolism, tissue growth and repair, making hormones and brain chemicals; deficiency will therefore cause a whole variety of symptoms. Magnesium is needed in about 300 enzyme reactions: manufacture of energy, making the brain chemicals; breakdown of toxic chemicals, those we make and those we gain from the environment; helping to maintain a balance of calcium; and it’s a muscle relaxant too. Zinc, magnesium and activated B6 are essential for the gut to work properly, for both digestion and gut movement. To get to sleep we need a natural chemical called melatonin: melatonin is made from serotonin. Maybe, just maybe, the symptoms begin to make sense not simply as a whole random mystery package but as a meaningful collection with a related cause. In other words the low serotonin that is causing depression is caused by poor activation of B group vitamins most probably caused by a mineral; deficiency, but is it the cause of the pain; the low serotonin is causing the poor sleep, but is it the cause of the pain. Low levels of magnesium, zinc, activated B6 will cause IBS, and lack of energy; even tingling in the hands and feet, and an imbalance in the brain chemicals to cause brain fog as well as the depression. Low levels of magnesium will cause muscle stiffness. But is all this entirely responsible for the pain?
Maybe we need to look more closely at the pain itself; is it caused by an irritant e.g. calcium crystals imbedded in the muscle or tendons; now that sounds painful. But why calcium crystals, isn’t calcium something we need and something that doctors talk a lot about, and nutritionists, as something we are often deficient in; it’s why we are encouraged to drink milk. Calcium is essential, it is one of the hardening minerals in bone, but it is also important for the nerves to function, for the heart to beat, for muscles to contract. Calcium is therefore in two places, the blood and the bones. The blood levels are the most essential for life so there is a hormone that brings calcium out of the bones into the blood and then there’s another when the blood levels get too high that sends it into the bones. Magnesium is essential for these hormones to work, to keep the blood bone levels of calcium balanced. Too high a blood level of calcium, that does not go back into the bones, can either be buried in muscle and other tissues, or spills over into the urine and is a frequent cause of kidney stones.
There are also actual chemicals made by the body that if they aren’t broken down can’t be excreted, and are then hidden in muscle and other tissues and I’ve already mentioned all those artificial ones. Metals found in food, air, and water are potentially damaging to the body and should be excreted; but if we get too much, or we have a deficiency of a mineral that would help us excrete it, then to stop damage to the brain and nerves we tuck it away, frequently in muscles and tendons. Allergy can cause inflammation in lots of different tissues. The foods that are most commonly associated with allergy are wheat and cow’s milk, but actually we can be allergic to any food, the more often we eat it the more chance of developing an allergy. Any damage to a tissue will cause inflammation and inflammation is caused by an increase in histamine; yes that chemical we started out with, that only needs 3 ingredients to make. We tend to think of histamine as a bad guy because so much more is heard about anti-histamine. Histamine is essential because it starts the healing process, but if the cause isn’t dealt with then just more and more histamine is made; and histamine is much harder to breakdown than to make; it takes no less than 18 different ingredients. Oh yes and those ingredients include zinc, magnesium, activated B2, activated B3, activated B6, and activated B12. Histamine causes contraction of muscles, which causes pain.
Anything that causes inflammation or damage to a tissue will cause pain. Pain is letting you know that something is wrong. Pain is caused by chemicals; so long as those chemicals remain the pain will remain. So the treatment has to find the cause. If it’s an irritant remove the irritant, if it’s a deficiency of a mineral then find the mineral or minerals. The minerals will also treat the cause, e.g. help the body get rid of the irritant by excreting it, stop allergy by repairing the gut wall. Repair any damage in the muscles, relax the muscle. The minerals should also enable the body to make more serotonin, removing the depression and giving better sleep, more activated B6 will stop the tingling in hands and feet, more magnesium or zinc will create more energy and will breakdown the chemicals that cause pain.
Another potential cause of pain is a CoQ10 deficiency. CoQ10 is a co-enzyme made by the body and it is important in the creation of energy; muscles create and use a lot of energy. To make CoQ10 the body needs activated vitamin B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folic Acid and Vitamin C. It is now known that taking statins, to reduce cholesterol levels, blocks the manufacture of CoQ10. Many people who have taken statins have complained of flitting muscular pain. Could there be a link between Fibromyalgia and CoQ10 deficiency. I’m not saying that everybody with Fibromyalgia is taking statins; rather that they have an inability to make enough CoQ10 because of an inability to activate all or some of those B group vitamins, because of a mineral deficiency. After all, these minerals and these activated vitamins do seem to have played a starring role in this paper.
I can’t tell you from here what the cause is; I bet you that the treatment will involve a mineral; but which one I can’t say. It could be zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium, sulphur, iodine; they all play a role in muscle function, most play a role in the creation of serotonin. Though we all use the same nutrients, the amount each individual needs varies; one person needs more zinc, somebody else more magnesium. This variation depends on where you grew up, what rock the soil was made from; did your mother have enough minerals in her body to give you what you needed as a developing baby, it’s always hard to play catch up; what foods have you eaten; what artificial chemicals have you been exposed to; how well do you absorb zinc; do you lose more zinc than most in your wee, which is very water soluble. Equally though we have the same enzymes we are all born with some enzymes that work less well and to perform their function need more of a specific nutrient. It is very easy then for the usage to outstrip the gain, especially when the food sources are low. Everybody is different.
I never promise to cure anyone; all I can do is try my best to find the cause and find the remedy. Functional Biochemistry, a branch of Applied Kinesiology, is the method I use to diagnose and to find what treatments are effective. It is a non-invasive technique which uses your body’s instinctive knowledge of how it can cure itself. This may sound odd but we don’t question that our body knows how to cure a cold, heal a wound, grow a baby. The biochemistry is straight out of the text book, the method of testing is alternative and this is why one of my client’s calls me her witch doctor.