It happened out of the blue. I was newly married and very happy. Yet, shortly after we moved into the new home we built, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Pain. Fatigue. Brain fog (although I didn’t know what to call it then). All I knew was that I couldn’t function that day like I had the previous day. You may be saying the same thing. “I hurt all over. Do I have fibromyalgia?”
Back in 1992, I had never heard of fibromyalgia. Most of the many doctors I visited had never heard of it, either. They told me it was “all in my head.” They looked at me like I was crazy.
But, I’m not crazy. I’m an intelligent, spiritually-minded woman with many reasons to live. Yet, here I was, in my mid-30’s, feeling like a cross between a new-born baby who needed to sleep all day and someone bent over with unrelenting pain.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, also called fibrositis (inflammation of the fibrous connective tissue called fascia), is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by widespread muscle pain and tenderness. The pain can be dull and aching or sharp and pointed. Sometimes it was both at the same time. My muscles seemed to be in a constant state of spasm.
The pain made it very difficult to sleep. My husband and I established a routine. I would lie with a pillow under my stomach (since lying on my back made it difficult for me to breathe and lying on my side made my hips ache) and my husband would place ice packs up and down my back. I would sleep in this position for a couple of hours until the ice packs became warm. Then I would get up for a few hours. Then we would repeat the process. Not the best way to get a restful night of sleep for either of us.
The third part of my symptoms was a feeling of cognitive dullness. I felt as though there was a veil over my brain. I could read a book and not know what I had read. I had difficulty remembering the simplest things. This is what is referred to as brain fog.
There are other unpleasant symptoms: gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome, sensitivity to cold and pain, anxiety and depression (hey, who wouldn’t be depressed if you felt like this all the time?), and tingling in the extremities.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go. You may go days or weeks without incapacitating symptoms, then experience a fibro-flare. The triggers for flares can vary by person, but these are some of the most common (1):
- Physical or psychological stress
- Temperature and/weather changes
- Hormonal changes
- Traveling and/or changes in schedule
- Changes in treatment
- Poor sleep
Fibromyalgia affects about 3 million new people every year. It can only be diagnosed by a doctor. Medical conditions such as lupus, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, and others must be ruled out. Everyone experiences fibromyalgia in a slightly different way; that is why it’s referred to as a syndrome; you can experience some, many, or all symptoms.
If you are experiencing widespread pain and tenderness for at least three months in all four quadrants of the body, you may have fibromyalgia. When I was finally diagnosed in 1998, I had tenderness or pain in 13 out of 18 specified tender points when pressure is applied. (To receive the diagnosis, you must have pain or tenderness in at least 11 of the 18 points.)
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body is attacking itself.
Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut. Certainly, some diseases, like genetic diseases, don’t start in the gut, but for just about everything else, the gut is where it all begins.
The reason for this is the different gut bacteria residing in our digestive tracts, as well as the integrity of the gut lining. According to numerous studies, the lining of the small intestine can become porous and unwanted bacterial products called endotoxins can sometimes “leak” through the lining and enter the bloodstream.
Additionally, undigested proteins can also leak out into the bloodstream. Proteins that many people can’t digest such as gluten (from grains) and casein (from dairy products) can end up in the blood stream.
This is called intestinal permeability or leaky gut. For many years, the traditional medical community did not recognize this disease, but now it is known to them as Hyperpermeable Intestines.
Autoimmune Disease Begins
Once these “foreign” objects enter the bloodstream, the body chooses to store them in an organ, gland, or other tissue. When enough of these foreign particles are stored in the same area, our immune system takes notice and mounts an attack against them and the organ/gland/tissue in which they reside.
If, for example, these foreign invaders are stored in the thyroid (a gland), the immune system attacks the thyroid. Then we have symptoms of thyroid disease and we call it Hashimoto’s (hypothyroid) or Graves disease (hyperthyroid). If the invaders are stored in the fascia (a system of connective tissue), the symptoms are called fibromyalgia. If the symptoms manifest themselves in a rash, it is called psoriasis or eczema.
If autoimmunity is left unchecked, multiple glands/organs/systems will be filled with foreign invaders and attacked by the immune system, which then manifests in many different autoimmune diseases. It can take years of attacks before one recognizes what is happening. For myself, the attacks have spread to my thyroid (Hashimoto’s), fascia (fibromyalgia), skin (psoriasis and eczema), lungs (asthma), and joints (rheumatoid arthritis).
How to Heal From Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are caused by leaky gut. So, the get to the root of the problem, we must heal the gut.
Leaky gut can be caused by:
- What you eat
- Processed food
- Cow’s dairy
- Unsprouted grains
- GMO foods
- Not enough probiotics and fiber
- Hydrogenated oils
- Prescription drugs, especially OTC pain relievers, birth control pills, antibiotics, and steroids (these cause bacterial imbalance by killing the natural good bacteria in your gut)
- Chronic stress
- Yeast (or candida)
- Lack of zinc
The traditional medical answer to autoimmunity is immunosuppressants, such as steroids. Unfortunately, while suppressing the immune system may lead to some relief of symptoms, it can also leave one open to other infections. Suppressing the entire immune system indefinitely is not recommended.
Fortunately, there is a way to heal leaky gut that is simple and inexpensive. It does, however, require a change of mindset. It requires you to change what you eat.
This is the simplest, yet the most difficult, part. Eat whole food. Real food. Non-processed food. Food without additives. This is what I ate to regain my health:
- Simple carbohydrates: vegetables, fruits, and raw, local honey
- Easily digestible fats: ghee, coconut oil, and egg yolks
- Easily digestible protein: wild-caught fish, organic chicken, and 100% grass fed beef
- Bone broth
- Probiotic rich foods (like kefir and sauerkraut)
Here are some recipes to get you going, however, I’ve found that keeping it simple is best. For breakfast, I make my Super Duper Restoring Smoothie. For lunch, I usually have a baked sweet potato (with ghee, Himalayan salt, Ceylon or Vietnamese cinnamon, pomegranate seeds, and some walnuts or pecans) and a mug of bone broth. For dinner, I’ll pick a protein and a veggie (salmon and asparagus; scrambled eggs and green beans; taco salad). My go-to snack is homemade applesauce.
- GMO food
- Food additives like MSG
- Pasteurized food
- Anything you’re allergic to or intolerant of
Learn more in my new book, Be in Health: Bible-Based Health Restoration: Living in Harmony with God’s Ways Regarding Health. Available now.