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Through the years, I have spoken with many individuals, usually, women, who have now been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia is a condition in which individuals suffer from chronic pain, and have tenderness in about a dozen different spots in the body, and have “brain fog”.   They suffer from unremitting fatigue, bowel problems, difficulty in sleeping through the night, and waking up unrefreshed.  As would be expected, they are depressed and anxious as well.

 There are some physicians, even now, that think fibromyalgia “is all in the minds” of their patients.  Some studies have shown, that compared to the general population, individuals with fibromyalgia have significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety.  [Now why someone who is in pain and tired much of the time, would be depressed is beyond me.]

 I once spoke to a male physician who said that he always thought that fibromyalgia was “just” a psychological problem, having nothing to do with biology.  I asked him why he used the past tense, and he said to me, “because I got it!”. 

 Now that the pharmaceutical industry has come out with at least three FDA-approved medications for fibromyalgia, it evidently means that fibromyalgia can now be classified as a disease, and many clinicians treat it as such.  

Many patients have differing success when using these prescription medications.  The three pharmaceuticals reduced pain symptoms by only 30%.  Some of the medications made a difference in fatigue, but not in sleep patterns.  Many of these medications result in side effects ranging from insomnia (which they were trying to combat in the beginning!), nausea, and diarrhea.  Unfortunately for individuals suffering with fibromyalgia, many patients find that if the medication does work for them, too often it is for only a short-period of time, for as little as six months total.

Most clinicians state that the cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but that “painful tissues” are not associated with inflammation. 

I respectfully suggest that inflammatory responses are major contributors to the pain and discomfort those individuals with fibromyalgia experience.  Indeed, I cannot imagine that a person can feel pain, in the absence of inflammation.

Increasingly, the literature suggests that fibromyalgia, and other neuromuscular conditions are characterized by low-grade inflammation.  Inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and IL-1, and other immunological factors, have been found to be at higher levels than “normals” and may be resulting in the fatigue and flu-like illness experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia.

Controlling run-away inflammation by returning to immune homeostasis, immune balance, has, in my experience, resulted in dramatic differences in the quality of life of individuals suffering with fibromyalgia.  These individuals have tried other approaches with only limited success, so why not support balanced immune responses?

Medscape Family Medicine 2012 WebMD, LLC
www.actabiomedica.it/data/2007/2_2007/fietta.pdf
www.medicinenet.com/fibromyalgia/article.htm
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21975140
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19957871

 

A properly functioning immune system protects the body against infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens, and helps it heal. When our bodies detect a threat, or a stimulus that is “perceived” to be a threat, it orchestrates a delicate but highly aggressive immune inflammatory response to meet that threat.

There are two initial phases of immune responses:

  • Innate/early phase — a “built-in” or “automatic” response that is prepared at all times to defend the body against infection and cell mutations, such as those seen in cancers, and
  • Acquired– a more “educated” immune response that takes time to evolve in response to a specific trigger.

Inflammation is a complex event during which immune cells migrate into an area in response to various immune factors. These messages, such as cytokines, are used to to communicate and coordinate an organize attack against pathogens, or to help the healing process. After the threat has been resolved, other immune cells come in to carry away dead organisms and cells, and start the repair process.

A well-balanced immune system, a system in immune homeostasis, will mount enough of an inflammatory response to eliminate the threat, and then go on to repair damaged tissues. However, problems may arise if the immune system continues to generate an inflammatory responses after a challenge has been met —when inflammatory responses do not lower in intensity.

In such cases, the immune system is “over-responsive”; it is unbalanced, out of homeostasis. An over-active immune system leads to conditions where the body starts to destroy its own healthy tissue (e.g. diabetes, thyroid, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, etc.) or it may lead to allergies and chemical sensitivities, or poor healing.

Many people have the mistaken impression that “boosting” immune function at all times is useful. This is simplistic. People with autoimmune conditions, such as those mentioned above, are already “over responding”. The last thing they need is to further “boost” their immune response, increase their autoimmune responsiveness.

Another example of “boosting” immune response is artificially increasing the level of natural killer (NK) cells within the body. NK cells often make up part of the body’s “early response”. “Boosting” numbers of certain white cells is unnatural and may cause other difficulties due to excessive numbers of these cells.

Increased levels of NK cells, as well as autoimmunity, have been associated with women who have difficulty conceiving. Women who have experienced spontaneous abortions and miscarriages, have higher than normal levels of NK cells.

Additionally, other types of specific immune cells, for example those that play a role in protecting the body from infection, may promote miscarriage and premature births, when they are at higher than normal levels.

The lesson here is that all of our immune cells and their components have to be balanced, or in a state of homeostasis, for our body to naturally heal and protect itself.

There are a number of simple steps that one can take to return the body to homeostasis, including using recovery proteins, exercise, smarter food choices, and maintenance of healthier weights.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20237962
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20528832
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21162648
 

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