New research: Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Fibromyalgia is where pain and tenderness are experienced in the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue. It’s a very common reason patients seek a consultation with us. Fibromyalgia can be mild or debilitating. It can greatly interfere with sleep and is strongly associated with depression.

Fibromyalgia can feel like you’ve been beaten up or lifted heavy weights every single day. Pain may be chronic or intermittent and to be classed as fibromyalgia it must have been present for at least three months. It’s more common in women than men, and often first develops after menopause. Fibromyalgia often occurs in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This is because both conditions are inflammatory in nature.

Potential causes

The following are potential causes of fibromyalgia:

  • Autoimmune disease, which causes increased inflammation in the connective tissues, joints and bones.
  • Gut problems, such as dysbiosis (imbalanced good and bad gut bugs and small intestinal bacterial or fungal overgrowth).
  • Hormonal imbalances. Eg; decreasing production of the steroid hormones from the ovaries and adrenal glands.
  • Mineral deficiencies, which are especially common in women.
  • Chronic infections in the body.
  • Build up of toxins and acidic waste products in the connective tissues and muscles.

Autoimmune disease

Autoimmune disease is one of the most prevalent health conditions today. Approximately 100 different diseases are currently classified as autoimmune, and the list keeps growing. It is estimated that one in five people in the western world have an autoimmune condition. A recent study from King’s College in London found that the pain, sensitivity, muscle weakness, impaired movement, and reduced number of small nerve fibres in the skin of fibromyalgia patients are caused by auto-antibodies. You can read about this interesting study here.

Gut problems are present in most autoimmune diseases. For many years I’ve seen that a lot of my fibromyalgia patients experience gut symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, reflux or abdominal bloating. Even if they don’t have those symptoms, when sent off for tests, they are often found to have an imbalance between good and bad bowel bacteria. This imbalance can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which raises inflammation and can trigger the formation of auto-antibodies.

Earlier research has shown that a high percentage of fibromyalgia patients studied were found to have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO simply means there is too much bacteria present in the wrong location. We all have approximately one and a half kilograms of bacteria in our intestines; most of it is supposed to be in the large intestine. If too much bacteria travels up into the small intestine it creates a problem because the bacteria inflames the gut wall and creates leaky gut. This causes the absorption of bowel toxins into systemic circulation. Fibromyalgia is a common consequence. The Dr Cabot 15 Day Cleanse is a program to help improve liver, gut and immune health. It can set you on the right path to restoring your health.

Fixing SIBO involves the use of herbal antimicrobials and sometimes a low FODMAP diet, along with avoidance of gluten, dairy products and sugar. Nutrient deficiencies are present in almost all patients with autoimmune disease, due to impaired absorption. Selenium helps to relieve inflammation and may reduce mild muscle inflammation. There is a lot more helpful information in our book Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.

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