About 5 million Americans90 percent of them womensuffer from the chronic pain, fatigue, sleeplessness and overall lousy feeling of fibromyalgia (FM). Conventional medicine barely recognizes the condition and has no clue how to deal with it.
Doctors often think the pain is in your head and prescribe antidepressants or sedatives. Or they figure the pain is real but can't find the source, so they load you up on painkillers, which don't address the cause and create problems of their own. Or they ignore it entirely.
Fortunately, alternative-minded health care experts are zeroing in on both the cause and the cure for this devastating disease.
Evidence seems to show that FM often occurs after some kind of high-stress event. Most of the time it's a physical trauma to the head or neck. Indeed, 22 percent of whiplash patients get FM over the next year.
Research conducted at Washington State University may have discovered why. Stress causes inflammation, which signals the body to release a chemical called inducible nitric oxide (iNO). This in turn stimulates the production of cykotines, which further inflammation.
Inflammation typically subsides after the injury heals, but with FM it doesn't. FM seems to keep iNO in constant production. This starts a continuous cycle of inflammation and pain.
FM not only causes chronic pain and suffering, it also makes everyday aches and pains more acute. The iNO decreases blood supply to your thalamus, the brain organ that, among other things, inhibits pain response. That causes hyperalgesia, or extreme sensitivity to pain. Simple bumps and bruises that you wouldn't even notice normally become excruciating.
The same researchers who have uncovered these FM mechanisms have also developed new treatments. They use herbs and natural supplements to both relieve symptoms and break the stress-pain cycle.
Antioxidants. FM increases oxidation, so I recommend lots of antioxidants:
SAMe. S-adenosylmethionine has also been shown to aid FM symptoms by increasing immune function and supporting dopamine and serotonin synthesis. I recommend using a premium formulation at a dose of 400 mg twice a day. Be sure to take it on an empty stomach.
Vitamin D. Low levels of D are associated with many chronic pain conditions, including FM. I recommend 3,000-10,000 IU daily for a month, then 1,000-3,000 daily.
Herbs. Chinese skullcap and acacia used in combination is a great pain reliever.
D-Ribose. This is a simple sugar that boosts mitochondrial function, relieves pain and fatigue and improves energy and well-being. I recommend 1 scoop 2-3 times a day.
Melatonin. Your body's natural pain reliever and sleep inducer is available in supplement form. Take 1-3 mg 30 minutes before bed.
Tryptophan or 5-HTP. They help create more serotonin to address all of FM's symptoms and break the stress-inflammation cycle. I recommend 500 mg of tryptophan or 100 mg of 5-HTP before bed.
Mud baths. Research from Italy confirms the anecdotal evidence that weekly mudpacks and thermal baths improved every FM symptom there is.
Researchers find that combining several of these agents works best, but it's not a perfect science yet. Your treatment may need some experimentation to find which combination works for you. It's wise to work with an alternative medicine practitioner to supervise your treatments.
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