22.10.2014 Naturopathy

Natural Therapies for Fibromyalgia

Naturopath Lyn Craven continues her look at this puzzling but painful disorder.

A woman recovered from breast cancer without undergoing chemotherapy. However, within months of the tumour being removed she began to experience muscular aches and pain. Fortunately, this has not been totally debilitating like some chronic cases, but is a daily persistent ache throughout her body. Fibromyalgia symptoms have presented themselves here due to the trauma and illness she experienced that weakened her immunity.

She improved with frequent Bowen therapy treatments, appropriate minerals, in particular colloidal magnesium, herbal remedies and supplements. Her gut integrity has been impaired and we have addressed her long term addiction to sugar-laden foods. Excess sugar consumption will leach essential vitamins and minerals, such as B complex and zinc, from the body. It can also create an imbalance in gut/bowel flora, something that must be addressed to improve overall health.

This example and the others given in my earlier article in August 2014 "Is it Really Fibromyalgia?"(http://novamagazine.com.au/article_archive/2014/2014-08-really-fibromyalgia.html) show quite clearly that nobody needs to endure ongoing muscular pain and discomfort, whether or not it is diagnosed as FM. Appropriate treatment can be obtained and this is where natural therapies play an important role since they will not contribute to further toxicity of the body or weaken the immunity.

It is extremely important to improve the immune system in all cases. Many pharmaceutical drugs can impair the gut function, which is also reliant on a healthy immune system.

Depression and Pain Tolerance

It has been observed that people with FM have decreased activity in opioid receptors in parts of the brain, which affect mood and emotional aspects of pain. This indicates why FM patients are not very responsive to opioid painkillers.

Some research has identified a conflict between sensory perception and nervous system processing, thereby creating a greater awareness of, or less tolerance for, movement problems such as tremor that doesn't match with their expected sensory feedback. This mismatch in sensory signals might enhance the perception of pain.

Other people find sleep deprivation is more unbearable than pain, and they may suffer restless leg syndrome, which again would compound the insomnia.

Various deficiencies maybe present with depression and restless leg syndrome. These could be determined by a blood test to check levels of specific minerals, B vitamins, serotonin, tryptophan and phenylalanine.

Herbal and homeopathic remedies are excellent in assisting in varying degrees of depression, especially when the source of the depression is brought to light.

Brain Chemicals and Hormonal Abnormalities

Stress Hormones:

Researchers have also found abnormalities in the hormone system in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland (HAP) axis. The HAP axis controls important functions, including sleep, response to stress and moods. Changes in the HAP axis appear to produce lower levels of the stress hormones norepinephrine and cortisol. By contrast, levels of stress hormones in depression are higher than normal. Deficiencies in the levels of stress hormones produce impaired and weaker responses to psychological or physical stresses such as exercise or viral infection weakening the immunity. This should be considered in FM cases.

Medical Treatment:

When receiving medical treatment many people do not achieve complete remission of their symptoms, but most are told to learn to live with their condition. FM is not inherently crippling, and it is considered that it doesn't shorten the lifespan of those affected by it.

Treatment will probably focus on lifestyle patterns and referral to support groups and counselling to help with the physical, psychological, financial and social frustrations the condition can cause. The medical belief is that there is no cure for this disorder.

A gentle exercise program is strongly recommended. Regular aerobic exercise and stretching can help maintain muscle conditioning, improve sleep, and decrease pain and stiffness. Caution should be used, especially when starting to exercise, as overexertion can cause painful flare-ups. Stress reduction and limiting caffeine and alcohol also may help to reduce symptoms.

Treatment using Natural Therapies

Natural therapists such as naturopaths, homoeopaths (who are also trained in Bowen therapy) and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners are better placed to help with chronic disease and pain than conventional medicine, which may only offer a "band aid" treatment.

Depending on the cause and varying symptoms that you may be experiencing, you could be looking at incorporating more than one type of treatment such as acupuncture, massage, Bowen therapy, nutritional supplements in conjunction with dietary assessment and changes, and herbal and homeopathic remedies. No two people would be treated exactly the same due to the myriad of symptoms that are involved with a diagnosis of FM. To self prescribe may exacerbate the symptoms and you may be disappointed with the results, experiencing only partial temporary relief. This is a long haul. Initial treatments may be weekly, then at longer intervals for ongoing maintenance of your condition.

It is vital to maintain a healthy fresh food diet for the rest of your life and supplement with appropriate remedies. The positive thing here is there are no side effects leading to other symptoms or disorders from taking natural remedies for the long-term, in contrast to pharmaceutical painkillers and anti depressants. In some cases, remedies would diminish over time, but a recommended maintenance dose would be taken.

It is essential with all health disorders, especially chronic cases, to drink at least 1.5-2 litres of fresh/filtered/spring water daily. No tap water should be drunk without filtering and boiling. Research has indicated that water ingestion can assist greatly with pain relief, as once you become dehydrated your cells and nervous system do not function adequately. Water is also anti ageing!

So if you have been suffering muscular aches and pain (whether diagnosed with FM or not), please be aware there are many helpful therapies available for you to gain relief. You do not need to endure this discomfort for the rest of your life. By the same token, there is no magic pill or remedy and you must be prepared to make some changes to your lifestyle and diet.

See Part One of this column "Is it really Fibromyalgia? " at: http://novamagazine.com.au/article_archive/2014/2014-08-really-fibromyalgia.html

Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing and meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 19 years' experience in natural therapies. www.lyncravencorporatehealth-naturopath.com

Disclaimer: Information presented in this column is not intended as medical advice but to advance the understanding of holistic nutrition and lifestyle and its place in a balanced approach to health. Readers are encouraged to be guided by their own healthcare professionals.

Lyn Craven

Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804