Q: Twenty-five years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. By exercising and self-medicating (mostly with supplements), I managed to raise three kids and work as a teacher. But since the onset of menopause my ability to function has decreased, and I quit my job. I have tried the guaifenesin protocol where you eliminate all salicylates (compounds found in many fruits and vegetables), I’ve taken several herbal remedies, and I’ve even gone to the Mayo Clinic for help. Nothing has worked. I am not overweight, eat a healthy diet, and walk daily regardless of pain. I also do yoga. However, the pain is worse than ever and I have become depressed and discouraged. Please help enlighten me as what to I can do to feel better. I am so impressed with your common sense and medical expertise. Thank you in advance for any help you can offer. — J.P., Colorado Springs, CO
Dr. Micozzi: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a difficult and mysterious condition. It’s now thought to involve a disorder of how your central nervous system processes sensory input. And it’s probably a consequence of being more connected to your environment and more sensitive to the energy around you.
Generally speaking, mainstream medicine does not have the language or tools to deal with such a condition. So even though there have been descriptions of conditions like FM far back in the history of western and Chinese medicine, it hasn’t been widely recognized by mainstream medicine until recently.
Certainly, FM is not “all in your head,” as so many mainstream physicians had said for so long. But I know from personal experience that training yourself to think differently about the various sensations your body feels can help with FM symptoms. A physical therapist once suggested thinking of the sensations not as pain or discomfort but more pleasantly as tingling, warming, or even “buzzing.”
Mind-body therapies can also offer significant relief. In the book I wrote with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type, I discuss which popular alternative healing therapies are scientifically proven to be effective specifically for fibromyalgia. But there is a key to discovering which of these therapies is best for you.
You see, it all depends on the boundaries of your personality—what I call your “emotional type.” I’ve discovered that some people react better to particular mind-body therapies than others, depending on their emotional (technically “psychometric”) makeup. To find out more about my book and to take a short quiz to determine your emotional type, visit www.drmicozzi.com. Simply click on the yellow box at the bottom of the home page to take the quiz.
Another interesting note: FM generally exists in a continuum with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). While researching and writing Your Emotional Type, I found that your emotional type can actually predict whether you will be on the FM or the CFS end of the FM/CFS spectrum.
In terms of physical remedies, your commitment to exercise is excellent, and I suggest you continue it. Along with your daily walks, I strongly recommend swimming, stretching, or moving in water whenever you can. Yoga is an excellent practice as well. You will likely find that the pain and discomfort decreases as you increase your physical activity.
Getting a deep tissue massage once or twice a week is also very helpful. Or you can also purchase a motorized chair massage pad (you can find them through online retailers for as little as $50).
As you’ve already discovered, following a healthy diet is key to reducing your FM symptoms. I can’t comment on the guaifenesin drug protocol, as I have neither used nor recommended it. But I do recommend you continue to avoid sugars and carbs, which will help your mind, body and mood.
I also recommend supplementing with 5,000 IU a day of vitamin D, a high-quality vitamin B complex, Co-Q10 (100 grams of ubiquinol a day), and 1 to 2 grams daily of a high-quality fish oil. (For details on how to find a safe and effective fish oil supplement, check out “What you REALLY need to know about fish, omega-3s, and prostate cancer risk” in the October 2013 issue of Insiders’ Cures. You can access this issue for free from the Archive by logging on to the Subscriber area with your username and password.)
You should also make sure you get plenty of sleep. If you have any concerns about the quality of your sleep, ask your physician about having a sleep evaluation.