Fibromyalgia — what it is, and how can you heal it

Do you have joint pain, sleep disturbance, depression, inability to think clearly, chronic fatigue or chronic pain in your muscles and ligaments? Most of us feel some of this at least once an a while, some of us maybe feel it more regularly.

Generally, these symptoms will be diagnosed as fibromyalgia, which is a long-lasting or chronic disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue, and most commonly affects women in their mid-30s to late-50s. Of course, the popular way to “cure” it is with painkiller and/or antidepressant medication.

Fibromyalgia is unfortunately often misdiagnosed, though, and can be easily confused with other conditions such as arthritis or joint inflammation. But fibromyalgia is different, as it causes soft tissue or myofascial pain (not in the joints) and fatigue.

Doctors often believe that the cause is unknown and that there is no cure, so the only choice is medication, exercise, and behavioral therapy to help relieve symptoms, but not really to treat it.

But what if fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are caused by mitochondria impairment, or energy production dysfunction, and it can be treated and “cured” with nutritional therapy and exercise?

I always like to think of the body as a whole, so if you have any symptoms it’s just your body telling you that it needs help. And most of the time, with a little help in energizing your metabolism, it can heal itself.

Mitochondria are the power plants of the cell, they contain enzymes that are important for cell metabolism, including those that convert food to usable energy.

Each cell contains about 2,500 mitochondria, which means that over one quadrillion mitochondria exist in the adult human body — that’s more than three times the number of adult human cells, and twice the number of microorganisms found in the gut.

Cells can even increase their mitochondrial number through fission of the mitochondrion, which are the sites of cellular respiration, the catabolic process that uses oxygen to generate the energy-containing molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

While some nutrients diffuse across the intestinal membrane, carrier substances transport other nutrients across the intestinal border to the blood. This process is called active transport. Active transport requires energy in the form of ATP generated by the mitochondria. ATP functions as the common currency of energy within a cell — without it, there would be no transport of energy through your body.

Digestion and transport of nutrients into the bloodstream use approximately one quarter of the body’s metabolic energy. In active transport, a molecule or element is bound to a carrier on the outside of the intestinal cell, and this carrier then transports its nutrient cargo to the inner membrane of the cell and returns to the outer membrane to repeat the process.

This movement is central in absorbing nutrients such as glucose, amino acids, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and uric acid.

Cells needing immediate high energy, like muscle cells, require creatine for energy storage. Creatine is produced by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, and converted to a high-energy, phosphorylated derivative called phosphocreatine. This in turn converts ADP to ATP by transferring its high-energy phosphate via creatine kinase. Carbohydrate intake and insulin secretion increase muscle cell use of creatine.

When you have energy disturbance, this can lead to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other inflammations in the body.

Studies have showed that a gluten-free diet may be able to reduce the pain and inflammation of fibromyalgia, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying treatable cause of fibromyalgia syndrome.

In addition, it can be especially beneficial to eat foods with high energy and low sugar, such as avocados, dark leafy greens, ginger, nuts and seeds. Cutting out additives from the diet, such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG), can also reduce pain symptoms significantly.

Supporting these nutritional changes with supplementation of the B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium and zinc, phytonutrients such as ginger and curcumin, and fish oils (EPA/DHA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA), magnesium, vitamin D, L-Carnitine, and S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), has been shown to be especially beneficial too.

Of course, as always please ask your doctor and make sure he or she tells you the correct amounts and sources for you. But also always remember that instead of just treating the symptoms with medication, most of the time there is also a natural and healthy alternative to heal yourself by just giving your body the nutrients and the movement that it needs.

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

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