Ease the Frustration of Fibromyalgia the Natural Way

Many patients with fibromyalgia have come to us after facing many barriers when trying to relieve their symptoms, or even get a firm diagnosis. The lack of agreement on best practices for symptom relief makes this condition difficult to navigate, and the frustration is often made worse by the wide range of possible symptoms, often without a predictable pattern. But Naturopathic Medicine may have a lot to offer.

Fibromyalgia doesn’t have to hold you back, read on to learn about holistic approaches that are showing a lot of promise.

Roadblocks in Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

A 2010 study looking at the journey to diagnosis study found that fibromyalgia patients waited an average of about one year before even seeing a healthcare practitioner, and many had to see multiple practitioners with an average of 2.3 years before concluding they in fact had fibromyalgia.

Promising Developments

In recent years we have seen some promising developments in fibromyalgia research, with particularly exciting developments being made regarding holistic practices that may help ease the severity of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men, and is more likely to appear as menopause begins (as if menopausal women didn’t have enough to deal with!).

For many patients, the most pressing symptom is unexplained widespread pain in the soft tissues, the areas between the bones like fat, muscle, fibrous tissue and blood vessels. People with fibromyalgia describe the sensation as a dull, constant pain, which is often triggered by touch, and can become progressively more debilitating. Most often, this pain occurs at multiple points, called regions of pain, on both sides of the body and above and below the waist.

Other symptoms can include:

● Stiffness in the morning
● Tingling hands or feet
● Irritable bowel syndrome
● Headaches
● Weight gain
● Nausea
● Jaw pain
● Bloating
● Constipation
● Unexplained fatigue
● Trouble sleeping
● Weight gain
● Skin sensitivity

Many patients also report mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating – a symptom often described as “brain fog.”

That’s quite an extensive list of symptoms, and to further complicate matters, patients can experience combinations of different symptoms at different times.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

The wide range of symptoms and their unpredictable nature make diagnosis a challenge. A definitive diagnostic test isn’t yet available, and as a result, many people struggle with symptoms for months or years before arriving at a solution. If you suspect you may have fibromyalgia, always work with a medical practitioner who doesn’t dismiss how you feel. Your concerns deserve to be heard.

A Process of Elimination

Arriving at a fibromyalgia diagnosis is partly a process of elimination, since other health issues, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis or Sjogren’s disease can cause many of the same symptoms. A thorough physical and mental health exam can help narrow down the cause.

More Common in Women

Because fibromyalgia is much more common in women, men may face additional barriers to diagnosis. It’s important to note that this condition does occur in men, and that the symptoms can greatly impact their quality of life. Men who are experiencing the symptoms above may need to be even more persistent in pursuing a diagnosis.

What causes fibromyalgia?

This is another difficult element of fibromyalgia, since studies haven’t yet identified a specific trigger. However, many medical practitioners have noticed that it often begins after a patient has experienced a physically or emotionally traumatic event, like a car accident, relationship breakdown, or injury. This connection is further supported by the fact that people who have post-traumatic stress disorder are more prone to fibromyalgia.

Some evidence points to a genetic component for a person’s susceptibility. If you’re experiencing symptoms, think about your relatives’ health history. Conventional medicine has been slow to recognize fibromyalgia, so even if a relative wasn’t diagnosed officially, having a history of fibromyalgia symptoms could be a red flag.

What are Some Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia?

To date, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, there are numerous natural ways to help relieve symptoms and restore quality of life, including:

1 – Supplementation

● Magnesium citrate supplements have been found to reduce the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
● Melatonin may improve sleep quality, important in coping with the many symptoms.
● The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega 3 and fish oil may also help reduce pain.
● Studies have found a possible connection between Vitamin D deficiency and fibromyalgia, so make sure you are getting enough, particularly during the winter.
● D-ribose helps relieve pain and depression, and can prevent insomnia in fibromyalgia patients.

2 – Herbal supplements

● One promising study on Ginseng found that it helped to relieve fibromyalgia pain and insomnia.
● Curcumin, a component of turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that may also help to relieve pain associated with fibromyalgia.
● Some patients experience an improvement in mood with the use of St. John’s Wort.

3 – Acupuncture

Acupuncture may help increase blood flow to the affected areas, helping to reduce pain and tension. It may also boost production of endorphins, which can have a positive impact on mood.

4 – Exercise

When you’re tired and sore, exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do, but numerous studies have linked exercise with good outcomes for people with fibromyalgia. Yoga has been found to be especially useful in easing both physical and psychological symptoms. Other effective activities include walking, any exercise in water, and strength training. Be sure to always work with a professional trainer to get acquainted with strength work, preferably one who has treated fibromyalgia patients before.

Remember that consistency is more important than intensity. Don’t push yourself, small amounts of exercise help but you don’t want to overdo it and cause more pain.

5 – Diet

Many patients find an anti-inflammatory diet helps ease their symptoms. In particular, a diet that is low in FODMAPs is often effective. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols, but in simpler terms, FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates which may cause inflammation or digestive upsets.

Common high-FODMAP foods include:

● Wheat
● Onions
● Garlic
● Beans
● Many fruits, including apples, figs, mangos, peaches, and nectarines, are high in FODMAPs, and should be avoided.
● Some vegetables, particularly asparagus, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
● Many sweeteners, particularly honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and agave nectar.
● Dairy products that contain lactose.

As you can see, FODMAPs are found in a lot of foods, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients by swapping for nutritious foods low in FODMAPs. The goal isn’t to eliminate FODMAPs forever, but to find an amount that works for you.

Implementing these lifestyle changes can reduce the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia and restore your quality of life. Starting a new diet or supplement regime without support is not recommended. If you’d like some help with specific elements, or just want support in the process, give us a call.


D’Agnelli S, Arendt-Nielsen L, Gerra MC, et al. Fibromyalgia: Genetics and epigenetics insights may provide the basis for the development of diagnostic biomarkers. Mol Pain. 2019;15:1744806918819944. doi:10.1177/1744806918819944

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Digestion Problems? These 10 Proven Tips Will Help

“A good digestion turneth all to health.” – George Herbert

Good digestion is essential to our health – and our mood – and when it’s all working smoothly, we tend to take it for granted. It’s not until things go wrong that digestion moves to the forefront of our minds.

If you are someone who suffers with digestive issues such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and nausea, you know that it can quickly become all we think about, affecting every moment of the day. And the discomfort is only the tip of the iceberg. If we’re not digesting food properly, we’re at risk for nutritional deficiencies. That’s because the digestive system is our central “distribution center”, breaking down what we eat and shipping nutrients out to the cells that need them.

Like any supply chain, any broken link can have far-reaching consequences. In addition to the many far-reaching effects of nutrition deficiencies, poor digestion can lead to emotional stress, and even depression due in part to the gut’s role in producing serotonin (our happy hormone).

Digestive Disorders are Increasingly Common

Digestive disorders have risen dramatically in recent years, likely because our fast-paced lifestyles contain many elements that contribute to problems, such as high stress levels, too much time sitting, and poor-quality sleep. The good news is that it’s possible to get your digestion back on track.

By getting to know your own digestive system and experimenting with different lifestyle habits that are known to make a difference to many people, you can figure out that funny tummy, reclaim your social life and feel confident that what you eat is truly nourishing your body.

10 Proven Ways to Help Improve Your Digestion

1. Eat whole, natural foods

Choosing whole foods means opting for the least-processed version whenever possible. Choose an apple over apple pie, for example, or whole grains over refined flour. Not only is this the best way to get all of the essential nutrients, but the additives and excess sugar found in many processed foods can feed the bad bacteria in your gut, contributing to gut irritation, bloating and cramps. Artificial sweeteners are another culprit of poor digestion, since even the so-called “healthy” sweeteners like xylitol have been linked to bloating and diarrhea.

2. Focus on fiber

To understand the myriad of ways fiber promotes digestive health, it’s helpful to distinguish between the two types of fiber:

Soluble fiber

As the name suggests, soluble fiber dissolves in water. When it passes through your body, it absorbs water and other fluids to form a gel-like substance that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, apples, oats, and strawberries.

Insoluble fiber

Because insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve, it helps provide bulk to stools, which helps them move along the digestive tract more easily, contributing to regularity and that sometimes elusive feeling of complete elimination. Good sources include vegetables and many whole grains.

Your diet should contain both types of fiber to promote good digestion and regularity. To increase your overall fiber intake, increase your consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. There are numerous ways to sneak more fiber into your diet, like leaving the peel on potatoes, adding a handful of nuts to a salad, and sprinkling a little freshly ground flaxseed on yogurt. However, if you currently eat a low-fiber diet, be careful not to ramp up your intake too quickly, which can lead to gas and discomfort. And as you introduce increasing amounts of fiber, make sure you’re also drinking more water as the fibre itself absorbs a lot.

3. Stay hydrated

One of the most common culprits for constipation is dehydration. Water helps move things along through your digestive tract in a wave-like muscle movement called peristalsis. However, if your body senses that you need more water elsewhere in the body that takes priority. The lower intestine draws water from your stools to redirect it to other parts of your body such as your muscles or brain, making your stools harder to pass.

Choose your fluids wisely. Sipping on water and herbal teas throughout the day are great options to keep you hydrated. Avoid alcohol, which acts as a diuretic and further dehydrates, as well as sweetened beverages. The jury is still out regarding coffee’s effects on digestion. Some people find it leads to heartburn, but scientists haven’t found a direct causal effect. Coffee does have a laxative effect for many people, and it’s best consumed in moderation.

4. Choose healthy fats

Toss a fiber-rich salad with a bit of olive oil, and stay clear of fat-free dressings. Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts actually help your body absorb nutrients, so don’t be afraid to add them to a meal. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent digestive disorders like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Foods high in omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon, chia seeds, hemp hearts and nuts.

5. Reduce stress

Yes, this is easier said than done. But consider this: Your gut has millions of neurons receiving messages from your brain. When you’re under chronic stress, you’re more vulnerable to stomach aches and other upsets. Plus, when you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release more of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, which can lead to cramping as the body redirects hydration from your intestines to your arms and legs.

Try to create a calm atmosphere for meals, and keep dinner conversation pleasant. Tackle long-term stress by introducing more stress-busting mindful activities such as yoga or walks. Many people have success with meditation, especially practices geared towards digestive issues.

6. Eat mindfully

Part of making mealtimes less stressful can simply mean slowing down. Avoid eating on the go and try to make a policy of eating while sitting down, at a table, instead of in your car or while running to another activity. Turn off the TV and pay attention to the pleasure of a good meal.

Use your senses throughout a meal – taste, smell, textures – food should be enjoyed after all. Savour every bite instead of absent-mindedly snacking while thinking of something else and you’ll improve digestion by preventing overeating to the point of feeling too full.

7. Chew your food well

What’s the rush? When you chew your food, you’re starting the digestive process, so it follows that more chewing breaks down your food more thoroughly. Plus, chewing slowly helps you to focus on your food in a more conscious manner and, in turn, reduces stress. Aim to chew your food 20 – 30 times before swallowing to aid the digestive process.

8. Get moving

It’s simple: When you move, your digestive system moves. That might sound overly simplistic, but scientists have found that exercise can improve the rate at which you digest food. The peristalsis process speeds up with the increase in blood flow and the triggering of various movement receptors in your colon, pushing food through the digestive tract at a regular pace. Exercise also reduces stress, boosts energy, improves mood and heart health.

9. Clean up your habits

You can add “better digestion” to the many reasons to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol consumption. Some smokers feel that smoking helps them stay regular, but like caffeine, that is due to a stimulant effect that can be irritating. Smoking also greatly increases the risk of acid reflux, peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and cancer of the colon. If this is you, we can work with you on creating a health plan to help you cut out smoking – while practicing other good digestion habits – so you won’t feel the need to rely on cigarettes.

10. Maintain the microbiome

Your digestive tract contains trillions of bacteria supporting gut health. Maintaining that microbiome is essential for avoiding digestive problems like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. A healthy gut microbiome is also essential for mental health, as the gut is the main site for the production of our happy hormone, serotonin.

These tips may help you maintain balanced levels of the right kind of gut bacteria:

● Because the microbiome contains many different types of bacteria, be sure to eat a wide variety of foods to help sustain them.
● Good bacteria help digest some types of fibers, so following a high-fiber diet stimulates their growth.
● Fermented foods help replenish good bacteria, so choose foods like unsweetened yogurt, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, and sauerkraut when possible.
● Probiotic supplements may help maintain a good balance in your gut. Research suggests they’re an effective supplement to reduce the symptoms of existing digestive problems, although they may be less effective at preventing problems.

Don’t let digestive problems hold you back from enjoying life. If you’d like to talk about further strategies, or want help creating a plan to implement these tips, give us a call!


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