Fibromyalgia seems to be increasing in prevalence with more cases diagnosed and more treatments prescribed each year. This condition of chronic, systemic flare-ups of pain isn’t new—but it’s certainly become more popular since it’s “official” name, fibromyalgia, was coined around 1990.
Fibromyalgia treatments can be quite rigorous.
The conventional treatment protocols advocate the use of pharmaceutical medications that range from synthetic hormones to antidepressants, to anti-inflammatory drugs, to muscle relaxants, to anti-epileptic drugs. These drugs all come with pretty scary warning labels with side effects ranging from minor inconveniences to life-threatening events, and many are prescribed “off-label,” without any research showing long-term safety or efficacy. These side effects often cause symptoms or new illnesses to occur which require additional pharmaceutical intervention for relief. However, when one is enveloped in the constant, systemic pain brought on by fibromyalgia, they might overlook these issues in favor of relief; and while relief might come while on the drugs, complete resolution is not possible by simply treating the symptoms of the disease.
There are many more natural and holistic therapies for fibromyalgia available, many of which have merit. These options include cognitive therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, nutrition and supplementation, energy work, and detoxification. While these therapies might not offer instantaneous relief from pain (though some might) and often require many treatments over time, they are free from potentially life-threatening side effects.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Western medicine claims there is no known cause of fibromyalgia, but holistic practitioners believe that every disease has a cause, and by identifying and eliminating the cause, the symptom will resolve. In the holistic realm, some suggested causes of fibromyalgia are immune system disorders, toxic build-up in the body, metabolic dysfunction, heredity, illness or injury, unmanaged stress, and human herpes virus. In my own professional experience and education, I’ve learned that fibromyalgia and its suspected causes is very similar to another chronic—yet often dismissed—condition: Candidiasis.
Candidiasis, also referred to “yeast overgrowth,”, or simply as “Candida,” is a systemic infection that occurs when the balance of harmful versus beneficial bacteria and microflora in the gastrointestinal tract (the gut) is disrupted and tipped in favor of the harmful organisms, notably, Candida albicans. Candida albicans is a strain of yeast that occurs in the mouth, gut, and genitourinary tract that exists to digest decomposing matter in the body. When the body has high enough levels of beneficial bacteria and microflora (also referred to as probiotic strains), levels of Candida are kept in check and don’t present any problems.
However, due to several factors in the diet and lifestyle such as:
- Poor digestion and elimination
- Consumption of foods that are high in sugar
- Foods that produce an acidic environment in the body,
- Inadequate consumption of foods that naturally contain probiotic strains and nutrients that strengthen them
- Inadequate sleep,
- Overabundance of stress
- Overconsumption of yeast-containing foods and beverages like bread and alcoholic beverages
…the Candida in the body grows stronger and overpowers the beneficial microorganisms to the point where they take over and wreak havoc on every system of the body, causing symptoms, and both chronic and acute illnesses including but not limited to:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and other digestive issues
- Neurological symptoms such as restless leg syndrome, numbness, and clumsiness
- Chronic headaches and migraines
- Foggy thoughts and difficulty concentrating and remembering details
- Inflammatory conditions like arthritis and swollen joints
- Extreme environmental sensitivity including intolerance to smells, bright lights, sound, very cold or very hot temperatures, chemicals
- Seasonal, food, or substance allergies that develop seemingly out of nowhere
- Skin disorders like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema
- Hormone imbalance leading to increased menstrual symptoms
- Frequent pelvic, bladder, and urinary pain and infection
- Changes in vision or eye health
- Development of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, lupus, and more
- Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
Do these symptoms sound familiar?
That’s because each of these symptoms, in addition to others, have also been associated with fibromyalgia. What’s also interesting is that in the references about Candida, fibromyalgia is often listed as a symptom, and in the fibromyalgia references, Candida is listed as a symptom. One might ask which causes which?
In my professional opinion, Candida is more likely to directly cause the pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia than fibromyalgia is to cause dysbiosis of the gut. Am I suggesting that these conditions are one in the same? Not necessarily, but in my professional experience, addressing Candidiasis with different methods of detoxification, supplementation, changes in diet, and lifestyle adjustments has alleviated or improved many of the above symptoms for as long as the client sticks to proper maintenance plan after following an initial protocol. Candidiasis cannot effectively be treated with chiropractic, acupuncture, energy healing, cognitive therapy, or other methods that do not directly address the reason for the overgrowth in the first place—diet, lifestyle, and toxic build-up.
I’m not suggesting that fibromyalgia isn’t real or that one’s diagnosis is incorrect—what I am suggesting is that many of the causes and symptoms of fibromyalgia point directly to Candidiasis, so by focusing treatment efforts on bring levels of Candida albicans back into check, many of the fibromyalgia symptoms may subside.
There are many products on the market to address Candidiasis—supplements, herbal tinctures, cleanses—you name it.
It’s hard to know where to start. I always recommend to my clients to start first with a close examination of one’s diet—is the person consuming a lot of sugar, bread, foods that are difficult to digest like dairy products and some meats, highly acidic foods, etc. I also recommend keeping track of cravings—Candida is a living organism in the body that will make its host (you) crave what it feeds on and needs to survive. Foods that don’t digest well and therefore leave a good amount of decomposing matter in the body, foods that produce an acidic environment in which the yeast thrives, and foods that naturally strengthen and cause the yeasts to propagate (like sugar and yeast-containing foods) are commonly craved by people with Candidiasis. It’s also helpful to add more foods that naturally contain strong, live strains of beneficial bacteria and other microflora like raw, cultured vegetables (examples are raw sauerkraut and kim chi), kombucha, and non-dairy kefir. Whole-foods-based probiotic beverages and supplements are also helpful.
This might seem overwhelming, but making changes to target Candida can significantly improve fibromyalgia symptoms and overall quality of life—without scary side effects or illnesses caused by them. It’s always helpful to work with a coach or other holistic health professional with specific training on Candidiasis and detoxification who can support and guide you through the entire process and also help you maintain and sustain your results.
By Rachael Pontillo, AADP, CHC, BS, LE