Fibromyalgia & CFS
(Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyositis and myofascial pain syndrome, refers to a chronic condition of medically unknown cause resulting in pain in the fibrous tissues, muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is characterized by achy pain, tenderness and stiffness, particularly in the muscles of the occiput (the base of the head), neck, shoulders, back and thighs. The pain is aggravated by overuse, straining, and by physical and emotional stress. The condition occurs mainly in women (50:1 ratio of women to men.) Fibromyalgia is often associated with depression, sleeping problems, and chronic fatigue. In fact, most experts consider fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) to be the same condition which should be treated in the same way. Fibromyalgia is also sometimes associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

If you think you have fibromyalgia a thorough medical examination is in order. There are several conditions that can mimic the disorder and these should be ruled out. If your doctor diagnoses fibromyalgia he or she will probably recommend pain pills, sleeping pills and possibly antidepressants. These may provide a small amount of temporary relief, but they will do nothing for the underlying condition and in time can even make it worse. Once you receive your diagnosis you always have the option of refusing the doctor's treatment. Most doctors are poorly equipped to treat fibromyalgia so you will probably do better if you can find an alternative practitioner who is well-versed with natural and nutritional treatments for the disorder, or take matters into your own hands.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that slowly and insidiously develops over time. The cause is multi-faceted—several factors, each carrying different weight with different individuals, combine to bring about the disease. Trauma is often the precipitating factor that brings the condition to the surface, but this only occurs after many months, or even years, of chronic mental and physical stress. Stress quickly depletes the body of its nutritional reserves, especially those of magnesium, B vitamins and trace minerals. This is especially damaging when the nutritional reserves are low in the first place. Chronic stress and a nutrient poor diet, the typical American diet of overly-processed and devitalized foods, is the ultimate cause for most individuals.

Recent medical research indicates that many cases of fibromyalgia may be caused by an underactive thyroid gland, a condition which is frequently missed by routine medical tests because doctors will usually ignore a "borderline" case. I recommend that everyone with fibromyalgia be evaluated for underactive thyroid, and if found, be treated for that condition first. (See our nutritional program for underactive thyroid.)

Alternative Management of Fibromyalgia

Since fibromyalgia is a multi-faceted disease, it is necessary to approach it from a wholistic perspective, addressing as many causes as possible. The Five Fundamentals of Health are the five areas of lifestyle that we must attend to in order to achieve our maximum health potential. They are also the five areas that we must address when managing fibromyalgia.

To help you remember the Five Fundamentals of Health, remember the acronym CLEAN:

The Steps (These are done simultaneously.):

All of these steps must be done to get lasting results. The entire program should last for at least six months. Most experts agree that you should allow four months plus one month for every year that you have suffered from the condition. It usually takes four to six weeks before improvement is noticed. After you have completed your program it is highly advisable to continue on a maintenance program.

  1. Cleansing: Begin with a CleanStart.
  2. Leisure: Support Natural Sleep.
  3. Exercise: Engage in Regular Exercise.
  4. Attitude:
    • Work on your mood
    • Emotional Freedom Technique
  5. Nutrition:
    • Diet
    • Nutritional Supplementation
  6. Essential Oils and Massage
  7. Lifetime Maintenance

Step 1: Begin with a CleanStart

Every nutritional program should begin with a 2-week cleanse with the CleanStart TM cleansing and detoxification program. This cleans the intestines, liver, blood and kidneys of waste material and toxins that are hindering the healing process.          

Step 2: Support Natural Sleep

The second fundamental of health is Leisure, by which we mean rest, relaxation and especially sleep. Sleep is essential for our well-being, but it isn't just the quantity of sleep that is important, it's the quality.

Studies have shown that fibromyalgia is always associated with a sleeping disorder. It is not clear whether the sleeping disorder comes first, leading to the fibromyalgia, or whether the fibromyalgia comes first, leading to the sleeping disorder. What is clear is that recovery is impossible unless the sleeping problem is addressed. Fibromyalgia sufferers rarely have trouble falling to sleep. It isn't the quantity of sleep that is the problem it is the quality of sleep. This is an important concept to understand because it is the reason why sleeping drugs rarely help and can actually make the problem worse in the long run.

There are four phases of sleep. Once the fourth or deepest phase is attained, the body goes through a sort of sleeping rhythm, alternating between dream sleep and non-dream sleep. Different types of emotional and physical healing and building take place during these two distinct types of sleep. Both are necessary to maintain our health. Researchers have shown that fibromyalgia sufferers for some unknown reason can never reach or maintain the most important level four sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping your doctor will probably prescribe a sleep-inducing drug. Although these drugs may put you to sleep, they interfere with the natural rhythm of sleep and almost never result in quality sleep. Herbs like hops, valerian and passion flower help induce a more natural sleep and are better alternatives for most people who have trouble sleeping. These three herbs are available in a sleep combination appropriately named Herbal Sleep. Other alternatives are Timed-Released Valerian extract, Melatonin Extra and 5-HTP Power. You might have to experiment a little to find what works best for you. You will also have to experiment with the dosage. A word of warning: Too much melatonin can make you feel groggy the next day, especially after long term use. Reducing the dosage will probably take care of the problem, but this is not a problem with the other supplements mentioned so they should probably be tried first. The Emotional Freedom Technique of "tapping" is also very helpful for quality sleep. This technique is described below in Step 4, improving your mood.

Step 3: Exercise

Because of the muscle pain, it is sometimes difficult for fibromyalgia sufferers to exercise. Some exercise is essential to recovery, however, so it is important that you do what you can. Exercise increases circulation, promotes better sleep, and stimulates the body to release endorphins, its natural pain killers. Start slowly and be careful not to exercise to the point of aggravating your symptoms. At first, in severe cases, only gentle stretching exercises should be performed. Even as little as 5 minutes of stretching, every day or every other day, will be beneficial. Beginning Yoga stretches are excellent. Check your local library for books or videos teaching beginning Yoga or easy stretching. Exercises for fibromyalgia are also given in an excellent book on the subject, Reversing Fibromyalgia: The Whole-Health Approach to Overcoming Fibromyalgia Through Nutrition, Exercise, Supplements and Other Lifestyle Factors.

As soon as you are able, vigorous exercise for at least 15 to 20 minutes, three times a week, is recommended. Your exercise program does not necessarily have to include intense activities such as jogging or running. A walk at a comfortable pace is an ideal exercise for most people. Since walking is less vigorous, you should try to build up to at least 40 minutes at a time. Other activities such as bicycling are also excellent as long as they are done on a regular basis—preferably every day, but at least three times a week.

Step 4: Work on Your Mood

A positive attitude is extremely important for fibromyalgia. Healing will not take place without it. Unfortunately, depression is often a consequence of chronic pain, and this is particularly the case with this disorder. It has been observed that fibromyalgia sufferers usually do better when they take St. John's Wort herb, a popular mood elevator. It is important to choose a quality St. John's Wort supplement that has been concentrated to the proper strength. I recommend either St. John's Wort Concentrate with passion flower, or Time-Released St. John's Wort. It takes at least a couple of weeks of regular use of St. John's Wort before an improvement in mood is noticed. It is important to take it on a regular basis for best results.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping, is so important for the treatment of fibromyalgia that I would not consider treating the disorder without the aid of this powerful meridian therapy technique, as an adjunct to the other suggestions mentioned on this page. Tapping is an accupressure technique for releasing emotionally-charged memories, both conscious and subconscious, that may be interferring with mental, emotional and physical well being. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), upon which meridian therapy is based, pain occurs where there are blocks to the flow of chi, or vital energy, in the body. These blocks occur in the tissues, including the muscles and fascia, due to associated memories stored in the body of unresolved or suppressed emotions. Tapping systematically works to release these emotions so the normal flow of chi can resume, resulting in the complete healing of the body and mind. For more information on EFT and tapping see Book Recommendation: The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing and Eliminating Chronic Pain

Step 5: Nutrition

The Fibromyalgia Diet

There are foods you can eat that will help fibromyalgia, and foods you can eat that will aggravate the condition. Foods that produce inflammation in the body, particular sugar, corn sweetners, wheat, and all chemical additives and artificial ingredients, have a tendency to increase pain; while foods that are high in vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, have the opposite effect. Plant enzymes like Proactazyme also help reduce pain and inflammation.

Most Americans need to eat far more fruits and vegetables and fewer bakery goods made with wheat, sugar and corn sweetners. Food additives and chemicals should be avoided. This includes artificial sweetners such as Aspartame (NutriSweet); and artificial fats such as Olestra. For a complete discussion of the fibromyalgia diet I will refer you to Natural Health School's Dietary Guidelines.

Nutritional Supplementation

Take the following supplements in addition to the ones mentioned above in the discussions on cleansing, sleep and attitude:

General Nutrition:

  1. Take two capsules of Proactazyme plant enzymes with every meal. Take at the beginning of the meal. These replace the plant enzymes that have been removed from our foods due to processing and cooking. Plant enzymes help with digestion of all food types and have an anti-pain and anti-inflammatory affect on the body. They also help activate the healing process.

  2. Take a good quality multi-vitamin/mineral supplement every day, such as Super Supplemental. Take one tablet with every meal. In general, other than the Proactazyme and probiotics, nutritional supplements should be taken during or after meals.

  3. To help neutralize the acids that build up in the body tissues take a good quality calcium supplement every day, such as Coral Calcium or Skeletal Strength. Take one capsule or tablet with every meal. (Quality is more important than quantity! Don't get hung up on numbers.)

  4. Vitamin E Complete with Selenium—take one 400 IU capsule with meals twice a day.

  5. Take a colloidal trace mineral supplement every day. Choose either Ionic Minerals or Mineral Chi Tonic.

  6. You must have at least one bowel movement every day, preferably two or three a day. Take a psyllium fiber supplement every day to keep your bowel movements regular. If you are overweight take your fiber supplement 15 minutes before meals (to help you feel full sooner.) If underweight take it one hour or longer after meals or at bedtime. Drink plenty of clean pure water with your fiber supplement and throughout the day.

  7. After the two week cleanse mentioned in step one above, take at least one bottle of Bifidophilus Flora Force, a probiotic or "friendly bacteria," to insure the integrity of the natural flora of your digestive tract. Take four capsules a day in divided dosages between meals (on an empty stomach.) This is an essential step for rebuilding a weakened immune system and it must not be omitted. If you have a history of yeast or fungal infections this supplement should be continued for six months or longer.

    Direct Aid for Fibromyalgia:

    (These must be taken for at least six months.)

  8. Take the malic acid/magnesium supplement Fibralgia according to label directions (at least three a day - if you weigh over 180 pounds take four a day.) Malic acid, from apples, along with magnesium, has been medically proven to aid patients suffering from fibromyalgia. It is beneficial for muscle health.

  9. Flax Seed Oil—Take according to label directions for at least six months. Continue taking if desired. If you crave fats, fatty foods, fried foods, etc. continue taking Flax Seed Oil for as long as you have these cravings. Flax Seed oil is also available in a liquid form that can be applied to salads and other foods but it should not be heated.

  10. Lecithin—Take six capsules a day with meals for nervous system health. (Alternatively, you may choose to take either Brain Protex or DHA.)

  11. Coenzyme Q-10—Take one 100 mg soft gel once or twice a day. This important enzyme is necessary for cellular respiration and energy production helping improve muscle function. It also supports the immune system, the circulatory system, and it is a powerful antioxidant.

  12. EverFlex Pain Cream features the cooling relief of menthol plus a unique combination of cetylated fatty acid esters (cetyl myrsitoleate, myristate, palmitoleate, oleate, palmitate and laurate), olive oil and MSM. Clinical studies have shown that cetylated fatty acid esters help promote joint mobility and flexibility. MSM is a great source of sulfur, an important structural component, while menthol is an approved active ingredient in many pain-relieving topical creams. This cream is easily absorbed through the skin for fast-acting structural support. Apply as needed to the skin around painful muscle and joint areas no more than four times a day. For external use only.

    Support the Thyroid Gland:

    As indicated above many, if not most, cases of fibromyalgia are associated with an underactive thyroid gland. Take our Online Health Assessment questionnaire as a screening test to determine if this may be a concern for you. If so, read my article on underactive thyroid and include thyroid support. This is extremely important. Supplements to support your thyroid include the following three products:

  13. Master Gland
  14. Thyroid Support
  15. Energ-V

Essential Oils and Massage

According to a study done by the Touch Research Institute of Miami, fibromyalgia patients who received 30-minute massages twice a week for five weeks reported reduced pain and stiffness, less fatigue, decreased depression and less difficulty sleeping.

The best type of massage for fibromyalgia is the light touch kind. A deep pressure massage can aggravate the condition. Adding essential oils such as Lavender and Geranium to Carrier Oil can be very helpful. A blend of these two oils seems to work best. They can also be diffused into the air to aid relaxation and added to bath water for a relaxing warm bath. Epson Salts (magnesium sulfate) should also be added to the bath water. The magnesium in the salts and the essential oils are absorbed directly through the skin and into to the muscles where they can be most beneficial.

Lifetime Maintenance

Recommended Reading:

The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing and Eliminating Chronic Pain

Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Check with your health professional before altering any treatment regimen or if you take prescription drugs.