Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are Fibromyalgia Patients Crazy?

Have you’ve been told you’re crazy, lazy or depressed? If so you’re not alone. Friends, family and doctors may try to make you think your illness isn’t real, “its all in your head.”

You often lose your train of thought mid-sentence, have strange reactions to medications, and suffer with an assortment of health problems; yet all your labs are normal. You’ve got numerous complaints including anxiety, depression, fatigue, chronic pain, insomnia, IBS, MVP, chronic sinusitis, tingling in their extremities, night sweats, chemical sensitivities, headaches, reflux, and other symptoms.

I’d be crazy too if I went days without sleeping, had diffuse chronic pain, no energy, no life, and no hope. You’ve been bounced from one doctor to another, had dozens of tests, taken numerous drugs which didn’t help, and continue to get worse, year after year. The traditional drugs of choice for fibromyalgia, including, NSAIDS, antidepressants, anticonvulsant medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, and pain medications, may provide short-term relief, yet their results are often fleeting and their side-effects detrimental. It’s not unusual to be taking twelve or more prescription drugs, many of which contribute to their erratic behavior.

The sleep drugs Ambien and Lunesta may cause short-term memory loss, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and depression. Tricyclic antidepressants, including Trazadone and Elavil, may cause early-morning hangover, mental confusion, and lethargy. SSRI drugs may cause anxiety, depression, mental blunting, and lethargy. Klonopin and other benzodiazepines may cause depression, fatigue, and decreased mental function. All of these drugs are known to deplete at least one or more essential mood-dependant vitamin, mineral, or nutrient (B6, B12, CoQ10, Folic acid, etc.). Individuals with fibromyalgia are also deficient in the brain chemicals, which help regulate mood and mental function.

Neurotransmitter Deficiencies

Research shows that the majority of fibromyalgia patients are deficient in serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These three neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are essential for optimal mood and mental function. Serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone,” helps regulate mood, sleep, digestion, bowel movements, pain, and mental clarity. Individuals with fibromyalgia have low levels of the amino acid tryptophan, as well as 5HTP, which are needed for the production of serotonin.
L-phenylalanine derived norepinephrine, when released in the brain, causes feelings of arousal, energy, drive, and ambition. No wonder you suffer with “fibro fog.”


Stress Coping Savings Account
I like to use the analogy of being born with a stress-coping savings account. We have certain chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and hormones like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and cortisol that allow us to handle moment-to-moment, day-to-day, stress. The more stress we’re under, the more withdrawals we make. Individuals with fibromyalgia have made more withdrawals than deposits.

Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, and others, don’t make serotonin, they only help the brain hang onto and use serotonin more effectively. These drugs are like using a gasoline additive, but those with fibromyalgia don’t have any serotonin to re-uptake. They’ve bankrupted their stress coping savings account and depleted their serotonin. These drugs usually don’t provide long-term relief.
Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true nutritional protocols that can help build up the bankrupted stress-coping savings account.

5-Hydroxytryptophan 5HTP
Double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have shown that patients with FMS were able
to see the following benefits from increasing serotonin through 5HTP replacement therapy:
• Decreased pain.
• Improved sleep.
• Less tender points.
• Less morning stiffness.
• Less anxiety.
• Improved moods in general, including in those with clinical depression.
• Increased energy.

S-adenosyl- L-methionine  (SAMe)
S-adenosyl- L-methionine  (SAMe) increases the action of several neurotransmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, by binding these hormones to their cell receptors. However, patients with fibromyalgia have been shown to be deficient in this essential amino acid.
One study shows that patients taking SAMe for a period of six weeks had an improvement of 40 percent in pain reduction and 35 percent improvement in their depression.

Along with 5HTP and SAMe, I’ve found that a good optimal daily-allowance multivitamin with a free-form amino acid blend, fish oil, malic acid, and generous amounts of magnesium is essential for reversing the “brain fog,” poor energy, chronic pain, mood disorders, and sleep disturbances so common in fibromyalgia.

Please know that, while you might not think you’re the sharpest tool in the shed, with the right nutrients you can replenish your brain chemicals, build-up your stress coping savings account, and even remember where you put your car keys.


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