When your muscles hurt all over
Increasing numbers of people suffer from chronic, diffuse pain in their muscles (as opposed to arthritic pain that affects the joints). The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain that renders the sufferer unable to function in normal, day-to-day life. The diagnosis to fibromyalgia may be difficult, and may depend on the physician consulted. Symptoms of fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivities, and chronic fatigue syndrome often overlap.
Does this symptom profile sound like you? Generalized aches or stiffness of at least three anatomic sites for at least three months, six or more typical, reproducible tender point, and exclusion of other disorders which can cause similar symptoms. Minor criteria include generalized fatigue, chronic headache, sleep disturbance, neurological and psychological complaints, joint swelling, numbing or tingling sensations, irritable bowel syndrome, and variation of symptoms in relation to activity, stress and weather changes. (From the Textbook of Natural Medicine, 1993).
What interested me this week is an article that associates fibromyalgia with leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) is just what it sounds like: holes in the intestinal wall that allow undigested food particles and pathogens to pass directly into the blood stream, setting off the immune system. It happens as a result of years of poor dietary and bowel habits, and the result is a chronically stimulated immune system and systemic inflammation, i.e., pain.
Some dietary habits that result in LGS include frequent intake of sugars and sugary foods, overuse of antibiotics, low fiber diet, and so on. In other words, the Standard American Diet (SAD).
The first line of defense against fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue is, therefore, cleaning up your diet. After that is done, work on sealing up those holes by providing healing herbs, like asparagus root, ashwaganda, and Siberian ginseng. These three herbs are tonic/adaptogenic, traditionally used to counteract stress and heal the body. FOS (fructooligosaccharide) provides food for friendly bacteria. Milk thistle seed and dandelion are traditional herbs for detoxification. Pippli is an Ayurvedic herb which may strengthen mucosal tissues against infection. Gamma oryzanol is a combination of sterols and ferulic acid from rice bran that may promote tissue regeneration.
And so on. Once the gut is healed, the immune system can calm down. The inflammation can resolve. Your muscles can stop hurting.
This regimen is not a quick fix, however. Plan to spend some time with it.
Carol is a certified lifestyle educator at the offices of Dr. Alan Gruning in Fort Myers. She owns the Island Nutrition Center on Sanibel. She can be reached at 472-4499.