Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis based on a grouping of symptoms including fatigue and muscle pain. While the pain and inflammation are very real, this conventional medical diagnosis itself doesn’t help us understand what causes the problem.
It is a descriptive diagnosis, which is why it took so long to believe that there was a real medical condition causing the symptoms. Of course, in the conventional medical world this has been a helpful first step – having this diagnosis has helped many people get some form of treatment. But it still doesn’t help us understand the cause of the fatigue, inflammation and pain. That’s where functional medicine comes in.
Functional medicine focuses on the prevention and treatment of chronic disease by finding the cause of the imbalance or symptom the person is experiencing.
From the viewpoint of functional medicine, fibromyalgia is an inflammatory condition – receiving the diagnosis is just the beginning of the investigation. While we can all agree that the fatigue, inflammation and pain are real, that is simply not enough. We want to know WHY. Treating the person with painkillers is not the answer, as most people with fibromyalgia will tell you.
From a functional medicine perspective, it is critical to look at the foundational systems that are involved in controlling inflammation in the body. The three areas we look at are: the digestive system, food sensitivities, and the liver detoxification system.
The Digestive System
The reason the digestive system (referred to as the gut) is so important is because 70% of your immune system lives just under the surface of your intestinal lining, and any disruption in the beneficial bacteria – think lactobacilli and bifido bacteria, those good bugs in yogurt –or the intestinal lining, will cause immune reactions that release inflammatory molecules that travel throughout the body causing inflammation at distant sites. This is one of the core beliefs and approaches of functional medicine, supported by studies in the literature, and evidence I see every day in my practice. Fixing the gut can sometimes completely relieve pain and inflammation in the muscles and joints.