May 12 is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, a day to raise awareness of those suffering from this debilitating condition that often goes undiagnosed. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, and sleep, memory and mood issues, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men but are often frustrated when healthcare professionals dismiss their condition. Until recent research confirmed that this debilitating condition could be caused by a neurovascular condition in the skin, people suffering from severe pain that could not be diagnosed with routine testing were often told their illness was “all in their head.”
In 2017, Lady Gaga shared on Twitter that she had fibromyalgia and “wished to raise awareness,” for this devastating condition. Since then, severe nerve pain from fibromyalgia has forced her to reschedule tours. “I get so irritated with people who don't believe fibromyalgia is real,” she said in an interview with Vogue. “For me, and I think for many others, it's really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fibromyalgia affects roughly four million American adults–an estimated 2% of the U.S. population. The disease can be hard to diagnose because symptoms mimic other illnesses. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes sleep problems and widespread pain that can severely interrupt a person's daily activities. Many people with fibromyalgia have mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or eating disorders, says Harvard Health.
Medications often do not work for fibromyalgia sufferers. Non-medication treatments, such as exercise, sleep hygiene and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage and stress management may be more helpful. However, the Food and Drug Administration has approved some prescription drugs to treat fibromyalgia, including Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella.
Board certified internist Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, bestselling author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, and an internationally known fibromyalgia expert, has helped thousands reclaim their lives from this debilitating disease.
“Chronic fatigue syndrome, and its painful cousin fibromyalgia, represent an energy crisis that trips a key circuit breaker in the brain called the hypothalamus,” says Teitelbaum. “This controls sleep, hormones, and autonomic function, so the circuit breaker going off-line causes widespread dysfunction. Anything that causes people to spend more energy than they can make, including viral and other infections like COVID-19, can suppress the hypothalamus and trigger chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.”
Dr. Teitelbaum’s landmark, placebo-controlled study on fibromyalgia published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome showed a 91% improvement in quality of life in 90% of patients using his integrative treatment protocol, which focuses on sleep, hormones, immunity, nutrition and exercise.
According to WebMD, some experts say that switching to an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet can help ease fibromyalgia symptoms. This includes consuming lean protein like fish, lots of vegetables and whole grains, some fruit and little or no meat. One study found that people who follow a vegan diet eliminating not only meat, but dairy and eggs, lowered markers of inflammation after only three weeks.
You may also want to avoid food additives. Some researchers say that a group of food additives called excitotoxins make the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse. Excitotoxins are found in monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the artificial sweetener aspartame. Eliminate gluten, dairy, and soy products to see if this reduces symptoms, says WebMD, and then slowly reintroduce them one by one to see how you feel.
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