Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and ME, Not Only Disabling It Could Be Deadly!
By Dr. Greg Fors, DC, DIBCN
Defeat Autism Now! Doctor
Muscles hurt when you exert them; do you ache all over at times and stiff in the morning? Does fatigue seem to haunt you and at times it's like someone's pulled the plug and drained all the energy out of your body? Are you also noticing other health issues, digestive problems, mood swings and at times you experience brain fog? You are not alone, now more than one in 50 suffer from these syndromes that fall under an alphabet soup of labels, FMS, CFS, ME and PVFS. However you label it with this syndrome you are experiencing a loss of vitality at the cellular level, in a very real sense cellular function has been poisoned by our modern world! This loss of cellular vitality takes place throughout the body especially in energy demanding tissues such as muscles, the digestive tract and the brain. This loss of cellular vitality not only leads to more and more disability in your life but research is now showing rates of earlier mortality from preventable diseases.
Because fibromyalgia syndrome is a body wide disorder individuals report an extremely wide variety of symptoms, some more common than others. A full 100% of people with FMS have muscular pain, aching and/or stiffness and about half suffer severe headaches. Almost all suffer from fatigue, insomnia and depression. Up to 73% of FMS patients have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and digestive problems. In individuals with FMS/CFS very commonly suffer from brain health issues such as with difficulty in concentrating and poor short term memory or ‘brain fog’, dyslexia, dizziness, irritability, mood swings, panic attacks, phobias, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, and sleep apnea. Individuals with FMS commonly report easy bruising, itchy skin - with or without a rash, loss of hair, sensitive bladder, mouth ulcers, night cramps, restless leg syndrome, allergies, reoccurring viral infections, chronic rhinitis, dry eyes and mouth.
This wide variety of symptoms gives witness to the fact that throughout the body there is a loss of vitality, which is directly related to metabolic dysfunction at the cellular level. This ‘gumming-up’ of your cell function (e.g. muscle, nerve, skin) primarily involves something called chronic inflammation and oxidative stress which always act in unison. Chronic inflammation is nature’s way of signaling through your neuroimmune system that something is wrong within the body. When inflammation is chronically triggered through physical, chemical and/or emotional injury, white blood cells of your immune system called macrophages infiltrate the involved tissues. These macrophages produce chemical messengers’ called pro-inflammatory cytokines whose job is to “clean-up” by attacking and disposing of cells in the affected area. In some individuals this can even lead to an autoimmune disorder. You can imagine if your condition (FMS/CFS) continues to cause signals to be sent to destroy more and more cells, it can lead to a loss of tissue vitality and over time even organ damage.
One of the most common triggers of chronic inflammation is something called oxidative stress. Most individuals now take antioxidants or at least heard about antioxidants, these are nutrients that are meant to stop the formation of cellular oxidative stress. You are constantly interacting with oxygen as you breathe and your cells produce energy. However, oxygen is a highly reactive molecule and readily produces toxic molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals buildup in tissues it is called oxidative stress which causes damage to cellular proteins, membranes and genes. This oxidative damage is the chronic trigger of macrophage signaling of chronic inflammation. This chronic inflammation leads to the aches and pains and fatigue of FMS/CFS
One of the primary sources for the initiation of free radicals and oxidative stress in your tissues is the severe chemicalization of your personal environment. Since World War II we have placed more than 4 million synthetic compounds and 80,000 industrial chemicals into our environment. Through the National Human Adipose Tissue Survey, the EPA has been monitoring the accumulation of toxic chemicals in human adipose tissue since 1972. Presently five of the most toxic chemicals known to man are now found in 100% of all tissues sampled, chemicals now linked to oxidative stress, hormone disruption, increased autoimmunity, cancers and neurological damage. Important to our discussion of musculoskeletal pain is the research of Iris R. Bell Ph.D. and Carol M. Baldwin at the University of Arizona. Their work has shown that low level chemical exposure can cause Sensitization of the central nervous system. Through this mechanism they have found that even low level presence of environmental toxins in your tissues can lead to chronic muscle pain disorders. What makes this worse is that research has shown impaired cellular detoxification pathways in individuals with FMS/CFS , making these individuals more susceptible to toxic chemicals in our environment.
This oxidative stress and the chronic inflammation it triggers not only clauses disabling pain and fatigue but now has been shown to lead to rates of earlier mortality. An alarming statistic found in a recent study showed that individuals with CFS/FMS syndromes die of heart failure at an average age of 58.7 years; where as the average age of heart failure in the US is 83.1 years . Another alarming statistic unveiled in the study was that the median age for death from cancer in the US is 87.2 versus the average age of 47.8 for those with these syndromes . This is not a complete surprise when one reads the research, which demonstrates the deep connection between heart failure and many cancers to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
So how do you know if oxidative stress is taking a terrible toll on vital tissues in your body? There are some very important laboratory tests that I utilize to determine if this is taking place within individuals with FMS/CFS and how severe it is. These are not standard tests that are usually run by doctors, but they are very diagnostic, not invasive and are relatively inexpensive. In virtually every one of the patients I have treated with FMS/CFS, I have found many of these biomarkers of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation elevated. One of the best established biomarkers to have examined is urinary 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OhdG), a marker of oxidative damage to cellular DNA. One study reported “urinary excretion of 8-OHdG (adjusted for creatinine) was significantly higher in patients with depression and FMS/CFS/ME than in normal controls and all other patients”. Oxidative damage to DNA is also an established risk factor for atherosclerosis and neurodegeneration. As part of this lab test you can measure the level of urinary peroxides which is a direct measurement of cell membrane damage from oxidative stress in your tissues. If you have FMS/CFS/ME you may want to know if they are tearing down your own cell membranes and cellular DNA. All you need do is have your doctor order the test, and you collect first morning urine to be frozen and sent to the lab.
There are many other important biomarkers that indicate to the doctor who truly understands these devastating disorders if your tissues are in a destructive state of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Again, these laboratory tests are not routinely done, but are great indicators of how much damage is being done to your tissues and how successful metabolic treatment is at stopping this damage. For example, serum GGT has now been shown to be a strong indicator of damaging oxidative stress in tissues and serum hsCRP a good indicator of chronic inflammation. However, a doctor must be trained in utilizing and properly interpreting these biomarkers to make them useful to the patient's recovery
This very important and complex subject matter is covered in great detail in my book “Why We Hurt.” Here you will find a comprehensive explanation of the role oxidative stress and chronic inflammation plays in your health and well-being. You also find a very detailed exploration of how diet and nutrition can help you overcome the underlying metabolic dysfunction so central to chronic pain and fatigue, disability and mortality.
Dr. Greg Fors, D.C. is a Board-certified Neurologist (IBCN), certified in Applied Herbal Sciences (NWHSU) and acupuncture. Trained through the Autism Research Institute he is a registered Defeat Autism Now! Doctor. As the clinic director of the Pain and Brain Healing Center in Blaine Minnesota he specializes in a natural biomedical approach to fibromyalgia, fatigue, depression, autism and ADHD. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article you can contact Dr. Fors at 763-862-7100. Dr. Fors is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Why We Hurt” available through booksellers everywhere.
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