Fibromyalgia Latin for “Muscle Fiber Pain”

Fibromyalgia Latin for “Muscle Fiber Pain”

The location of the nine paired tender points that comprise the 1990 American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia.

The first thing I think about when I hear the dreaded diagnosis is something one of my professors in pharmacy school used to talk about at least once a semester. A diagnosis is a definition and not disease. What he meant was the nomenclature associated with some type of bodily dysfunction is nothing more than a moniker and designation. It tells nothing about what is occurring in the body or how to address it; it simply names it.
Fibromyalgia is the Latin term for “muscle fiber pain”. That means when you go to your doctor complaining of muscle pain and you leave with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, what your medical guru is basically doing is taking your complaint, translating it to a medieval dialect, giving you a pain medication or maybe an anti-depressant (!) and then billing you. This is a textbook example of how the medical model works. It can’t do anything real, but it can officiate your symptomology by sanctifying it with a Latin moniker.

It reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. As you’ll recall at the end of the flick, the scarecrow, with a head filled with nothing but straw, travels far and wide to find the magical wizard (doctor) who, it was said, could miraculously create for him a brain. As it turns out however, the wizard (doctor) is nothing but a fraud, and while he can’t deliver him any gray matter, he can give him something that, where he comes from, re-presents a brain. A diploma! In other words instead of giving his patient anything real, he gives him a piece of paper that supposedly symbolizes something real. Sounds a lot like the medical model to me!
So what to do if you are dealing with muscle fiber pain i.e. fibromyalgia? Well, as turns out you can actually do a lot. That’s because fibromyalgia represents toxicity, specifically blood toxicity. In 1990, Dr. John Couvaras, a fertility physician from Phoenix, discovered that women given an injection of the blood thinner heparin to improve circulatory problems associated with infertility reported that their fibromyalgia symptoms were dramatically reduced. He subsequently developed the “Hypercoagulation Theory of Fibromyalgia” that postulated that sticky, coagulated blood, following toxicity, results in the deposition of clotting proteins and other poisons in the muscle that eventually results in the classic pain syndrome associated with fibromyalgia. And where does that toxicity come from in the first place? Typically, the liver and the ultimately the small intestine. Here’s what happens:

The small intestine is the home of the “microbiome”, trillions of bacterial cells made up of many hundreds of strains. The numbers and types and exact proportions of these bacterial strains are tightly regulated. If there are long standing digestive health issues, especially in the processing of fats, over time these proportions get thrown off and the wrong types of bacterial strains can proliferate. Medical folks call this “dysbiosis” or “SIBO” (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth). Because these bacteria are constantly secreting waste material, eventually the body will mount an immune (defensive) response and an inflammatory reaction will ensue. As this progresses eventually the blood can become contaminated. And the major blood response to this kind of contamination is clotting.
To compound the problem the healthy microbiome is involved in estrogen metabolism. When dysbiosis occurs, estrogen is not broken down correctly and toxic byproducts can build up. Usually the liver can handle these byproducts, but under conditions of long term bacterial and estrogenic toxicity, this critical detox organ can become overload and even more poisons can enter into the blood. Thus fibromyalgia should be regarded as the final result of estrogenic and digestive system toxicity following long term dysbiosis.

So if you are dealing with the pain and misery of fibromyalgia here’s what you want to do: First of all correct digestive problems. Look for problem foods i.e. foods that cause any digestive distress (heartburn bloating cramps, loose stools, constipation etc.) and eliminate them. Get on a good probiotic supplement (I like Youngevity’s BioLumin Nightly Essence) and eat lots of fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kim chee and fermented beets. You can make your own fermented veggies pretty easily, basically by mashing or cutting up veggies and adding some bacterial starter and salt. And use a good probiotic supplement on a regular basis and make sure you use a product that has multiple bacterial strains. Use digestive enzymes and apple cider vinegar after all meals, especially ones that contain lots of fat. And, taking digestive enzymes on an empty stomach can have blood thinning effects that can improve fibromyalgia symptoms. Practice calorie restriction (eating less) and take a food holiday (fast) once a week or so. Use essential fatty acid supplements which can support estrogen metabolism. Consider estrogen balancing supplements like Vitamin A (20,000 iu a day), Vitamin E (400 iu a day) and pregnenolone (100mg a day). And applying a progesterone cream 5-7 days a week cream can be helpful too.
10 other interesting supplements that may help improve fibromyalgia symptoms:

Melatonin-4-6 mg at bedtime
Theanine-100-500mg daily
Magnesium Glycinate-2000mg daily
Vitamin C -1000-5000mg daily
N-Acetyl Cysteine- 500mg daily
Vitamin E-(mixed tocopherols) – 400 iu daily
Cetyl Myristoleate -100-500mg daily
Malic Acid – 1000mg a day
Sam-E – 100-200mg daily

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Melatonin is More than a Sleep Aid

Everyone knows that melatonin is a great sleeping aid. If you have insomnia or if you just want a good night’s sleep using this natural and non-toxic, uber-gentle supplement at bedtime can help you fall asleep fast and get you some pretty cool dreams too. But melatonin is way more than a sleeping aid. It’s one of the most powerful antioxidants made by the human body. It’s strengthens the immune system and has anti-aging properties too. And it’s even been shown to help improve some of the systems of autism.

GERD X-ray - Melatonin

X-ray of the abdomen and chest in a patient with a gastrostomy. By Steven Fruitsmaak, via Wikimedia Commons

Melatonin, which is largely manufactured in the pineal gland, is released into the blood in a daily, rhythmic “circadian” fashion. This accounts for its role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Upon its secretion into the blood stream in response to evening reduction of sunlight, body temperature drops, drowsiness ensues and the body prepares for sleep. Conversely as the light of day reaches the pineal gland which is centrally located in the brain, melatonin manufacture and release slows down signaling and initiating wakefulness.

According to a January 2010 article in the Journal of Pineal Research, studies have suggested that circadian disruptions caused by exposure to nighttime light may be associated with higher risks of cancer. In essence, 21st century, 24-hour lighting can disrupt rhythmic secretion of melatonin resulting in lower blood levels. Because it has significant anti-tumor properties, it’s thought that these lower levels may result in an increase the incidence of carcinogenesis. Interestingly this circadian cycle of secretion and cessation has been exploited by oncologists who use it to dose anti-cancer medication in a process called “chronotherapy” which can be defined as a “the timely administration of chemotherapy agents to optimize trends in biological cycles”. By dosing chemotherapeutic agents in association with nighttime surges of melatonin release, medication potency and effects can be maximized.

One of the most functional benefits for melatonin involves improving the symptoms of gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease (GERD) which show up as an inflamed esophagus following backing up of acids and digestive juices from the stomach. Not surprisingly melatonin, which inhibits the secretion of stomach acid, and has significant protective effects on the stomach lining is not especially effective for nighttime acid reflux.
In one study, published in 2007 in the Journal of Gastroenterology, this one done on chronic indigestion and heartburn, nearly 60 percent of patients who took a daily 5mg dose of melatonin for 12 weeks, were completely symptom free and required no further treatment while another 30 percent of patients reported a partial response

Melatonin plays a very important role in the functioning of the esophagus. And because heartburn can be cause by activation of the stress nervous system, the so-called sympathetic nervous system, melatonin’s relaxing effect may also play a part in improving the symptoms of acid reflux. Melatonin also reduces the production of gasses that relax the esophageal sphincter specifically something called nitric oxide. Other researchers attribute melatonin’s protection from GERD symptoms to its anti-oxidant properties, but whatever the reason if you’re dealing with chronic heartburn, using melatonin is at least worth a shot. Try taking 6 to 9 mg at night and giving it about 4-6 weeks to see if it helps.

Melatonin is cheap and readily available. The sublingual form which is dissolved under the tongue can be particularly effective. Recently melatonin containing creams have become available. Although these may not increase melatonin levels or help you fall asleep, according to dermatologists they may allow consumers to take advantage of melatonin’s anti-oxidant properties for protecting and improving the health of the skin.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Benefits of Melatonin

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

Did you know melatonin is as much a digestive hormone as it is a brain hormone? Everyone knows you can take melatonin to help you sleep, but it’s actually involved in much more than brain health. In addition to being an important digestive hormone, melatonin is involved in supporting the body’s defense system. It has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help lower blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar, and it’s been used medically for anti-fibrosis properties. And that’s not all. Savvy practioners have used it to treat tinnitus and fibromyalgia as well. It can help build bone. And it’s a powerful anti-aging molecule that helps prevent cancer too. That’s a lot of benefits for a non-toxic supplement that will cost you less 2 cents a dose!

Circadian RhythmLevels of melatonin and the alertness hormone serotonin cycle back and forth, with dark of night and light of day. Serotonin, the hormone which promotes vigilance and awareness of the environment, is secreted in response to the sun as perceived by the pineal gland, while the production of it’s hormonal partner melatonin, predominates at night. This back and forth dance of hormones with day-night cycles is part of what biologists call a circadian (daily) rhythm.

The book “Lights Out” makes the important point that the prevalence of 21st century 24/7 lighting has had a disastrous effect on the melatonin-serotonin manufacturing rhythms which depend on day-night circadian cycle. According to the author T.S Wiley, because of its relationship to eating behavior, one of the effects of the excessive amount of light induced serotonin production is food craving, especially for carbohydrates. How much of a contribution this modern day circadian chaos contributes to the obesity epidemic is hard to say, but at least according to Wiley it’s not insubstantial.

If you want to make sure you’re getting enough melatonin, it’s probably a good idea to take some supplementally at bedtime, 5-7 nights a week. It’ll help you fall and stay asleep and it’ll give you some pretty intense dreams too. Take at least 3mg doses and you could probably take 5 or 6mg. Melatonin is cleared out of the body quickly and it’s pretty much benign stuff. I like the sublingual kind that dissolves under tongue. They get right into the blood through microscopic sublingual capillaries and go to work really fast. I feel drowsy within minutes. There’s also melatonin found in foods. Rice corn mustard seed peanuts and walnuts all contain substantial amounts of melatonin. Tart cherries have especially high concentrations of melatonin. Just a couple or three can get you nearly 1.5mg of the important, multi-beneficial hormone.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

– dedicated to Robert Y.


· We have two nervous systems.   One for handling stress (sympathetic) and one for relaxation (parasympathetic)

· Under normal healthy circumstances our body’s activities should be dominated by the relaxation nervous system based activity (activated upper digestion, relaxed lower digestion, lower heart rate and a sense of well-being)

· The signs of PTSD are the signs of an overactive sympathetic stress system

· Work mentally and emotionally first.  Use hypnosis, visualization, religion, whatever it takes

· Deep breathing can be very effective.  Stress and shallow breathing go hand in hand.  Oxygenations the fastest way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system

· Nutrition and diet strategies can help too

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

By English: Cpl. Andrew Johnston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As if the trauma of war wasn’t horrific enough, upon cessation of battle and stateside return, many soldiers are destined to confront continued traumatic mental and emotional stress despite the absence of immediate emergency.  The ensuing constellation of stressful symptoms, so called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), affects, according to the Congressional Research Service, 27 percent of soldiers returning from undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And you don’t have to be war veteran to suffer from PTSD.  The same constellation of symptoms that affects returning vets can occur with victims of violence, sexual abuse, or emotional battering and mental harassment.   Concentration camp victims and survivors of accidents and natural disasters are also prone towards the symptomology of PTSD.  In fact, according to WebMD, over 5 million people in the United States are suspected of having some of the symptoms of PTSD which can be grouped into three general categories:

Reliving-(hallucinations, flashbacks),

Avoiding- (sense of detachment and isolation)

Increased arousal -(anger, jumpiness, anxiety, insomnia)

To understand PTSD, we have to understand the nervous system or more specifically, the nervous systems.    Plural, because we have two of them.  One which regulates the stress response is called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).    Constipation, oily, skin, insomnia, low sex drive and anxiety are all signs of an activated stress response nervous system.  The second nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).  It regulates the relaxation response.  PNS activation is manifested by relaxed lower digestion, activated upper digestion, lower heart rate, high libido and a sense of well being.

Under normal circumstances the body operates in a PNS dominant state.  It would like to always be in a PNS dominant state.  The sympathetic nervous system is an emergency system and chronic activation is bound to create mental emotional and physical health havoc.  PTSD is a classic example of an SNS running amok. Consequently the best strategy for dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is to return the body to a PNS dominant state.

Probably the most important therapy for dealing with PTSD and returning the parasympathetic to its rightful biochemical place as the dominant nervous system is to address the mental and emotional causes.  Do not underestimate the importance of this component.  Work with any mental and emotional strategies you can come up with.  Meditation, visualization, hypnosis, Landmark Forum or God.  It doesn’t matter.  This is the most important component of dismantling of PTSD or any other emotional/mental   health challenge.

Deep breathing can also be helpful.  When the anxiety of PTSD kicks in the body tends to contract and breathing becomes more rapid and shallow.  Contractions and rapid shallow breathing alert the adrenal glands to a threat and stress hormone kick in.   This causes more shallow breathing and a further contraction old the muscles and connective tissue.    Which causes the secretion of more adrenal stress hormones, which causes even more contraction and shallow breathing.  The resultant downward spiral can continue unabatedly until it shows up as the chromic emergency type symptoms associated with PTSD.  The key to breaking the spiral is to practice deep breathing.  In fact, there is no faster way to activate the relaxation response than to deep breathe.  For extra benefits, practice relaxing facial muscles on the exhale.

From a diet and nutritional standpoint, there are many strategies for activating the body’s PNS regulated response.  Below are my Top 14 nutritional strategies for activating the relaxation response and dealing with PTSD:

1.      Maintain stable blood sugar; eat more protein, less refined carbs.  Refined food is also more likely to contain excitotoxins which can exacerbate anxiety.

2.      Veggies and protein – Recipe for building serotonin, the body’s most important stress management biochemical.   Starchy veggies and protein from whey and eggs can be especially helpful.

3.      Lithium Oratate (5mg active elemental lithium) – mood stabilizing nutrient, used as prescription medicine, but available at a health food store, very relaxing.

4.      GABA 100mg – (500 to 1000mg once or twice a day)-relaxing brain chemical, made by the body so there’s no toxicity.

5.      Theanine (100-200mg 1-3 times a day)– an amino acid found in tea theanine has been shown in numerous studies to have psychoactive effects, thought to increase the brains levels of GABA, theanine may have excitoxicity benefits too.  You can drink decaff green tea to bump up your theanine levels in the middle of the day.

6.      Glycine (500 to 1000mg once or twice a day) -like GABA it’s a brain chemical and made by the body so there’s no toxicity.  Whey protein is an excellent source of glycine.

7.      Vitamin C (5-10 grams a day) – The quintessential anti stress vitamin.  Deficiencies are common. The greater the stress the more you need.  The more sugar you eat, the more you need.  Take the powder and save money, 1teaspoonful = 5grams.

8.      B-Complex (B-100 every few hours with water) with timed release niacin (100mg once or twice a day) – mood stabilizing, promotes serotonin synthesis.

9.      5HTP (100mg at bedtime) – precursor to serotonin, has anti anxiety and anti-depressant effects, take at bedtime.

10.   Melatonin (3 mg at night)-major relaxation biochemical, anti-aging, supports immunity and digestive health as provides a sense of well being.  Causes drowsiness, take at bedtime.

11.   Beyond Tangy Tangerine – nutritional deficiencies =can trigger the symptom of PTSD.  Sipping on Youngevity’s Beyond Tangy Tangerine all day long can prevent drops into nutritional deficiency status. [Buy Beyond Tangy Tangerine here]

12.   Celtic Sea Salt – manna for the adrenal glands.  Put a teaspoonful or two in a glass of water and sip on it, if it tastes delicious you’re adrenals are gonna love it!   After a while, when it doesn’t taste as delicious you’ve had enough.

13.   Magnesium (1200-2000mg a day glycinate form is the ideal.)  Green veggies are a great source of magnesium.  Involved in production of stress management hormones.  Gall bladder or other digestive health problem may impair absorption.  Take with apple cider vinegar, lecithin, digestive enzymes, bile salts, fatty meals to maximize absorption.

14.   Inositol (500mg 2-4 times a day) – This vitamin-like substance improves serotonin’s stress management properties.  High doses (18) grams a day shown to work as well as Prozac with no side effects.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Melatonin: Biggest Health Bang For Your Money

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

There is no more cost-effective and versatile nutritional supplement in the average health food store than melatonin. First discovered by dermatology researchers at Yale University in 1958, melatonin was initially recognized for its skin lightening properties. Since then it has been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits from anti-oxidation and anti-aging to reducing blood pressure and improving cardiac function.Melatonin

Typically, melatonin is produced by released from cells in the pineal gland as a normal part of the brain’s 24 hour sleep/wake cycle know as the circadian (circa-dia or “cycles of the day”) rhythm. Production of melatonin is tied to cyclic patterns of daylight and nighttime sensed by the retina and communicated to the brain. When this cycle is disrupted as in jet lag or working the late shift, melatonin secretion may be negatively affected. Senior citizens are also at risk for low secretion of melatonin as a normal consequence of the aging process.

The most common symptom of depressed melatonin secretion is insomnia. In the 1990’s this important biochemical became a popular sleep-aid supplement. Because its highest concentrations are secreted during the evening, a bedtime dose may allow patients to duplicate the melatonin levels that would be achieved under normal circumstances. It can also be used to improve sleep patterns after discontinuing the use of anti-anxiety medication. According to Dr. Russel Reiter in his bestselling book Melatonin, Your Body’s Natural Wonder Drug, as little as 10mg of melatonin can have “profound sleep-enhancing effects”.

Melatonin acquired its moniker from its anti-pigmenting properties on the skin of frogs. Composed of the Latin terms for black (“mela-”) for black and “-tonin” for control, melatonin has unfortunately not been shown to have the same effects on humans. However, melatonin may still provide cutaneous benefits. Researchers at The University of Zurich have found that topically applied melatonin may help protect the skin from harmful UV rays if applied prior to sun exposure.

Melatonin has also garnered a reputation among nutritional scientists as a potent anti-oxidant. Dr. Julio Ochoa of the institute of Nutrition and Food Technology calls melatonin “a potent free radical scavenger and broad spectrum antioxidant”. He also touts its benefits as an anti-inflammatory and considers it a viable candidate for decreasing oxidative stress associated with intense exercise.

MelatoninBecause its levels typically decrease with age, melatonin has attracted attention as an anti-aging supplement. According to several studies done at the Virginia Commonwealth University and published in the book “The Miracle of Melatonin”, mice given melatonin demonstrated extensions in both average and maximum lifespan. And a Chinese study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found that patients given melatonin exhibited reversal of damage associated with age-related macular degeneration.

And, as they say on the commercial, that’s not all! A Harvard study published in the January 20, 2004 issue of the journal “Hypertension” showed that taking melatonin for 21 days lowered blood pressure among 16 men with untreated high blood pressure. It is thought that melatonin’s natural effects on improving the circadian cycle accounts for its anti-hypertensive effects. Also, because some blood pressure drugs may have a depressant effect on melatonin levels hypertensive patients on pharmaceuticals may want to consider adding a melatonin supplement to their medication regimen.

In 1994, German scientists curious about melatonin’s effects on the heart found that melatonin blocked the formation of cholesterol by up to 38%. LDL accumulations were shown to decrease by up to 42%. And in the B-Oval contraceptive study, conducted on 1400 women, and which included a melatonin supplement, it was found that participants had “significantly lower” cholesterol levels than they had before starting the study.

Melatonin is readily available in health food stores in tablets and capsules. I like the sublingual form which dissolves under the tongue. A good starting dose is 3 mg at bedtime, although some people can take as much as 15mg a night with no residual morning grogginess, which is the only potential side effect of note. And at less than 10 cents for a 3 mg tablet, it’s an incredibly economical way to achieve numerous health benefits.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health