Mary was a 29 year old, mother of two. Prior to the birth of her second child, the world was a nice place. She ran, she swam, she enjoyed her career, and her first child brought even more fulfilment to her already full life, with her husband Tom. After the birth of her second child (substitute glandular fever, death of a loved one, other major stress) everything went to mush.
Mary’s symptoms were unexplained pain, fatigue, migraines and depression. She went to doctor after doctor and did test after test. The test results were normal, so she must be fine. It must be something in her head. Her doctor recommended anti-depressants.
Her family were supportive, at first. Her husband Tom was a good man and all he wanted was his wife back, but he was getting more and more frustrated with a wife who could not do the things that he loved doing and having to do more and more around the house. Mary’s mum was great, but with her help came a whole lot of baggage.
Mary started to doubt herself. Maybe she was going gaga and needed the magic pills, but the little voice inside her head told her that there was an answer and it was not a drug. In her darker moments she wished that she had some sort of injury that Tom could see, like a gaping head wound.
Mary came to see me on a cold winter’s morning. She was wrapped up but had the classic look of someone who was tired, in pain and had enough. We worked together and did a number of scientific and natural medicine tests. These tests provided a comprehensive picture of what was going on in her body.
Normally I do not discuss the tests results until the second consultation, but Mary looked so down that we ran way over time while we got the results from one of the tests. It showed someone who was running on empty, someone who had high levels of inflammation and whose mitochondria were not producing the energy that they should have been, someone who had chronic deficiencies in key nutrients. Her pain was real and not imagined.
As I went through the results with her, she burst out crying. Finally, there was something to substantiate how she was feeling. It was real and not just in her head.
The next meeting was with Mary’s family. We went through exactly what was going on in Mary’s body and what we had to do to get back: Tom’s wife: Amy and Jo’s mother: and Mrs T’s daughter.
That was 10 months ago. Last week Mary finished a triathlon. I am not sure where she came, but when the text came through I found myself cheering. My children looked at me strangely.
Now for those lovely statistics:
- Fibro affects 1 in 20 people.
- It remains undiagnosed in 3 out of 4 people.
- Diagnosis time is, on average, 5 years.
- 80% to 90% of sufferers are women (herein lies a clue).
- Levels of inflammation are elevated.
- It is associated with key nutrient deficiencies.
- IT ranks second, to osteoarthritis, in terms of incidence of debilitating pain.
Symptoms can wax and wane and include unexplained tender points, muscle pain, headaches, unrefreshed sleep, impaired memory or concentration, exercise intolerance and depression. Most people do not get all the symptoms, usually just two or three.
Fibro and chronic fatigue syndrome is not the same. They share some symptoms and even some of the driving factors, but they are different conditions that demand different treatments.
Unless you are a nerd, please skip this paragraph:
What causes it? Around about here I burst into my dissertation about inflammation converting tryptophan to quilolinic acid and away from the serotonin pathway; how when N-methyl d-aspartate receptors are over activated, it results in calcium flooding into the cells and a chain reaction resulting in pain. From there I lead into my explanation about high levels of corticotrophin and FSH and low cortisol. Oh! And low IGF-1. But wait, the really exciting part is about your 60,000 trillion cells and why the 300 to 10,000 mitochondria in each of those cells are not producing the energy you need to get on with your life. Then there is the constriction of the blood vessels that is driving the pain and contributing to an energy deficit. There is more, but in summary, it is a combination of ischaemia, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and neuronal and cognitive amplification.
Back to English. The general pattern I see is a patient who has a combination of the following factors: nutrient deficiencies, toxic build-up, suffering from an underactive thyroid, have gut bacteria imbalances, leaky gut, allergies, and who has suffered some traumas and/or stresses. The combination of inflammation and stress drives what we call fibro.
Not all fibro is the same. The key to your wellness is understanding your fibro, understanding what is going on in your body and why you are feeling like you do. When you fully understand that, then you can begin to turn things around. Very few people can do this on their own. You need a skill interpreter to translate what your body is trying to tell you.
I see clients who are on a combination of nutrients, literally dozens of them. When I ask them why, they explain that they read an article, or googled this, or had a friend who suggested that. When I ask the crunchy questions about how this particular nutrient works and what it is addressing, there is a silence.
I do believe that people need to take charge of their own health, but they also need to be provided with the very best information and strategies to consider. When it comes to fibro, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s, autism and a host of other chronic conditions, I do not believe that conventional medicine provides the very best information and strategies.
Fibro is real, frighteningly real and its incidence is growing. If this story rings any bells for you, come and see us and let us help you get to your triathlon.