By Sue Ingebretson
There are numerous approaches when it comes to remedies that provide fibromyalgia pain relief. Some topical or over the counter remedies temporarily relieve minor aches. Some use technology or pharmaceutical interventions to intervene in some way – either short or long-term. And, others use natural, holistic means to address root issues related to pain.
I’ve tried them all.
Perhaps you have, too? Different remedies suit different circumstances. I’ve found topical remedies that can be wonderful for sore muscles that ache after a long walk, a workout, or a minor injury. When first diagnosed, I took medications as prescribed with the belief that soon the pain would abate and my life would be restored. It didn’t happen that way.
Eventually, I did find methods that allowed pain to release its firm grip on my body. I’m grateful to share that my life has been more than restored. But in all fairness, it wasn’t as simple as applying a liniment or swallowing a capsule.
When it comes to chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia … healing is
But, there’s no magic wand.
Harnessing Nature’s Potential
There are ways to find lasting solutions to our symptoms rather than a temporary respite. Natural solutions can provide sustained relief without harmful or hazardous side-effects. Natural solutions provide root-level, foundational reinforcement to nourish, replenish, and boost the body’s innate healing abilities.
Natural solutions support the body’s biological functions in a systemic way. For example, natural remedies that support healthy digestion (command central for your overall health), can also provide targeted support for other operations of the body including the immune, circulatory, endocrine, and nervous systems.
If you’ve read my books or articles, you may recall that I lived with relentless pain for quite some time. In fact, it took more than 15 years to get a diagnosis (and, I had to come up with it myself).
What I thought was the end of my journey, was really just the beginning.
I then had to figure out how to handle my condition. I was unable to manage my pain through either the pills I tried or the lotions I applied. Nothing helped and my symptoms list only grew. Frustrated with a lack of progress, it seemed to me that looking for alternative treatments was akin to throwing in the towel.
Little did I know then, that the very treatments I considered “Plan B” options would later become my primary methods of care.
Listed here are the four basic pillars of natural healing from a holistic health approach. These foundational categories of health protocols provide profound and lasting healing benefits.
4 Pillars of Natural Healing
This statement may shock you. A frighteningly large portion of the chronic illness community is malnourished
. They’re trying to heal, but their basic cellular resources to do so are already at a deficit. This population lacks the basic and essential nutrients needed for healthy day-to-day bodily functions.
In this context, malnourishment has nothing to do with hunger or lack of food. In fact, it’s possible (and even common) to be overweight yet still malnourished. The rate of malnourishment has reached epidemic proportions. It’s estimated that 85% of Americans, for example, do not consume necessary amounts of essential nutrients needed for physical and mental development. (1)
Many (and dare I say most) of the chronic illness community consume fewer than the recommended five to nine (2) daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Sadly, many of us fall short of this mark. Many of my clients confess to consuming far closer to zero servings than five. The effects of this deficiency in nutrients is devastating.
It’s amazing to think that in this age of enlightenment, people still contract ancient-sounding diseases such as scurvy from poor nutrition. These diets lack even the most fundamental levels of essential micronutrients. (3) Pirate-afflicting diseases aside, the disastrous effects of malnourishment on the general public is greater than you may expect. Consuming a Standard American Diet of fast, processed and packaged foods takes a toll.
Lack of the vital nutrients found in fresh produce can create a host of symptoms including rashes, hair loss, muscle spasms, mood disorders, and numbness in the hands and feet. For example, Joseph Mercola, MD, states “An estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. It’s a crucially important mineral for optimal health, performing a wide array of biological functions.” (4)
Fortunately, the remedies to a nutrient-deficient diet are fairly simple. Consuming recommended servings of fresh vegetables, healthy proteins, and healthy fats can help to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms as well as promote healing. The power of fiber, antioxidants, folate, essential fatty acids and other key nutrients can kick start any healthy eating plan. For more information on a healthy fibromyalgia diet, check out “The Fibromyalgia Diet: HELP! I Don't Know What to Eat
Additionally, you may choose to take nutritional supplements to augment your diet. A holistic health nutritionist can assist you with recommendations.
What’s one of the most familiar behaviors demonstrated at chronic illness support groups? It’s very common to share descriptions of your symptoms with one another. This “compare and share” behavior is observed in online support environments as well.
Looking at our symptoms from a collective point of view, we’re able to feel validated in our experiences. We can see what’s similar and what’s different from the group.
The following list of symptoms is shared by many in the chronic illness community. How many of these apply to you?
Do you –
Have intense cravings for unhealthy foods?
Have significant sleep issues?
Have little to no stamina?
Have a weakened immune system?
Have a short fuse (often on the brink of “losing it”)?
Have weak bones?
Have a tendency toward injuries?
Have a shortened life span?
Have a tendency toward sadness and mood disorders?
Have a sluggish metabolism that leads to easy weight gain?
Most of us wouldn’t wish these symptoms (5) on our worst enemies and feel victim to them ourselves. In the fibromyalgia and chronic illness communities, mood disorders, digestive dysfunction, sleep concerns, and energy shortages prevail.
Take heart. What if I told you that you could experience these benefits instead?
Improved weight management
Stronger immune system
Improved ability to rest and relax
Regulated and balanced blood sugar
Improved cardiovascular health
Improved memory and recall
Improved mood and sense of positivity
Think it would take a miracle?
There is one natural healing method that can help every symptom listed earlier and foster improvements in every benefit listed above. This healing method comes from – exercise.
Is exercise a dirty word to you?
I get it. But, I’m here to set things straight. The word “exercise” itself isn’t the problem. The real issue is the negative association and meaning you attach to the word. When you hear the term exercise, if you think of a sweaty distance runner in a Nike ad, you’re likely to feel defeated from the get-go.
Moving your body in some form of fitness program can spark healing in ways you might not imagine. So, why not begin anew? Use your imagination to create a revised definition of the word. I’ve always preferred the term body movement to exercise and that’s a good start. Moving the body in healthy ways means doing what works for YOU.
Just as with nutrition, it’s vital to discover ways to implement body movement into your daily life – and do it your way. Respect your personal range of motion, limitations, and resources. But respect doesn’t mean ignore.
Your body needs to move. Every day.
Moving your body gives you the vitality to build a stronger immune system, improve mood and sleep, and assist your body’s organs to function properly.
Body movement strategies detoxify the body and produce happy and healthy hormones that lift the mood. Fitness practices tone the muscles, strengthen bones, and fortify your body’s structural integrity. You’ll also enjoy improved posture as an amazing side-effect.
If you’d like to discover what type of body movement is best for those with mobility challenges check out “What Fitness Training Works Best for Fibromyalgia?
To begin a simple walking routine, check out “WALKING: The All-Season, All-Weather Fibromyalgia Fitness Solution.
When it comes to body movement, there’s a huge span between expecting yourself to run a marathon and doing nothing. It’s the part somewhere in the middle where you’ll find the strategies of success.
Listing the negative impact of stress on the body would take more time than I’m willing to expend here. For starters, stress is a system-wide problem. Stress negatively impacts our brain, nervous system, immune system, circulatory system, endocrine system, and more.
In my article, “Is My Emergency Stress Impacting My Fibromyalgia Body?
” I list over 30 symptoms of dysfunction that can be traced to the effects of stress. The main theme of this article is to illustrate the impact of the body’s stress response system.
Stress triggers a hormonal deluge that causes the body to go into what’s commonly referred to as the fight or flight response. For us fibrofolk, we’re painfully familiar with an effect that’s often omitted from this description. We’re familiar with the fight, flight, or freeze response. Many of us feel the after-effects of holding our breath, remaining motionless, and having our thoughts go into overdrive. This deer-in-the-headlights experience washes the body in a cascade of stress hormones that keep us feeling under attack.
The body was not designed to stay in this hyper-aware state.
Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Imagine going through life with a pebble in your shoe and doing nothing about it. It’s obvious that the pebble would bother your foot. But in short order, the effects of the pebble would travel to your ankle, knee, hips, and up through the spine. Ignoring the issue isn’t a solution.
One of the greatest misconceptions is that stress is inevitable and nothing can be done about it.
This is only half true.
Yes, stress is inevitable, but there are many practices that can circumvent its negative effects. Because stress triggers the fight, fight, or freeze response, it’s vital to intentionally practice protocols that trigger an opposite relaxation response. Applying a relaxation practice can generate health-promoting hormones which allow the body to reset and re-establish balance.
Our hormones communicate to the body information needed to function. For example, stress hormones tell the body to respond in one way, whereas relaxation hormones tell it to respond in another.
As you’ve probably experienced, stress hormones are triggered without much thought. It takes intentional thought, planning, and proactive behaviors to induce relaxation hormones.
Stress management practices listed in the above Emergency Stress article can help. Prayer, meditation, deep breathing, and EFT Tapping are some of my favorites. Make it a priority to take the steps needed to reduce your body’s burden from stress. Put your favorite stress-relieving practices into action and achieve the benefits your body needs.
While I’m not a big fan of most radical detox programs, it’s important to note that toxins and toxic exposures have a big impact on the fibromyalgia body. Those of us with chronic health challenges are hyper-sensitive to foods, lights, sounds, smells, touch and to our environment.
Exposures to toxic elements can happen at an external level (through the air and our skin) or at an internal level (through foods, medicines, cigarettes, vaccines, tattoo inks/dyes, dental amalgams, etc.). Depending on the exposure levels and the quantity, the body may not be able to process and release the toxins through normal body functions.
This build-up of toxins in the body creates symptoms ranging from insomnia to weight gain.
As I mentioned, while there are a few short-term medical food detox programs that I find useful, I prefer implementing practices that are geared to detox the body naturally over time. In fact, these practices are so effective, they’re perfectly suited to become part of your everyday protocols.
Technically, I consider this “detox pillar” of natural healing to be a subset of each preceding pillar.
Pillar #1 - Natural, whole, nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods are amazingly helpful at helping the body to eliminate toxins.
Pillar #2 - Body movement and regular exercise, is one of the best ways to not only strengthen but also detoxify the body. Body movement allows a natural detoxification process to happen with or without significant sweating. If you’re moving your body in healthy ways, don’t fret if you don’t necessarily sweat. It’s all good.
Pillar #3 – Relaxation practices help the body to detoxify by enlisting the healing benefits of a calm and centered state of mind. The relaxation response generated by the central nervous system allows for improved circulation, organ function, and digestive processes. All of these assist in detoxification.
Other basic ways to detoxify include proper hydration, limiting processed and chemically-laden foods, limiting stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine, (6) and detox protocols such as far infrared saunas, steam baths, and detox soaks.
With the four pillars of natural healing firmly in place, you’ll provide your body with root-level methods to help the body do what it does naturally – restore homeostasis (a healthy balance).
It doesn’t take drastic measures to begin. Simply drinking water and starting a basic walking routine can help. I personally love practices that do double-duty. Because exercise is also a detoxification and stress management protocol, you can work on three pillars of health with one practice.
Successful nutritional changes take an optimistic approach. Get creative in the kitchen. Try something new. Give yourself some latitude for experimentation.
Incorporating fresh produce into your meals, moving your body in healthy ways, and dealing with the effects of daily stress will exponentially boost your results.
How will you choose to implement the Four Pillars of Natural Healing into your life today?
Hidden hunger: America’s growing malnutrition epidemic
Experts Recommend 5-9 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Daily
Scurvy Is a Serious Public Health Problem
How to Recognize Nutrient Deficiencies
What really happens to your body when you don't exercise enough
Is There Toxic Waste in Your Body?
Sue Ingebretson is the Natural Healing Editor for ProHealth.com as well as a frequent contributor to ProHealth's Fibromyalgia site. She’s an Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and workshop leader. Additionally, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. You can find out more and contact Sue at RebuildingWellness.com.
Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue's free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.