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Take a Bite Out of this Undiscussed Fibromyalgia Problem

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By Sue Ingebretson

I’ve written dozens of articles on the topic of inflammation. It is, after all, a root problem for anyone dealing with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune dysfunction, and other chronic health challenges.

The symptoms of whole body inflammation are widespread and numerous. If any of the following basic symptoms or conditions are present, inflammation is a likely culprit.

How many of the following relate to you?

  • Chronic pain
  • Digestive dysfunction (including diagnoses of leaky gut, IBS, SIBO, colitis, diverticulitis, etc.)
  • Cognitive dysfunction (memory loss, inability to focus, fibro fog, etc.)
  • Hormonal/thyroid/adrenal dysregulation
  • Presence of chronic illnesses including those listed above as well as cancer, heart disease, stroke, migraines, obesity, ADHD, depression, and more. (1)

A simple explanation

Now that you know how far-reaching inflammation can be, it’s important to understand how it takes root. Because I repeatedly share this topic with clients and in workshops, I’ve found the following explanation to be very effective, simple, and easy to understand.

Imagine a great stone wall.

The stones are large, heavy, and well-fitted together by master craftsmen. Their meticulous efforts have paid off in the creation of a fortress that’s meant to last for centuries.

But, time marches on. The effects of wind, weather, soil erosion, and plant life eventually cause the wall’s stability to be compromised. The stones become loose and begin to crumble.

This same scenario happens in our bodies every single day.

The lining of our intestinal system is made up of an amazingly-designed system of cells. These cells line up like a wall keeping toxins and foreign invaders out, and our food (as it is digested) in.

That’s how it should be.

Sadly, that’s not what most of us experience today.

Houston … we have a problem.

How this relates to fibromyalgia

I once read about an interesting discovery made from an autopsy done on a woman with fibromyalgia. (She suffered fatal injuries from a motor vehicle accident, so her death was unrelated to fibromyalgia.) However, what they found was astonishing. In fact, it perplexed the doctors.

The condition of this woman’s internal organs and digestive system revealed health challenges typically found in patients who were significantly older. This woman who was chronologically in her 40s appeared – from the state of her internal health – to be nearly twice that age. Her intestines, in particular, were highly inflamed, bloated, and nearly porous.

I was fascinated by this discovery.

At the time, my fibromyalgia symptoms were running rampant, so I felt like I was 80. Maybe you know what that’s like? Knowing that my insides might reflect that feeling was somehow validating to me. It made perfect sense.

I wanted to know more, so I went on to study the primary causes of rapid aging. I wanted to know what causes leaky gut, non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, etc. and the general deterioration of the body inside and out.

The problem was inflammation, but what was the cause?

The simple truth

It didn’t take long for me to discover research linking the over-consumption of sugar and grains in the Standard American Diet (SAD) to chronic inflammation.

Our modern lifestyles have caused our internal health (not to mention some external factors) to corrode. Decades ago, the ravages of time created health challenges that appeared in our geriatric years. Frighteningly, we’re now seeing the same effects in a much, much younger population.

Besides the enormous amounts of sugars and grains consumed today, other factors play a role as well. Unaddressed food sensitivities, chronic stress, and the repeated use of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, steroids and more all contribute to compromises in our intestinal health.

And, then there’s our teeth….


You may not have ever put this connection together, but there’s a growing body of evidence linking the state of our dental health and our levels of whole body inflammation. (2)

In the past decade or more, there’s been much study regarding oral health and cardiovascular disease. Currently, research has taken a broader approach linking the presence of gum disease and overall health risk factors. (3)

Keeping your teeth in good shape is more than just a cosmetic enterprise. Gum health is extremely important. Weak, loose, or even wobbling teeth can result from poor gum health which relates back to our stone wall analogy at the beginning of this article.

Are your teeth loose?

Yes, brushing and flossing can help to keep gums in good shape. But poor intestinal health can also translate to poor gum health. The integrity and strength of the gums may reflect poor overall health and vice versa.

What can we do?

First, it should go without saying, but basic, preventative oral care is important. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings are a must.

Do you have any of these risk factors of poor dental health?

  • Puffy, swollen gums or gums that are red in tender places
  • Gums that bleed easily after or during brushing or flossing
  • Gaps or recesses between the teeth and gum line
  • Tenderness or painful teeth or gums
  • Bad breath / halitosis
  • Pockets that form between teeth and gums
  • Pale colored gums except for localized redness in tender spots
  • White or pale coating on the tongue

If a number of the above symptoms are present, a dental checkup can help to determine if a condition called gingivitis is present. If so, it’s time to see a periodontist or oral health specialist. This is a serious condition that needs to be addressed in a professional and thorough manner.

Deep dental cleanings can be very traumatic to the body, so discuss your plans with an oral health practitioner, and if you don’t feel completely comfortable with the process, seek additional opinions and/or other help.

If you have cracked teeth, missing fillings, or are in need of crowns or root canals, consider your options very, very carefully. Seek the advice of a holistic biologic dentist if possible and analyze what’s best for you.

Removing, repairing, or restoring teeth that have amalgam (mercury) fillings is to be done with the greatest of care.

You may wish to contact or consult with the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology for information and/or practitioner referrals.

More dental health remedies:

Have you ever tried oil pulling? If you’re unfamiliar, it may sound like a strange practice, but it’s actually quite common. In fact, it’s a healthy ancient Ayurvedic medicine daily practice that’s been followed for centuries in India as well as many European countries.

Oil pulling is the simple maintenance routine of swishing around a spoonful or two of oil in your mouth before spitting it out. Generally, coconut, sunflower, or sesame oil is used. The length of time this is done varies, so find a source of instruction that makes sense to you and follow directions.

Here are a few to try:

Oil Pulling guide from the WellnessMama.com

Oil Pulling guide from MamaNatural.com

Oil Pulling guide from DrAxe.com

Additionally, you may wish to add Essential Oils to your oil pulling routine. Essential oils can help with breath freshness as well as keeping bacteria and infection at bay. For freshness, try citrus oils such as Orange or Lemon, as well as minty oils such as Peppermint or Spearmint. For antimicrobial benefits, try Clove, Cinnamon, or Melaleuca (Tea Tree) oils. (4)

Don’t forget your tongue!

When brushing your teeth, don’t forget to take an additional minute or two to pay special attention to cleaning your tongue. You can give your tongue a once-over with your toothbrush, but have you also used a tongue scraper? (5) This simple tool is actually quite affordable and can be found on Amazon, in your local health food stores, or at a basic pharmacy, drugstore, or chemist’s shop.

Say cheese!

You’re now armed with more information about the relationship between digestive health, oral health, and your levels of wellness in general.

A regular oral health routine can facilitate improvements in your entire body. And, of course, taking care of your teeth is healthy habit that will keep your smile bright for years to come.


  1. How Inflammation Affects Every Aspect of Your Health
  2. Chronic Inflammation: Signs, Symptoms, and Testing
  3. Oral health: A window to your overall health
  4. Healthy Mouth Blend Ingredients
  5. 5 Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Tongue Scraper

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 www.RebuildingWellness.com.

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6 thoughts on “Take a Bite Out of this Undiscussed Fibromyalgia Problem”

    1. IanH says:

      In your thesis you have not proven that FM involves or is caused by an inflammatory state. Research which has looked at the involvement of inflammatory pathways has been equivocal.

      Before you go on to advise on treating inflammation surely you must show that inflammation is present.

      If you examine people with FM you can sometimes find local-anatomical evidence of inflammation, eg in the hands or in the ankles or in the cervical spine. However one cannot say that this inflammation is related to the FM or is an indication that inflammation causes FM. Such local inflammation can be a result of transitory overuse in the FM patient and usually is associated with a “relative” overuse and the inflammation will subside within weeks. Only to return after similar such overuse.

      The evidence of inflammatory cytokine involvement is also unclear. Such markers (IL-1, TNFalpha, NFKb) are not just involved in inflammation they are communication markers within many pathways. Equally there is little evidence that altering ones diet will alter their activation. Certainly none of the currently used anti-inflammatory drugs have any effect on FM symptoms, in fact there is some evidence that treatment with steroids can have adverse effects.

      Usually “inflammatory” cytokine/chemokine marker elevation is caused by overuse/overexercise and decline between 2 and 7 days after the overuse.

      There is sense in treating such transitory inflammation if it is present but is hardly a major treatment for FM. Equally there is sense in maintaining a well balanced diet because FM is known to be a homeostatic pathology. Hence overuse, overeating, toxin ingestion(eg alcohol), higher than normal stimulation (bright lights, high level noise) etc. can increase symptoms.

    2. minivette says:

      My opinions are somewhat similar to IanH. The issue of the autopsy on the deceased woman and her organs being ravaged, and intestines nearly perforated, purportedly from FM, does not make sense. She MAY have had secondary Fibroymyalgia. But, these findings would be more consistent with Lupus and/or Crohn’s disease. If FM was all she was supposedly diagnosed with, she was misdiagnosed. A CRP, ANA, sed rate, RF, etc blood test would have showed something inflammatory (other than FM). I know small-fiber neuropathy has been found in FM. I’m not disputing there is some level of inflammation or dysregulation in FM, but I don’t think the example is at all representative. In such cases, FM is not the cause, but perhaps an effect. I do hope more scientific understanding of FM comes soon.

    3. IanH says:

      This statement, in the context of this article:

      “Besides the enormous amounts of sugars and grains consumed today, other factors play a role as well. Unaddressed food sensitivities, chronic stress, and the repeated use of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, steroids and more all contribute to compromises in our intestinal health.”

      seems to be implying that FM is caused an inflammatory process caused by these factors.

      Where is the evidence of this? People who suffer from FM will tell you that these factors may worsen their symptoms but there is no evidence that FM is a lifestyle disease and caused by intestinal dysbiosis or intestinal wall “porosity”.

      While Ms Ingebretson writes well her command of the science is not good.

    4. IanH says:

      We found the following:

      23% Cervical
      11% Thoracic
      15% Lumbar
      8% mixed spinal site

      Total % of people with FM who have an identifiable spinal pathology : 57%

      A further 6% had persistent gastric pain without spinal pain/pathology. That is 63% with a history of persistent pain.

    5. Kgarske says:

      This is a very good read. What is so sad though, is for instance my case, i neglected my health for so many years while putting everyone 1st. To make a very long story short, I’m now living on a fixed income & Medicare which I have no dental or vision coverage. I had upper dentures which broke beyond repair, what bottom teeth I do have are rottening & I’m desperately seeking some forms of insurance I can afford which would have to be next to nothing. I am a ghost in my children’s lives when it comes to holidays, birthdays due to 1- embarrassed by mouth & 2- I pretty much stay in a frozen physical/mental state. I not only have fibro but so many other illness I’m sure my teeth being gone would help alot. I read all info I can to keep myself and Dr up to date, but truth is when you have maybe $50,if that, out of your check after you pay monthly bills, CO pays,etc. You decide whether you’ll eat or do laundry this month & pray nothing breaks down. It’s almost impossible to do what’s needed to help yourself . I know there’s so many people out there like me. I don’t look for attention, etc. I just felt the strong desire to share this because of others reading this that need dental help and can’t afford it. I’ll keep searching for an answer by December 7th,my day to determine if I will give up my original medicare and dive into a year of unknown. Thanks for allowing me to share. And to those in my shoes, don’t give up faith & hope. Keep pushing through the brick wall if/when you can. The days you can’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. We may feel as thougb were losing the battle but we have made it far (16 yrs & counting). We are strong in our deepest weakness?it’s pages like this that give us HOPE?

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