By Dale Figtree, PhD
Recent studies show that up to 70% of people with fibromyalgia also have IBS symptoms. Obviously, this is more then a coincidence. The big question is, what is the relationship between the two?
In Western medicine, the relationship is not clear and the symptoms of each are treated with a wide range of different pharmaceuticals from anti-inflammatories to anti-depressants. Yet approaching these two challenges more deeply then just addressing symptoms can reveal a whole other level of serious imbalances and connections that can be worked with.
When dealing with most illnesses as well as health, the gut is front and center – in terms of nutrients entering the body. Nutrients are our building blocks and if there is an imbalance or interference in our absorption, then the body’s weakest links begin to suffer from lack of nutritional support – which translates into inability to repair and regenerate and function normally. Those weakest links may be connected to genetics, an overload of toxins, stress or an underlying irritant. Therefore with IBS and Fibromyalgia, even with just fibromyalgia alone, the wise place to begin is with the gut. By testing the environment of the GI track, many times it is possible to discover one of the major underlying causes of inflammation and imbalance in the body.
One of the easiest and most accurate ways to search more extensively is to have an in-depth stool and saliva analysis done. This is not the type of testing done by the usual labs that most medical doctors work with. Specialty labs such as Genova and DiagnosTechs perform this kind of testing. Much of the time these tests end up revealing something significant – from candida, to parasites, to overgrowth of gut bacteria to worms or allergies. If the underlying causes of gut issues are not uncovered and tended to, they usually continue to get worse in time. This puts a strain on the body’s ‘fight and flight’ mechanism – as the body is relentlessly trying to correct the problem. If the situation is not resolved, eventually this mechanism goes into depletion and the protective buffer of the body weakens. The body then is simply not able to deal effectively with anymore stressful conditions. That is when illnesses start to appear – be it fibromyalgia – arthritis – even cancer.
Once the underlying cause of gut issues are identified, it is crucial to treat on several levels. Medicine or certain strong botanicals may be needed to kill a parasite, but it will not necessarily restore balance of the gut environment.
Also, if the gut imbalances have been around for a long time, there is a vicious cycle that can kick in, making the situation even worse. When faced with a challenge, cells that line the intestines produce mucus to protect themselves from the irritation. Unfortunately, this mucus can block the release of the enzymes needed to break the bonds between the molecules of certain foods – mainly complex carbohydrates and starches. The bonds then remain unbroken and the food molecules cannot get absorbed since they are not reduced to single molecules. These unabsorbed molecules begin to ferment and overfeed the bacteria in the gut. Normal gut bacteria is beneficial and essential for digestion in certain quantities, but when overfed, some of the bacteria can create irritation, and the irritation causes the cells to produce more mucus coating, and the cycle of inflammation is ongoing.
There are a few things that can break this cycle. One is the removal of complex carbohydrates and starches from the diet for several months, sometimes a year. Another is taking botanical anti-microbial supplements for up to three months along with strong probiotics, restoring the healthy bacteria. There is a diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the Gap Diet, which work with this kind of situation.
Once the underlying cause is eliminated and once the gut environment is restored to a healthy balance, then nutrients can once again be absorbed in full. And this is where high nutrient food intake is of great importance. Easy to digest high nutrient foods like freshly made vegetable juices, salads, steamed vegetables, nuts and beans are vital. Added to this can be some animal products – eggs, wild fish and some goat milk dairy – though this can vary for different people depending upon allergies and reactions. The raw nuts and seeds are one of the best sources for protein as well as excellent healing fats and good fiber.
It is a process finding the right foods, testing and reworking. Once the gut is in balance, healthy and functioning normally, more raw materials and energy are available to do deeper repair and cleansing. This is where fibromyalgia and other opportunistic inflammatory imbalances become tended to.
There is an underlying cause, even though western medicine has still not found it. Yet our body’s natural innate deep intelligence knows the causes and can attend to them when enough healing and repair support is available. The gut is the passageway for providing that powerful support, enabling the body to engage healing on the deepest levels. This needs to be tended to, first and foremost. The rest follows.
Dale Figtree, PhD has been a Nutritional Health Practitioner for over thirty years and an artist since childhood. She has a private Nutritional Consulting practice in Santa Barbara, California, and taught “The Basics of Nutrition” for several years at the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine. Dr. Figtree presents nutritional seminars throughout the United States and Europe, and is the author of three books: Eat Smart, Feel Great: Fun and Informative – for Kids, Teens, and the Whole Family; Delicious, Nutritious and Simple: Super High-Nutrient Recipes for Health and Healing; and Beyond Cancer Treatment: Clearing and Healing the Underlying Causes. She also has produced the DVD/video, The Joy of Nutrition.