What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a painful disorder that affects over 10 million Americans and somewhere between 3-6% of the world’s population. It predominantly affects women ages 35-54, although we have treated men with Fibromyalgia. It occurs in both young and old and may have some genetic predisposition. The incidence of Fibromyalgia is increasing steadily since the early 1980’s. This may be due to better recognition and detection, but is more likely due to the underlying causes becoming more predominant or severe.
Until recent years, the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia was viewed as a psychological disorder, if you could even get a physician to believe it existed. With the advent of pharmaceuticals to treat the pain, media attention has brought this disorder into the mainstream of medicine. The current diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is mostly based on symptom recognition and physical exam, although there are a number of tests that are useful in determining the underlying causes. Treatment up to this time has been mostly pain and symptom control. Many still believe it is a psychological disorder and relegate all patients to drug treatments. However, new understanding of Fibromyalgia allows treatment of the underlying causes, thus resulting in a cure for many patients.
There is hope for the tired and hurting.
Fibromyalgia has a spectrum of symptoms and severity. It is very difficult to diagnose and treat, especially in the typical 10-15 minute office visit. Fibromyalgia consists of widespread muscle pains, in at least 11 of 18 standard tender points, that lasts for at least 3 months. The pains can migrate and have good and bad days. The typical locations are the neck, back, hips, arms, legs, and chest. Patients usually describe “knots’ in their muscles that are painful. In Fibromyalgia patients, the muscles are actually shortened and tightened. Massage therapy is typically helpful, but painful.
Along with the pain, Fibromyalgia patients experience other debilitating symptoms. These include:
- A constant feeling of exhaustion and severe fatigue
- Overall body aches
- Insomnia or other sleep disorders
- Depression not caused by a trauma or event, but by chronic discomfort
- Cognitive problems, often called “brain fog”, involving poor concentration, confusion, trouble finding words, and short term memory difficulties
- Recurring headaches
- Multiple recurrent infections
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Weight gain
- Low libido
- TMJ problems
It’s interesting to note that many of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia also occur in other disorders-Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Hypothyroidism, Adrenal Fatigue, Hormone Imbalance, Nutritional Deficiencies, Food Sensitivities, Depression, and Environmental Toxicity. Could there be a relationship?
Dr. Gruning is especially interested in the relationship between Fibromyalgia and Biotoxin Illness. As time has passed and Dr. Gruning has treated hundreds of patients, he believes that many Fibromyalgia patients have Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) due to a water damaged building or a tick bite with resultant post-Lyme Syndrome. The most common cause of CIRS is toxic mold from the interior of a Water Damaged Building, which is a very common condition. Dr. Gruning now assesses every Fibromyalgia patient for CIRS.
Nutritional deficiencies and poor dietary choices play a major role in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Some of the most important culprits are wheat (and the gluten in it), dairy, and processed foods. In fact, Dr. Gruning has seen many patients totally recover just by changing their diet and eliminating these sensitizing foods and toxins. He often employs a Functional Nutritionist to help manage the major changes that must be made in a patient’s lifestyle in order to heal. Food sensitivities and allergies are very common in Fibromyalgia patients. While most patients will not recover fully just by changing their diet, it is an essential contributor to poor health that must be corrected.
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome seem to have become more prevalent around the late 1970’s. That is when we began using the TSH test as the gold standard to test for thyroid problems. What if it is not accurate? What if we have been missing many cases of Hypothyroidism because of this? What if you are Hypothyroid?
The Thyroid Gland is an endocrine gland that affects the function of every aspect of your body. When it is not producing enough Thyroid Hormone, or that hormone cannot be converted to its active form and used by your body, your metabolism can not be regulated and everything goes haywire. Thyroid disorders, at least the obvious ones, seem to be exploding in this country. Autoimmune Thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s) is all too common now. We believe that many Fibromyalgia patients have undiagnosed or poorly controlled Hypothyroidism.
Adrenal Fatigue is another common finding in Fibromyalgia patients. To deal with the many stressful events in our lives, our body has a system to handle it-at least physically. The Adrenal Gland, which sits on top of each kidney, produces a myriad of hormones to regulate our body systems. They work in concert with the Thyroid Gland to control our metabolism. They produce stress hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol. They produce Aldosterone to regulate our fluid balance. Pregnenolone and DHEA are important Adrenal hormones that affect many organs of our bodies. And the Adrenals produce sex hormones, which become increasingly important as we pass mid-life.
As we accumulate stress over the years, our Adrenal Glands are working hard to produce Cortisol and other hormones to compensate and keep us going. Gradually, over time, they get tired of trying to keep up with our stressful lives. Poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, toxins, poor sleep, and other factors take their toll. The hormone production begins to decline and the Adrenal Glands can no longer fully compensate for stressors. Then, some major stressful event occurs and they just can’t keep up, resulting in Adrenal Fatigue or even failure. Our patients usually describe a time (or even a date) when everything got worse and they have never felt well since
Other causes of Fibromyalgia include sleep dysfunction, lack of exercise, and a spiritual life out of balance. Most patients have several causes at work. This is why a comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment team approach is essential for the healing of Fibromyalgia patients.
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed by history of the typical symptoms and physical examination to confirm the necessary tender points. In addition, other diseases and disorders that can mimic or complicate the picture must be detected or excluded. There is no one test to diagnose Fibromyalgia, but there are necessary tests to diagnose the underlying causes that can be successfully treated.
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by history, physical exam, measurement of basal body temperature ( Broda Barnes test), and specific lab tests (blood). The lab is focused on thyroid function, antibodies and general organ function. In addition, other endocrine problems, such as Adrenal hormone deficiency (i.e. Cortisol, DHEA, sex hormones), are assessed with blood and saliva testing. Thyroid problems will not get better if there are untreated Adrenal problems. Iodine Deficiency is also sought as Thyroid Hormone is made from Iodine.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be evaluated thru blood tests and hair analysis. Food sensitivities are evaluated thru specialized blood testing and detailed history. Toxins can be evaluated thru hair, stool, or blood analysis. Biotoxins are diagnosed by history, vision testing and detailed blood analysis.
First, you need to understand our philosophy. The reason you have never had long term benefits from your prior attempts at treating Fibromyalgia is because you have never been treated as a whole person – Holistic Treatment. Only by looking at Fibromyalgia in this way, and using a multidisciplinary treatment team approach, will you see results. Our Fibromyalgia patients actually get better; they are cured, not just tolerating their symptoms.
Our Fibromyalgia treatment team seeks to merge together the best of traditional medicine with natural therapies that heal. We call this Complementary Medicine. It is not alternative medicine. We seek to use only those Fibromyalgia treatments that have at least some scientific validity, are safe, and are cost effective. And all of this is done in our modern facility in Fort Myers in an environment of love and compassion.
We believe you were created in God’s image and exist in three interrelated “persons” – the body, the mind, and the spirit (just as God exists in three persons – the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Only by addressing “sickness” in all three persons can you ever hope to be healed of Fibromyalgia. Many things go into making you feel the way you do- and each must be addressed. This is not something one pill can fix. That is why nothing has worked for your Fibromyalgia before.
The essential elements of Fibromyalgia treatment at the the International Center for Health and Wellness include:
- Nutritional therapy and correction of nutrient deficiencies
- Correction of sleep disorders
- Stress reduction
- Elimination of toxins, including Biotoxins
- Vitamin and mineral supplementation
- Exercise program
- Correction of Adrenal and Thyroid dysfunction
- Balance hormones
- Counseling for depression and anxiety
- Addressing your spiritual life
It is clear that this will take something major on your part – commitment! This Fibromyalgia treatment program will simply not work unless you are totally committed to make it work. This means you must want to make whatever changes in your life are necessary to get well. And you must be consistent.
Fortunately, you will have a team of dedicated professionals to assist you with every step of your journey toward healing from Fibromyalgia. We will assess you, formulate a treatment plan, and then help you implement it. We will hold you accountable and do whatever we can to help you heal. That is our commitment to you. All we need to get started is your commitment to get well.