Understanding the Misunderstood Fibromyalgia: A Functional Medicine Perspective


Fibromyalgia is a complex and often misunderstood condition where people describe some of the common symptoms as pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues. This is not an extensive list as some patients describe multiple factors including headaches, sleep and digestive issues. Approximately 2-8% of the global population is affected by fibromyalgia. Women are more commonly diagnosed than men, with a ratio of 7 to 1. Many individuals experience delays in diagnosis, with an average of 2 to 5 years from symptom onset to diagnosis. Delays are often due to misdiagnosis. Fibromyalgia can be debilitating for some and frustrating for anyone who experiences its symptoms. Masking the symptoms is often the treatment plan, but with functional medicine and nutrition, we can look into the causes with a more comprehensive approach providing more proactive ways to bring wellness to your body.

Misconceptions and False Beliefs about Fibromyalgia

In the functional nutrition space, we often see clients who have been misunderstood or misdiagnosed. This can be very discouraging. These complaints are often what we hear.

  1. It’s All in Your Head:
  • One prevalent misconception about fibromyalgia is that it’s a psychological condition. In reality, fibromyalgia has clear physical manifestations and is recognized as a legitimate medical condition. The pain experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia is not imaginary, but stems from a dysregulation of the nervous system. It’s incredibly frustrating to have a medical professional declare that the very real pain you experience is “in your head.”
  1. It’s Just Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:
  • While fibromyalgia shares some symptoms with chronic fatigue syndrome, they are distinct conditions. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain and specific tender points, whereas chronic fatigue syndrome is primarily defined by persistent fatigue.
  1. Only Women Get Fibromyalgia:
  • Although fibromyalgia is more common in women, men can also be affected. It often goes undiagnosed in men due to this stereotype. Recognizing that fibromyalgia can impact individuals of any gender is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Potential Causes and Influences of Fibromyalgia

As a functional nutritional therapist, I am always looking at the body like a puzzle with many pieces. There are often many factors contributing to the symptoms someone experiences. Functional medicine does a deep dive into many facets of a person’s health to uncover potential root causes. A few known causes of Fibromyalgia are genetics, trauma and stress, gut health and inflammation.

  1. Genetic Predisposition:
  • Research suggests a genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia. Individuals with a family history of the condition may be more susceptible. However, genetic factors alone are not sufficient; environmental triggers play a significant role. When I meet with a client, we do a full history including patterns in the family that would give us clues to what your body is dealing with.
  1. Trauma and Stress:
  • Physical or emotional trauma can trigger fibromyalgia in susceptible individuals. Chronic stress may contribute to the dysregulation of the central nervous system, leading to increased pain sensitivity. If high amounts of stress are identified in a client, we take this “puzzle piece” very seriously and will look to address the stress components that may be contributing or influencing symptoms.
  1. Gut Health and Inflammation:
  • The gut-brain connection is gaining attention in fibromyalgia research. Imbalances in gut microbiota and increased intestinal permeability can contribute to systemic inflammation, exacerbating symptoms. Functional medicine often emphasizes gut health as a key area of focus. As well as addressing chronic inflammation.

Nutrition for Fibromyalgia

Functional medicine recognizes the role of nutrition in managing fibromyalgia symptoms. While dietary changes alone may not cure the condition, they can contribute to overall well-being. Consider the following nutritional suggestions.

  1. Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
  • Focus on incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. These foods can help mitigate inflammation, a common factor in fibromyalgia.
  1. Balanced Macronutrients:
  • Ensure a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. This supports stable blood sugar levels and sustained energy, crucial for managing fatigue.
  1. Supplementation:
  • Consider supplements like vitamin D, magnesium, and B vitamins. These nutrients play roles in nerve function, energy metabolism, and overall well-being.
  1. Avoid Trigger Foods:
  • Some individuals with fibromyalgia report sensitivity to certain foods. Keeping a food diary can help identify potential triggers, which may include gluten, dairy, or artificial additives.

As research continues to unravel the complexities of fibromyalgia, a holistic approach that addresses both physical and lifestyle factors becomes increasingly important for effective management.





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Meet Linda

The older Linda gets, the longer she applies holistic strategies of diet and lifestyle and the better she feels! Learn more about her story.

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