Fibromyalgia is basically a “mystery illness”. With no lab test to detect it, I hear my colleagues ask each other “how do you define fibromyalgia? How do you diagnose it?”. While I do not diagnose, treat or cure any disease, I often help support those trying to heal themselves after a diagnosis such as Fibromyalgia. The success rate? very high.
I have also heard people wonder if they have Fibromyalgia, and while every person with the dianosis may have a different experience, my personal experience was one that made me respond ” Oh you will know it when it happens”. During my time of having Multiple Autoimmune and Neurological Disorders, I had doctors debate over whether or not I qualified. With shooting nerve pain that sometimes felt like I had been hit with a cattle prod, tight muscles, widespread joint pain, muscle stiffness, muscle cramps and spasms and fatigue, I was told by one doctor that I did not have it while the next doctor openly suspected that I did. There was no agreement. And there was no lab test, either.
But I remember the moment that I had no doubt- as Fibromyalgia comes and goes and this had definitely arrived. It “flares” and then quiets down. I will never forget that feeling when every muscle, bone and joint hurt in my body. I ached and hurt in places that I normally couldn’t even feel- like my soft palette and roof of my mouth. I could feel every tiny bone that seemed to be making up that part of my body, as well as my shins, jaw and many more odd I remember thinking, “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy”.
Now, as a clinician, i know enough about the condition and my own case to know what causes mine, the triggers, the why’s, and how to fix it. And that means I can avoid it, as well, if I choose to.
But like all “mystery illness” and like other complex disorders, this too is not caused by one factor. It is not a simple solution and every case is different.
The first thing I do when I get a client with Fibromyalgia, which is often not the only diagnosis, is that I request a gene test. By performing an HLA-DRB (affiliate), I can get information on how the person’s innate, or in-born, immune system functions. This helps me find the possible culprits causing the widespread inflammation, pain and dysfunction in their peripheral neurological system and beyond- spreading to their muscles, bones and joints and everywhere in between. I once even had a person tell me that their “blood hurts”. (I didn’t have to understand it). This gene test, which is backed by over 50.000 pub med papers, helps me figure out what is unique to this person and how they react to the world around them. By analyzing this information, this can tell me which types of toxins that this person cannot get rid of after coming in contact with it. Let me clear that up and put that in English.
In these genes that I am testing- I am looking at 10 possible genes- 24% of the population carry a combination (one or even two of 54 different combinations) that disables them from producing the antibodies that would normally neutralize specific toxins so that their body can take out the trash, as most of us humans can do. As the body will be unable to rid of these toxins, they will eventually store them, causing inflammation and dysfunction in the body. These toxins are often stored in the fatty tissue, and can lead to a wide variety of dysfunction and disease.
While each gene combination has specific toxins that it cannot get rid of after contact, each person of this 24% has their specific magic combination that means they may not be able to get rid of certain chemicals, or bio-toxins, or that may make them prone to certain disorders- disorders that are linked to specific toxins.
Remember that genes are not destiny, that means that having these genes does not mean you get Fibromyalgia or any other disorder these genes make you prone to- you also have to be repetitively exposed to a certain amount of toxins. It also helps if you have other mitigating factors that would also prevent proper and normal detoxification- factors like ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) or trauma and stress, which impair detox pathways. It also contributes if you are one of the 50% of the population who have MTHFR- which results in an enzyme deficiency that impairs detoxification. In rare disorders, such as Homocystinuria (a very rare metabolic congenital disorder), detoxification can be impaired even more. Even overmethylation- which means to over detoxify, in laymen’s terms, can contribute to problems with disease. All of these factors come together with nutrition, gut health, environment and luck (are you lucky enough to be exposed to the right chemicals or other toxins in addition to enough stress, etc to develop a full blown disease?) that all compile to lead to chronic conditions like Fibromyalgia and related disorders- like Dysautonomia, Autoimmune Disease, Lyme and Chronic Viruses, Mast Cell Disorder, Depression and more.
In these genes that make up an individual’s gene combination that tells their innate (inborn) immune system how to process (or in this case, to not process) specific toxins properly, is the DQB1 genes. If there is a gene present in this category, this also tells me how you respond to a certain pattern of foods- from birth. Remember that these genes are the inborn immune system: this means that immunity that is NOT acquired. This means these genes do not turn on or off- but rather up or down. And while more than one gene may or may not be present in this category via the HLA DRB gene test, which one presents also tells me which types of disorders you are at risk for developing (this is based on observation that one of these genes in particular has always been present in specific types of cases in my practice).
After collecting this information for the individual and also a full health history, the picture will start to come together. When comparing the history, the gene test with the research done and gathered together by the Institute of Functional Medicine on specific toxins related to specific types of disorders (ranging from Fibromyalgia to Cancer) I can narrow down even further on the ‘big bad guys” that an individual will need to avoid, as well as the ones that are inside their body wreaking havoc. While more testing will be needed to put together more of the picture, this is a good start. But this will help me figure out the triggers
So to sum it up, this gene test will help me know what types of toxins- whether biological toxins, chemical and even food toxins- that you should avoid based on your body and condition.
Other types of toxins such as infections, viruses, fungi and more will be revealed on further testing that is done in addition to this gene test. After the health history and genetic testing, I will also request comprehensive endocrine, gut and neurotransmitter testing to help me complete the health picture, looking for imbalances that may cause inflammation or pain. i am also looking for clues that may suggest how parts of the body that are involved in the nervous system may be performing- or not performing. These body systems include the digestive, endocrine, extended nervous system and also the immune system. This information will all be put together and help me to develop a nutrition and lifestyle plan to help each individual support the body systems that need focused support. While none of my testing is diagnostic in nature, it is investigative. I am looking for any imbalance that would discourage health. I am also looking for what they body is trying to tell us.
It is at this time that the work really begins- not by me, but by my client. As I mentioned before, these cases are complex. While I do guide them, encourage them and direct them, the real work is done at home, in between visits. There is no magic pill. There is no one cause or one solution. It is a puzzle- and there are many pieces that come together to create a picture- whether it be a picture of health or illness. While other therapies may also be needed- such as a referral to a network of professionals who can provide additional therapies to support your health, the bulk of the healing is simply hard work and informed decisions about what will make you feel good- and what will make you feel poorly. But at the end of the day, you will have a choice: what you do with it is up to you.
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