I Feel Your Pain Lady G! Why Fibromyalgia Plays Hard to Get
Listen Up Lady Gaga: Here’s how I have been dealing with my Fibromyalgia
(DISCLAIMER : The remedies for Fibromyalgia mentioned in this blog are the author’s own experiments. Please consult your health practitioner before trying any remedy. )
Fibromyalgia is sexist. It attacks mostly women.
And it picks the most ballsy ones amongst them.
I think the damn disease is just looking for a good fight.
Like a Twitter storm. Or a Netflix Documentary – Lady Gaga style.
It is difficult to watch her reveal her illness in the Netflix docu. Every writhe. Every tear. Every stinging jab. You want it to go away. And yet I am delighted that Lady Gaga is creating a Twitter storm over Fibromyalgia.
My storm started when after a year of playing musical chairs with many doctors, I decide to throw a googly (as in, found on google) at a rheumatologist.
“Umm, do you think it could be Fibromyalgia? FMS?”
Taken aback, the doctor checked me for the 18 trigger points all over my body. These are the hallmark of Fibromyalgia – extremely tender to touch. At the back of the head, neck, across the shoulder blades, right down to the hips and knees. He also pointed out to me that my joints were hyper-mobile – typical for an FMS patient.
I didn't know whether to smile or wince. Smile, because I finally had a diagnosis. Wince, because it still had no cure or a known cause. I settled for something midway – Swince.
And once the awkward swince moment passed, I embarked on a frenetic hunt. For theories, experiments, and remedies.
First the GOOD NEWS!
Fibromyalgia is a progressive disease (you will get more aches and pains) but it is NOT degenerative. It does no damage to any of your organs.
(Warning, plenty medicalesce ahead. This may be a good time to bounce off. On the other hand, I am doing much better now with these solutions. So if you think you have fibro, scroll on!)
Talk to me, Doc.
Theory One: Central Sensitisation
“Central Sensitisation”, explained the rheumatologist, “the pain is not there but you feel it. No, it is NOT in your head – it is in your brain”.
It could have been triggered by an injury or an infection – but the brain continues to feel the pain, even after you have healed.
The nervous system gets into a “wind-up” state and is on persistent high alert. It perceives an attack on the body, even when there is none. It is called Central Sensitisation and it’s one helluva pain in the neck.
Therefore, said kind doctor, no balm, physiotherapy or massage will help until you break the cycle.
The body’s defence mechanism is to harden the muscles. Over time, the muscles get so hard that they make it tough for blood, and therefore oxygen, to flow through, causing stiffness, and the silly pain that a Fibro patient wakes up with.
The doctor said the only treatment is anti-depressants.
Yoga. Not too strenuous. Lots of breathing (anulom vilom, deep breathing, ujjayi, and my dead favourite – shavasana). This may sound cheesy but meditate, if you can. Try and dive into ignored and overloaded corners of the mind and address them. And sleep plenty, and squeeze in a 20 minute walk if you can.
Theory Two: Fibrosis and Enzymes
2 am in the morning – no sleep, extreme pain. It was the elbow and the knee this time. My physiotherapist had given me a medicine called Chymoral Forte which seemed to have helped in the past.
I thought I should look it up before randomly popping more pills. I am amazed to find that it is no pain killer, but a digestive enzyme. So I look up “digestive enzyme+ fibromyalgia”, and in the wee hours of the morning, I find a doctor online in Texas who has been treating Fibromyalgia for the last 30 years.
Fibro = fibrous tissue. Myo = muscle. Algia = pain.
Texas doc decoded the Greek.
When there is excess fibrin or tissue build up (as is the case in FMS), systemic enzymes come to the rescue. They attack masses of fibrin, literally eating it away by breaking down protein molecules.
Not sure if I understood all, but got the basic drift that digestive and systemic/ proteolytic enzymes will help ease the pain over a period of three-to-six months.
I started taking systemic or proteolytic enzymes as advised by the Texas doctor. It has helped reduce the pain over the past two months. The doctor also started me on magnesium supplements and said strengthening exercises are a must. I don’t have the courage to do those yet, since any aggressive form of exercise has almost always set me back.
Theory Three: Leaky Gut Syndrome
My homeopath pointed out to me that my blood reports were on a rollercoaster ride. My vitamin D, B12, iron, sodium and sundry levels would either plummet or peak. She suggested I meet a nutritionist.
After listening to my pathos filled one hour long Fibro saga-raga, the nutritionist said that this sounds like a case of Leaky Gut Syndrome or intestinal hyperpermeability.
Just a scary medical term to say that my stomach lining has some holes that are letting undigested food particles make its way into my bloodstream (yuck!!). TMI?
So then, what happens?
The liver tries to fight these toxins. When the toxins begin to win the war, the liver wakes up big brother, the Immune System - “Bhaiyya, bachao”.
And when the immune system loses the battle against these evil monsters (yeast, bad bacteria, undigested food etc), inflammation kicks in, leading to an autoimmune disorder like fibromyalgia.
To heal, the nutritionist said, I need to stay away from inflammatory foods – wheat, dairy, soy, corn, white flour, white rice, sugar and all processed food.
Lag gayi vaat! I collected my jaw from the clinic floor and grit it back in place.
Hippocrates said, ‘All disease begins in the gut’. The guy sure knew his stuff.
I got off all the foods she advised me to and also started using Virgin Coconut Oil (doesn’t taste too bad) since it kills bad bacteria.
I started using ragi/ jowar/ amaranth atta and brown rice. She also recommended magnesium oil spray (find it on Amazon). The magnesium gets absorbed transdermally, relieving stiff muscles.
Theory Four: SIBO
When the pain persisted even after saam, daam, dand and bhed, I finally started skyping with a NY based Naturopath (such irony, since naturopathy was born in the East).
She made me fill out a massive questionnaire, and after a two hour skype saga-raga, she identified the problem as Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).
What’s that? Quick and simple explanation.
A lot of bacteria naturally exists in our gut, mostly in the colon, and helps in digestion and nutrient absorption. But when bacteria invades the small intestine, courtesy a leaky gut, the result is poor absorption and inflammation.
Now, that’s a pretty crazy statistic.
The naturopath put me on an SCD – Special Carbohydrate Diet.
Such a misleading name because the diet puts a ban on ALL carbohydrates, sugar (including some fruits) and starch. So that the dying fungus / candida / yeast is starved and dies a hungry death.
No beer, but dry wines and whiskies allowed.
She also put me on a host of supplements to help heal the gut (prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes etc), multiple vitamins and a serotonin upper called 5HTP, and also insisted on a lot of bone broth and green leafy veggies.
To help get rid of the excessive bacteria, detoxification was needed. For that she advised :
- Dry brushing before baths (for lymphatic drainage)
- Alternating hot and cold water while bathing (constitutional hydrotherapy to build immunity), sweating (sauna, steam, hot foot bath)
- Castor oil packs (apply some castor oil on the tummy, put a flannel cloth with a hot water bag on top of that, and Netflix for an hour. Netflix being great for the gut and soul).
I hope this helps all my fibro friends in some way. Though, do check with your doctor before you try anything.
ONE BIG TIP before I sign off. WORK. It keeps the mind off the pain, the brain keeps ticking and you hit the sack dead tired at the end of the day.
So Lady Gaga, go finish that world tour. Strike the note. Hit the stage. Get off Twitter. Kick off a real storm.
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