Alternative Treatment for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Lyme Disease

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that is composed of many different symptoms. The primary symptom is pain and tenderness in multiple areas of the body. This is often linked to fatigue, sleep disorders, digestive problems, and depression. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are considered to be overlapping disorders that many consider to actually be the same illness. There are many theories as to the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Many people consider these conditions to be psychosomatic in origin because people suffering from these conditions can look healthy and normal from the outside, and yet complain of so many different symptoms. These symptoms can include mental symptoms such as brain fog, forgetfulness, spaciness, depression, moodswings, anger, and extremes in behavior. Unfortunately, as a result many people with this disease are viewed with skepticism by medical practitioners and lay people alike and are often branded as hypochondriacs.

There are a number of pathogens that are not easily detected in the body through standard diagnostic procedures and that are not easily killed off through a short course of treatment. These pathogens may be involved in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. There is a new theory that chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia may be related to chronic mycobacterial infections.

It is also possible that many of these people actually suffer from Lyme Disease which has never been diagnosed due to the lack of proper testing. Lyme Disease is cause by a spirochetal bacteria called borellia burgdorferi. Borellia burgdorferi is a very resilient and adaptable organism. The spirochete can take a cyst form where most antibiotics cannot reach it. It also hides in the joints of the body, in areas of poor circulation, and it may hide within the cells of the immune system.

Lyme Disease can cause all of the many symptoms that people with fibromyalgia and CFS suffer from. It can cause achy muscles and joints, depression, fatigue, migraine headaches, tingling nerve sensations, insomnia, sleepiness, digestive problems, poor circulation, blurry vision, hearing irregularities, mental problems, weak limbs, pain in the rib cage, liver enzyme irregularities, hypothyroidism, an increased tendency for red blood cells to clump together, swollen lymph nodes, and much more. The irregularities in liver function may be responsible for the chemical sensitivities that many people with fibromyalgia and CFS experience. Because the organism that causes the disease is often not in the bloodstream, it is difficult to diagnose the disease through testing. Doctors who are familiar with the disease tend to base their diagnosis mainly on the clinical symptoms the patient presents and the risk factors that the patient has had exposure to, using testing as only a secondary measure for making a diagnosis.

There are many alternative health options that may help people suffering from fibromyalgia, CFS, or Lyme Disease.

Acupuncture may help to improve blood circulation and oxygenation to various areas of the body, enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight off infections. The increase in oxygenation can also create an inhospitable situation for bacteria that prefer a low oxygen environment. It also can stimulate the body to release natural pain relieving opiates into the body. The improvement in blood circulation may also help to increase body temperature in hands and feet and other areas of the body that tend to get cold easily. These are often areas of the body where bacteria that prefer a low body temperature, such as borellia burgdorferi, may tend to congregate.

According to Chinese research, there are many Chinese herbs that have immune enhancing and antibacterial properties. There are also many Chinese herbs that can help the various symptomatic aspects of fibromyalgia and CFS. Some herbs such as astragalus and schizandra can improve the body’s ability to handle stress and can boost immunity. Other herbs such as coptis and scutellaria have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Zyzyphus seed may help with sleep problems and anxiety. Bupleurum root may help relieve the moodswings and emotional aspects of fibromyalgia. The various types of ginseng can help to improve one’s energy level. Pseudoginseng, frankincense, and myrrh can help stimulate blood circulation and may help with symptoms of muscle weakness due to poor circulation. Walnuts, gingko biloba, frankincense, gotu kola, and fo-ti may all help with the brain fog and cognitive difficulties that many people with fibromyalgia and CFS experience. Codonopsis, atractylodes, mint, and citrus peel may all help with digestive problems. Chinese herbs are used together in herbal formulas that are individualized to address the pattern of disharmony that the person presents. They are generally not used separately on a symptom by symptom basis.

For Lyme Disease, a few different Chinese herbs stand out for their potential usefulness. Smilax (tu fu ling), coptis (huang lian), garlic (da suan), houttuynia (yu xing cao), and teasel root (xu duan) are all herbs that appear to help to treat Lyme disease in different ways. Some of them have antibacterial properties, some strengthen the body generally, and some improve circulation.

Massage can improve oxygenation of body tissues and improve blood circulation as well as reduce pain. If a person has fibromyalgia or CFS due to an infectious disease process, or a person has Lyme Disease, massage should only be used in combination with a therapy that is antibacterial in nature. Otherwise, it is likely to stir up dormant bacteria and stir up symptoms instead of providing symptom relief. When massage is used in combination with a therapy that is antibiotic in nature, it may improve the efficacy of that therapy by bringing bacteria out of hiding in order to be killed. Deep tissue massage may improve the efficacy of treatment with antibiotics, with herbs, with aromatherapy, or with heat. Used on its own, though, it may stir up latent problems in people with these conditions.

Essential oils are immune-enhancing and are frequently antiviral and antibacterial. Many of them also can relieve pain and soreness and the plethora of unpleasant symptoms that people with these ailments experience. I believe aromatherapy may be one of the most effective means for alleviating symptoms related to fibromyalgia, CFS, and Lyme Disease.

Heat can be helpful for treating Lyme Disease because the bacteria appears to prefer a low body temperature and is vulnerable to high heat. There are many different sources of heat that can be used to treat this condition. Heat can also be helpful for people with fibromyalgia and CFS who may actually have undiagnosed cases of Lyme Disease. People usually feel a worsening of symptoms before they feel an improvement with the use of heat. My personal theory is that this is because the heat stirs up the bacteria before it kills it off or triggers the immune system to kill the bacteria off. This is speculative on my part. The use of saunas can be very useful. A far infrared heat lamp can be used on problem areas. Hot baths taken for forty minutes at 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit have been shown to enhance immune system response in people with infectious diseases and auto-immune disorders in a research study done at Bastyr University. A Chinese therapy called moxibustion can also be useful in warming problem areas. I do not recommend the use of cold packs or ice for pain in people with Lyme Disease, fibromyalgia, or CFS as these therapies reduce circulation to areas where circulation is likely to already be compromised. Also, the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease appears to prefer a cool environment, so cold therapy may cause real problems in people with this condition.

In spite of the fatigue that people with fibromyalgia, CFS, and Lyme Disease may feel, a certain amount of exercise can be very beneficial if they are up to the challenge. It is important not to overexert oneself, but a brisk walk or other exercise that gets one’s heart pumping can be helpful. Again, exercise can be helpful because it can improve circulation in the body and improve oxygenation of the body’s tissues. Exercises such as stretching and yoga that help to improve flexibility and loosen muscles can also be helpful. Hot yoga, where yoga is done in a room where the heat is cranked up can be particularly helpful because it combines exercise with heat therapy. It is important not to push too hard when doing exercise. The point is to improve your health, and not to wipe yourself out more.

Magnesium appears to be a useful supplement for people with these conditions. Many people report an improvement in their muscle pain when taking a magnesium supplement on a regular basis. It is important to reduce intake of sugar, dairy products and bread while increasing intake of green vegetables. Spirulina can be a useful addition to your health regimen as it is both nourishing and detoxifying. It may also be helpful to reduce consumption of tomatoes as they seem to encourage acidity in the body. Flax seed oil has an anti-inflammatory effect that can be very helpful. Alpha-lipoic acid is a helpful anti-oxidant. It may help nerve function and improve liver function.

As you can see, fibromyalgia, CFS, and Lyme Disease are complex ailments, but there are many promising therapies that people with these conditions are likely to find helpful.

About the author:

Biography

Farah Khan is a New York licensed acupuncturist. She is an experienced herbalist, aromatherapist, and acupuncturist. She also practices a form of spiritual energy work that was passed on to her by a line of Mexican curanderas. Her specialties include treatment of Lyme Disease and Fibromyalgia. She has a B.A. in psychology from Brown University and an M.A. in Oriental Medicine from the International Institute of Chinese Medicine in Albuquerque, NM. She  has an extensive line of products at her site. Her web site is at www.yinessence.com. You can e-mail her at farah@yinessence.com.

Author: Dr. Farah Khan, L.Ac.
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