Although there has been a great deal of interest in the causes of fibromyalgia and how to manage the painful symptoms effectively, it is almost never suggested that avoidance of certain environmental triggers may be an important management practice. I learned slowly and painstakingly that this is indeed the case for me.
My fibromyalgia was diagnosed after I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue immune dysregulation and multiple chemical sensitivity. Many of the symptoms of these conditions overlap, but the characteristic painful tender points and extreme diffuse pain were a signal that my condition included something distinctly different from what other MCS and CFIDS patients typically experience.
Because medical practitioners did not tell me that environmental and chemical exposures were one of the causes of fibromyalgia, I did not assume that this would be the case. I only discovered this to be true because of being diagnosed with MCS and I had learned to pay very close attention to my body’s messages and to any possible environmental triggers of my symptoms. It was through this process that I discovered that my fibromyalgia symptoms were aggravated by chemical exposures, certain foods, and hormonal fluctuations and I came to believe that all three diagnoses were actually one in the same with a different subset of symptoms for each syndrome. I, unfortunately, had all three syndromes symptoms.
The first thing I noticed was that at different times in my menstrual cycle, particularly at ovulation, menstruation, and right after menstruation my fibromyalgia symptoms would flare. There was a definite and repeated pattern. The tender points on my head, shoulders, legs and buttocks would become extremely painful. I would have accompanying headaches, diffuse body pain, and sleep difficulties. My neuro-cognitive difficulties often referred to as “brain fog” would also worsen at these times in my menstrual cycle.
If I had been out in the world a great deal being exposed to common everyday chemicals in the days and weeks before my menstrual period, I would invariable notice that all these symptoms would be worse. I also began to see that my fibromyalgia symptoms would be worse if I had been eating high levels of refined carbohydrates during my cycle. High levels of carbohydrates exacerbate candida overgrowth.
I discovered that if I washed my clothes in water that was chlorine-free and eat organic foods then that made an enormous difference in my fibromyalgia pain. If I washed my clothes in chlorinated water then the pain was so bad I couldn’t function and I had to take my clothes off. If I showered in chlorinated water I felt comatose. When I had an exposure to pesticides or herbicides such as a neighbor spraying their yard or mosquito control then all my symptoms flared severely.
If I would sit in a room full of people with someone wearing cologne or an air freshener present then trigger points and widespread pain were excruciating and cognitive functioning was impaired severely. If I left this room and took a shower in filtered water then my symptoms improved. If I stayed in that same room for an extended amount of time then the next day I would be bedridden and barely able to walk or function because of pain and brain fog.
If I keep my home free of chemicals and if I limit refined and complex carbohydrates in my diet then my fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as my MCS and CFIDS, will improve dramatically. The more exposures I had or the more refined carbohydrates I ate then the more severe my symptoms would be in each category.
As a matter of fact, I was able to completely overcome my fibromyalgia pain and almost never have a flare by following a Paleolithic Diet, living a green lifestyle, and engaging in mild exercise.
Why this happens, we can only speculate, but I believe that the chemicals are upsetting my body’s natural hormonal and endocrine balance and the autonomic nervous system. Scientists are now aware that many of the air-borne and food-borne chemicals we are constantly ingesting are endocrine disrupters. These chemicals mimic estrogen in the body and may contribute to many problems. There is also evidence that excess carbohydrates may interfere with proper endocrine functioning and the autonomic nervous system.
Some fibromyalgia patients may feel that following a strict regimen of avoiding certain chemicals or following a strict diet may not give enough improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms to justify the effort. However, there is recent evidence to suggest that chemical sensitivity can be the result of liver dysfunction that is a component of a medical condition known as porphyria. Porphyria has been studied for decades, and it has long been accepted that it is often degenerative in certain types of porphyria, the disability can permanently worsen over time if the patient does not avoid the triggers of their episodes.
If you live with fibromyalgia and need to talk to someone who understands you may find my holistic health coaching to be helpful or you can find many other life management tips and techniques in her book Finding Life Fulfillment when Living with Chronic Illness.
Other causes of fibromyalgia I have found to be applicable include, hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter deficiencies or imbalances, SIBO, and adrenal fatigue. You can learn more about these issues as well as many others in the fibromyalgia treatment section.
Although this research is not yet conclusive, it creates cause for concern. If in fact fibromyalgia, CFIDS, MCS, and GWS are all related in some way or in fact really just one in the same and if all involve this type of liver dysfunction, then avoidance of chemicals may be an important therapy for these patient groups. I would urge all patients to carefully evaluate the possibility that environmental triggers are one of the potential causes of fibromyalgia to prevent the possibility of a permanent worsening of their condition or at the very least to reduce symptoms.