Families of those suffering from fibromyalgia have long thought that there must be a genetic link to the disease.
It only stood to reason, they would argue, because so many people in one family were suffering. Now, there is new research that hints at a genetic connection.
The research focuses on a gene that affects the capacity to feel pain, and the tentative findings point to the possibility that this gene causes an imbalance in the nervous system that causes people to read pain differently.
The excitement this potential finding is causing is palpable within the fibromyalgia community because it is one step closer to a cure.
According to at least one new study, a source of the problem (and potentially the source of the treatment) is oxidative stress.
It is one of the stressors that trigger the gene in some family members and not others. (The other stressors can originate from physical, emotional, or psychological trauma. Any of these stressors can make oxidative stress worse.)
The root of the word “oxidative” is oxygen, which we all know is vitally important to our lives. We have to have adequate oxygen intake to provide energy for the millions of interactions that happen all the time in our bodies in each and every cell.
The oxidative process is a normal thing and a necessary thing, but when there is a glitch in the system so to speak, free radicals are formed, and they can lead to cellular damage.
One of the ways this has been described is to compare it to the formation of rust on an iron pipe. If the pipe is left outdoors too long, exposed to rain, wind, sun and so forth, oxidation occurs, and that causes rust.
If the body is exposed to “elements” that we ingest, cigarette smoke, alcohol, unhealthy foods or radiation for a prolonged period of time, free radicals can be formed. They can also be prolonged by air pollution, prescription and over the counter medications and stress.
Fibromyalgia is thought to be one of the diseases that can be formed by exposure to these toxins or stress if something isn’t done to relieve the stress. It will only get worse unless an antidote is found.
The new research that points to free radicals (oxidative stress) as a possible cause of fibromyalgia also opens the door to a potential treatment, in the form of antioxidants. Normally, the body produces antioxidants as enzymes that work together to eventually neutralize the free radicals.
These antioxidants have the ability to also repair damages, improving the chances the body will be able to fight off future infections.
Antioxidants as Treatment
Fibromyalgia sufferers may benefit from changing their diets to include foods rich in anti-oxidant nutrients like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, selenium, and Vitamins A, C, and E.
Foods rich in these nutrients, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, and some meats, fish and poultry are all on any list you will find that has to do with a healthy diet from the point of view of most research and programs intent on treating any kind of disorder.
Finding Harmony, Letting go of Stress
Evidence is mounting that the fast pace of our lives causes the stress that makes our bodies vulnerable. It makes sense to take control now by taking charge of eating better and exercising and adopting a practice that puts you in a much calmer space.
If you or someone you know has fibromyalgia, there is even more reason to begin now. The goal is to lead a stress-free life, but like any goal, it has some steps.
We suggest you start with these, and build on them as each new skill is mastered or routine becomes second nature:
Get regular sleep. The body needs sleep to be able to heal and to function at its best. People with fibromyalgia are often fatigued by the work the body is trying to do to fight off the disease.
We can assist by establishing regular routines (go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time), and by cutting out activities that interfere with sleep. This includes nicotine, coffee/caffeine at night, and refined sugars.
[Some guidance also suggests that using our technology (Ipads, etc.) late into the evening and just before bedtime may add to the inability to sleep.]
Decide on a “practice” to reduce stress. Whether it is yoga, meditation, deep breathing or walking, pick one and begin to bring that into your daily routine.
Start with one or two yoga postures or a fifteen-minute walk. The most important thing you can do is to establish the routine, no matter how much time you invest each day.
Eat a Healthy Diet. Without endorsement, a good place to look for dietary guidance is any article about the Mediterranean diet. The foods recommended are high in antioxidants.
Learn all you can. Educate yourself about what might be going on in your body. Stay in touch with the website Fibromyalgia Treating as your resource for information on what others are doing to fight their disease and the newest research on causes.
Let your doctor know if a symptom is radically worse. Pain causes stress and stress seem to cause fibromyalgia, which itself causes pain and there we are again.
Even though there is no “cure” for fibromyalgia yet, it’s best to get some help to take the edge off of a symptom or two that has flared up.
If fibromyalgia does run in families, there is no time like the present to get everyone you love to join you in the lifestyle change leading to reducing stress in your lives.
With everyone sleeping and eating well, practicing some form of yoga, meditation or the like, and being willing and open to discuss what is going on, your family will be well on its way to being healthier and keeping the free radicals in their place and out of their bodies.