By: Carolyn Dean MD ND
It wasn’t until 1990 that the American College of Rheumatology established diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia, thereby giving it official status as an illness. Fibro means “connective tissue” and refers to the thin tissue that wraps around muscles, and myalgia means “muscle pain.” Sometimes called fibrositis, fibromyalgia is a close cousin of CFS and shares many of its symptoms: incapacitating fatigue, muscle and joint pain, neuralgia, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, cognitive confusion, and digestive problems. (CFS sufferers, in addition, have mild fever, swollen glands, and a sore throat, which distinguishes them from fibromyalgia patients.)
Having a name, however, does not define the causes of the illness, and the American College of Rheumatology does not offer a curative treatment. I believe fibromyalgia is the latest label for an accumulation of toxins and infections from both environment and lifestyle. Twenty-six doctors who present their cases in a book on chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia agree.
Our exposure to toxins, chemicals, and prescription drugs begins at birth. Substances we think are safe can break down our immune systems and deplete our nutrient reserves. I and many other doctors believe they lead to CFS, fibromyalgia, and environmental illness in a growing list of sufferers.
There Is No CFS or Fibromyalgia Drug
The complex nature of CFS and fibromyalgia is formidable. Even though more doctors understand and accept the existence of CFS, the focus of CFS research seems to be on finding one cause. And the treatments offered are only symptomatic: rheumatologists and psychiatrists treat sleeplessness with sleeping pills; pain with anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, and muscle relaxants; and anxiety and depression with antianxiety drugs and antidepressants. None of these medications seem to work and certainly don’t cure the problem, in fact, people with CFS seem to be very sensitive to drugs and can develop many side effects including magnesium deficiency.
No attention is paid to diet or nutrient deficiencies. Doctors ignore the possibility that there could be a nutrient imbalance, such as a magnesium deficiency, or coexisting conditions, such as a yeast infection, low thyroid, adrenal exhaustion, or allergies, that cause a complex of symptoms. They also tend to overlook possible toxicities, which allow common infections to appear more virulent as they take advantage of a weakened host. Yet magnesium deficiency is known to exacerbate all the symptoms of CFS and fibromyalgia, and increased magnesium intake has been effective in helping to restore health to many sufferers. Magnesium is also one of the best ways to strengthen the immune system and boost resistance against germs.
Worse with Exercise
Exercise is often suggested for people suffering from fatigue, but even the mildest aerobic exercise is exhausting to people with CFS or fibromyalgia, who have no energy because their magnesium-driven energy system is bankrupt. Without magnesium to power the Krebs Cycle, ATP is depleted. Exercise creates lactic acid buildup, which leads to more pain when it is not cleared by a particular enzyme that requires magnesium. Even the work of metabolizing pain medications depletes magnesium. This explains why chronic fatigue patients do not do well on most medications.
A buildup of lactic acid in the muscles causes pain and can be treated with 300 mg of elemental magnesium twice a day. If the joints accumulate toxicity, arthritis can occur; if the nerves are irritated by neurotoxins, they begin to lose their myelin sheath, and symptoms of MS can result. In fact, autoimmune disease may be the end stage of a buildup of toxicity exacerbated by deficiency of nutrients, such as magnesium, that are designed to clear toxins from the body. According to some doctors, the definition of autoimmune disease as “disease against self” is not accurate; the disease process is, in fact, attacking a self that is altered by toxins and nutrient deficiencies.
Patients with fibromyalgia also have chronically low levels of serotonin, which greatly exaggerates their pain. Yeast overgrowth in the intestines can diminish the production of serotonin in the gut. As mentioned previously, magnesium is a necessary building block for both the production and uptake of serotonin by brain cells.
CFS & Fibromyalgia Worsened By Stress
Stress does worsen these conditions, which has led many doctors to call them psychosomatic diseases. But stress is just part of the whole picture. Acute episodes of CFS and fibromyalgia can be brought on by exposure to stress, whether emotional or physical. The consequent increase in adrenaline and stress chemicals hastens magnesium loss and can be a factor in both conditions. Low levels of magnesium intensify the secretion of the stress chemicals, thus increasing the risk of adverse effects of stress and creating another vicious cycle.
The overproduction of adrenaline due to stress leads to magnesium deficiency and therefore puts a strain on the magnesium-dependent energy system of the body, causing energy depletion that leads to fatigue. Fatigue is often reduced with magnesium supplementation. In fact, a major breakthrough occurred in CFS research when low magnesium levels were discovered in most sufferers. Of the many enzyme systems that require magnesium, the most important ones are responsible for energy production and storage.
I’d like to apologize for not having the following reference in the 2017 edition of The Magnesium Miracle “Fibromyalgia Linked to Deficiencies in RBC Magnesium and IGF-1.” It’s an important validation of what I’ve been saying for over 20 years – fibromyalgia is 50% magnesium deficiency. The other 50% is yeast overgrowth and I’ve been saying that for over 30 years.
The study authors says about magnesium that “Restoring those levels to where they should be, we have found, can truly turn people’s lives around — they have more stamina and more energy.”
The mean magnesium level of the group was 4.49 mg/dL, which was lower than the mean level in a control group of 12 osteoarthritic patients and the laboratory standard of 5.5 mg/dL. The magnesium RBC range is 4.2-6.8, so most doctors wouldn’t even blink at seeing a level of 4.49 because they would say that it’s in the range. But as I’ve said so often, laboratory levels are based on the population that walks through the door, 80% of which are low in magnesium. The magnesium RBC range that I recommend is 6.0-6.5.
The study also measured human growth hormone and found it to be low. The authors recommended treatment with growth hormone injections. One researcher commented that “I’m glad they’re studying this, however, because [hormone involvement] is the future of chronic pain, there’s no question about it.”
In The Magnesium Miracle I devote a whole chapter to Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia, some of which I will excerpt below.
As noted above, the root causes of fibromyalgia and CFS are magnesium deficiency and yeast overgrowth. To learn more about treating magnesium deficiency read my book Invisible Minerals Part I – ReMag. Invisible Minerals Part II- ReMyte/ReCalcia is also important to supply the body with 12 trace minerals. ReSet The Yeast Connection can guide you in the treatment of yeast overgrowth.