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Fibromyalgia and Fermented Foods

Help For Fibromyalgia

Sherri's story:
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia over 20 years ago. For years, I’d had an all-over body ache that felt like inflammation. It was an ache that I had every day. I was especially achy when we had rainy weather. After having a terrible bout with a stomach virus that lasted about a week, I searched out information about how to heal my gut issues. I found your videos and that’s where it all began. After watching your videos, I immersed myself in making kefir, cultured veggies, and kombucha. After three weeks of filling myself with these wonderful foods, I woke up one morning and realized I didn't have that all-over body ache anymore. It’s been that way for the past eight days, and I’m so excited about it. Also, it’s calmed my painful gastric problems, and I have a sense of well-being. I know this is something that I’m going to continue to do because it’s improving my health. ~ Sherri

 

Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of the fastest-growing disabling conditions. It affects 2-4 percent of the population and has no known cure. It seems to affect mostly women, and I see it cropping up everywhere. Fibromyalgia is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes muscular and joint pain as well as extreme fatigue. It is debilitating and can ruin people’s lives. More and more evidence is pointing to an unhealthy gut in people suffering from fibromyalgia. One study found that those who have fibromyalgia also have leaky gut syndrome or IBS. Another study showed that 73 percent of patients with fibromyalgia reported gastrointestinal symptoms and that IBS was present in 30 to 70 percent of fibromyalgia patients. 1  For many years the medical community did not know what causes fibromyalgia or agree on how to remedy it; but time and time again, I see people who fix their gut find relief or improvement from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Linked to Gut Bacteria for the First Time

Researchers in Montreal have shown, for the first time, that there are alterations in the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tracts of people with fibromyalgia. The research was done on 156 individuals, 77 of whom suffer from fibromyalgia. Each person studied was tested and gave stool, blood, saliva, and urine samples. These were compared with those of a healthy control group, some of whom lived in the same house as the fibromyalgia patients or were their parents, offspring, or siblings. They found 20 different species of bacteria in either greater or are lesser quantities in the microbiomes of participants suffering from the disease than in the healthy control group. 2,3

Emmanuel Gonzalez, from the Canadian Center for Computational Genomics and the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University, stated, “We sorted through large amounts of data, identifying 19 species that were either increased or decreased in individuals with fibromyalgia. By using machine learning, our computer was able to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia based only on the composition of the microbiome with an accuracy of 87 percent. As we build on this first discovery with more research, we hope to improve upon this accuracy, potentially creating a step-change in diagnosis.”

“People with fibromyalgia suffer not only from the symptoms of their disease but also from the difficulty of family, friends, and medical teams to comprehend their symptoms,” says Yoram Shir, the senior author on the paper who is the Director of the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the MUHC. “As pain physicians, we are frustrated by our inability to help, and this frustration is a good fuel for research. This is the first evidence, at least in humans, that the microbiome could have an effect on diffuse pain, and we really need new ways to look at chronic pain.”

Bacteria Species

  • Parabacteroides merdae
  • Clostridium scindens
  • Erysipelatoclostridium ramosum
  • Blautia hydrogenotrophica
  • Eisenbergiella tayi
  • Eisenbergiella massiliensis
  • Hungatella hathewayi
  • Intestinimonas butyriciproducens
  • Alistipes onderdonkii
  • Blautia massiliensis
  • Butyricicoccus desmolans
  • Flavonifractor plautii
  • Ruthenibacterium lactaiformans
gut 3

Women with Fibromyalgia

Bacteria Species

  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii
  • Blautia faecis
  • Haemophilus parainfluenzae
  • Prevotella copri
  • Bacteroides uniformis
Gut

Women without Fibromyalgia

SIBO and Fibromyalgia

In 2008, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that 100% (42 out of 42) of fibromyalgia patients they studied had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). 4  It isn't always an easy approach for those with Fibromyalgia and SIBO. Healing this first is multifaceted and requires a lot of care. Here is an article I wrote on this subject (SIBO) with foods and amounts to eat that can greatly help you.

The Fodmap Diet for Sibo & IBS

IBS and Fibromyalgia

Another study of 40 patients with fibromyalgia revealed that 28 (70%) had IBS intestinal permeability or leaky gut.  But it's important to note that 12 of the 28 patients with leaky gut had no gut symptoms. So many people don't connect the gut with their symptoms or pain when this might be the best place to look. 5   Both IBS and fibromyalgia are chronic pain syndromes. IBS is a common gastrointestinal disorder that causes digestive discomfort and abdominal pain. Fibromyalgia is a nervous system disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the body. The main difference is that people with IBS have hypersensitivity in their intestines, and people with fibromyalgia have hypersensitivity in their skin and muscle tissues, but they are both warning signs from the body that something has gone amiss.

My daughter's story of healing from IBS was one that made me a believer in the power of probiotic foods. She had multiple food allergies and IBS, and by consuming cultured foods and prebiotics at every meal she healed her gut and IBS. That was over sixteen years ago (check out the story here).

So what do scientists say about the connection between probiotics, a healthy gut, and IBS? One 2014 study looked at 28 people suffering from IBS.6 Some of the participants were asked to consume a fermented milk product for four weeks, while others served as a control group. In those people consuming the drink, researchers saw an increase in the bacteria that produce butyrate, an acid that is beneficial for gut health. In response, the symptoms of their IBS also improved, while the symptoms of the people in the control group remained. The conclusions drawn in this study mirror those of a study done in 2009 with 34 participants.7
Another study, done in Norway, compared three groups: two composed of people who were suffering from IBS and one with subjects who had no symptoms of IBS. One of the IBS groups was given dietary advice, and the other two groups didn’t receive this advice. Many people who have IBS avoid dairy because it causes their symptoms to flare up. The people in the IBS group who got advice were told to consume fermented milk products containing probiotics. Interestingly, the people who consumed the most fermented dairy did significantly better than their counterparts. They reported an improvement in the quality of life and a reduction of abdominal pain.8

A New Approach to Treating Fibromyalgia

Dr. Chris Kesser, one of the most respected clinicians and educators in the fields of Functional Medicine and ancestral health, has trained over 1,300 health professionals around the world in his unique approach. He has wonderful recommendations for healing the gut and fibromyalgia. Here are a few of the things he recommends.

  • Avoid foods, medications (e.g. antibiotics), and chemicals (e.g. BPA) that irritate the gut.
  • Eat plenty of prebiotics or fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.).
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.
  • Consume bone broth and glycine-rich foods which are rich in collagen. This was very helpful for healing my daughter's IBS.
  • Get at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present.
  • Manage your stress (with mediation, mindfulness practice, biofeedback, etc.).
  • Consider taking a probiotic and a prebiotic supplement to help stimulate the growth of good bacteria.

We have received so many emails from people who have been helped with fibromyalgia and other ailments just by fixing their guts with fermented foods. Check out Pam's story below and be amazed!

Lives Touched

Pamela Fife

About six or seven years ago I began to get really sick. Just all of a sudden it seemed. I started to swell up from inflammation and then the pain set in. I could hardly walk anymore. I was getting more and more exhausted with every move I made throughout the day. All I wanted to do was sleep. I remember how horrible I felt. I would take more and more of the pain pills I was already prescribed for a back issue I've had for years. I suppose they just stopped helping and I needed a higher dose. I gained a lot of weight too and that certainly didn't help. A friend of mine was already seeing a doctor for her pain and unexplained weight gain and brain fog, so she suggested I go see him. I agreed since I really didn't know what else to do. To shorten this story, let's just get to the part where I was diagnosed with a boatload of things: fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), spinal stenosis, and the list went on. I walked out with a fist full of free drugs and a list of prescriptions I was to start taking immediately, one of which was a form of chemo drug. I felt numb. My daughter and newly born grandson were with me. I had waited forever to be a grandmother, and there I was, standing in a doctors office watching them decorate a Christmas tree. I was looking at my grandson and I couldn't even hold him in my arms without it causing me horrible pain! I started crying and it seemed I didn't stop crying for a really long time. I thought about all the things I wanted to do in my life still, and that I was never going to get to do them. I pictured my hair falling out. I cried again. I tried with all my might to climb up in my daughters SUV and it took all the energy I had! I kept staring down at the fist full of prescriptions wondering what had happened to my life! I was a vibrant woman who trained horses and showed them alongside my daughter, so how did I end up here? My daughter was trying to look like it was all ok, but I could see that look in her eye as though it were my reflection. The tears just kept burning my face. I was so lost that day.

I went on to fill the prescriptions and started taking them. I first started with the full pack of steroids. Oh my goodness. I thought I was King of the Mountain when I was taking them. I had no pain and energy to burn. My house was as clean as a pin. And then they wore off!! The pain was even more horrible (the doctor warned me this would happen). Then every morning I had my cup to fill with prescriptions using a paper to write down when, what, and how much of all that poison to swallow. I got so depressed that I was losing focus altogether on what the purpose of my life was.

One month later, my doctor recorded my weight gain of 40 pounds and I reported more burning pain in my limbs. I was referred to a specialist. The elevator door opened and all I remember seeing were rows of reclining chairs with IV poles hanging from them and patients sitting and watching TV. My heart raced. The tears started filling my eyes again. I realized my life was no longer my own and I was now a patient. After spending a great deal of time in an office spilling my guts to this new doctor about my symptoms, I just started crying and couldn't stop. She handed me a box of kleenex and I really don't remember how long it took for me to stop crying and get dressed to leave.

More prescriptions were handed to me there at the office. I was now in a fog I couldn't see a way out of. My friend drove me home. I don't remember even talking to her or thanking her for being there. Because I felt so alone, maybe I thought I was alone.

Long story short, the steroid meds were administered incorrectly and I was so wound up I couldn't stand it. When I called to get help, they told me to call my own family doctor and ask for a prescription for Valium. I knew then, I was in big trouble.

I got mad, really mad. I immediately started looking for another doctor. One who really cared. Lo and behold, I found one. He  told me I didn't have all those diseases, and that he needed to wean me off those meds!! I had blood work, X-rays, and other tests done to confirm I didn't have all those diseases but that my body was indeed reacting to something. The inflammation was real and so was the pain.

I started searching the internet for old-fashioned home remedies - herbs, spices, elixirs, whatever it took. I had remembered my grandparents used home remedies and that their parents did too. So I decided I was going to find some and make them myself.

I found a website that mentioned fermented veggies. It explained that way back when they fermented veggies and the benefits were unbelievable. So I searched more. I found a woman named Donna Schwenk who made ferments and milk kefir. I had to know more. So I read her blog like someone starving for food! I drank it in. I talked about it. I would get up in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep, so I read and I learned. I watched videos on how to make this stuff. I immediately ordered the starters and made my first batch of fermented veggies. It was so good that I ate way too much of it at first. I felt the "die-off" they speak of and it was unpleasant, but I didn't stop. I knew this was the stuff I was meant to eat and knew I was on the right track!! I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Donna was my teacher!! I went from veggies to water kefir then to milk kefir, then to kombucha. I fermented everything!! My husband said I was a mad scientist!! I laughed and said, "I'm making my own medicine. It's healing me from the inside out." I thank the Lord for Donna. I call her my hero. I've told her that more than once on Facebook. I believe God took me to her website and she is the reason why I am still, after seven years (can't believe it's been that long) making my ferments. My family eats my ferments. They drink my kombucha and my water kefir. I use my milk kefir for my protein drinks, for making my salad dressings and dips, and I have used it in soups as well as other dishes. My husband loves my ranch dressing as a veggie dip. My lake friends love my fermented salsa - they talk about that the most. My favorite is my orange water kefir. My whole family drinks my orange water kefir. No more experiments with flavors, orange is their favorite. The grandson I spoke of earlier, that I was not able to hold, is now eight years old and I hold him as much as he lets me. I have another grandson who is six and he lets me snuggle with him a lot. I certainly hope you can tell how much I appreciate having my life back. Thanks to Donna's research and forging ahead for us, I do have my life back. We have a houseboat we enjoy every weekend and every spare minute, and I enjoy kayaking. My aunt and I went on a kayak adventure of 14.7 miles on the river  - and I did all the rowing for both of us!! Yes, it hurt later, but I think it was worth it!!

I'll say it again, Donna is my hero and she will always have that title as far as I'm concerned. I have a lot to thank her for. I know and I believe that fermented foods and drinks are what healed me. I was taking 28 pills a day but I don't anymore! Now I'm a supplement girl! I am 58 years old this year. I didn't feel like I would ever make it to this age. Oh, one more thing, I've had many people say I do not look 58 years old! Thank you, Donna, for doing the groundwork and making the research available to the public. I have purchased your grains and still have them all this time later. They still continue to make me well. My sister in Australia is also a follower. Take care. Here's a big "attaboy!" from me in Kentucky!! ~ Pam

The Trilogy

These foods have been keeping people well throughout history and they helped preserve their foods without refrigeration - and preserved them perfectly. Now they're helping me, and thousands of others, to stay healthy in this fast world we live in. They are simple to make, delightful to eat, and I love them because they made me well and continue to keep me healthy and sane in this world that is crazy-fast paced. Is something trying to reach you and help you? Well then, if you're reading this, it most certainly is. And let me tell you, it will keep showing up in your life until you listen. Believe me, I see this all the time. You might as well give in cause it's gonna stalk you. Bacteria are all around you, inside and out, and it's about time you started paying attention to these microbes. That's why I'm here to help you connect with them and live a better life.

"The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well." Hippocrates

The Foods That Heal Your Gut

Kefir the Champagne of Yogurt

Kombucha the Wonder Drink

Veggies Made with Microbes

References:

  1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15361320.
  2. https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/fibromyalgia-linked-to-gut-bacteria-for-first-time-321033
  3. https://muhc.ca/news-and-patient-stories/press-releases/gut-bacteria-associated-chronic-widespread-pain-first-time
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18043226
  5. https://ard.bmj.com/content/63/4/450.full
  6. “Impact of Gut Microbiota of Fermented Milk Product Containing Probiotics Revealed by New Technology,” Science Daily (September 11, 2014): www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140911125045.htm.
  7.  A. Agrawal et al., “Clinical Trial: The Effects of a Fermented Milk Product Containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 on Abdominal Distension and Gastrointestinal Transit in Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation,” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 29, no.1 (January 2009): 104-14: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801055.
  8.  H. Østgaard et al., “Diet and Effects of Diet Management on Quality of Life and Symptoms in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” Molecular Medicine Reports 5, no. 6 (June 2012): 1382–90: www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mmr.2012.843.