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“I feel like I’m constantly wading through mud. Like my brain is clogged up. My limbs are heavy and every little action requires a great deal of effort. My muscles are tired and shaky. It’s just like pushing through a bog all the time.” 
This is the essence of what it is like to have fibromyalgia. The body’s energy stores are perpetually on empty. Body aches and joint pain plague every movement.
Even the small actions of daily life are a struggle.
To date, there is no “cure” for fibromyalgia. But by changing our perspective of this mysterious illness and asking the right questions, we can uncover new hope, with important lessons for chronic disease and anybody striving for optimal health in today’s modern world.
What do you notice about this person’s words in the quote above? Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question.
This person is exhausted all the time. Their brain and muscles are running on fumes. To put it another way, they have no energy.
Therefore, the key to the fibromyalgia puzzle must be in the body’s energy system.
This leads to the next logical question: where to do we make energy?
Inside every single one of your cells are thousands of little energy factories called mitochondria. They make a compound called ATP, the biochemical fuel that drives virtually every single chemical reaction in all of biology.
A normal cell will have somewhere around 1000 - 2000 of mitochondria. Some cells with more intense energy demands like heart cells and neurons have nearly 10,000!
These little energy factories often make up to 40% of a cell’s total volume.
Your mitochondria make the energy for the heart to pump blood, for neurons to fire, for muscles to move, and every other biological function.
If we go back and revisit the quote above through the lens of cellular energy, it is clear there is a dysfunction in the mitochondria.
Your body has 2 basic ways to make energy. The mitochondria specialize in one form called “aerobic respiration”. This uses oxygen and a carbon source to produce 38 molecules of ATP and as a byproduct creates water and carbon dioxide.
It is very efficient and burns clean.
The other way to make energy is called “anaerobic respiration.” This happens outside the mitochondria and uses glucose and oxygen to make 2 molecules of ATP.
It is not an efficient way to make energy, but it is fast and works when you’re in an energetic pinch––sprinting, for example.
Beyond efficiency, however, there is a major difference in the byproducts of anaerobic respiration.
It creates acid. And acid causes problems. It stresses your cells. Stressed out cells create free radicals and inflammation.
Acid, free radicals and inflammation together can cause pain in body tissues. It’s similar to muscle soreness after an intense workout caused by built-up lactic acid from anaerobic respiration.
“It’s like every part of your body is bruised but [the bruises] are invisible, and sometimes you wish they were visible because then people might take your pain seriously.” 
If fibromyalgia is ultimately a case of systemic anaerobic respiration, then we need to understand what is going wrong with the aerobic respiration.
Another way to ask the same question, is “what is wrong with the mitochondria?”
When we figure out what is wrong with the mitochondria when the root problem is properly diagnosed, we have a clear route to a solution. And now we are at a place of empowerment.
Below are 5 of the most common sources of mitochondrial disruption. Any one of these is enough to disrupt mitochondrial function. In most cases, however, there is a convergence of multiple issues underlying the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia.
What is so important about this is that this isn’t limited to fatigue and muscle pain. Fibromyalgia is just one possible manifestation of mitochondrial dysfunction.
Bluntly put, vibrant health IS mitochondrial health.
Seen through the prism of mitochondria and energy, the myriad types of chronic disease we see today is more like the rainbow spectrum of mitochondrial dysfunction.
Diabetes. Obesity. Depression. Cancer. Epilepsy. Learning Disabilities. Multiple Sclerosis. Alzheimer’s. Parkinsons’ Disease.
Mitochondria play a major part in every single one of these. The difference in symptoms arises from the location and severity of the dysfunction.
Fortunately, by following the breadcrumbs back to optimal mitochondrial function there is hope for just about everybody. Fix the mitochondria, and healing and recovery are finally possible.
Want to go deeper?
Click here to sign up for Dr. Minkoff’s free mini-course on Fibromayalgia: What is it, Why is it, and What to do About it
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