Lessons From Fibromyalgia: The Cellular Origins of Chronic Disease

by Dr. David Minkoff October 10, 2018 4 min read 0 Comments

Lessons From Fibromyalgia: The Cellular Origins of Chronic Disease

“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.” [1]

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.

 

Linguistic Clues to Fibromyalgia

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?

 

Mitochondria and Metabolism

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.

 

Two Kinds of Metabolism, Two Dramatically Different Results

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.” [1]

 

Impaired Mitochondria Leads to Anaerobic Respiration

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.

 

Common Mitochondria Disrupters

  • Nutrient Deficiency. Without the right nutrients, mitochondria simply cannot function. Minerals like zinc and magnesium, b-vitamins, and essential amino acids are all crucial for healthy mitochondrial function.
  • Infection. Parasites, bad bacteria, fungal infections, or other latent infections like Lyme and Eppstein-Barr give off toxins that specifically disrupt mitochondrial function.
  • Environmental Toxins. Pesticides, mold toxins, heavy metals, and other toxins in our environment are toxic to mitochondria. They can inhibit crucial chemical reactions or even cause mitochondrial death.
  • Hormonal Dysregulation. Hormonal balance is essential for overall health, and the thyroid is especially important when it comes to your mitochondria. The thyroid hormone T3 regulates the number of mitochondria in your cells. If you are deficient in T3, you probably have deficient mitochondria.
  • Electromagnetic Fields. The chemical reactions of the mitochondria are electromagnetic in nature, and they are profoundly affected by electromagnetic fields. Constant exposure to EMFs, especially while sleeping, can damage your little energy factories. 

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.

 

Beyond Fibromyalgia: Mitochondria and Chronic Illness

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

1. https://themighty.com/2017/06/metaphors-what-fibromyalgia-feels-like/

Dr. David Minkoff
Dr. David Minkoff

Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then worked as an attending physician in infectious disease, co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine until 1995. In 1997, his interest in alternative and complementary medicine led him to open LifeWorks Wellness Center, which has become one of the foremost alternative medicine clinics in the U.S. His search to find a source of the highest quality nutritional supplements led him to establish BodyHealth in 2000, a resource that could provide doctors with the best possible supplementation and education for their patients. Today, the BodyHealth products are used by hundreds of practitioners and individual consumers who seek all-natural wellness and detoxification supplements with a demonstrated high level of quality and effectiveness. In addition to their use by patients looking to heal disease, the BodyHealth products are also used by sports enthusiasts interested in achieving and maintaining optimal performance. As a 42-time Ironman triathlon finisher, (including 8 appearances at the Ironman World Championships) Dr. Minkoff has first-hand experience to help athletes achieve optimum conditioning. His expertise in protein synthesis, detoxification, and nutrition allow them to run, swim, and bike faster and longer. Today, Dr. Minkoff is an alternative healthcare expert, guest lecturer, writer, tv and radio show guest. He also authors two weekly newsletters, the BodyHealth Fitness Newsletter and the Optimum Health Report.



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