The Vital Link between Fibromyalgia, Beneficial Bacteria & Probiotics

Bacterial overgrowth and yeast infections are thought to be one of the triggers that cause fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.   As the standard American diets (SAD) have grown increasingly focused on processed foods, sugars and refined grains, and our environment is full of chemicals and pollution, this has led to a substantial increase in harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract for many of us. 

When there is an overgrowth of too much bacteria, yeast, fungus, and/or parasites inside the gastrointestinal tract (GI) the intestinal lining becomes damaged and weakened.  This permits undigested food particles, disease-causing bacteria, and potentially toxic molecules, to pass directly through the weakened cell membranes and quickly spread throughout the rest of the body.    When this happens, toxins pass through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream and are carried to the liver.  The liver becomes over-worked in an effort to detoxify this increased load of toxins.  To make matters worse, these toxins which are circulating in our blood stream activate antibodies and cause irritation and inflammation throughout other parts of the body plus a host of other distressing symptoms.  In addition, it causes oxidative damage which speeds up the aging process.  It becomes what is more commonly called leaky gut syndrome. Symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome include: abdominal pain, chronic joint and muscle pain, gas, indigestion, brain fog, confusion, mood swings, nervousness, skin rashes, extreme fatigue, bloating, constipation, shortness of breath, diarrhea, aggression, and poor memory, to name a few.

Here is just a partial list of symptoms that can often result from an imbalance of bacteria in the GI tract:

  • Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Gas, bloating and indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Skin problems such as acne, eczema & psoriasis
  • Bad breath and body odor
  • Candida yeast infections
  • Delayed development in children
  • Frequent colds and flu

Restoring Gastro Intestinal Tract Health

Understanding the relationship between the bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract and how this affects our health is vital.  Seventy percent of your immune system is located within your GI tract.  Depending on the kind of bacteria your body contains in the largest numbers determines how healthy you are.    You have a total of one hundred trillion bacteria living together in your GI tract, which is more than the number of cells living in your body.  For example, some of the bacteria are known as “friendly” or good bacteria while some is “harmful” or bad bacteria.  Friendly bacteria keep the immune system strong and the digestive system functioning smoothly.  The wrong bacteria or the harmful variety set the scene for disease.   Ideally, beneficial bacteria should make up about 85 percent of the intestinal tract, and harmful bacteria about 15 percent.  However, most Americans have the inverse ratio of 15 percent good bacteria to 85 percent bad.  This can seriously compromise the immune and digestive systems, leading to a number of chronic conditions and disorders like fibromyalgia.   In addition, many fibromyalgia sufferers have gastrointestinal problems from the many drugs that are often prescribed.  These drugs alter the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.  For this reason, a person who has FM should take probiotics, including the lactobacillus group of beneficial bacteria, to restore gastrointestinal function.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus and bifidobacterium are the two predominant beneficial bacteria in our intestinal tract and we need both if we are to have GI tract health.  These friendly bacteria are called intestinal flora, pro-biotics, or eubiotics—the last two terms mean “healthful to life”.  We use the term “pro-biotics” to refer to supplemental use of these bacteria in powder or capsule form.    Lactobacillus acidophilus is the bacteria most people are familiar with however; bifidobacterium appears to be equally important beneficial bacteria in the GI tract.  Lactobacillus is particularly helpful in treating Candida albicans, a fungus which causes infections in nails and eyes, thrush, and “yeast infections”.  It is thought that Candida albicans yeast overgrowth is prevalent in many fibromyalgia sufferers.

Friendly flora in our GI tract is also responsible for manufacturing many vitamins including the B-complex vitamins.  The B-complex vitamins are our stress fighting vitamins and we can only make them by eating the right foods.  It’s been said that our gut is our second brain and when we fully appreciate that 70 percent of our immune system is located there, it’s no wonder.  We want to keep our GI tract in good order and our friendly flora in abundant supply and the way we do this is through our nutrition and diets.  We can also supplement with pro-biotics and this may be necessary when we have had several doses of anti-biotics throughout our lives.  One dose of anti-biotics will kill not only the harmful bacteria but all the bacteria living in our GI tract, including the friendly.  It can take us up to one year to build back the friendly bacteria in our gut unless we eat those foods which contain it.

Foods that enhance GI flora

sauerkrat fmsMost cultured and fermented foods commonly increase the bacterial content making them a rich source of friendly flora.  There are many cultures around the world that have long recognized the benefits of fermented foods.  While some indigenous peoples may not have known the science behind their use, they easily noticed the healthful benefits.  For example, sauerkraut, a traditional European food, has a long history of use by people with ulcers and digestive problems.  Asian cultures traditionally use pickles and fermented foods, such as kimchee, as condiments.  Here is a list of some of the foods you may eat that contain either Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium, or both.

  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Tamari
  • Shoyu
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchee

Chinese green tea and ginseng also increase friendly flora.  Green tea contains Polyphenols which are believed to be the enhancing substance while ginseng extract was found to increase beneficial flora.

Click here for more information on Foods for Fibromyalgia – Wellness Coaching Programs

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