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Childhood Trauma and Stress and Fibromyalgia - Is There a Connection?

Childhood Trauma and Stress and Fibromyalgia - Is There a Connection? 24

Traumatic experiences and stressors in childhood have historically been overlooked as predisposing factors in the development of various chronic pain disorders and psychiatric conditions, including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome. However, the tide is turning as research is revealing a significant correlation between childhood trauma and adult health.

 The central nervous system is rapidly developing during childhood and being conditioned to respond to various stimuli and stressors that are encountered in life. As an assortment of environmental stimuli are encountered, new pathways are created between the cells of the brain in response to each stimulus. For example, a pleasurable experience such as a hug from a parent or a sweet food creates pathways that teach the brain to respond pleasurably to those stimuli. Likewise, a frightening experience will create and exercise pathways that respond in fear. This process of creating new pathways in response to stimuli is referred to as neuroplasticity. As we age, neuroplasticity decreases, meaning it is more difficult to develop new pathways and adjust our brain’s responses to stimuli. Children are at a distinct advantage in possessing a high degree of neuroplasticity. However, this also highlights the importance of delivering meaningful stimuli to the developing brain, to ensure the development of positive pathways.

 In the presence of a strong support system and normal, short-lived stressors, a child’s stress responses are appropriately activated and buffered through supportive relationships. In this way, positive pathways are developing in the brain and training the nervous system how to appropriately respond to the normal stressors of life. As the brain encounters various stressors, a healthy resilience is built so that increasingly stressful circumstances are able to be experienced with normal biological responses.

 In the absence of supportive relationships or in the presence of extreme and/or long-standing stressors, the stress response is inappropriately activated and may negatively impact the development of the brain and neurological system. As regions of the brain that are responsible for fear, anxiety and impulsive responses are activated, neural pathways are developed to favor these regions of the brain. Subsequently, regions of the brain that are responsible for reasoning, planning and behavioral control may lack appropriate pathways, leading to a propensity toward negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

 The human stress response elicits a cascade of events that impact the brain, neurological system, and various endocrine glands and hormones, explaining its broad influence over health. The stress response begins with neurons experiencing environmental stressors or stimuli, translating the stimuli into messages, and sending those messages along pathways to various regions of the brain for interpretation and response. During these activities, the production of brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are triggered. Neurotransmitters deliver messages to other regions of the brain and other organs. These chemicals communicate with the adrenal glands (of the endocrine system), which then produce hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones are responsible for the traditional “fight-and-flight” response to traumatic or dangerous stressors. While these are helpful if we need to dodge a ball or car accident, chronic activation of these hormones can weaken the health of the immune system, the gut, energy systems, and pain perception, contributing to various health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. When the stress response is over activated during childhood, it becomes hypervigilant and has difficulty maintaining balance in adulthood.

 According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the most common traumatic stressors affecting children include, accidents, physical trauma, abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic and community violence. Other impactful stressors include death of a family member, divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, and natural disasters. When encountered during childhood, these traumatic stressors precondition the neurological system and the stress response system to produce exaggerated responses to normal stimuli. Fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are two examples of hypervigilant neurological responses. Normal stimuli such as wind blowing in the face or clothing rubbing against the skin can produce painful sensations in those with fibromyalgia, illustrating an exaggerated pain response. Normal stressors triggering the neurological system to inappropriately stimulate the muscles of the intestine, leading to alternating constipation and spastic diarrhea, is a classic sign of irritable bowel syndrome. The pain response is also heightened in those with irritable bowel syndrome, causing abdominal pain.

 Currently, specific causes of conditions associated with chronic pain and fatigue, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, are unknown; however, nearly two decades of research has strongly pointed to early childhood stressors as significant risk factors for initiating these conditions. While not every child who has been exposed to traumatic stressors will experience emotional and physical health calamities, research shows that children exposed to traumatic events or long-standing stressors are 2.7 times more likely to experience functional somatic conditions (functionally debilitating conditions for which no distinct cause can be determined), such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and others. Additionally, these conditions commonly exist with psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. The age at which trauma or stress is experienced, its duration, and even the type of trauma does not appear to shift this alarming statistic.

 Considering the increasing prevalence of functional somatic conditions, emotional and psychiatric problems, it is important to consider the influence of childhood experiences in the development of these conditions. Dwelling upon past trauma is not always helpful in supporting health and healing, and may actually be counterproductive; however, understanding its influence upon health is helpful in being able to appropriately identify elusive health conditions such as fibromyalgia. It is also important to understand for the purpose of protecting future generations from the debilitating effects of childhood trauma and stressors. Finally, it serves as a good illustration of the success of a functional medicine approach, which relies on a thorough health and lifestyle history to put together the “story” of an individual’s health and gain insight into the root causes of health problems.

 Dr. Brady’s new book, The Fibro Fix, will give you a wealth of information on how to negotiate your way toward getting the proper diagnosis and the proper treatment for your symptoms of widespread pain and fatigue.   The book can be ordered on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and other fine book vendors, or at FibroFix.com. Also, learn more about The Fibro Fix Summit where Dr. Brady interviews 30+ experts on FM at FibroFixSummit.com.  

References:

  1. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper 3. Updated Edition. http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
  2. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2010.) Early Childhood Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.nctsn.org/content/scope-problem
  3. Burke, N.N., Finn, D.P., McGuire, B.E., & Roche, M. (2016). Psychological stress in early life as a predisposing factor for the development of chronic pain: Clinical and preclinical evidence and neurobiological mechanisms. Journal of Neuroscience Research. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23802.
  4. Zouikr, I., Bartholomeusz, M. D., & Hodgson, D. M. (2016). Early life programming of pain: focus on neuroimmune to endocrine communication. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14, 123. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-016-0879-8
  5. Afari, N., Ahumada, S. M., Wright, L. J., Mostoufi, S., Golnari, G., Reis, V., & Cuneo, J. G. (2014). Psychological Trauma and Functional Somatic Syndromes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Psychosomatic Medicine, 76(1), 2–11. http://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000010
  • David Brady
Sleep soundly with a little help from your friend 5-HTP

Sleep soundly with a little help from your friend 5-HTP 4

Synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the rate-limiting precursor to serotonin and melatonin, our relaxation hormones that are important for proper sleep. 5-HTP supplementation has been shown to be useful in enhancing serotonin levels in humans, which is why it is most known for its role in helping with depression.

5-HTP has shown promise with sleep disorders and insomnia, especially increasing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, thus improving slow wave sleep (SWS). In fact, some studies have also shown promise with improvement of childhood sleep terrors. Much of this makes sense, given 5-HTP’s involvement in the synthesis of melatonin, known to be one of the regulatory hormones involved in the sleep-wake cycle. Serotonin (5-HT), too, has been known for its powerful sedative effects, especially after ingesting the tryptophan in a huge Thanksgiving turkey meal (although this is most likely in large part due to overeating). According to an animal study, “The similarity of the effects of 5-HTP and tryptophan suggests that they both act as serotonin precursors.”

5-HTP is not found directly in foods, but made from individual amino acids. In order to be effective, 5-HTP must cross the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream. In a healthy gut environment, absorption occurs easily. 5-HTP readily crosses the blood-brain-barrier, moving into targeted tissues where it is then converted into the active neurotransmitter, serotonin. Studies have found that, when taken with vitamin B6, 5-HTP facilitates the manufacture of serotonin, which increases melatonin production.

Fibromyalgia, insomnia and sleep terrors are the most common conditions studied in regards to 5-HTP supplementation and sleep. During a 90-day open trial, nearly 50 percent of the patients affected by fibromyalgia patients experienced significant improvement in quality of sleep, fatigue, anxiety and pain when taking 5-HTP. Other conditions in which fatigue is a primary concern may also benefit from a similar treatment.

Insomnia in children is quickly becoming a troubling issue, affecting nearly 20 to 30 percent of young children, and leaving a plethora of trailing health and behavioral consequences. Many young children with insomnia continue to have sleep issues later in life. Lack of adequate sleep in children is often linked to physical and learning disabilities, difficult temperaments, autism, epilepsy, and attention problems, among other things. Night terrors are a common cause for sleep issues in children between the ages of 3 to 12 years. These are episodes that usually cause screaming, but can also cause sudden awakening with persistent fear, sweating, confusion and increased heart rate. In one study, children with night terrors were given 5-HTP and compared to a similar group of children who were not given 5-HTP. The results of this study indicated 83.9 percent of the children treated with 5-HTP were episode-free after six months, thus showing a hopeful solution to this particular cause of sleep insufficiency in children. Another small case study tested the effect of 5-HTP on sleep in two children with schizophrenia. After treatment with 5-HTP, increased REM and sleep improvement was noted.

In consideration of the high impact sleep deprivation has on quality of life, behavior, mood and health, it is important that practitioners deal with foundational sleep issues when considering all health complications. 5-HTP provides a good starting place for addressing sleep issues in both children and adults and has a history of safe usage. Being a derivative of serotonin, not only will 5-HTP improve sleep quality, but it will also indirectly influence mood and behavior in a positive direction. This offers a lot of hope to patients and practitioners since mood and emotions impact the healing process and the perception of wellness. Many health conditions are rooted in sleep deprivation and 5-HTP offers a safe, easy starting point for health and wellness.

Too try the approach consider Sero-Tone from the Fibro Fix supplement store now. 

  • David Brady
Uncovering the Hidden Facets of Fibromyalgia

Uncovering the Hidden Facets of Fibromyalgia 0

Fibromyalgia is a mysteriously debilitating pain syndrome that often gets lumped into or associated with chronic fatigue and myofascial pain syndromes. No one knows the cause, but it may be triggered by injuries, emotional trauma, hormone deficiency states, or viral infections. Traditional approaches typically offer limited success and focus on symptom management.

Functional medicine approaches offer hope for many of these patients. Most physicians are trained to look only in specific places for the answers, using the same familiar labs or diagnostic tests. Yet, many causes of chronic illness cannot be found in these places. There are several tests that can take snapshots of one’s health to investigate the underlying cause of dysfunction. Traditional doctors use a CBC and metabolic panel for their general screening, which has its merits. However, this can be taken a step further, especially for mitochondrial disorders as seen in fibromyalgia patients. We can measure products of metabolism – organic acids – which identify nutrient deficiencies and are essential in proper cellular functions, such as those occurring in the mitochondria. Also, this lets us assess serotonin, which is of particular interest due to its association in adjusting pain levels and promoting restful sleep. Lower serotonin levels have been noted in some patients with fibromyalgia. In addition, organic acids measure catecholamines produced by the adrenal medulla, so the adrenals can be supported properly.

Many experts believe that fibromyalgia is not a disease but rather a dysfunctional disorder caused by biologic responses to stress. Studies have shown many hormonal and metabolic abnormalities of fibromyalgia patients. It's important to measure salivary hormones to see the circadian rhythm. In addition, this would help address sleep disturbances that may be a precipitating factor in fibromyalgia pain. Disturbed sleep appears to trigger factors in the immune system that cause inflammation and pain.

Fibromyalgia is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Since the gastrointestinal tract is 80% of the immune system, it is important do a comprehensive digestive stool analysis. Food antibody testing can identify triggers that can cause systemic inflammation and pain.

It is also important to assess environmental toxins. Exposure to toxins such as heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, or lead) can cause fatigue, chronic pain, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Often, many patients with generalized systemic pain and fatigue get labeled with fibromyalgia. We can't get hung up on labels. Multiple factors can mimic fibromyalgia pain, and a successful treatment approach must include investigation into these factors.

A therapeutic approach

There are several supplements to consider for fibromyalgia. Coenzyme Q10 is great for antioxidant support and its role in energy production since mitochondrial disorders limit energy production. L-carnitine deficiency is common with mitochondrial disorders and fibromyalgia. Supplementing with D-ribose is important with its role in energy recovery in fibromyalgia, since depletion of cellular energy pools leads to muscle pain, soreness, and stiffness. Magnesium plays a key role in muscle relaxation and in more than 350 enzyme reactions in the body. It is involved in virtually every metabolic process occurring in the body and many patients are deficient in this mineral. I prefer magnesium malate chelate, which is chelated to the Krebs cycle intermediate malic acid to support cellular metabolism. Malic acid helps to make energy as its role in producing ATP. Research shows that malic acid combined with magnesium may relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia.  Since stress plays a big role in fibromyalgia, it’s important to use adaptogenic herbs to support healthy cortisol levels and optimal adrenal gland health.  Also, a high-quality fish oil product is essential in helping to decrease inflammation and support overall health.

 

 

30+ experts discussing why the misdiagnosis and improper treatment of fibromyalgia is rampant. Get the facts and learn about recovery today! 

The Fibro Fix Summit is online and free from June 20-27, 2016.

Click to register now! 

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References:

Goldenberg DL, et al. High Frequency of Fibromyalgia in Patients with Chronic Fatique Seen in a Primary Care Practice. Arthritis Rheum 1990;33:381-387

http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/fibromyalgia

Abraham G, Flechas J. Management of fibromyalgia: rationale for the use of magnesium and malic acid. J Nutr Med 1992;3:49-59. 

Lord R, Bralley J. Alexander. Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine. 2nd Edition. Chapter 2: Vitamins. p.48.

 

 

  • David Brady