Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fibromyalgia and Gulf War Syndrome: The Symptoms and the Cures

I asked my Facebook friend Sue Ingebretson to share with the readers of this blog the connection of fibromyalgia to such military conditions as Gulf War Syndrome in the hopes of helping people whose illness has not yet been diagnosed. Sue is a writer and health and wellness enthusiast who is “living well” with fibromyalgia. Her story below is told for information purposes and not to give a diagnosis nor to be a treatment plan. If you have questions, you can tweet her at

After my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I became an “unplanned expert” on the subject of chronic illness. It’s my hope you’ll find my findings informational if not applicable to you or someone you know.

Nearly everyone has aches and pains or feels a bit creaky in the morning, right? While everyone feels that way to some degree, not everyone has fibromyalgia.

Imagine feeling like you’ve got the worst flu ever. Body aches, digestive problems, joint and muscle pain, overwhelming dizziness, and extreme fatigue are daily occurrences. Add to that weird symptoms such as hair loss, insomnia, chest pain, vision problems, and a generalized “foggy” feeling. For women, “female” problems may prevail. For men, an overall weakness or fatigue may be a dominant factor.

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you? Have they been present for longer than six months? If so, please see a doctor and pursue a diagnosis. Be persistent if necessary.

I felt critically ill for over a decade. It took seven years, more doctors than I could count, and endless hours glued to my computer before I figured it out for myself. On the plus side, awareness of the condition is greatly improved today than even five years ago.

Chronic illness occurs when a “perfect storm” of conditions exists. These conditions create a weakened immune system that can make the body vulnerable to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Epstein-Barr, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, diabetes, asthma, and other syndromes. Do you see yourself in more than one of these conditions?

• Injury (physical trauma/surgery)
• Infection (viral/bacterial)
• Hormonal irregularities
• Emotional trauma (including post traumatic stress syndrome)
• Intestinal inflammation (food allergies/intolerances and acid/alkaline imbalance, yeast overgrowth)
• Malnourishment or nutritional deficiencies
• Exposure to external toxins (chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, molds, toxic cosmetics, fragrances, dyes, etc.)
• Exposure to internal toxins (chemicals, food additives/preservatives, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, etc.)
• Genetic predisposition for auto immune and related illnesses (heredity)

So what about Gulf War Syndrome? From what I’ve read, the term was created to expedite medical benefits and to legitimize the illnesses of military personnel. Whatever name it is given, I believe it is all part of the same cluster of conditions.

Debates continue about the similarities and differences between Gulf War Syndrome and fibromyalgia, but classifications may not be as important as the solutions.

Once conditions such as exposure to toxins have been remedied, rebuilding a weakened immune system is the next step to achieving wellness. If you can, build a support team of health professionals: functional medicine physicians, nutritionists, physical therapists/chiropractors, etc. Healing must take place in three areas – nutrition, exercise, and stress relief.

Following a healthy diet including nutrient-dense foods and exercise (even at very low intensity levels) has been shown to improve energy levels and overall health. Lastly, the issue of stress and anxiety must be addressed. Healing modalities such as prayer, meditation, journaling, and even tai chi and yoga may prove beneficial to reducing stress levels.

Become an educated patient and learn to discern what you read. If an article makes healing sound impossible or hopeless, look elsewhere. No one says that healing from chronic illness is easy – but it is possible. I know this is true – because I did it.

In closing, I’d like to share this article headlined: Brain damage in Gulf War syndrome pinpointed – Texas researchers verify link to toxic exposure.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. She also blogs at PZ the Do-Gooder Scrooge and Operation Support Jews in the Military, and she is the co-host of the BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life. Her company Miller Mosaic LLC builds call-to-action websites for book authors and small businesses.

No comments: