The Fibromyalgia-Thyroid Connection

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep troubles, fibro fog, headaches, and other symptoms. Fibromyalgia is not fully understood yet in the medical community, but new research suggests that in many cases, thyroid disease can lead to fibromyalgia symptoms, while in other cases, the two can co-occur as a result of a mutual root cause. Uncovering potential underlying thyroid imbalances is key to your fibromyalgia treatment and recovery.

In this article, you will learn about fibromyalgia, various thyroid diseases, and their symptoms. You will understand the shared similarities between fibromyalgia and thyroid disease. I will explain the connection between fibromyalgia and your thyroid and discuss the common causes of fibromyalgia and thyroid disease. I will share the top testing methods I recommend. I will share my top natural solutions for fibromyalgia and thyroid disease, including dietary strategies, supplementation, and lifestyle changes, to help you repair your body and regain your health.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is one of the less understood chronic health conditions. It is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, as well as fatigue, sleep issues, mood disturbances, and memory problems. Some believe that pain sensations are amplified and affect how your brain processes pain signals. Fibromyalgia often develops after a physical trauma, significant emotional trauma or stress, infections, or surgery. However, in many cases, there isn’t one single event that leads to symptoms, instead, symptoms gradually accumulate and worsen as a result of a serious of issues. Fibromyalgia is more common in women. It affects 10 million Americans, with about 70 to 90 percent of them being women (1, 2)

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread musculoskeletal pain
  • Muscle and joint tenderness and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Sleep disturbances
  • “Fibro fog” or cognitive difficulties
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Intestinal cystitis or painful bladder syndrome

What Is Thyroid Disease?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located on the front of your neck below your Adam’s apple area. Your thyroid health affects your entire body. Hence thyroid disease affects all parts of your body, including your cardiovascular, digestive, nervous, and reproductive system, adrenal glands, hormonal health, and mental health. Symptoms vary depending on the type of thyroid disease you have, however, many areas of your body tend to be affected in all cases.

There are a variety of forms of thyroid diseases. The problem may be an underactive or an overactive thyroid. Some thyroid diseases are autoimmune thyroid diseases. Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease have been particularly linked to and often seen together with fibromyalgia, however, you may develop fibromyalgia while having hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease. Here are the different forms of thyroid diseases (1, 2):

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism means that your thyroid is overactive. About one percent of women and somewhat fewer men suffer from this condition. The most common form of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Shaking
  • Thin hair
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weakness
  • With Graves’ disease: bulging eyes

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid glands are underactive and don’t produce enough thyroid hormones. The most common form of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Weakness
  • Slow heart rate
  • Depression

Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s disease affects about 14 million Americans. It is especially common in middle-aged women. It is the most common form of hypothyroidism. It is also an autoimmune disease, which means that your own body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland and destroys its hormone production ability. Hashimoto’s disease and fibromyalgia commonly occur together, and some of their symptoms overlap.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Dry and thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Pale and puffy face
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Constipation
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Enlarged thyroid or goiter

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is the most common form of hypothyroidism. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that your own body mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland leading to overproduction of the thyroid hormone. It is more common in women, especially in their 20s and 30s.

Symptoms of Graves’ disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Hand tremors
  • Irregular or increased heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Sleep trouble
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle 
  • Goiter
  • Bulging eyes
  • Vision problems

Shared Similarities Between Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease

Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, occurs together with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia and thyroid problems tend to affect a similar population. Though both fibromyalgia and thyroid disease can happen to anyone, they both predominantly affect women and are more likely to occur during childbearing and middle age. They also share many similar symptoms, including fatigue, sleep problems, muscle and joint pains, cognitive issues, depression, and anxiety.

The Fibromyalgia and The Thyroid Connection

From my experience and research, there are two ways fibromyalgia and thyroid problems are connected:

  1. Thyroid dysfunction may cause fibromyalgia.
  2. The overlapping underlying causes of the diseases may trigger the onset of both conditions.

Some research studies suggest that autoimmune thyroid disease may be the cause of fibromyalgia and widespread pain. According to one study, about 40 percent of those with thyroid autoantibodies also have fibromyalgia or chronic widespread pain. Inflammation and changes in the nervous system may be one of the connections and underlying issues between the problems (5, 6).

Why is this important? If you have fibromyalgia, it is critical that you and your doctor uncover potential underlying thyroid problems. If you are dealing with both fibromyalgia and thyroid imbalance, addressing the underlying thyroid dysfunction may help you to reduce or eliminate symptoms of both conditions and help you feel better now and in the long-term.

Unfortunately, many doctors are unaware of this crucial connection. It is important that you work with a functional health doctor, like myself, who is well-versed in both thyroid disease and fibromyalgia and can help to uncover and address potential connections. Thyroid issues don’t just go away on their own and worsen over time when not addressed. Fibromyalgia is also a chronic condition, and it is important that you address the root cause of the issue and address underlying thyroid issues if they are the cause or are linked to your symptoms.

The Common Causes of Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune thyroid condition, which means that your body turns against you, and autoantibodies damage your thyroid tissue. The underlying causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood and present somewhat of a controversy. However, there are several underlying issues that may increase your risk or lead to both fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s disease.

Autoimmunity

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, as supported by the presence of anti-thyroperoxidase (TPO) antibodies in your body. While fibromyalgia is not considered to be an autoimmune condition at this point, 2016 found a high degree of positivity in related thyroid antibody, anti‐TSH receptor antibody (TRA b) in participants with fibromyalgia. Other studies have found high levels of antibodies in fibromyalgia patients. Some researches even consider fibromyalgia to be a symptom of hypothyroidism (7).

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Your gut health is connected to everything. According to research, about seventy percent of fibromyalgia patients have leaky gut and it may be one of the main potential underlying causes of the disease. Leaky gut is also often one of the primary triggers of thyroid disease. It occurs when the intestinal barrier fails, allowing large protein molecules into your bloodstream leading to an immune response which opens the door to thyroid dysfunction, autoimmunity, and food intolerance (8).

SIBO

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has also been strongly linked to fibromyalgia. In fact, one hundred percent of patients with fibromyalgia tested positive for SIBO in a study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Looking deeper into the connection, a group of researchers further discovered that when patients with fibromyalgia and SIBO had their SIBO treated, their fibromyalgia significantly improved. Those who weren’t treated didn’t get better. This type of bacterial gut infection is a key trigger for thyroid problems, too, as it can reduce the conversion of T4 into T3, one of the thyroid hormones that essentially runs the show when it comes to thyroid health (9, 10).

Bacterial and Viral Infections

Viral and bacterial infections, including Lyme disease and the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), can often lead to fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, and thyroid dysfunction. EBV can be dormant in your body for years then get suddenly activated due to any stress, illness, or event. EBV infections can lead to overactivation of your immune system and cause a variety of autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto’s disease (11).

Suppression of the Hypothalamus

Your hypothalamus is the utility center of your brain that helps to maintain homeostasis by regulating your thyroid and other hormone levels, digestion, blood flow, blood pressure, sleep, temperature, and more. Suppression and dysfunctions of the hypothalamus may happen due to mitochondrial dysfunction in your hypothalamic cells. This can lead to a variety of symptoms and chronic health conditions, including both fibromyalgia and thyroid disease (12).

Trauma

There is increasing evidence that shows how trauma may play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, and other chronic disease and pain conditions. Trauma can activate your immune system and lead to a hyperactive state causing autoimmunity or chronic symptoms. Trauma may also affect your perception of pain, cause tension in your body, increase depression and anxiety, and contribute to a variety of symptoms (13).

Hormonal Problems

A variety of hormonal problems may co-occur with both fibromyalgia and thyroid disease. Some of these hormonal issues, including low cortisol productions by your adrenal gland, may directly contribute to or increase your risk of thyroid issues and fibromyalgia.

Testing

So how can you find out if you have thyroid dysfunction? Unfortunately, if you’ve had thyroid tests done through your primary medical doctor and the tests showed normal blood values, this may not mean you should rule out a thyroid problem just yet.  Download my Ultimate Thyroid Lab Guide to see what your tests really mean.

There are certain tests that are helpful for discovering the underlying causes of a potential thyroid and fibromyalgia problem. These include:

  • Immunological testing
  • Leaky gut testing
  • SIBO breath testing
  • Thyroid level check
  • Dried urine testing
  • Hormone testing
  • Food sensitivity and allergy testing
  • Stool testing
  • Methylation testing
  • Heavy metal testing
  • Viral testing

With proper testing, you can get to the bottom of what’s truly going on and an individualized approach can be used to determine the best healing protocol that will work for you.

Natural Solutions for Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease

Whether you have fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, or both, there are certain natural solutions that can help to reduce your symptoms, repair your body, and improve your health. Here is what I recommend:

Eat a Thyroid-Friendly, Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The natural approach to improving fibromyalgia and thyroid imbalance always starts with an anti-inflammatory diet. Remove inflammatory foods, such as gluten, sugar, caffeine, refined oil, grains, pasteurized dairy, artificial sweeteners, conventional animal products, junk food, and processed foods. Eat plenty of greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, and fruits. Add anti-inflammatory herbs, such as turmeric and ginger to your meals. Eat healthy fats and high-quality organic animal protein. Add bone broth and glycine-rich foods, including oxtail, beef shanks, brisket, and chuck roast. Eat plenty of fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and kimchi for gut health, unless you have histamine intolerance or don’t tolerate probiotic-rich fermented foods well.

To learn more about the Paleo-style anti-inflammatory diet I recommend or if you have Hashimoto’s or another thyroid disease, I recommend reading and following the recommendations in my book, The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan: Disarming the 7 Hidden Triggers That are Keeping You Sick. You will learn everything you need to know about thyroid disease. I offer a 30-day plan to improve your health and my favorite thyroid-friendly recipes to nourish your body with delicious meals.

Take Thyroid- and Fibro-Supporting Supplements

There are a variety of vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements that can support your thyroid, improve your gut health, reduce inflammation, support your body, and improve fibromyalgia and thyroid problems. These are the supplements I recommend daily:

Improve Your Lifestyle

Chronic stress, poor sleep, and poor lifestyle choices can lead to and increase the symptoms of both fibromyalgia and thyroid dysfunction. Make sure to reduce your stress levels and learn to cope with stress better. Practice meditation, journaling, gratitude, breathwork, and yoga. Take healing baths, get a massage, engage in relaxing activities, and spend time with uplifting people. Spend time in nature. Exercise regularly and lead an active lifestyle. Make sure to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night.

Final Thoughts

Fibromyalgia is an increasingly common chronic disease characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and other chronic symptoms affecting the entire body. Fibromyalgia and thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, often co-occur. In many cases, they share a common root cause and in many other cases, thyroid disease may be the cause of fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia, it is important that you uncover and address potential underlying thyroid imbalances and address both to ensure recovery. Follow my natural solutions for fibromyalgia and thyroid disease to repair your body, regain your health, and reclaim your life.

If you are dealing with symptoms of fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s disease, or other thyroid issues, I invite you to schedule a consultation with me. I can help to identify the root cause of your condition and recommend a personalized treatment plan to repair your body and regain your health and well-being. Schedule your consultation here.

Sources:
1. Fibromyalgia. Mayo Clinic. Link here
2. Prevalence. National Fibromyalgia Association. Link Here
3. Thyroid. Hormone Health Network. Link Here
4. Thyroid disease. Office of Women’s Health. Link Here
5. Ahmad J, Blumen H, Tagoe CE. Association of antithyroid peroxidase antibody with fibromyalgia in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatol Int. 2015;35(8):1415-1421. Link Here
6. Amino N. Autoimmunity and hypothyroidism. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988;2(3):591-617. Link Here
7. Nishioka K., Uchida, T., Usui, C. et al. High prevalence of anti-TSH receptor antibody in fibromyalgia syndrome. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. 2017 Jun;20(6):685-690. Link Here
8. Goebel A, Buhner S, Schedel R, Lochs H, Sprotte G. Altered intestinal permeability in patients with primary fibromyalgia and in patients with complex regional pain syndrome. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2008;47(8):1223-1227. Link Here
9. Pimentel M. A link between irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia may be related to findings on lactulose breath testing. Annuals of the Rheumatic Disease. Link Here
10. Wallace DJ, Hallegua DS. Fibromyalgia: the gastrointestinal link. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2004;8(5):364-368. Link Here
11. Howley EK. Antiviral or Antiretroviral Drugs for Fibromyalgia?US Health News. Link Here
12. Goldenberg DL. Introduction: fibromyalgia and its related disorders. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008;69 Suppl 2:4-5. Link Here
13. Haviland MG, Morton KR, Oda K, Fraser GE. Traumatic experiences, major life stressors, and self-reporting a physician-given fibromyalgia diagnosis. Psychiatry Res. 2010 May 30;177(3):335-41. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2009.08.017. Epub 2010 Apr 10. PMID: 20382432

EXPLORE THE RECIPES, THE STORIES, THE METHODS AND CHANGES TO GET YOU BACK WHERE YOU WANT TO BE.

img-2

DR. BECKY CAMPBELL

Hi, I am Dr. Becky Campbell. I work with men and women who’ve had a health set back and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach optimal health so they can perform their best in their careers and be fully present with their family again.

Histamine Intolerance, Mast Cells, and COVID-19

I don’t need to introduce you to COVID-19. We’ve been living in a state of uncertainty since March during this pandemic. There is not a minute passing that you are not reminded of this virus. Perhaps you know people who have been infected or you have gotten sick yourself.  If you have histamine intolerance or

READ MORE

The Histamine and Blood Sugar Connection

Do you ever feel tired after eating or experience a sugar drop and sudden hunger a few hours after a meal? You are not alone. I commonly see this in my patients with histamine intolerance and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS).  It’s often overlooked yet there is a strong connection between histamine and your blood

READ MORE

Oxalates, Salicylates, and Histamine Intolerance: What’s the Connection?

So you’ve cleaned up your diet, removed refined sugar, gluten, refined oils, processed foods, and junk food? You’ve even given up many high histamine foods. Yet, you are still experiencing symptoms, such as fatigue, joint and muscle pain, digestive issues, itching, skin problems, anxiety, depression, and so on. Oxalates and salicylates may be the culprit.

READ MORE