Fibromyalgia and Your Thyroid: Symptoms & Diagnosis
Before we look at the connection between fibromyalgia and thyroid imbalance, let’s take a look at the symptoms you might experience if you have one or both of these conditions.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia symptoms affect an estimated 10 million US citizens, and 75-90% of those are women.1 Commonly, they’ll include:
- Fatigue and a lack of energy
- Headaches, migraines, and jaw or facial tenderness
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Memory issues
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Tender points
- Pain after exercise
- “Fibro fog” or brain fog
These symptoms may come and go, but the condition usually involves long-term, chronic and widespread pain in the muscles and connective tissues.
Unfortunately, while fibromyalgia is now a well-recognized condition, diagnosis is usually based on symptoms rather than any test results, making misdiagnosis more common than with conditions that are diagnosed based on lab test results.
What Is Thyroid Dysfunction?
Thyroid dysfunction or disorder affects roughly 20 million Americans, yet another 13 million are estimated to have some type of problem in this area and not know about it.2,3
The thyroid is a gland in your throat that regulates temperature, hunger levels and energy in your body, and when it’s not working correctly, it can cause widespread symptoms, too.
These symptoms depend on whether your thyroid is producing too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) of the hormones it secretes.
Some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Fatigue, lethargy, and depression
- Brain fog
- Muscle weakness, aches, and pains or other discomforts
- Constipation, bloating and other digestive problems
- Intolerance to cold
- Dry hair and skin
- Weight gain
And the most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Muscle weakness
- Increased bowel movements
- Insomnia and problems sleeping
- Racing heart
- Thin, brittle hair
Thyroid disorders are diagnosed based on a blood test used to measure the levels of the relevant hormones that are circulating in your blood.
Can you see some similarities here? Now let’s look at how fibromyalgia and thyroid dysfunction can be connected.
The Fibromyalgia And The Thyroid Connection
From my experience and research, there are two ways fibromyalgia and thyroid problems may be connected:
- Thyroid dysfunction may cause fibromyalgia
- The overlapping underlying causes of the diseases may trigger the onset of both conditions
Scientific research recognizes that autoimmune thyroid disease is a cause of fibromyalgia and chronic widespread pain.4 It is thought that inflammation and changes in the nervous system may be behind the connection.4
In one study, 40% of those with thyroid autoantibodies in their body had also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or chronic widespread pain.5
Ninety percent of adult hypothyroidism is caused by a problem with the immune system, so this is an important connection to make.6
The overlapping underlying causes, which we’ll cover soon, may also play a key role in the development of both fibromyalgia and thyroid dysfunction.
So what does all this mean for you?
It means that it is very important to uncover a potential thyroid problem if you have fibromyalgia. I have learned that even a slight imbalance may affect your health. What’s more, since the symptoms of thyroid imbalance may disguise themselves as fibromyalgia, they may go unaddressed and this may prevent you from feeling better now and in the long-term.
Why So Many Are Missing The Connection
This is an area we’re just beginning to understand, so many doctors aren’t aware of this key connection yet, or they may miss that something more complex is going on behind what appears to be a simple fibromyalgia or thyroid diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia is also diagnosed based on symptoms only, so misdiagnosis is more common with the condition.
The Dangers of Not Addressing The Problem
Unfortunately, most thyroid problems don’t go away on their own. In fact, they may worsen over time, depending on the underlying cause of the imbalance. And if the underlying cause of your fibromyalgia and thyroid match up, your symptoms could intensify on both fronts.
A specific approach is needed to address these underlying causes and improve your health for good.
Top 3 Overlapping Underlying Causes of Fibromyalgia & Thyroid Problems
We’re beginning to understand the connection between hidden infections, gut health, and hormone balance and many of the common conditions and symptoms affecting people at the present time, and fibromyalgia and thyroid problems are no exception.
Seventy percent of fibromyalgia patients in a recent study had leaky gut, making this condition one of the main potential underlying causes of the disease.7
Leaky gut is often one of the triggers of thyroid disease, too. It occurs when the intestinal barrier fails, allowing large protein molecules into the bloodstream. This creates an immune response which opens the door to thyroid dysfunction and food intolerance.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has also been strongly linked to fibromyalgia. In fact, 100% of patients with fibromyalgia tested positive for SIBO in a study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.8
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.9 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.
Hidden Infections Like Epstein-Barr
Some believe that fibromyalgia is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus, herpesvirus 6 and parvovirus, and antiviral treatments may improve the condition in 70 to 75% of patients.10
EBV has been strongly correlated with autoimmune disease, as well as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Graves’ disease and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
But often, many chronic infections like these, as well as Lyme disease, hepatitis C and EBV, go undetected by modern physicians because they appear to be similar to another type of diagnosis.
The longer these problems are left untreated, the higher the risk of developing something like Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease. EBV, for example, can kill off thyroid cells and lead to hypothyroidism. What’s more, it can be difficult to treat this problem as EBV is very good at hiding in organs, making it difficult for the immune system to kill it.
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.
What to Eat
The natural approach to improving fibromyalgia and thyroid imbalance always involves following an anti-inflammatory diet like the one outlined in my book The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan.
This will include:
- Eliminating foods like gluten, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grains, pasteurized dairy that is not grass-fed from your diet
- Introducing anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and ginger
- You might also like to add bone broth and other foods rich in glycine, such as the tougher cuts of meat like beef shanks, oxtail, brisket and chuck roast.
- Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut and kim chi can help balance your gut and repair damage.
- Vegetables that are cooked can also be beneficial.
Why not try making a warming broth from plenty of vegetables and a little chicken. Don’t forget to add dark green leafy vegetables. The first recipe in The 30-Thyroid Reset Plan is a homemade chicken bone broth made with herbs, onion, carrots, and celery. There are over 35 recipes to be found there that can all benefit both your thyroid and recovery from fibromyalgia.
There are certain vitamins that can help you on your path to better health when you have thyroid problems and fibromyalgia.
Be sure to make sure you’re getting:
- Magnesium glycinate or malate
- Vitamin D3/K2
- An organic methylated vitamin B complex
- High quality probiotics like Megaspore Biotic & Primal Probiotics (If you tolerate probiotics)
- Zinc picolinate or carnosine
- Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha
- Cod liver oil
- Curcumin Meriva
- Liver support
A correlation between the gut flora and fibromyalgia was also found in a study performed recently.11 Although adding a high-quality probiotic supplement to your regime can be very helpful, testing your gut to see exactly what is going on is the best thing you can do.
Stress can play a key role in making anyone sick. Sometimes it can be challenging to implement stress management techniques into your regime, but doing this is key when you want to improve your health in any way. Hormonal balance is so important to overall health. In fact, adrenal issues may be another major underlying cause of both fibromyalgia and thyroid dysfunction.
To guard against the damage stress can do to your body, ensure you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, meditate and/or pray, practice mindfulness and engage in relaxing activities like massage and gentle yoga.
Case Study: Michelle
At my practice, I come across many patients that have both thyroid disorders and fibromyalgia. Here’s a success story about Michelle.
During Michelle’s initial consultation with me, she was 59. She explained that her primary concern was hypothyroidism, which she had been diagnosed with during her early twenties.
However, Michelle had also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in her early 40s.
Now, around 30 years later, she was struggling with terrible fatigue. She had IBS, which was causing constipation. She was feeling very bloated, too.
I tested Michelle right away, to uncover what might be causing her symptoms.
I ordered a stool test, a SIBO test, a heavy metals test and tested her adrenals, as well as her sex hormones.
When the results came back, we discovered that Michelle was indeed suffering from SIBO. She had the elevated methane type of SIBO, which is often confused with IBS as it causes constipation.
Michelle had also dysbiosis in her large intestine, with high levels of a bacteria called 3+ Aeromonas spp.
We also discovered some candida overgrowth in her system.
Her adrenal test indicated very high cortisol, while her heavy metals test was negative.
Considering Michelle’s test results, I decided to begin with some dietary recommendations.
Results & Further Steps
Within four weeks, Michelle reported some great results: 40% less pain, 30% more energy and 50% less brain fog. She was also feeling more motivated.
We were ready for the next stage of treatment: I put her on a 60-day antimicrobial protocol to kill the SIBO, dysbiosis, and the yeast that had appeared during our tests.
After the 60-day protocol, Michelle’s pain was 70% better and her energy was 50% better than when she last came to see me.
It was time for the next step: supporting her adrenal glands while continuing with the low-inflammatory, thyroid-supporting diet that had been successful so far.
Once we were done, Michelle’s pain was 90% gone, her energy was 90% better and she was able to do gardening again, which she loved and hadn’t been able to do before she came to see me.
A New Development
Michelle was happy with the results she had obtained from the protocol we had implemented together, but we weren’t done yet because Michelle began to feel tired again towards of the end of our time together.
It was time to run some more tests.
We uncovered that Michelle had a chronic EPV infection, which we hadn’t managed to address yet. We treated the Epstein-Barr with some supplements, and Michelle was much better once again.
If you are suffering from weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and more, click here to schedule a phone call with me, so I can find out where you’ve been, where you want to get to, and how I can help you get there.
I know exactly where you are because I’ve been there myself…I remember being so tired that I could barely function. I gained 30 pounds out of nowhere and had a severe case of brain fog. I also started to get severe anxiety and panic attacks. I was driven and motivated…until I wasn’t. I didn’t know what was happening to me. All I wanted was to get my life back…
Finally, I learned about functional medicine and found a practitioner that I hoped could help me. They ran specialized tests that were far different than I had ever had before. When I got the results back, it turned out I had candida, parasites, high cortisol, the Epstein Bar Virus and many food intolerances. I also had an issue with my thyroid that no one found before because they were using the conventional medicine lab ranges which are way too broad….which I now know is one of the leading causes of hypothyroid misdiagnosis.
I went through treatment of all of these things and it completely changed my life. I immediately lost the 30 pounds I had gained plus more, I had a lot more energy, and my brain fog was gone. I felt amazing and knew that I wanted to help people find the underlying causes of their symptoms and disease.