Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Gut Health
While researching material for my newsletters I found two studies showing the status of the microbiome is related to both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. As these diseases are difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult to treat, any new information about them is of great value.
These two studies led the researchers to believe that determining the bacterial mix in the gut is a great way to diagnose these ailments. However, they did not seem to appreciate that this may also be a mechanism for treating those conditions.
Fibromyalgia and the Gut Microbiome
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain condition (which can include other symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and cognitive problems) that affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S., and approximately 3-6% of the world’s population. It is most prevalent in women (75-90% of those with FM are women), but it also occurs in men, and children, of all ethnic groups.
According to conventional medicine there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, although, in the alternative healing field, there are a variety of therapies which can be helpful. (For example see my blog on Fibromyalgia and Insulin Resistance.)
In a study, published in the journal Pain, researchers revealed their discovery that there are unusual alterations in the gut bacteria of those who have fibromyalgia.
Participants in the study (156 people from the Montreal area, 77 of them with diagnosed fibromyalgia) gave blood, saliva, stool, and urine samples. These samples were compared with those of the healthy control subjects, some of whom lived in the same house as the fibromyalgia patients, or were related to them.
Researchers discovered about 20 species of bacteria existing in either greater, or lesser, amounts, in the gastrointestinal tracts of those people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, as compared to the healthy control group.
Dr. Amir Minerbi (first author of the study) said, "We found that fibromyalgia and the symptoms of fibromyalgia -- pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties -- contribute more than any of the other factors to the variations we see in the microbiomes of those with the disease. We also saw that the severity of a patient's symptoms was directly correlated with an increased presence or a more pronounced absence of certain bacteria -- something which has never been reported before." (Reference)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Microbiome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), is another debilitating ailment, which, like fibromyalgia, has pain symptoms (primarily in the joints and muscles). However, its primary symptom is a form of fatigue that incapacitating, and which is worsened by physical exertion, making it almost impossible for those with this disease to exercise.
Other common symptoms include cognitive dysfunction, balance disturbance, noise intolerance, sleep disturbance, and orthostatic intolerance (“the development of symptoms when standing upright which are relieved when reclining”).
Now, up to 90% of CFS patients also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), so scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health set out to disentangle imbalances in the gut bacteria in individuals with CFS/ME and IBS.
These researchers examined 50 patients, and 50 healthy controls, recruited from CFS/ME clinics. Patients and controls were tested for bacterial species in fecal samples, and for immune molecules in blood samples. The findings, published in the journal Microbiome, revealed abnormal levels of specific gut bacteria related to CFS/ME, in patients with and without IBS.
"Much like IBS, ME/CFS may involve a breakdown in the bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut mediated by bacteria, their metabolites, and the molecules they influence," said senior author W. Ian Lipkin. "By identifying the specific bacteria involved, we are one step closer to more accurate diagnosis and targeted therapies." (Reference)
Rebuilding the Microbiome
Now, while I agree that examining gut bacteria may well be a good way to diagnose CFS and fibromyalgia, I also have no doubt that correcting the bacterial imbalance in patients with these diseases is an ideal approach to treatment, as well.
I would of course suggest that NutriStart’s Lactospore Supreme could be very helpful in treating these conditions. The patented form of bacillus coagulans used in Lactospore Supreme has recently received approval from the U.S. FDA, allowing it to claim therapeutic benefit to those with IBS. Since, in the section above on CFS, it was observed that 90% of those who have CFS also have IBS, clearly Lactospore Supreme would be a valid therapeutic option for those people.
When we look at these two studies in detail, we see a wide variety of bacteria mentioned that are never found in commercial probiotic products. After all, only so many of the countless bacteria found in the human gut have been isolated, researched, and produced for commercial resale. (It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut.)
It would be almost impossible to find a commercial product that would have the right mix of bacteria for someone suffering from CFS or fibromyalgia. This is where Lactospore Supreme comes in: the Lactospore products, rather than guessing at what bacteria an individual needs, as with most probiotic products, simply rebuilds each individual’s microbiome, by encouraging colonization of their good bacteria.
Since we are all are supposed to have a unique microbiome, I often describe commercial probiotic products as equivalent to making one pair of prescription glasses for everyone to use. Thus many people notice nothing from taking probiotics, some have intestinal disturbances from such products, and some finally find a product that does something for them (after some trial and error, trying out different formulas). However, the easiest approach is to rebuild your unique microbiome, by following a diet that encourages good intestinal flora to flourish (generally high in soluble fibers, and fermented foods), and/or taking a powerful prebiotic like Lactospore.