Mitochondrial Dysfunction In Fibromyalgia – What It Really Means

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Hi everyone – it is March 1! This is my favourite month of the year! Why? Because my birthday is on March 20th – the first day of spring! Woo!!! My older brother’s is a week before mine, and we normally celebrate together because of this, but he is living in Singapore and I won’t get to see him again this year. Quite the bummer! I sent his birthday card to Singapore yesterday, so I’ll be there in spirit! I’ve already hinted at an essential oil diffuser and some gem stones as gift ideas to Bart lol. Funny how lately I’m looking for gifts that will help my body / mind and my illness – how the times have changed!

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I started off the day pretty well – we booked our flights to Japan for my brother’s wedding in October! My younger brother, my fiance and I are all going on the same flight to Tokyo together – cannot wait!!!

Today I began my Cell Biology course at school – my teacher gets the information across in the most creative manner, and has a fantastic personality. I normally am quite bored by cell biology, but he really brought it alive! Many parts of the class were fascinating, but one area made my ears perk up, and that has to do with the mitochondria, the energy centres of the cell. He mentioned that he sees a lot of fibromyalgia patients who were on antibiotics SEVERAL times before they were diagnosed (that in conjunction with a traumatic event, etc.), because the antibiotics basically damaged the mitochondria.

Several studies in the past few years indicate that fibromyalgia symptoms may arise from mitochondrial dysfunction, but what does that really mean? In this post, I am going to explain what mitochondrial dysfunction is, and how it leads to not only pain and fatigue, but many other fibromyalgia symptoms as well. 

As scientists have learned more about the mitochondria’s role in health and in disease, they have concluded that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the root of many diseases and conditions, with the list of known diseases and conditions with a mitochondrial dysfunction component is long and growing longer. It is even responsible for the aging process itself.

Mitochondria are the powerhouse of almost every living thing with complex cell structures including animals, plants and human beings. They provide energy for cells to move, divide and all the things they need to do to function properly. The main function of mitochondria is to take in nutrients, break them down and create energy for the cells. Every cell in our body contains mitochondria. Some cells need lots of energy, such as brain and muscle cells, so they contain thousands of mitochondria. Cells that don’t require a lot of energy contain fewer mitochondria.

How The Body Produces Energy

The brain, heart, muscle, nerve cells and so on all have different jobs to do. To do these jobs requires energy. Energy is supplied to the cells by mitochondria. The mitochondria take in nutrients and create a chemical energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate). The ATP molecule contains stored energy. Once the energy is used up it converts to ADP (Adenosine Di-Phosphate). ADP then passes back into the mitochondria, where it is recycled back to ATP. The process requires oxygen and is extremely efficient. In a healthy person, ATP is recycled about every 10 seconds. If the process goes slow, then the cells go slow, all bodily functions go slow and problems arise.

When our body needs more energy faster than it can be supplied, there is another way the body tries to supply this energy. When the body is short on ATP, it can make a small amount directly from glucose (d-ribose – which I used to take in powdered form 3 times per day) by converting it into lactic acid. However, this results in two serious problems. First, lactic acid quickly builds up, especially in the muscles causing pain, heaviness, aching and soreness. Secondly, no glucose is available to make d-ribose so new ATP cannot be made. Energy demand exceeds energy delivery resulting in fatigue.

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Mitochondrial Dysfunction & Fibromyalgia

Multiple studies suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction could play a significant role in fibromyalgia. Muscle biopsies have found patterns of mitochondrial dysfunction (abnormal mitochondria, mitochondrial defects and muscle fiber abnormalities) similar to those typically found in mitochondrial disorders. Just about every single symptom of fibromyalgia can be explained by mitochondrial dysfunction – pain, fatigue, headaches and migraine, IBS, heat and cold intolerance, sweating, mottling of the skin, heart rate and blood pressure problems, dizziness and balance problems, blurry vision, trouble sleeping and so on.

Mitochondrial dysfunction can affect any organ or organ system in the body. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, mitochondria are not well protected and easily damaged by toxins, infections, allergens, and stress. One of the biggest insults over time is the standard American diet – how shocking, not! Hence where my nutrition background comes in 🙂

Another major cause of mitochondrial damage is medications. All classes of psychotropic drugs (which includes antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds, aka my cipralex and cyclobenzaprine) have been documented to damage mitochondria, as well as statin medications, analgesics such as acetaminophen, and many others. Here is the link to the list of reported drugs with mitochondrial toxicity.

As usual, there are many pieces to this fibromyalgia puzzle, and I’m hoping to put them ALL together eventually! My question is – what can we do, if anything, to repair the mitochondria? I will add this to my list of research questions!

Now that I am home from school for the day, I am staying indoors waiting for this “snowstorm” to hit Toronto! Curling up with a good book (so many to pick from!) and a nice cup of tea.

Hope you all enjoyed your first day of March!

Xoxo Lex

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6 thoughts on “Mitochondrial Dysfunction In Fibromyalgia – What It Really Means

  1. I used to take a combination of acetyl l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid that seemed to help with my energy levels. Apparently they reduce oxidative stress and improve mitochondrial function. Just something for you to look into if you get the time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lex, thank you for a very clear article on mitochondria, a good start base for further researches! Kara mentions Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Alpha Lipoid Acid, both being taken by me right now, I can also swear by L-arginine (in terms of fighting the fatigue and giving some more energy), and CoQ10. They DO make a difference and using them is mentioned too often to be a total accident… I don’t know if they can fix anything, but they do help me getting through the day. You may find this study interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiKgk9sBa2I The guy is, granted, not too famous amongst us, plain bread eaters, but he’s got a LOT of research done, to help us. Somewhere in the middle of this short film he explains what food supplements should be taken by CFS/FM sufferers. Hope it helps 🙂 Good luck, from a fellow sufferer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much! YES! I am studying all of this right now as I am on the path to become a nutritionist, and it all makes sense 🙂 I am going to watch that video shortly! Thanks so much for your insight and your sweet note 🙂

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