When discussing what causes fibromyalgia, it’s helpful to first understand what it is—and what it isn’t. Fibromyalgia is not a disease, as diseases tend to have just one cause or trigger. Being a collection of symptoms, fibromyalgia is classified as a syndrome with no single consistent cause.

Someday, with continuing research, fibromyalgia’s main trigger (if there is just one) may be brought to light. Until then, researchers are looking at various factors, including:


If the body is unable to fully utilize certain substances in the body, or eliminate them from the body, this is called metabolic dysfunction. Substances that cannot be eliminated from the body become toxic and can have an adverse effect on the body’s systems. According to Dr. R. Paul St. Amand of UCLA, if phosphate ions are not excreted sufficiently, they accumulate in the cells of the body, wreaking havoc in the muscles, tendons, and bones.

Sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough of something it needs or reabsorbs it before it can really do its job. Serotonin is one such substance. The body needs serotonin to help regulate moods, emotions, appetite, and even sleep, so a lack of this hormone can cause mood swings, depression, and changes in the sufferer’s eating and sleeping habits. Doctors will often prescribe SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) to try to counteract this dysfunction.


Most doctors will tell you that if you suffer from unrelieved, prolonged stress and don’t give it an outlet, it will find its own way out. Some bearers of prolonged stress find themselves dealing with ulcers, heart problems, and anxiety attacks. Some begin exhibiting symptoms of fibromyalgia.

High stress levels that continue for a long period of time can have a harsh effect on the body. The adrenal glands – the ones that produce the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenaline – can be overworked, resulting in fatigue, trouble getting up in the morning, feeling your best in the late evening, a feeling of being rundown and sometimes just plain overwhelmed, and an inability to bounce back from illness or stressful situations. Researchers are looking at the possible connection between adrenal fatigue and fibromyalgia.


Research has determined that there are some things fibromyalgics are commonly deficient in. This may be due in part to the modern diet of convenience, in which many foods purchased and consumed are full of empty calories and denuded of nutritional value.

One shared deficiency is in the amino acid tryptophan. The body needs tryptophan to make niacin and serotonin. Researchers believe serotonin contributes to getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a positive mood. Tryptophan is no longer available in the U.S. as a supplement, but can be found in such foods as turkey, chicken, milk, eggs, cheese, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, and soy.

Make sure your diet is as balanced as possible. Include more protein, which your muscles need for growth and repair. Cut down on—or eliminate from your diet entirely—refined sugars and carbohydrates. The body reacts to sugar by increasing adrenaline production, which can have a bad effect pain-wise in people with fibromyalgia. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and toss in some fruit (but not too much because of the sugar content—natural or not, it’s still sugar).


A question that has plagued researchers for some time is whether or not fibromyalgia is the body’s response to an illness or injury. Some sufferers claim to have experienced their first symptoms after being in a car accident or having a nasty virus.

One virus under scrutiny as the cause of both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome has been the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes mononucleosis. It’s a weak link, however, and scientists continue to look for other triggers.

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