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Fibromyalgia and Gut Health

2 Jun

Fibromyalgia and Gut Health

By: Dr. Mary Rondeau

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that is characterized by widespread pain, tenderness, sleep disturbances, fatigue and commonly problems of memory or thinking.  Currently there are no lab tests available for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  Diagnosis is made by finding 11 of 18 tender points in the absence of any other disease to explain the pain.  The prevalence of fibromyalgia is estimated at 2%-4% worldwide with women being more affected than men (9:1 ratio).

Many theories of what causes fibromyalgia have been explored, but neither the etiology nor pathophysiologic mechanisms are known.  Some theories include genetic/familial factors, sleep disturbance, neuroendocrine dysfunction, abnormal pain processing and decreased pain inhibition. Likely it is a combination of several of these categories.

In 2004, a study published in Annuals of the Rheumatic Diseases reported that inappropriate colonization of small bowel with colonic bacteria has been reported in patients with fibromyalgia.  This study also demonstrated that the severity of colonization of the small bowel correlated to the intensity of pain felt in fibromyalgia patients suggesting a pathophysiological role in the disease process.

In 2008, a study published in Rheumatology demonstrated higher rates of intestinal permeability in patients with fibromyalgia compared to healthy volunteers.  This finding in addition to the study mentioned above may indicate that fibromyalgia could be associated with leaky gut syndrome. Dr. Goebel et al. measured permeability in both the gastroduodenal and small bowel in males and females with fibromyalgia.  Out of the 40 fibromyalgia patients tested, 13 had gastroduodenal permeability and 15 had small bowel permeability.  As compared to the healthy volunteer group where 1 person was found to have increased intestinal permeability. This is significantly higher than healthy control volunteers. The study also noted that fibromyalgia patients had reduced mRNA expression for anti-inflammatory cytokines which could be contributing to the increased inflammation seen in these patients. In addition, many patients report that their symptoms began after an intestinal infection. This study demonstrated that of the 40 fibromyalgia patients tested 11 tested positive for antibodies to Helicobacter pylori and 9 had antibodies for Campylobacter jejuni or Yersina enterocolitica. These are all pathogenic organisms which can lead to the formation of ulcers and food poisoning respectively. These finding suggest that these infections could be contributing to the intestinal permeability. These findings suggest restoration of normal intestinal permeability may improve fibromyalgia in certain individuals.

In our intestines, our cells are held together by tight junction.  These tight junctions maintain a barrier between what should be absorbed in our intestines and what should not be absorbed.  Increased intestinal permeability means that these tight junctions have become relaxed and do not function properly allowing larger molecules and molecules that would have not otherwise been able to cross the intestinal lining to cross.  The passage of these larger molecules is seen as invaders by the immune system and can trigger an immune reaction with the formation of antibodies to these otherwise harmless molecules.  When this happens, a person can become hypersensitive to environmental factors or develop foods allergies or sensitivities to which they previously were not sensitive.   Interestingly, some of these particles can even cross the blood brain barrier which can lead numerous mental/ neurological symptoms.  Intestinal permeability can be triggered by many factors including infections (current or previous), improper diet, exposure to chemicals/toxins, emotional trauma, and medications.

These studies further validate that the health of our intestines is crucial to maintaining and restoring health to the whole body. Fibromyalgia is a condition that has many contributing factors, improving intestinal health may be an avenue to help reduce pain in these individuals. Improving intestinal health will also help with absorption of critical nutrients to restore the body back to health.
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2004;63:450-452
Rheumatology 2008; Altered intestinal permeability in patients with primary fibromyalgia and in patients with complex regional pain syndrome. A. Goebel et. al.

Mary Rondeau ND, RH(AHG)
Dr. Rondeau is a naturopathic doctor and registered herbalist at Wholeness Center in Fort Collins, CO.  Wholeness Center is a new medical model which combines the best of western medicine with complementary or natural medicine to provide the best most comprehensive care for patients of all ages.  Dr. Rondeau’s passion is to teach families how to maintain health and prevent disease.  She maintains an open, family practice focused on preventative medicine and overcoming chronic illness. She has a special interest in environmental and food allergies, asthma, mental health, women’s health, digestive disorders, pre-pregnancy health, hormonal problems, and autoimmune disorders. For more information on the Wholeness Center or Dr. Rondeau visit or call 970.221.1106.

Sunlight and Vitamin D

23 May

Sunlight and Vitamin D

by Carolyn Williams-Orlando Ph.D.

Glass blocks ultraviolet B (UVB) light, preventing Vitamin D synthesis. Thank goodness this time of year we can get out from behind our glass boxes, for even if we are out in the sun during the cold Colorado winter, we do not make adequate Vitamin D, and it is a good idea to supplement.

How much vitamin D do we need? Opinions vary, however, we know that breastfeeding women need blood levels of 40-50 ng/ml vitamin D in order for baby to recieve adequate vitamin D in breast milk. And vitamin D deficiency in newborns has been associated with increased risk for respiratory syncitial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract infections in the first year of life. Low vitamin D levels have also been correlated with increased upper respiratory tract infections in adults.

Sunlight has been found to reduce your risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Vitamin D promotes normal cell death, prevents cells from becoming cancerous and prevents metastasis. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D have also been shown to prevent relapses in MS. Adequate levels are important to mood and cognitive function. So, Vitamin D does much more than aid in calcium absorption, vitamin D helps keep a healthy psychoneuroimmunology.

Vitamin D has been called the sunshine vitamin since we make it from the sun. When UVB light strikes our skin, our skin synthesizes vitamin D. Season, time of day, cloud cover, skin melanin content, and sunscreen are all factors that effect vitamin D synthesis. In general, try to get at least 20-30 minutes/day of sun on your arms and legs. Sunshine cannot be patented by drug companies-some of the best things in life are free.

To calculate how much sunshine you need to make adequate vitamin D for your body:

Mental Health in Children: Nutrition as a Common Sense Alternative to Medications and Labels

23 May

by Dr. Scott Shannon

The American medical profession has rejected and avoided the science of nutrition for over a century. This curious and unfortunate prejudice goes back in history to the mid-1800’s when allopathic physicians (MDs) were fighting for financial survival with homeopaths and eclectic physicians (forerunners of naturopaths). Both of these groups emphasized diet and naturals cures. The American Medical Association was formed to help the MDs fight off this threat. The AMA issued an edit that made it grounds for sanction if you worked with one of these heretical groups. The bias continues to this day.

Most American physicians ignore well-proven nutritional interventions in spite of solid science, low cost, good safety and exploding patient demand. Our doctors dismiss the value of nutrition without understanding or exploring the information. The pattern is set in medical school where minimal time is devoted to this topic. Sadly, nowhere is this anti-nutrition mindset more obvious than in the specialty of psychiatry.

The brain forms the obvious foundation for the importance of nutrition in mental health or illness. The process of brain growth transforms a few embryonic cells into the most complex system in the known universe. At one point in the first trimester over 250,000 neurons are being created per minute. This extraordinary process does not stop at birth: the human brain quadruples in weight after delivery. The child’s brain is much more complex than our adult brain with twice the number of neurons and much more rapid synaptic growth and interconnection.

This enormous neurological development has vast metabolic and nutritional demands. If the child’s diet does not supply the needed nutrients (omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, b-vitamins, amino acids, folate, etc) than the child’s brain will be handicapped and prone to dysfunction and psychiatric symptoms.

Sadly, the American diet continues to deteriorate. Over two thirds of our kids fail to meet the dietary recommendations for one or more nutrient. Only 1% of Americans eat according the food pyramid guidelines. Fully 65% of our calories now come from sugar and fat. Our intake of magnesium has fallen dramatically in the last century. Also because of feedlots, fast foods and hydrogenated oils our ratio of omega-3 oils to omega-6 oils has deteriorated from 1:1 to 1:20 in the last 150 years. Most Americans are deficient is this key neurological building block. American breast milk has the lowest levels of DHA (an omega-3 EFA) in the developed world. Our children must have DHA and other omega-3 nutrients to build a functioning brain. A starving brain is a symptomatic brain.

We have witnessed an explosion of child psychiatric illness in the last 30 years. For example, a 2007 study found that the rate of diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder (one of the most severe and difficult to treat problems in childhood) increased by 40 FOLD in the last 10 years. Adult illness in the same study did not even double. I believe one reason for this epidemic is nutritional deficiency. There are obviously many different problems created by a wide variety of nutritional issues. Each child is different. Only recently with advanced genetic science have we come to realize how different and unique we are in our individual biochemistry. Scientist have long known that the need for vitamins and nutrients vary widely from person to person. The requirement for a single nutrient can range from 10 to 1 or even 100 to 1 from person to person.

Recently, the number of nutritional compounds found to be effective or helpful in psychiatric disorders has dramatically risen. Folate, B-6 and SAMe have proven value in treating major depression. Chromium has good evidence for improving atypical depression. A number of studies document the value of magnesium in mood disorders and its shows great similarity to the mineral lithium in its effects upon neurons. A 2006 study found that 7/10 children with major depression got better with omega-3 oils versus 0/10 with a placebo. Suddenly, we have scientific proof that nutrition helps to heal psychiatric disorders.

Psychiatric medications are the preferred tools in child psychiatry. Unfortunately, the evidence that this approach is safe or effective is clearly inadequate. Most parents have real caution about medicating their child’s growing brain. The vast majority of parents that I speak to across the US are ecstatic about safe and natural approaches for childhood mental health issues like attention, depression, anxiety and aggression.

My approach provides a foundation of healthy diet, lifestyle adjustments and proven supplements before we consider medications. I am not anti-medication; rather I believe that we must offer safer and more natural options for adjusting biochemistry before considering powerful pharmaceuticals. Beyond that, doesn’t it make more sense to correct biochemistry before we medicate the developing brain? Common sense tells me that the nutritional approach to psychiatric signs and symptoms in children makes the most sense as a first step.

As I mentioned, in recent years we have witnessed an explosion of children and teens labeled with bipolar disorder. These kids are aggressive, violent and out of control. Our current medications are not very effective. A growing number of psychiatrists around the country have been using a vitamin/mineral product to effectively treat this disorder. A well-known Harvard child psychiatrist, Charles Popper, MD in 2001, popularized this approach. He published a report in a psychiatric journal about his experience: he treated a 10 year old boy with severe bipolar with this natural product and the boy was completely symptom free within 5 days. Eleven other published studies on this product have followed (

This raises a profound question: If vitamins and minerals can completely eliminate the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder in children, are these symptoms of an true illness or of a nutritional deficiency syndrome such as scurvy or pellagra?

It is my strong belief and my experience in thirty years of holistic care that diet, vitamins and minerals can clear much of what we call psychiatric illness. A wide range of resources exist for parents and other concerned adults. The first and most crucial step involves the improvement of the diet: reduce processed foods, reduce sugar, reduce additives, and increase fruits and vegetables. I typically find a high protein breakfast works wonders, especially for concentration and school performance issues. Soda has no role in any child’s diet, nor does caffeine. If you do these things your need for psychiatric care will be reduced. If this is not enough find a health care professional (NB-all ABIHM diplomates have had training in this arena and will usually work with vitamins, minerals and supplements). Additionally, I have a number of relevant articles on my website: The proper diet represents the best first step for mental health issues in children. It is safe, effective and just plain makes good sense.

Welcome to Wholeness!

6 May




With the dramatic increase in adults and children being diagnosed with chronic illnesses, the hope for a healthy future can be lost. Fort Collins is generally a very healthy area of Northern Colorado, but the national statistics are staggering. Nearly twenty percent of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder, and one in six children struggle with a developmental disorder. Overall the rate of chronic illness including asthma, obesity and learning problems in children has doubled in the last fifteen years. From anxiety and depression to general family and pediatric health care we aim to restore hope, regardless of diagnosis and without the use of ‘labels’.

In our collaboration with you, we emphasize skill-building, healthful nutrition and lifestyle adjustments as well as strong focus on the power of relationships. We believe that every person has an innate drive for balance and harmony. Our team of holistic doctors will guide you and your family to that place of true wholeness. We are located in Fort Collins, Colorado, serving the entire Northern Colorado community and beyond.