There are so many conflicting theories as to what causes fibro – from damage to the thalamus to Lyme disease via adrenal fatigue. One thing that I’m sure about is that there is clearly a deregulation of our dopamine system: increased sensitivity to pain, to noise, lack of pleasure, restless leg, fibro fog and dependence on the black stuff (coffee that is!) – it all points to low dopamine. There’s an interesting book here.
Two clues clinched it for me in my search for recovery. Firstly, (TMI warning!) it took me over a year to restart my periods after the birth of my son. Tests showed increased prolactin (a hormone produced by the pituitary gland), and I was prescribed Cabergoline to manage it. Cabergoline is a dopamine agonist (meaning it binds to dopamine receptors, and therefore mimics the action of dopamine). My periods immediately returned, and fibro symptoms lessened.
Secondly, (and this time, it really is TMI!) I used to suffer from terrible night-time restless leg until I read that the simplest, and most effective ‘cure’ is a quick bout of masturbation. (blush!) The reason is that an orgasm releases a big old dose of dopamine, and hey-presto, a good night’s sleep follows. It works every time.
So what can we do to naturally boost our dopamine levels? The simplest way is with a cup of coffee, but you already know this… Annoyingly though it’s counterproductive, as it contributes to adrenal fatigue, is addictive (don’t I know it) and messes with our sleep – terrible for fibro sufferers. Here’s a good article on natural ways to boost it. Personally, I haven’t yet found the magic bullet, and I would strongly advise against getting L-theanine from green tea. I had a little lapse last week, drank a weak cup of green tea 3 mornings in a row and had awful joint pain that week. Stopped drinking it, aches and pains vanished. Turmeric, not sure, didn’t feel any positive effects, but no side-effects either. Exercise, a tricky one as we know. I find that I only get a boost if I get sweaty and panting, but more often than not it also starts a fibro flare.
So the most promising suggestion is getting your intestinal flora in good health, as researchers are starting to discover how important this is for the production of neurotransmitters. “An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which lower levels of dopamine.” Meaning, we’re back to sorting our diets! And ditching the coffee once and for all. No coffee = healthy gut = increased dopamine = less reliance on artificial stimulants = better sleep = less need for coffee.
I haven’t tried acetyl-l-tyrosine yet, but if anyone has, please let me know! Finally, another tip to try. I was in a foul mood this morning (husband not cleaning the evening’s fish away, toddler waking up at dawn, Chinese supplier production issues, yadder yadder) and I was desperate for my shot (or two) of espresso. I popped my earphones in to isolate myself from the angry commuters on my packed train, and 3 happy songs later, felt calmer, happier, with better self-control. And I bypassed Starbucks.