Fibromyalgia has plagued the lives of many, both physically and emotionally. It causes disability and depression, making people feel isolated and unproductive. However, its cause, just like that of many other conditions, remains a mystery to sufferers and doctors… Could science be close to figuring it out?
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a mysterious illness that causes sufferers to feel pain in their body for no apparent reason. It is more prevalent in women, and it is currently the most common rheumatology diagnosis in the United States.
Often, people who suffer from it are dismissed as being over dramatic, or some claim their pain to be psychosomatic, which is why the diagnosis is fairly new, compared to other conditions.
However, in recent years, studies have shown that fibromyalgia is, in fact, a very real medical condition that not only causes unnecessary pain signals to be sent to the brain, but also alters the pain threshold, making people a lot more sensitive to these signals, which is referred to as hyperalgesia.
In sufferers, fibromyalgia causes stress, anxiety, feelings of guilt, isolation, and even disability. It is part of a group of conditions referred to as subjective pain syndromes, which are difficult to identify, since there are no objective, observable signs and they are often resistant to medical treatment. It is characterized by painful trigger points, mostly in the shoulders and neck, that limit physical activity and generate frustration.
It is associated closely with depression and anxiety, but it isn’t clear if one causes the other or if they coexist because they have the same origin.
In our bodies, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, has two basic tasks:
- Balance feelings of well-being
- Stimulating the body to heal from injury or illness
This system reacts to endocannabinoids (cannabinoids that are naturally produced by our bodies), which interact with it and keep it running as it should.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, CECD, happens when the concentration of these endocannabinoids, called anandamide and 2-AG, are lower than normal. This is a very new discovery, the initial theory having been proposed in 2001, and subsequent studies have backed it up.
Slowly, scientists and doctors are catching on to how this affects us, and have been shocked to discover that the effects are a lot broader and more significant than previously thought.
The origin of the theory came from the fact that many brain disorders are related to neurotransmitter deficiencies, so it was concluded that, considering its main function, chronic endocannabinoid deficiency should result in alterations in the sensations of pain, system imbalance and inflammation, since the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in those.
Conditions whose cause has been unknown for centuries now have a little ray of sunshine. Low levels of anandamide have been reported in people suffering from a number of illnesses whose cause was eluding the medical community.
If endocannabinoid deficiency proves to be the cause, these illnesses will now have better, more effective treatments that will make them more manageable, and they will be less likely to cause disability and depression.
Endocannabinoid Deficiency Fibromyalgia, Migraine, PTSD and IBS
Some of the conditions that have been observed to concur with clinical endocannabinoid deficiency are: fibromyalgia, migraines, PTSD and IBS, among others.
These three conditions have certain common characteristics:
- Heightened sensitivity to pain, or hyperalgesia, which has been observed to be associated with endocannabinoid hypo-function (decreased function of the ECS).
- Are accompanied by anxiety and depression
- Have been labeled as psychosomatic
- They coexist in the majority of cases, which suggests the same cause
Recently, it was discovered that people who suffer from fibromyalgia have a distinct deficiency of the endocannabinoid anandamide, which our body is supposed to produce naturally. Anandamide generates feelings of well-being and, in high amounts, can cause euphoria. However, if its concentration is too low, it has shown to have incredibly negative effects physically and emotionally.
When looking further into the issue, other illnesses were associated with this deficiency, which was officially named “clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome,” or CECD. And the main conditions it has been related to often overlap, supporting the theory that it is the possible cause.
Endocannabinoid Deficiency Fibromyalgia: Is CBD the Answer?
If anandamide deficiency proves to be the cause of some or all cases of fibromyalgia, there is a lot of hope for a successful treatment to be developed and standardized in the near future.
CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a cannabinoid that is produced in plants, which stimulates CB2 receptors, the same type of receptors that react to anandamide and cause feelings of wellness and pain relief. Theoretically speaking, CBD should be able to replace anandamide in people who have low concentrations of it, until eventually the body is able to regulate its production.
Interestingly, in a specific study, CBD showed an improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms that highly surpassed those of the usual medications prescribed for this condition (like duloxetine and milnacipran).
In fibromyalgia and other CECD related conditions, cannabinoid treatment, mainly CBD treatment, has shown improved sleep, pain relief, and other benefits that support the influence of the deficiency in the symptoms.
In a few trials, THC was studied as a possible treatment, but the results were not as significant as the ones showed for CBD and whole plant cannabis, which showed decreased pain and stiffness almost immediately, as well as improvement in sleep and reduced anxiety.
The use of cannabis-based epilepsy medication, Sativex also proved to be highly effective for pain, which proves that CBD oil for fibromyalgia is the best option.
What is the cause of endocannabinoid deficiency fibromyalgia?
Humans have an optimal level of endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG) in the body, which interact with endocannabinoid receptors. When endocannabinoid function is lower than normal,a series of conditions will necessarily follow, such as:
- Digestive issues
- Mood alterations
- Sleep alterations
- General well-being will be disrupted
It is still unknown why these lower endocannabinoid levels occur, but the CED theory suggests that the cause could be genetic or congenital, or might even be acquired after a significant injury or illness that alters the balance of the endocannabinoid production.
Other illnesses that have been linked to CECD
The ones mentioned above are not the only conditions that seem to be linked to clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. Others that are being evaluated for their possible relation to CECD are:
- Neonatal failure to thrive
- Cystic fibrosis
- Phantom limb pain
- Infantile colic
- Repetitive, unexplained miscarriages
- Bipolar disorder
These are just a few, though there are many others that could be part of this list.
Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency is new, but very important discovery being studied currently that could help us understand different conditions that have mostly been a complete mystery to us.
It seems almost obvious when you think about illnesses being caused by the body being unbalanced. A lot of people have spoken about CBD oil and fibromyalgia. However, we are so used to having external causes to our ailments, that we have failed to see what was right under our noses.
Our bodies have lost balance, so we need to return it to them in order to be healthier and feel better. Hopefully CBD treatments are standardized and recognized as valid methods of improving the quality of life of those who suffer from fibromyalgia and have seen their lives altered by it.