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The first person I met with fibromyalgia was a woman from a networking event at my coworking space. Her body was absolutely toned and she appeared really fit. She was an avid rock climber and physical trainer who competed in bodybuilding contests. She told me about her paleo diet. None of that surprised me—like I said, she seemed very healthy.
When this woman told me that she had fibromyalgia, I was taken aback. Western medicine tells us that fibromyalgia, which mostly occurs in women, often starts in middle age. This lady was in her early 30s. Fibromyalgia causes sensitivity to touch and constant muscle pain and aches in multiple parts of the body, creating sleep problems, fatigue, and emotional and mental distress. But this woman was active and schlepping across every borough of New York City to help her clients and build her business.
The humanitarian in me understood how difficult it must be to live with an invisible disease and have people comment, “What disease? You look so fit.” The Ayurvedic educator in me pondered over her diet and lifestyle—could they be aggravating her discomfort? The extreme workouts, excessive intake of raw salads, erratic schedule, long commute—they all imbalance Vata dosha.
This woman also shared that the illness had led to constant worrying and anxiousness, making her even more vulnerable to Vata imbalance.
In Ayurveda, fibromyalgia is called Mamsagata Vata. According to Ayurveda, fibromyalgia is a sign of an imbalanced state of Vata energy. It is the condition where vitiated or aggravated Vata dosha circulates all over the body, which causes an imbalance in one’s agni (internal fire) and leads to formation of ama (toxins).
Why does Mamsagata Vata happen? Because of a Vata-aggravating diet and lifestyle. Vata imbalance means that a person’s Pitta (metabolism) and Kapha (immunity) are also thrown out of balance. Some Ayurvedic experts even say that fibromyalgia could be an autoimmune disorder caused by tejas (Pitta quality) burning ojas (Kapha quality).
In more technical terms, vitiated Vata affects mamsa dhatu (the body’s visceral, cardiac, and skeletal tissues), which can cause extreme pain. Eventually, the vitiated Vata can impact deeper tissues in addition to the manovaha srotas (channels of the mind and body), which help carry nutrients and waste to and from the muscles. This condition of Vata dosha can lead to multi-system disorders. For example, in the case of the woman whom I met, fibromyalgia had also altered her manovaha srotas and caused depression.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but when using Ayurveda for fibromyalgia management, there are many potential contributing and compounding factors, such as:
Toxins and excess Vata—toxins accumulate in the tissues and block the channels of the body, causing tenderness and pain
Jobs that disrupt sleep patterns
Stress—be it work-related, family-related, general life stress, or stress due to illness
Overconsumption of dry, raw, cold Vata-aggravating foods
Consumption of incompatible foods (ex. dairy with fruits) and stale foods
Irregular daily routine
Excessive or inadequate exercise and physical exertion
Increased exposure to wind and cold
Chronic worrying, fear, or sorrow
Lack of emotional support
The Ayurvedic protocol (or Chikitsa Sutra) for fibromyalgia should focus on balancing Vata, removing blockages from the srotas, and nourishing mamsa dhatu. One of the main suggested treatments for fibromyalgia in Ayurveda is Panchakarma, which detoxifies and rejuvenates the body. This helps those suffering from fibromyalgia build a stronger immune system. An Ayurvedic expert will suggest the best kind of Panchakarma treatments for each person to cleanse the body and improve circulation. Once circulation improves, there is a reduction in inflammation, blockages, and digestive problems.
Favor foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
Eat warm and well-seasoned meals.
Add fiber to your diet.
Avoid fried, processed, and excessively spicy foods.
Avoid eating leftovers, favoring freshly cooked foods when possible.
Avoid caffeine, tobacco, recreational drugs, and alcohol.
Cook and eat soups with root vegetables.
Enjoy warm milk with warming spices, including cinnamon, green cardamom, ginger, turmeric, and clove.
Include coconut water and coconut milk in your diet to keep the body replenished.
Cut down on animal protein.
Take ample rest.
Practice daily abhyanga (self-massage).
Stick to a regular daily schedule.
Be social and build a community, or strengthen pre-existing relationships.
Share love, happiness, and sorrow.
Work on lowering stress—meditation, restorative yoga, and gentle breathing practices help.
Pay attention to factors that aggravate your pain.
Sip on warm water throughout the day to eliminate ama.
Exercise regularly but not excessively, as too much movement increases Vata.
Please don’t take any herbal remedies without consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner first. Herbs can be very potent; just because they are natural doesn’t mean they won’t have side effects.
Ginger, coriander, cumin, Citraka, and Shallaki all help with fibromyalgia.
Triphala can be used to improve digestion and other digestive issues related to fibromyalgia.
Guggulu, turmeric, and pepper have shown effective results for the management of inflammation and pain.
Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Shatavari work on the manovaha srotas and may help relieve stress.
Guduchi, Amla, and licorice help boost immunity.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
Supplement these suggestions with a guided meditation for chronic pain.
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