30 March 2014

My experience using essential oils to combat my fibromyalgia pain by boosting my serotonin levels

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What is serotonin?
Serotonin is found in the body's brain and nervous system with about 80% of it being in the gut. Called a neurotransmitter, serotonin is one of the body's chemical substances that transmits nerve impulses across the spaces (synapses) between nerve cells. Serotonin is involved in many functions throughout the body including: appetite, sleep, memory, learning, temperature, mood, behavior, muscle contraction, depression, the cardiovascular system, endocrine regulation, wound healing, and more. It helps your brain to tell your heart to beat, to remind you to breathe, and to tell your stomach and intestines to digest food. It also tells your body whether you are in pain.
The connection between serotonin and fibromyalgia
Through trial and error I figured out that my fibromyalgia pain is directly affected by the serotonin levels in my body—when serotonin is low my pain levels increase. Then I discovered that I'm not the only one. Here's a great explanation of why this happens:
"Serotonin is involved in multiple functions including regulating sleep cycles, influencing mood, learning, pain perception and the immune system. Serotonin production takes place in the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. Fibromyalgia is one of the conditions that are known as 'low serotonin syndromes'. Here is what we know about the relationship of serotonin and fibromyalgia. Regulation of serotonin metabolism takes place during the deep or therapeutic sleep patterns which are discussed in another section. With the sleep disturbances of fibromyalgia, the metabolic regulation is disrupted. This causes further immune system dysfunction due to the role serotonin plays in the activation of natural killer cells. Compounding the sleep disturbance is the fact that since serotonin helps induce deep sleep, its low levels then further aggravate the inability to achieve this desired sleep pattern. 
"There is another neurotransmitter called substance P which works together with serotonin. Substance P is responsible for transmitting painful impulses to the brain and spinal cord. It produces a nerve generated impulse that dilates blood vessels, and in addition, it can cause fluid and proteins to migrate from the cells to outside the cells. Low serotonin levels can cause elevated substance P levels. These elevated levels, sometimes three times greater in people with fibromyalgia, could explain the enhancement of pain perception which is experienced." (from http://www.fibro-info.com/fibro-serotonin.html)
Essential oils and serotonin
While doing online research on whether there were any essential oils that could positively effect serotonin levels in the body, I came across an online article by Debbie Gordon at Nurturing Instincts entitled "Neurotransmitters and Essential Oils" (it has since been removed from her site). She included in her article the notes she had taken at a lecture about the neurotransmitters in the body—dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. After noting what each neurotransmitter does, Debbie lists the essential oils that are recommended for stimulating the body's production of each neurotransmitter. She also includes a suggested protocol for an oil blend.

I took Debbie's list of suggested oils for increasing serotonin levels and created a blend of my own to test and see if it made a difference on my fibromyalgia pain specifically.

Recipe for my "Fibromyalgia Buster" oil blend

Into a 10 mL roller bottle combine the following essential oils:
  • 20 drops chamomile essential oil (I chose to use 'Cape Chamomile'*)
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops wild orange essential oil
  • 20 drops marjoram essential oil
  • fill the rest of the bottle with fractionated coconut oil (FCO) to top it off
  • cap off the bottle and shake to blend the oils 
  • roll the blend on inner wrists, abdomen and/or the bottoms of the feet

My results
The first time using the oil blend, I applied it to the pulse points on the insides of my wrists and then went on with my regular activity. After about an hour, I realized that for the first time in over a month I wasn't feeling the throbbing pain I had been having in my left arm. I usually wince when I have to pull a shirt off over my head to get undressed at night, so I lifted my arm over my head to see if that movement was as painful as it had been. I could lift my arm without wincing. In fact, I didn't feel any pain. I pushed on my normal fibromyalgia pressure points and there was tenderness but not the intensity of pain I'd been having.

I decided to type up what I had discovered so far and then test it further over the next few days to see how often I would need to reapply the oil blend to keep the pain away. After typing on the computer for about an hour, I had to reapply the blend because I was feeling some aching in my left arm. This time, I clocked it to see how long it took to dissipate the aching (if at all). It took about 20 minutes—the same amount of time it takes my body to metabolize a dose of pain reliever.

Over the course of the next couple of days, I tried applying the oil to my upper abdomen as well as my wrists since serotonin is found in the gut. I found that when I applied the oil to my upper abdomen the pain relief lasted longer between applications of oil blend.

One thing I did note was that the blend wasn't as effective when it was raining outside (conditions that are particularly difficult for me and my fibromyalgia pain). Once the rain passed through, the oil blend was more effective again.

I will continue to use this oil blend and post any more of my results/findings (positive or negative). But from what I've experienced the last 2-3 days indicates to me that this is a viable solution to combatting my fibromyalgia pain. I am hoping that by posting this information, someone else can find relief as well.

*Although a large portion of my oils are from a general source, 'Cape Chamomile' is a specific type of chamomile oil not generally carried. I purchased this organic wild harvested oil directly from www.Floracopeia.com (a source I trust). 'Cape Chamomile' oil is known as the *ultimate* stress reliever as well as being an anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory essential oil. I don't know if my results would have been as effective if I had used another type of chamomile oil such as German (aka "Blue") chamomile or Roman chamomile.

References and sources
"What is serotonin? What does serotonin do?" from MedicalNewsToday.com
"Serotonin" from Wikipedia
"Fibromyalgia—The Role of Serotonin" from fibro-info.com

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with or paid by any entity for any content written in this blog post. This post represents my own personal experiences in finding wellness. The links provided in this post are only provided as a courtesy and do not imply that I am commercially associated with those websites I have linked to or have cited.

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