BY WYATT REDD
Fibromyalgia is a really mysterious disorder, and because of that, many people have tried to find links between it and other bodily functions and problems. That being said, neurotransmitters have long been considered one of the items that likely causes issues for fibromyalgia sufferers.
Glutamate is one of the many neurotransmitters that may be part of the issue. But what is glutamate, what does it do, and why may it have an effect on fibromyalgia and the symptoms that we suffer from the disorder? Read on to learn more.
What is Glutamate and What Is It Used For?
As you likely know, there are a lot of chemicals in your brain, and they all do something different for the mind and the body and how they work. They’re the little messengers in your brain that shoot messages back and forth between all of the different parts of the brain.
These are the things that tell your brain what to do, how to act, and so on and so forth. Glutamate is just one of these many neurotransmitters, and they actually play a very important role, and it usually coincides with another neurotransmitter known as GABA.
So, what do these do? Glutamate is actually incredibly important. They’re the little signals that get your brain ready to go so that it can do important tasks. Most of the activities related to glutamate have to do with memory and learning.
Basically, the glutamate turns on the brain cells and revs them up so that they are warmed up and ready to get the new information that is about to come into the mind. If your glutamate amount is correct, what is going to happen is that those memories are going to stay in your mind and you will learn whatever it is you are trying to learn. Sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it?
Sadly, glutamate can be a pretty scary thing if it goes out of control. If your brain is making too much of this neurotransmitter, that means that your brain cells are actually getting overstimulated. Think about the last time that you drank too much caffeine – you probably felt really hyper, and you may have felt like you were going to jump out of your own skin. That’s what glutamate does to each of your brain cells if it’s left to its own devices.
It overstimulates and excites the little brain cells until they basically pass away and die. They can’t handle the stimulation, so they sort of “pop” and stop existing at all. Sound familiar? This is exactly what happens during a number of diseases that occur later on in life, like Alzheimer’s and ALS – the brain cells degenerate, making it difficult to do much of anything. Research is still going on, but there are a lot of studies that suggest a strong tie between an excess of glutamate and the development of these degenerative diseases.
How Does Glutamate Tie In With Fibromyalgia?
Well, as you likely know, fibromyalgia is not a degenerative disease like ALS or Alzheimer’s – usually, the worst that happens is that you have to fight off a little bit of fibro fog now and again. So, how is glutamate connected with fibromyalgia? That’s actually debated at the time of the writing of this article – the jury is still out, and research is being done in order to determine the causes and effects that go on around this interesting little neurotransmitter.
That being said, it definitely shouldn’t be counted out, and the research being done should continue, because there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that there’s a connection somewhere.
When your brain is making too much of the stuff, the neurons die. But what also happens is that you feel more anxious, you feel more pain, you don’t rest or sleep or sit still as well, and you also may seem like you’re dealing with the symptoms of a hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, etc).
But, the interesting thing is – many people in the field feel that the opposite is actually happening to those who are fighting fibromyalgia. Inability to sleep, a lack of energy, mental fatigue, and an inability to concentrate and focus, are considered to be what happens when you aren’t getting enough of glutamate throughout your brain.
So, What Can Be Done?
If glutamate may be part of the problem, then what is the answer that you are looking for? Good question. At this point in time, the most common treatment has to do with diet. There are supplements that will give you the chemicals that you need in your brain so that you have just enough glutamate going throughout it.
There are also a small handful of medications that you can take as well – they basically make it so that your brain is still stimulated, and that it uses what is already going through your mind in order to keep you stimulated. You may also be able to do a variety of other things in order to keep your levels under control, including proper diet, regular exercise, relaxation techniques, and a variety of other well being treatments that will help to keep your body in balance.
As stated above, there is a lot of research that still needs to be done, and because of that, we want to be careful with what exactly we do as part of our treatment. Everything is a fine balance, so you want to ensure that you don’t throw anything off too much.
One of the most important things that you need to do when you’ve been diagnosed with something like fibromyalgia is to make sure that you are educated about all of the research that is out there about our disorder.
There is plenty of information here on our site, or you can talk to your specialist in order to get the newest information about fibromyalgia research and to determine what plans would be right for your particular symptoms and the other things that you are dealing with from your FM.
GABA & Glutamate in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: chronicfatigue.about.com/od/symptoms/a/Gaba-And-Glutamate-In-Fibromyalgia-And-Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome.htm
Pain in fibromyalgia is linked to changes in brain molecule: www.med.umich.edu/opm/newspage/2008/fibromyalgia.htm