It was once thought that our brains and nervous systems were like an electrical wiring grid, but research now tells us that they are much more complicated than this. The brain and nervous system may be more like a complex hologram than a simple electrical schematic.
Many chemicals are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses, messages, and the other complicated functions of the nervous system. Our nerve cells, or neurons, aren’t a continuous “wire.” Rather, there are gaps, called synapses, between them. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that carry the nerve signals across those gaps. And once they have carried a signal from one neuron to another, they are either reabsorbed back into the neuron that initially released them (a process known as reuptake) or metabolized by enzymes. Not all neurotransmitters are involved in helping electrical signals pass from neuron to neuron, though. Others are used to signal some other physiological response, such as secretion of a hormone or other chemical messenger. It can all get very complicated indeed, with a virtual cascade of chemicals and resulting physiological changes and effects. We still aren’t even close to fully understanding the complicated workings of the nervous system.
For fibromyalgia, probably the most important neurotransmitter is serotonin. Serotonin is the “mood chemical” that produces feelings of well-being and happiness. It also helps regulate appetite, sleep, and, yes, pain perception. It was low serotonin levels that contributed to the anxiety and sleeplessness that Molly suffered from.
As we’ve seen, sleep is vitally important, because if you don’t get adequate rest, then the body simply does not have the opportunity to repair itself, resulting in more stress on all the tissues and organs of the body. This includes the brain and nervous system. This lack of repair and rest results in dysfunction of that tissue or organ, and it also causes you to feel profound, unrelenting fatigue. You can learn more about fibromyalgia by reading Symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
David M Brady is a naturopathic medical doctor at Whole Body Medicine and the author of the book The Fibro Fix.