I found an article by a researcher in Spain (see Ortega in the library) which discusses the use of exercise as medicine and a method to avoid taking multiple medications for people with inflammatory and even infectious diseases. It’s going to take a closer look, but on first glance, it’s very interesting.
What he’s saying essentially, and I apologize for not being able to break all his words down into real words, is that exercise reduces stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines. He calls it the “Bioregulatory Effect of Exercise.” Not only can it reduce the stuff that causes chronic swelling, it stimulates the body’s defenses against infections. He talks even a little bit about exercise as an immunization. In short he talks about how exercise can achieve a balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory responses from the body.
Since fibromyalgia deals with imbalances in hormones and chemistry, this is very interesting. Ortega talks about cytokines, hormones, and neurotransmitters (all out of whack in fibro folk). He also talks specifically about “polymedication,” something people with fibro definitely deal with, taking multiple medications, often taking one to counteract side effects from another, and claims that exercise can be seen as a “polypill” eliminating the need for multiple medications.
One of the things I wonder about a lot is how much medications contribute the feeling of unwellness for people with fibro. Not only do medications so often come with side effects, which add to discomfort, there is a psychological factor in taking medications. If you’re taking a med, you must be unwell, right? If you’re exercising regularly, you must be well, right? It seems like it would be such a positive reinforcement in the mind of someone who struggles so hard everyday.
This article doesn’t go into that aspect of exercise as medicine, he looks specifically at the physiological impact of exercise, what it does to hormones and chemicals and the immune system. Very fascinating.
I will say, however, that I have been exercising twice or so a week for over a year, with varying success. While exercising, my body was not able to fight off viruses, especially this last winter when I was in a yoga program. That does not invalidate his ideas, however. I need to read closer to see what exercises he suggests, what levels of exercise, and what duration. There are a lot of factors, and as always we’re all different. However, IF exercise paves the way for the reduction of medications (not looking to eliminate all meds), it seems like that would be a huge benefit.