A case study to examine the astrology of fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a painful, debilitating, and poorly understood illness. Fibromyalgia is similar in nature to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). There are so many similarities between these 3 that you can think of them as the same illness pattern. The main difference is the primary complaint.
The National Fibromyalgia Association estimates that there are 10 million diagnosed cases of FMS in the United States today. There are probably many more cases running around undiagnosed. Fibromyalgia affects all races and genders but occurs more frequently in women (75-90% of cases).
FMS is not exactly an autoimmune disorder, but many consider it to be an autoimmune-related disorder. It often appears with other autoimmune disorders– especially those involving the thyroid.
Mainstream medicine classifies these disorders as neurological illnesses, citing evidence of the brain “rewiring” its networks. The nervous system intensifies nerve pathways to magnify and distort pain and other sensory signals like light, sound, and scents. Why does this happen? Mainstream medicine doesn’t have much to say about that question.
As a holistic practitioner, I want to look deeper, to keep asking WHY until it all makes sense. Why did your nervous system rewire itself? Why? Let’s examine this example chart for clues.
Fibromyalgia case study
First, a big round of applause and a huge thank you to our case study, Susan. Susan has a diagnosis of FMS and has offered her chart for our study. Let’s read her chart for clues to root causes and guidance to appropriate preventive and therapeutic decisions.
Before I start, an important note. Don’t read a chart with a mindset that you are going to predict illness or disease. The aspects I am going to discuss below are not diagnostic. In other words, if you see them in your own chart, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop fibromyalgia.
Mars conjunct Neptune in Libra
This aspect tends to turn up in the charts of people who have issues with hypersensitivity. Planets in aspect to Neptune, or planets located in Pisces (ruled by Neptune) tell the story of allergies, sensitivities, and mysterious illnesses. Susan’s Mars-Neptune squares Saturn in Cancer, sign of the stomach and digestion, further complicating the picture.
As a specialist in detoxification, heavy metals are the first thing I look into when I see a setup like this, especially so close to the Ascendant. (Metal=Mars, Neptune=poisoning.) I want to know about your exposures. Do you have metal dental fillings? Mercury is often present under old gold crowns, as well. Have you had a flu shot or other mercury-containing vaccine? Has a fluorescent light bulb or mercury thermometer broken in your home or workplace, ever? (Even a really long time ago– liquid mercury can off-gas from carpeting or flooring for decades.) Do you often eat fish?
Other sources of heavy metals
- cadmium in cigarette smoke and auto exhaust
- lead from contaminated water
- environmental pollution
- toxic metal biocides like Mercurochrome or colloidal silver
- (just to name a few)
Neurotoxins and hormone disruptors are avoidable– but it isn’t easy. They hide in cleaners, “air fresheners,” solvents, personal care, laundry products, lawn chemicals, and more. They are also found in the pesticides, herbicides, and additives in our food.
Some people clear metals and other toxins from their systems quickly, but others do not– this is a genetic thing. Mercury is especially nasty if you are a slow detoxifier. As levels in your blood increase, mercury starts to block detox processes in the liver and kidneys. This allows toxic metals and other nasties to build up and damage tissues and organs.
By the time someone develops symptoms of FMS, CFS, or MCS, she may need to address long-standing chronic toxicity. The bad news is, there is no quick fix. It takes time, patience, and work. But the good news is, this very common root cause of FMS is reversible.
Another metal I am concerned about with this Mars-Neptune setup is iron. Iron is the special sauce that enables the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. If you’re anemic (low in iron), then your blood cannot deliver the proper amount of oxygen to your tissues. Over time, oxygen deprivation can lead to pain, cognitive and mood disorders, fatigue, and impaired organ function.
Correcting anemia can be tricky. Sometimes it is a straightforward matter of increasing iron-rich food or taking supplements. But often the problem lies with iron absorption. When digestion is off, no matter how much iron you put in your mouth, your body can’t make use of it. You may need to address nutrient deficiencies, digestion, and absorption first.
Which brings us to…
Moon in Pisces opposite Virgo stellium
The Moon represents the digestive process in astrology. In this chart, the Moon makes an opposition, a strong connection, to several planets in Virgo, ruler of the small intestine, or gut. Susan’s Moon in Pisces draws my attention to the “leaky gut syndrome.” Leaky gut is a situation where the barrier between the gut and the body becomes permeable. In a compromised gut, small food particles that are not all-the-way digested leak across the barrier and activate the immune system. This is why leaky gut can trigger symptoms just about anywhere. If you are finding that more and more foods are causing symptoms, leaky gut is a likely cause. It is very common in the U.S. because of the sorry state of our food supply.
FMS often shows up at the same time as an autoimmune condition involving the thyroid, like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. The thyroid has a connection to Venus– a weak planet in this chart given her position in Virgo. Lab testing can give you more information. It’s not enough to test TSH levels (which is all most physicians look at). You need a full thyroid panel, including thyroid antibodies, to check for autoimmunity.
More thoughts on the Virgo-Pisces axis and gut/immune health.
Uranus, Gemini, and the nervous system
Uranus in Gemini squares the Virgo-Pisces system in this chart, putting pressure on it. We can see the autonomic nervous system (Gemini), the enteric nervous system (the gut-brain, Virgo), and the endocrine/immune system (Pisces)– squaring off against each other. It is a painful picture of the pathology of this condition. We can also read this T-square for possibilities that Susan can explore in her efforts to recover. (See my note below on limbic retraining.)
So, what can you do about FMS/CFS/MCS?
First, let me tell you that fibromyalgia is curable. In fact, I am a success story. I suffered from debilitating pain, fatigue, and chemical sensitivity, for several years. Today I live a mostly normal life, mostly free from pain, with nearly normal energy levels. Today, I can go to the mall, fly on a plane, and navigate a crowd without freaking out. These were completely out of the question for about 4 years when I was sick. Here is a rough outline of how I got better.
Identify and address nutrient deficiencies
A functional analysis of your CBC and blood chemistry panel can show us if you’re anemic, and why. Basic blood work can also uncover a few other nutrient deficiencies, like protein, zinc, and B vitamins.
A hair tissue mineral analysis gives us a lot of good information, including whether heavy metals are an issue for you. You will need to work with someone who knows how to look for hidden toxicities in the hair test. I use Dr. Andrew Cutler’s “counting rules.”
An inexpensive vitamin D blood test can tell you if you are deficient in this crucial vitamin. Vitamin D enables your immune system’s “brakes” to function– your T regulatory cells. This makes it very important in autoimmune situations.
If you have a diagnosis of FMS, it’s a safe bet that you’re magnesium deficient. Part of the problem may be that your system does not absorb magnesium well– if you supplement magnesium, it goes right through you. That’s why I recommend small doses throughout the day, 100 mg at a time, in an absorbable form. Try to work your way up to 400-500 mg per day. Magnesium glycinate and malate are inexpensive, absorbable forms. If even low doses go right through you, you can take an Epsom salt bath or apply a magnesium-containing oil or lotion to your skin.
Address gut health and food allergies
With this much Virgo in a chart, strongly aspected by the Moon (the gut), and Saturn in the mix too, improving gut health should be a priority. A therapeutic diet like GAPS or SCD may be helpful. You can run an IgG food allergy panel to help you identify inflammatory foods. Taking them out of your diet can reduce painful autoimmune reactions and improve digestive function.
Address thyroid and adrenal health
The adrenal glands are the seat of your resilience– your response to stress, and your ability to bounce back. Adrenal exhaustion is common in fibromyalgia. Symptoms are fatigue, insomnia, feeling faint when you stand up.
Adrenal function and thyroid function are so inter-related that if one is off, chances are the other is, too. Lab testing with a qualified professional can help shed some light on the issue.
Venus rules the thyroid and co-rules the adrenal glands with Mars. She is weak in Virgo (sign of her fall) in this chart. We can guess that the thyroid and adrenals may take some time and finesse to sort out, with the road to recovery being more of a zig-zag than a straight line.
By the time someone develops symptoms of CFS/MCS/FMS, toxicity can be significant and long-standing. That means detoxification must proceed gently, carefully, and at a pace your system can handle. Mercury detoxification often involves dental revision, followed by careful chelation.
Note: Don’t go out and buy a “detox kit” from the health food store. Some of these have ingredients in them that are too stimulating for a compromised liver and can make you feel worse. People all over the internet claim that cilantro and chlorella will bind to mercury and remove it from the system. That is not true. In a compromised system, these herbs can mobilize mercury and relocate it anywhere in your body– including sensitive tissues like the brain.
Healing your gut lining will increase your capacity to digest and absorb nutrients. Optimizing your liver, gallbladder, and bowel function will increase your capacity to clear toxins and cellular wastes. This is how you turn a vicious circle into a virtuous spiral, taking you onwards and upwards to recovery!
Change your mind (back)
Another tool that helped me was limbic retraining. This is a practice designed to “undo” the whammy that fibromyalgia has put on the nervous system. Limbic retraining techniques harness the power of the conscious mind (Mercury) to reshape and influence unconscious patterns (Moon/Neptune).
There is a bit of controversy around limbic retraining. Some people who suffer from these conditions feel upset by the idea of it. They feel that its premise implies that the illness is all in the mind, something they made up. And I get that. When I was ill, the world around me told me that my thoughts and emotions were the cause of my illness, not the symptom. I believed this for years. I tried to change my thoughts, but the pain kept coming back. I felt like a failure because I could not control my emotions. Someone even told me I was sick because I was a bad person… so I do get it. Despite what other people think, and the ignorant things they say, fibromyalgia, CFS, and MCS are not all in your mind.
But the illness does change how your brain works. This is a way to change it back.
I believe that limbic retraining worked for me because I had already begun to address the root cause of my health problems. I dedicated myself to working on heavy metals, supporting my body, and healing up my gut for 18 months before I felt ready to fix my brain. If I had not started with that piece, I doubt that my success with limbic retraining would have been permanent.
What do you think?
How did we do? What was missing from this article? What else would you like to learn?
- Murray and Pizzorno, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
- Shomon, Living Well with Autoimmune Disease
- Mayo Clinic
Molly Gauthier is an astrology teacher, medical timing specialist, and certified nutrition therapist.