Highlights from Jonathan Otto's interview with Dr. Rodger Murphree, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Dr. Murphree discusses the process to reverse fibromyalgia.

Dr. Rodger Murphree - Part 1

Dr. Murphree: We know that really we’re all born with an innate ability to heal ourselves. We have this computer called the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal system that controls ... We don’t have to think about taking 12 breaths per minute. We don’t have to think about digesting our food. We don’t have to think about breaking out in a sweat when we go out in the hot sun. We have a computer, an autonomic nervous system, that controls all these functions.

In fibromyalgia, something comes along, we can call it, and I hate to even say this, a breakdown, but something comes a long that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. For these people, that’s it. That autonomic nervous system, that ability to self-regulate your immune system, your sleep/wake cycle, your pain threshold, your moods, your digestion, that is shot. When that happens, you’re never the same again.

Jonathon: Got it. Then how does one recover from fibromyalgia?

Dr. Murphree: That’s a tricky question. Probably a long-winded answer. Really, what I’ve found over the last two decades is the only opportunity is to get healthy. I said that to you earlier, and you gave me the look that everybody ... You hear that, and you think, “Well, that sounds very simplistic.” Actually, it’s very complicated because where do you even start?

If you can’t sleep, you have this chronic pain if you get out and do something, you have a flare. You have irritable bowel, you have low moods, you have all these things. Where do you even start? The place to start, for most of these people, Jonathon, is their neurotransmitters. That’s the tie-in with anxiety and depression. With fibromyalgia, a big part of that is, and I like to use this analogy, that we’re all born with a stress-coping savings account.

In that stress-coping savings account, we have certain chemicals that allow us to deal with stress. We have serotonin, and dopamine, and cortisol, and DHEA. We have vitamins and minerals. We have pantothenic acid, and these chemicals allow us then to be able to handle stress. The more stress that we get under, the more likely we are to use these chemicals, and if we’re not careful, we can bankrupt them.

Those with fibromyalgia, and even those with anxiety and depression, somewhere over this period of time, are these stressers, and it could be chronic stress, a challenging job. It could be a challenging marriage. It could be a surgery, an illness, these different things that come along. Again, the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When that happens, they bankrupt these chemicals. Then stress becomes so magnified that then they’re kind of like the canary in the mind. Anything can set them off.

Jonathon: Awesome. Why do you think people are deficient, because a lot of people, especially a lot of people with depression/anxiety, they’re eating healthy according to what they know. It’s not like they’re trying to eat bad. A lot of them are trying to eat really well. How could it be so simple that it’s a deficiency?

Dr. Murphree: I don’t think it’s simple, and I think there’s different causes, different triggers for different people. That really creates the big challenge for most doctors because where do you start? With fibro in particularly, when they present themselves with 30 symptoms, sometimes doctors will look at them and dismiss them as being a hypochondriac, which nobody wants to fake this, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.

With anxiety and depression, there’s different things can come along that can cause depletion in these certain chemicals. Low thyroid, leaky gut, food allergies, there’s a big, long list of things that can cause deficiencies no matter how well you’re trying to eat. If you’re not careful, it can sabotage you.

Jonathon: Have people been diagnosed with depression/anxiety or bipolar, and they’ve had a thyroid issue? Have you seen that before?

Dr. Murphree: Oh absolutely, yeah.

Jonathon: Is that common?

Dr. Murphree: Yeah. I don’t think that with mood disorders, there’s one thing. If you talk to the specialists you’ll see that it’s a group of things that have to get right, and everybody is unique you know? We’re as different on the inside as we are on the outside. My experience has been that it takes high doses, but the right doses in combinations of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids. These are the building blocks that make these brain chemicals.

When those get depleted from stress, years of stress that deplete your stress-coping savings account until one day you’re bankrupted, or you have a faulty thyroid is created by stress, or you’re in a chronic pain that creates more stress. Once those chemicals, they become deficient, it’s really hard to make that up eating healthy.

Let’s face it, most people don’t eat as healthy as they should. We all try, but I think when you’re in that mental state, a lot of times you reach for anything that’s going to make you feel better. A lot of times that could be whether that’s binge eating, or eating sugar that’s going to give you a temporary feel good, or maybe it’s alcohol or sedatives. Whatever it is.

Not to make anybody feel bad about that. I think you’re just trying to feel better. You just want to feel better.

Jonathon: Dr. Murphree, you’ve got something here to show us? I think it’s very relevant, and you’re going to kind of take us in, and illustrate this. We’ve got your computer sharing screen, so you can watch his screen right now. You’re going to show us some of this presentation so people can see it visually illustrated.

Dr. Murphree: Yeah, I think sometimes just having a visual of this really brings it home for a lot of people. I talked about we’re all born with a stress-coping savings account, and in that account we have these certain chemicals that we need to allow us to deal with stress.

The more stress that we get under, whether it’s traffic jams, poor sleep, challenges at work, challenges at home, whatever that, we know we make withdrawals from our stress-coping savings account. If we’re not careful, we can make more withdrawals than we do deposits. One of the ways we make deposits into our stress-coping savings account is going into deep, restorative delta wave sleep.

When we go into delta wave sleep, we’re making deposits of serotonin, and other chemicals that we need to allow us to be able to deal with stress. We know that serotonin, this rain chemical, the higher serotonin level, the higher your pain thresholds. You have less pain. The higher your serotonin level, the less anxious you are, the happier you are, the more mentally clear you are, so mental clarity.

We also know that serotonin helps regulate the speed of your digestion, so people don’t realize you’ve got more serotonin receptors in your intestinal track, in your gut, than you do in your brain. This is why when you get nervous you get butterflies in your stomach. Serotonin is super, super important neurotransmitter that regulates these things.

The challenge is that a lot of people will, when they go to the doctor with anxiety or depression, they’re recommended an antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which is designed to help you reuptake serotonin, to get more mileage out of it, make it more efficient.

The problem is it’s analogous to using a gasoline additive in an empty gasoline tank. In the south, we say if you don’t have any gasoline in the gasoline tank, and you’re using a gasoline additive, it ain’t going to work. It just doesn’t work. There’s no benefit from using gasoline additive in an empty gasoline tank.

Those with anxiety and depression we see with fibromyalgia, they’ve depleted that brain chemical serotonin over the years. Poor sleep, the stress that they’ve been under, maybe taking prescription medications that have created more problems, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, because maybe they really can’t do a whole lot because of the pain. Most patients are going to be prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Prozac, or Celexa, Zoloft.

Jonathon, the problem with those is those antidepressants don’t make serotonin. They’re only designed to help you hang on to serotonin. Again, if you’re trying to use something to help you hang on to serotonin, there’s nothing there, it’s probably not going to do anything. This is the reason why we know that when you look at a meta-analysis of studies, 70% of the time an antidepressant is no better than a sugar pill, no better than a placebo.

Often times what happens is patients will go on these medications, and it will work for a period of time, but then eventually it quits working, and a big part of that is this thing called downregulation, which the brain receptors, these receptor sites in the brain for these medications, eventually they start to shrivel up and disappear.

You can lose up to 40 to 60% of these receptor sites, so eventually the medications have nowhere, like docking station to dock onto, and they just quit working. Then patients will go from maybe taking Paxil, and gaining 40, 60 pounds, it happens on that medication, to maybe taking Lexapro. Again, no one has an antidepressant deficiency.