If you have fibromyalgia, an “invisible illness”, you often experience severe symptoms that no one can see, sometimes leading to misunderstandings and causing more stressful situations. You’re most likely used to taking a more cautious approach to outdoor activities or an kind of exertion for fear of aggravating your symptoms, but if you don’t have an understanding support system of family and friends, you might find yourself surrounded by people who can’t sympathize with what’s going through inside your body. Pain and migraines are the most common invisible symptoms of fibro, but overheating is one that often gets overlooked. However, staying indoors and in the shade is not nearly enough to combat sweating and hot flashes, reactions of a faulty limbic and endocrine system.
At least 5 million adults are affected by fibromyalgia, and 3.4 percent of the sample population of the 2015 Center for Disease control study was female. Men who have fibromyalgia tend to have fewer and milder symptoms that don’t typically last as long. Scientists and medical professionals are still unsure about this phenomenon, but the link may be due to hormones and fluctuations. Like pain and tenderness, symptoms of sweating and hot flashes are usually more prevalent and severe among women, competing with menopause for the spot of most annoying non-treatable condition. The one thing we do know is that whatever mystery surrounds fibro, the symptoms of fever and sweating and other hormone-related issues originate from a deficiency in the hypothalamus.
Hypothalamus: Why is it important?
The hypothalamus is one of the most important and underrated parts of the brain currently known to man, and that’s no stretch of the imagination. This almond-shaped nucleus performs a variety of functions, including it’s most important function of linking the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, or hypophysis. The hypothalamus is a part of the limbic system—the limbic system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation and long-term memory. The limbic system being affected would explain some symptoms such as depression, “fibro fog” and moodiness of people with fibro, because emotional control and memory-making is largely based in the limbic system.
Metabolism is linked to the hypothalamus. Most people associate metabolism with simply an ability to convert food into energy more than fat, making it easier to eat more and stay thin. But it’s more complicated than that. The metabolic process is mainly the conversion of food/fuel to energy and building blocks for biomolecules such as protein, so any abnormality in the metabolic system can explain a wide range of biological changes, not limited to fatigue and weight loss. The hypothalamus is responsible for some metabolic processes and activities of the autonomic nervous system.
But as it affects people’s health, the hypothalamus’ role in the limbic system is of paramount importance. The hypothalamus produces releasing hormones, which control the release of other hormones, and they stimulate or inhibit the secretion of pituitary hormones. Between the endocrine system’s pituitary gland and the limbic system’s hypothalamus, the following processes are controlled and effected:
- hunger and thirst
- fatigue and sleep
- blood pressure
- functions of the sex organs
- thyroid glands
- pregnancy, childbirth and nursing
- parenting and attachment behaviors
- temperature regulation
- pain relief
- water/salt concentration (salt causes swelling)
- circadian rhythms
Excessive sweating: How do you handle it?
Stiffness, cold and numbing feelings in your hands and feet are common symptoms of fibro, and if you have concurring symptoms of hot flashes and sweating, the results can be miserable. Women must deal with the consequences of having makeup melt off of their face, especially during hot months. There are a few known causes of excessive sweating that can be pinpointed, such as anxiety, that are all related to the nervous, limbic and endocrine system. One “treatable” cause is the possible side-effects from antidepressants—high levels of norepinephrine. But the only way to cure that cause is to cease taking the medication, a compromise that might not be worth it if the benefits outweigh the consequences.
Unfortunately, excessive sweating and hot flashes is a symptom that can negatively affect your daily living, and it’s one you either have to live with or find a way to manage. Wearing layered clothing is one simple way to make a difference in your life with fibro. Because you tend to switch between hot and cold, having the ability to remove clothing to suit your body temperature gives you some control back. Another important thing to remember is the need to stay hydrated. Water replaces the electrolytes you lose when you sweat, and without them we can become dehydrated. Loose powders and antiperspirants can keep you feeling fresh, but dress shields, absorbent sweat pads and even menstrual pads might be a better defense.