In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Rodger Murphree – a specialist in fibromyalgia and author of five books including Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Heart Disease: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You – about the Murphree Method, his natural treatment protocol for fibromyalgia.
- The Murphree Method – Natural Treatment For Fibromyalgia with Dr. Rodger Murphree – Transcript
- The difference between CFS, ME and Fibromyalgia
- Dr. Murphree’s take on the primary causes of Fibromyalgia
- HPA Axis dysfunction in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue System
- Dr. Murphree’s approaches to fixing sleep
- How neurotransmitters affect fibromyalgia
- The Murphree Method – light therapies
- How your weight can affect fibromyalgia
- The different tests Dr. Murphree uses to diagnose fibromyalgia
- The link between thyroid health and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- How gut health influence energy and fibromyalgia
- Why you need to use a systematic approach when treating fibromyalgia
- Dr. Murphree’s approach to POTS
- De-stressing for optimal health
- The Murphree Method – Natural Treatment For Fibromyalgia with Dr. Rodger Murphree – Show Notes
In this podcast, Dr. Murphree will cover:
- Are CFS, ME, and Fibromyalgia the same condition?
- The link between serotonin and pain
- The primary causes of fibromyalgia (And how to get rid of them)
- How your thyroid health is linked with fibromyalgia
- Murphree’s preferred tests for diagnosing fibromyalgia
- The Murphree Method – a natural fibromyalgia treatment protocol
- And more….
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The Murphree Method – Natural Treatment For Fibromyalgia with Dr. Rodger Murphree – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. This is Ari Whitten, and welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today I have with me Dr. Rodger Murphree, and I’ll read you a little bit about his background. He’s the founder and past clinic director of a large, integrated medical practice located in Birmingham, Alabama. The clinic provided cutting edge treatments for acute and chronic illnesses. He has specialized in difficult-to-treat patients for the last 10 years, and he’s a graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and is a board-certified chiropractic physician. He’s also the author of five books for patients and doctors, including Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Heart Disease: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You, Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression with Orthomolecular Medicine, and Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Patient’s Manual. Welcome, Dr. Rodger Murphree. It’s such a pleasure to have you.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Hey, Ari. Thanks so much. I’m delighted to be here.
Ari Whitten: Let’s start off with your background: what led you down this path of getting interested in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia, because that’s a path that a lot of doctors probably want to avoid because it’s so complex and so hard to help people with those conditions. It has also historically been somewhat stigmatized, especially within allopathic conventional medicine where a lot of doctors have seen these things as hypochondria rather than real conditions, though there is certainly enough research now to know that they are real conditions. Like I said, a lot of physicians probably wanted to avoid those things, if anything. What led you down that pathway?
Dr. Rodger Murphree:For me, I really believe that fibromyalgia kind of chose me because, saying this tongue in cheek, no one would choose to specialize in fibromyalgia. As you said, it’s very difficult. Unfortunately, there are a lot of doctors who still don’t believe fibromyalgia exists. Those who do [believe in it] don’t really know how to treat it. I had a very typical chiropractic practice years ago, and it was a very large practice, but I started sharing nutritional things with my patients, and I had always been very interested in nutritional medicine, or functional medicine, which is what I do now, and that just kind of grew. I went from 100 patients a day down to about 30 a day because I started doing nutritional testing workups with my patients, and I got a reputation here in Birmingham as the doctor to go to if you had been to other doctors and had no results.
Back in the early 1990’s, I had a patient that was referred to me with fibromyalgia. Back then, we really didn’t know what it was or know much about it, but I was able to get Sheila Jones well in about three months just using nutritional therapies that I knew at a rudimentary level back then. Then I just started getting all these referrals from other doctors, colleagues, and medical doctors. I did research work for the University of Alabama-Birmingham, so I had a lot of medical colleagues, not just chiropractic friends, and I just got a ton of referrals. I quickly found out that they were not going to be as easy as I had thought, and so I had two choices: I could either turn them away, or I could try to figure out how to help these folks with this “mystery” illness called fibromyalgia.
Ari Whitten: Very interesting. So, you developed some protocols over the next several years that went considerably beyond the nutrition interventions that you had done with Sheila.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. What I found out is that what had helped Sheila didn’t help the next fibromyalgia patient, nor the next one or the one after that. They were helpful, but not to the point where I had this magical cure, and so that set me out on a quest, and within a few years, my chiropractic nutrition practice turned into an integrative medical practice. I was asked to come on at the campus of Brooklyn Hospital here in Birmingham, Alabama. We had a large, 10,000 square-foot space there at the hospital, and we had five medical doctors who worked underneath me, and we treated an assortment of chronic illness, but I was always interested in what was going on with the fibromyalgia patient, and what we could do biochemically. All that led to me writing my first book in 2003. It’s now a fifth edition, with a sixth edition about to come out, but when the book came out in 2003, I was asked to speak at numerous venues, and it just kind of grew. Eventually it came to the point to where I sold my medical practice. Now, I only see fibromyalgia patients, and my practice is 99% phone consults. I have worked with patients all over the world, at this point.
The difference between CFS, ME and Fibromyalgia
Ari Whitten: Interesting. So, how do you conceptualize the causes of CFS, sometimes called myalgic encephalomyelitis, and fibromyalgia? Do you want to dig into one and then the other, or do you want to treat them all as a unified thing?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Well, you need to separate them because they’re different entities. If you look at fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME, they’re two faces of the same coin, but there are some very distinct differences between the two. Picture a clothes line: on one end of the clothes line, the clothes down here are fibromyalgia, and at the other end it’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and they have a lot of similarities. Both of them can have diffuse achy muscle pain, low-energy, problems with low moods, anxiety, and irritable bowel. They share a lot of similarities, but one of the big differences between the two is that those with fibromyalgia may or may not have an issue with their immune system.
They may have some challenges with chronic sinus infections or some of these other things, but with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome they have something with their immune system that they can’t shake, such as chronic sore throats or swollen lymph nodes. These things show up over and over again whereas the fibromyalgia patient may or may not have that. The other thing that separates them is everyone with fibromyalgia has a low serotonin state, and everyone with true fibromyalgia has trouble with their sleep, either falling asleep, staying asleep, or having a deep sleep to where they feel rested the next day. Those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may sleep all day, so they may not have an issue with low serotonin. It could be that they’re low in other neurotransmitters, in particular norepinephrine. The thing about it, Ari, is you can be anywhere on the scale: you can have a little more fibro than you do CFS, or you could have more CFS than you have fibro. So, those are some common things with these.
As for the other part of your question, what the causes are, what we know is that fibromyalgia is just a name. It’s a name given to a group of symptoms that people have in common, e.g. low energy, diffuse sometimes disabling pain, poor sleep, restless leg syndrome, irritable bowel, mood disorders. Those are just symptoms, and we give it the name fibromyalgia because we don’t know what else to call it, but fibro doesn’t cause anything itself. That really is the challenge from a functional medicine standpoint: to find and fix the underlying causes of the symptoms.
Ari Whitten:Just to clarify a couple of points that may be of interest to people, when you’re talking about it being a constellation of symptoms as opposed to something your doctor can detect with a blood test and then say, “This or that particular biochemical or hormone is low or high, and therefore that means you have this,”—with fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, there isn’t that ability to diagnose somebody based on one or even a combination of biomarkers.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, we see some common denominators in both of them in lab work, but there’s no definitive lab work where you do it and you say, “Oh yeah, fibro,” or “You have ME.” It’s just not out there. Now there are some people that are marketing some blood work right now, and it remains to be seen if it will be very useful, but currently both of these illnesses are given as a process of elimination. You go through all the testing, see the myriad of doctors, get on the medical merry-go-round, and eventually they give you a diagnosis.
Ari Whitten: Okay, got it. One point I want to come back to on symptoms. I don’t believe you mentioned pain. Is chronic pain—diffuse pain throughout the body and hypersensitivity to pain—is that something that’s unique to fibromyalgia as opposed to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Well, they both can have diffuse achy muscle pain, as I mentioned earlier, and I really need to add disabling pain, because those with fibro want it to be clear to the general public that doesn’t understand this illness—it’s not the aches and pains that you and I would have going out and playing weekend sports. These are very intense pains that the patients may have deep in their bones, or it could be muscular, soft tissue pain. But you’re correct, Ari: those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have pain as well, and their pain is diffuse achy pain oftentimes described as a flu-like achy type of pain. So, the above definitely have pain, there’s no doubt about it.
Dr. Murphree’s take on the primary causes of Fibromyalgia
Ari Whitten: Got it. So, as we segue into causes, I want to give some overarching context. I’ve had a lot of people on this podcast and talked to a lot of people about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as stress-related burnout and exhaustion, and one thing that I’ve encountered is that there are a whole bunch of different kinds of pet theories and takes on what are causing this. Oftentimes people zero in on one singular factor, but some of the people I’ve had on the podcast have focused very much on brain issues and psychological or emotional stress as being the fundamental cause. Other people have focused on immune dysfunction and chronic infections being the most important cause; other people are focused on genes, especially in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia; other people are focused on the gut or excitotoxicity in the brain from LPS leaking into the bloodstream. For example, you have like Alex Vasquez who is talking about the gut, the mitochondria and the brain as a cycle. Other people are focused on immune dysregulation or auto immunity, and some people are focused on toxins. Some people are focused on hormones. Within all that landscape, what is your take on causes of fibromyalgia?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: First of all, that was really great how you shared those different theories because there’s so many of them. You said, “Everyone has their pet theory,”—I like that. Here’s the thing, they all have validity because, again, with fibromyalgia in particular, when we talk about that separately from ME, for the fibromyalgia patients, they’re different. Every fibromyalgia patient is different from the next. They have some common denominators, but they’re all unique in that for this one fibromyalgia patient, there are some key things that have gone wrong, and then in the next one, those key things may or may not show up. Case in point would be when we’re looking at the underlying causes of fibromyalgia. When patients report having low energy, the name “fibromyalgia” doesn’t cause that. What we want to know is what’s causing that low energy. There are several things that can contribute to that. The first one is that they all suffer from poor sleep. They all have insomnia, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting into deep restorative sleep. That alone causes them to be tired, but I find in my practice—and I’ve specialized in fibro and CFS for 20 years—that about 70% of patients that I work with have something wrong with their thyroid. Now, I’m a big fan of your podcast, so I know that this term sometimes doesn’t sit well, but I have also found that the adrenal glands are shot in my patients with fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They have been under stress for so long that now their stress-coping mechanisms are not working like they should, so anytime they get under stress, it is magnified, which creates even more stress.
Ari Whitten: Cool. Is there anything else you want to mention there? You’re also a chiropractor by training. Do you feel that there is any physical aspect to this? I know there are a number of avenues you could take in that realm, but one is how peripheral sensitization, like when somebody has pain in their periphery, their limbs and their shoulder or whatever, can over time experience central sensitization in the brain. I know several physical practitioners who tend to explain fibro more from that lens because it’s kind of more in line with their training. Even just deconditioning from lack of exercise and movement. Do you feel those play a role for many people?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Possibly, I really believe that it’s a bio chemical breakdown, or biochemical breakdowns, that manifests itself as a physical malady, so the pain is felt on the outside. I haven’t seen hands-on therapy to be very helpful partly because the patients cannot tolerate that tactile sensation. They have a condition called [inaudible]where their pain threshold is very low, and pain is magnified, so, for a lot of fibromyalgia patients, they can’t wear a tight shirt or blouse—forget hugging them, shaking their hand, or a massage. A deep tissue massage would put these people in bed for two or three days in intense pain. There are chiropractors and PT’s who have had some success with fibromyalgia patients, but I haven’t seen that be consistently effective. I think the catalyst for most illnesses is stress, and that sounds kind of simplistic, but when your body becomes too stressed out, the homeostatic mechanisms start to shut down. I really believe that we’re all born with a stress-coping savings account, and in that account we have certain chemicals that allow us to deal with stress. All day long we’re exposed to different physical, mental, and chemical stress, so we’re constantly making withdrawals from our stress-coping savings accounts.
We’ve got hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, cortisol, DHEA, but we also have vitamins and minerals like magnesium, which is a very important central mineral that’s involved in 300 bodily processes, and anytime you get under stress, you’re using up your magnesium. In the case of the fibro community, they get under some kind of stress, whether it’s long-term chronic stressors such as dealing with a special needs child, an elderly parent that lives with them, a toxic marriage or toxic work environment, something comes along that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It could be a hysterectomy, an illness, a car accident, or the death of a loved one. Something comes along and when that happens, they totally bankrupt their account, and they’re not equipped to handle stress. So, stress becomes magnified, and I really believe all these different theories that are out there have some validity, but for me, the only way that fibromyalgia patients can feel good again and stay that way is to get healthy. That means different things to different people, but a big part of that is finding where they’re broken down and starting to fix those underlying causes of the different symptoms.
Ari Whitten: That is very interesting. I’ll mention that I did a recent poll with my audience, with several thousand people with chronic fatigue, not necessarily Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibromyalgia, but this broad category of people who identify as being chronically fatigued. Certainly a large portion of them have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibro, but I gave a list of 20 or so causes just to see what people would self-identify as the factor that they feel initially caused their condition, and the majority of people just said stress: psychological stress, emotional stress or a period of intense stress. Sleep problems were certainly up there, too. Viral infection was also up there among the top, but I think that combination of an intense period of severe stress combined with sleep problems really is a huge trigger for the vast majority of people.
Dr. Rodger Murphree:We know that with fibromyalgia they have this problem with sensitivity syndrome where pain is magnified, the nervous system is kind of wonky, but we also know that they have a disruption in the body’s ability to self-regulate. You know this very well, but we have the HPA axis, the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenals; it’s our body’s own little mechanism to control its different systems. In particular, the hypothalamus controls our body temperature, our sleep-wake cycle, how we perceive pain, our immune system, our digestion: it’s very important. Normally, the body is able to regulate our different systems; we don’t have to think about pumping blood through 60 miles of arteries and veins; we don’t have to think about taking 12 breaths per minute; we don’t have to think about digesting our food that we ate. The body has a self-regulating mechanism that does all this, but when you get under too much stress, that can start to cause problems—if it’s too much stress for too long, or an incredibly acute stress, it can cause the hypothalamus, pituitaries and the adrenals to become so dysfunctional as to not be able to regulate digestion, sleep, your moods, or your elimination process. That’s where you start to see these symptoms, symptoms simply being warning signs that something’s not working like it’s supposed to be in the body. Yes, it’s a theory, but there are a lot of doctors like me who believe this theory, and who have been in the trenches with these patients for a long time. To me, it’s what makes sense because there are so many symptoms; there are so many systems that get off track that this model makes sense to me.
HPA Axis dysfunction in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue System
Ari Whitten: Yeah. We could certainly dig into that one in depth. I do think that HPA axis dysfunction exists in a portion of people from digging into the research myself. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I’ve done an extremely comprehensive analysis of the relationship of adrenal and HPA axis dysfunction in CFS, fibro and stress-related exhaustion and burnout disorder syndrome, and it’s not found in many people. It is essentially undetectable in so many people with CFS and fibro that I just don’t think that there is any case to be made that it is the primary cause of these conditions. I certainly do think that you can make a case that it arises secondarily, for example, to sleep problems. Certainly, there’s a link between sleep apnea, insomnia, and a later disruption of the HPA axis, so you could say as a result of that, the low cortisol levels and the HPA axis dysfunction then lead to other things. I think the very fact that the vast majority of people with these conditions have no detectable HPA axis dysfunction kind of rules it out as the primary cause.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: We would have to have a nice, polite debate about that because in the fibro patients, after seeing and treating them by using all different types of tests (blood, saliva and urine), I find that the overwhelming majority of them have low cortisol or spiked DHEA levels and high cortisol levels over what you would normally see. So, there’s definitely something going on there, but you said it so well that when you see problems with sleep, you’re more likely to see these conditions. With Fibromyalgia, if you don’t have problems in your sleep, you don’t have problems with fibromyalgia, so that, for me, is the very beginning of fibromyalgia. Afterwards comes aches and pains and things of this nature.
Maybe a little bit of fatigue, too, but once patients start struggling with their sleep, that’s when you start really seeing fibromyalgia in six months or a year, or however long it is. Sleep is the key. You got to get them sleeping, and if you don’t, you’re going to make very little progress. Now, as I said, with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, they usually don’t have any trouble with their sleep; they could sleep all day and still be tired. But in the fibromyalgia community, if you’ve got true fibro, you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. That is classic fibro.
Ari Whitten: Just to dig into the adrenal and HPA axis stuff a little bit more: do you use hydrocortisone in your practice?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: I don’t. When I had my medical practice and the five medical doctors who worked for me, we did integrated medicine, so we employed very judicious use of prescription medications. We used all sorts of medications and natural things, including and Cortef. So, we did our work based on William Jeffrey’s in an old book called Safe Use of Cortisol, and we got really good results. The problem I saw with people on Cortef, or Cortisol, was that it was hard to get off of it. So, when I sold my medical practice years ago and could no longer write prescriptions or didn’t have anybody there to ask for the right prescriptions, I went to more natural approaches to address these low adrenal functions.
Ari Whitten: Got it. Yeah. I’ll do without coming across as too antagonistic because I generally don’t like to be antagonistic, but I just think there are so many layers of the whole adrenal fatigue theory, and as far as I can tell, pretty much every layer of evidence, every place that you could look to see if the theory is valid, is just not valid. To me, it’s as if you were looking at diabetes and it were clear that there is no relationship between blood sugar and diabetes, in which case it wouldn’t make sense to say blood sugar dysregulation is the best way of diagnosing diabetes. Maybe that’s a bad example because we do know that those things are connected, but to me it’s like insisting that this thing is right, even when every layer of evidence indicates that it is just not correct.
Now, you said that you’re seeing it in the trenches, that when you do cortisol tests, the majority of people do have it. If that were the case in the randomized controlled studies, then I would be very much on board, but the vast majority of studies just find normal cortisol levels. So, I have a hard time with that, but then it gets a little convoluted because the sleep issues overlap with it, so if you correct the sleep, then cortisol will normalize, and as a result, you might be inclined to explain that as, “Well, it’s because your cortisol levels have normalized and that we fixed your adrenals that you’re now fixed.” I would explain it more as, “We fixed your sleep, which affects dozens of different physiological pathways, not necessarily just the adrenals.” Do you know what I mean?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. Here’s the challenge. Being a doctor, working with these patients and seeing the detachment between the studies and what really works, you have to take that into account. It’s the same thing with thyroid. I believe adrenal fatigue is real. I see it in my patients, but it’s not the end all be all. There are so many different things that are going on that if you only focus on whether you believe in adrenal fatigue or not, you’re not going to get very far.
Ari Whitten: We certainly agree on that.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, we’ll agree on something. It’s the same thing with thyroid. With thyroid, if you do basic testing, a lot of times it comes back normal, but what we’re measuring with thyroid is how much thyroid hormone is in the bloodstream, not what’s in the cell. So, we had this whole thing called euthyroid where you have all the symptoms of low thyroid, but your blood work looks normal, and yet as soon as you put people on some type of thyroid replacement therapy, they start to perk up. We see that even some of their markers in the blood work start to change from doing that. Now, I really believe there are many layers, and that’s the term you used: layers. I use the metaphor in my book that it’s like peeling an onion. There are so many different layers of dysfunction that you have to get to because if you don’t address those, you’re, you’re not going to get very far—if you have 15 tacks in your foot and I pull out three, are you going to notice much difference? Of course not. So, sleep is number one. I mean that is the number one thing that has to be fixed. And then you move on from there.
Dr. Murphree’s approaches to fixing sleep
Ari Whitten: Yeah. What kinds of approaches do you take when it comes to fixing sleep? A lot of these people have sleep apnea, really severe sleep disorders, or just insomnia. How do you go about fixing that? Do you have a system for how you approach that?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. The Murphree Method is this thing that I’ve put a name to over the years because it’s a process. I think people who are medical misfits, unfortunately, go to one doctor after the next and everyone’s got their niche. For example, if you go to a certain group of doctors, they will all think that everything can be fixed with biogenical hormone replacement therapy. You go to other doctors and they think everybody has a yeast infection. What I have found is that with fibromyalgia, you start with sleep. That’s number one.
How neurotransmitters affect fibromyalgia
Number two, you have to balance the neurotransmitters. We’re going to talk a little bit about that. Number three, you have to fix the underlying energy zappers and identify what’s going on with the thyroid, and, in my world, the adrenal issues. Those are some things that have to be fixed, and then the gut. You have to fix the gut issues. But for sleep, Ari, what I like is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is an amino acid you can get anywhere over the counter. 5-HTP plus B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C is a combination that makes serotonin. Everybody with true fibromyalgia has low serotonin because the higher your serotonin level, the higher your pain threshold; the higher your serotonin level, the happier you are and the less anxious you are—it’s a happy hormone. It also promotes mental clarity and helps regulate your bowel movements.
Ari Whitten: Real quick, a little digression on that point. Do you think that that’s the primary mechanism behind the pain that is seen in fibromyalgia?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: I do. If we look at [inaudible], where you have this low pain threshold, something’s come along and caused that. I use this bankrupt your stress-coping and savings account metaphor because when you get under stress, you’re depleting serotonin as well as other hormones: the more stress you’re under, the more serotonin you need to have to deal with that, and that’s why you see so many patients who have fibromyalgia are on antidepressants. So yes, I do believe that it’s [inaudible]driving this and the goal then is to get that pain threshold up, and you can do that by getting their serotonin level up. So, 5-HTP plus these B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C, that’s where serotonin comes from. By using 5-HTP, you increase your natural melatonin level by about 200%. So, I start my patients off on 5-HTP at bedtime, and then, if needed, I would add melatonin. That’s where I start with sleep.
Ari Whitten: Okay, so is that the whole Murphree Protocol for sleep, when you say the Murphree Protocol, does that encompass more than sleep?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yes, so the Murphree Method for Fibro is a process where, number one, you have to get deep, restorative sleep, and then you balance their neurotransmitters. After that, you look for the energy drainers and then you’re looking at the next thing, which is to fix their GI, i.e. what’s going on in their gut, because they have malabsorption, reflux, leaky gut, and they may have SIBO. They all have IBS. They could have yeast. You’ve got to find these things and start to fix them, and if you do that that process, then you stand, in my opinion, the best chance of success. If you try to do it any other way, if they’re still struggling with sleep and you put them on a yeast protocol, or a biogenical hormone replacement therapy or tumeric or whatever the therapy du jour this month is, you’re going to have very little results.
The Murphree Method – light therapies
Ari Whitten: Got it. I want to dig into the rest of the Murphree Method. For sleep, beyond 5-HTP and melatonin, do you address anything like aspects of circadian rhythm as far as light therapies?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, all of those come into play. It’s very astute of you to ask. All of those play a hugely important role. You must have good sleep habits, so, we definitely focus on that in my book and in my patients, making sure that you’re using the blue blocker glasses and turning the lights down. When you go in your bedroom, it’s for intimacy and that’s it, or to relax; you don’t want to be watching TV, and you certainly don’t want to have your computer in there.
You don’t want to work in there, you don’t want to have your iPad in the middle of night or your Kindle: nothing. Anything that emits electromagnetic fields or electrical currents and will sabotage your melatonin levels. So those are super important. Other things that play a role in the circadian rhythm are that a lot of times people will be tired all day long and then at about 10:00 PM, they’ll catch their second wind and can’t go to sleep. There are ways to make sure that that doesn’t happen with nutritional therapies you can do. There is a whole list of things that have to happen. Vitamin D plays a very big role in deep restorative sleep, as DHEA, as does [inaudible]. So, those are some nutraceuticals that can be helpful in reestablishing that circadian rhythm as well.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. Since there’s also a high proportion of people with CFS and fibro who have sleep apnea, do you also test for sleep apnea and put people on CPAP machines?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: I don’t, but I do have a have a number of people who are on those machines who hate them, by the way, for whatever reason. They’re cumbersome.
Ari Whitten:Personally, just sleeping with a sleep mask on drives me crazy, so I don’t think I could sleep with a whole mask on my nose and mouth.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, absolutely. What I find with my patients who have sleep apnea is that they’re all overweight, and as soon as I get them losing weight—which is one of the parts of the equation, getting them healthy—as they start to lose 20 or 30 pounds, they see that the sleep apnea is dramatically improved and that they’re then able to get into deeper restorative sleep without using the CPAP machine. Now, that’s not everybody; that’s a sweeping statement. I realize that, but in my world, working with my patients, I see that the majority are able to get off the CPAP machine just by doing some other things, and one of those things is losing weight.
How your weight can affect fibromyalgia
Ari Whitten: Excellent. That leads me to another question, a little bit of a digression, but it’s a bit of a challenge for some people with CFS and fibro to lose weight given the lack of energy and the lack of ability to do exercise in many cases. How do you get around that? Obviously, if somebody has a really poor diet, just changing nutrition can drive a lot of weight loss, but does exercise figure into this picture at all?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Unfortunately, and from coming from your side, you can definitely make it a challenge because I know you’re such an expert in that, but for fibro patients, since they have bankrupted their stress coping chemicals, they can’t handle stress, and their stress is so magnified. A lot of these people were type A’s. I mean, they were bankers or lawyers. I work with a lot of doctors, high-level people, and what they find out is that they can hardly handle any kind of stress or stimulation. Exercise is fantastic for people like you and me who thrive on it. I know you do. but for fibro patients can’t handle the stress of exercise. It’s a good stress; it has all these health benefits, but for them, it is something in the beginning that we don’t really address until they’re doing better.
And unfortunately, there are so many doctors out there who don’t understand fibromyalgia. All they tell people with fibro and CFS to do at this point is to learn to live with it. That’s what they’re telling them. To return to the question, Ari, once they’re feeling better, yes, I get them exercising. This will sound silly to a part of your audience, but it could be something as simple as walking for 10 minutes a day, just to build that habit and then from there we ramp that up after a period of time.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And no, it doesn’t sound silly at all. That’s what people with severe CFS and fibro have to do, and that’s where they have to start. The subject of exercise in CFS and fibro patients is interesting because it’s really contentious, as you know, among people who treat this, there are a lot of people who are just hardcore on the position that these people should not do any exercise and that exercise is terrible for them, and they’re under the impression that the science supports that. Then there’s other side. I’ve dug into the science quite a bit, and there’s research going both ways, and there is research supporting that exercise is beneficial.
There are also people who definitely have regressions from it, and I think the dose obviously plays a big role; whether the dose of exercise prescribed is appropriate for a particular individual. Then there’s also some really interesting research around because there has been this kind of polarization among experts in the field around exercise, you have this idea out there that people with CFS or fibro should never do exercise, so there’s now a phenomenon of patients getting that idea in their heads. I’m not going to represent this totally accurately, but I believe one study, if I remember correctly, was looking specifically at patients who possessed that belief system and how it predicted their response to exercise. Basically, they found that if you believed that exercise was going to make you worse, then you were much more likely to be made worse by the exercise, so it was interesting how the psychological elements integrated with the actual exercise.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Well, isn’t that true with everything? If we look at quantum mechanics or look at energy medicine, when you pay attention to something, it changes. Maybe I just kind of heard this in your tone, but I’m with you. I really believe that exercise is super important for these folks, but it has to be done the right way.
The studies that I fall back on are very positive of that. The challenge is to get them strong enough so they can do that, and then, like anything, as they start to do that and build up that stamina, it just gets better and better and easier and easier, and they start seeing the benefits. I really believe in the general population. I think that exercise is a panacea; it’s the missing link to keep healthy for years to come. I really believe that. I think diet is super important, but I really believe that exercise, physical activity and having that time to turn off your mind, to get in the zone and turn everything off—I think that is crucial for optimal health.
The different tests Dr. Murphree uses to diagnose fibromyalgia
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’m with you 100%. Getting back to the Murphree Method, I wanted to dig into neurotransmitters a bit more. You mentioned the low serotonin aspect and the 5-HTP, but the neurotransmitters are also a contentious topic because of the testing; I know there is some debate over the accuracy of a lot of the testing methods for assessing neurotransmitter balance. Do you have any thoughts on the testing, and do you do neurotransmitter testing at all, or do you just know that if somebody has fibro, then they’re pretty much guaranteed to have low serotonin?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Well, as you said, the whole neurotransmitter topic is contentious because Candace Pert, who got the Nobel Prize for her research on this, said she wished she had never come up with the term and that we would probably not have antidepressants or selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors as a result. So, there’s a debate over those medications or if you should even manipulate the neurotransmitters. Having said that, I believe that amino acid therapy, monoamino acid therapy, using that therapy is very important in my success. I don’t do a lot of testing. I used to do a lot of testing with neuroscience and some of these other people where you can do urine-based or even blood-based testing to gather information on the neurotransmitters, but I got away from that, partly because I didn’t trust the testing. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, but the other part of me could see the difference once I got somebody on 5-HTP or on L-theanine or gamma aminobutyric acid to calm them down or, [inaudible], to boost their norepinephrine levels, I saw such positive changes that I got away from the testing.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. Yeah, it’s interesting. If you as a practitioner know that a test is not necessarily fully valid, it almost becomes an ethical question as to whether you can then ask a patient to pay for a test that might not even give you accurate and meaningful data. I like that you’ve kind of moved away from that testing. I think there’s way too much of that going on where people are forcing hundreds and thousands of dollars of tests on people where the tests themselves have not even really been validated.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: I do a lot of testing because with fibro, if you don’t, you’re doing a lot of guessing, but it doesn’t make sense to do a test if you already know that you’re going to go this other route. That doesn’t make sense at all, but I do blood work, functional medicine testing, test kits, stool testing and these kinds of things. Food allergy is very important, but with the neurotransmitters, 95% of patients that I work with respond to monoamino acid therapy because it’s the amino acids that make these chemicals. No one has a Prozac deficiency. You might have a 5-HTP deficiency, you might have a B6 deficiency or a methylation issue, and by using these raw bio chemical ingredients, you can make these chemicals, and that’s really the way to go because then you don’t have all these potential side effects.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. On Mano Amino acid therapy, for a long time in the fitness, bodybuilding and fat loss space, there was a lot of talk of supplementation with branch-chain amino acids and essential amino acids. This has been popular for at least 25 years, maybe closer to 35, but more recently, in just the last few years, there were a number of studies that came out showing that it didn’t really matter whether you got your branch chain amino acids in the form of isolated BCAA’s or in the form of a whole protein powder, from eating protein-containing foods or protein powders and that sort of thing. Are you under the impression that taking isolated amino acids is very different from getting those amino acids in whole food forms in the context of consuming it with many other amino acids?
Dr. Rodger Murphree:Just to make sure I make the distinction correctly, when you say isolated, you mean mono, or single, correct?
Ari Whitten:Yeah, when you take L-leucine by itself or proline or glycine or something like that by itself. Are they being metabolized differently when you take them by themselves on an empty stomach as opposed to in whole food form?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, they are. If you take it singly, it almost acts as a drug. Now, it’s not a drug; it’s a chemical, it’s natural, and it’s over the counter, but if you take it singly, then you can get a physiological reaction from that particular amino acid. A case in point: if you take [inaudible]or L-phenylalanine, which are stimulating amino acids, on an empty stomach, they can and oftentimes do cause you to feel more mentally alert. You have more energy, and you can feel that pretty quickly. However, if you were to take L-phenylalanine in a powder with 21 other amino acids, you’re not going to see that physiological change happen. So, by using the single amino acids in a strategic way, you can see physiological changes pretty quickly. You’re familiar with a lot of this, I know, but gamma aminobutyric acid, Gaba, or L-theanine are very calming, and you can take those on an empty stomach and notice a difference within 20 minutes of taking them. Again, if you were to take them in a whole food product, you’re not going to really tell any difference.
Ari Whitten: Interesting. So, what’s the next layer of the Murphree Method? We’ve covered sleep.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. The reason you have to balance neurotransmitters is because most everybody with fibromyalgia has low serotonin, we already established that, but so many of them have bankrupted these other ones that allow them not to feel so stressed out, and so many people with fibro, even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, feel anxious and stressed out. If your listeners think back to a time where they felt stressed out all the time, you’re exhausted. You mentioned earlier when you’re under all that stress, it’s just exhausting and until you get that anxiety, that stressed out feeling to calm down, people are going to be exhausted all the time. So, by using the right amino acids, you start to fix that. Number three is looking at the causes because by the time you start the getting them going to sleep, they’re going to have less pain because when you go into deep restorative sleep, your pain threshold goes up, and a big part of that is because your serotonin level amounts starts to go up, and it blocks a hormone called substance P. Thus, you have less pain. Now what you see is they want to get out and do more. The problem with that is they have a little bit of energy but not a lot, so to help them with that part of it, you start looking at if they have issues with their adrenal gland, low cortisol, or low DHEA?
Ari Whitten: I’ll just jump in for a second just to be clear. I’m not saying that low cortisol states don’t exist in some people. As we said, I’m just saying it’s hard to make a case based on the evidence that it’s the primary cause of these conditions, but they certainly arise as a secondary factor and can then create other problems.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. We can definitely agree on that because I don’t believe that it’s the primary cause, So, you look at what you can do to help them have more stamina and resiliency to stress. My protocol is working on their adrenals, making sure that their levels are coming up, but also thyroid. That’s a biggie. I see that thyroid is a common thing that’s missed in these folks. Whether it’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibro, they’re getting basic testing. They go when they’re getting their TSH checked and maybe their T4 and that’s it, but there are all these other markers that would show you what’s going on with thyroid that aren’t tested for. So, a lot of patients have all the symptoms of low thyroid such as low energy and weight gain.
A lot of times you have weight gain, anxiety, low moods and brain fog, IBS hair loss or you’re losing the lateral third of your eyebrows, dry skin, tingling in your hands and feet and nerve problems, and they get the testing done and the doctor says, “Everything’s normal,” yet obviously there’s something going on. If you have all the symptoms of low thyroid, if you dig deeper, a lot of times you’ll see that they have the beginnings of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease that starts to erroneously attack the thyroid tissue. If you’re not testing for that, then you’re not going to find it.
Ari Whitten: Right. There is a recent study that just came out around four months ago that looked at thyroid levels in people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I think they specifically zeroed in on reverse thyroid hormone and found that it was significantly higher. I want to say some 30% of people with CFS had elevated reverse thyroid. So, there’s definitely an indication that a sizable chunk of people are, as you said, having thyroid issues.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. So, with reverse T3, as you brought up, a lot of people will have a problem converting the inactive T4 into the active T3, and there’s a hormone called reverse T3 that becomes elevated when you are under stress, and as that reversed T3 gets to a point, it can block the conversion of T4 into T3, and that’s a very common problem with patients who are on synthetic T4 medication like Synthroid levothyroxine. They go back every six months and their doctor says, “Oh yeah, your blood work looks fine,” but they can barely get out of bed. They’re losing their hair at PMS and they have anxiety. All the things that we see since there is low thyroid that’s not getting better because the medication is not converting.
Ari Whitten: Very interesting. What do you do in those cases? When you’re finding those thyroid abnormalities, and if they’re on the subtle side where it’s not an overt deficiency in T4 or T3, and there are very subtle things going on? Are you still using exogenous thyroid hormones? How do you navigate that situation?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: If we look at, Hashimoto’s what we’ll see is they’ll have elevated TGB and TPO antibodies, and those antibodies become elevated when the thyroid gland is being attacked, and that can be from all sorts of things. It can be from low vitamin D, anemia, chronic anemia, or gluten intolerance. It can be from Epstein Barr Virus, cytomegalovirus, where the body is associating the thyroid tissue as a foreign invader. You can have these elevated thyroid antibodies for five, even ten years, and your TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone may still look normal. So, the doctor erroneously thinks you’re okay, and then one day your TSH spikes, and when it does, the they say, “Oh, you have hypothyroidism, let’s put you on Synthroid levothyroxine.” The key in that model is to treat the trigger that is causing the Hashimoto’s.
Is that gluten? Are you gluten intolerant? Do you have low vitamin D? Do you have a virus, classic in LMTs Syndrome, Epstein Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, Mycoplasma? What do we need to do in order to stop the body from attacking the thyroid? The other part of that is elevated TSH. The thing about the TSH model is—and I’m sure you know this— that years ago they changed the parameter. It used to be if your TSH was above 10, they would put you on thyroid hormone, and it has slowly gone down. Now it’s dependant upon where you are in the country or in the world. I work with patients all over, but now it’s 5.2.
So, if your TSH is above 5.2, they put you on thyroid hormone, but what functional medicine doctors and endocrinologists who specialize in this know is that anybody with a TSH above 3 needs to be on thyroid hormones. I just want to get that out there. To finally answer your question, Ari, when I see that, I put them on over-the-counter thyroid; it’s T3, it has no T4, and it’s a [inaudible], which makes it legal to be over the counter, and they start using that. Then, when we retest, we start to see the TSH come down, the T3 go up or the reverse T3 start to come down, whatever it is we’re after.
How gut health influence energy and fibromyalgia
Ari Whitten: Got it. The next layer of the Murphree Method is gut health.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: The thing about your gut is that it’s all connected. You have more serotonin receptors in your intestinal tract than you do in your brain, and people don’t realize that. When you get nervous, you get butterflies in your stomach, and so what happens is as you deplete your serotonin levels, you deplete them in your stomach as well. Serotonin to help regulate the motility of your food. When you get really low in serotonin, one thing that happens is you’re predisposed to IBS, and so you have to correct that because the other thing that happens is T3 is converted in your gut. You got to have good gut bacteria to help you digest and to make certain hormones, vitamins and minerals. You also have to have it to prevent yeast overgrowth and SIBO and all these other things. If you’re having trouble breaking down your food and absorbing the nutrients, you’re always going to be at risk of having the symptoms and warning signs that we see in fibromyalgia, whether that’s pain, low energy or brain fog.
Ari Whitten:Got it. So, what specific gut issues do you think are most common or most associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibro?
Dr. Rodger Murphree:Most patients have an issue with malabsorption or reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Many of them have that common denominator where they simply don’t absorb their food, and so many folks are on Proton pump inhibitors or acid blocking medications, and what they don’t realize is that sabotages you in the long term because the stomach acid plays many important roles, one of which is to help prevent foreign invaders from getting into the rest of your body.
So, the stomach acid is supposed to kill bacteria, yeast, microbes, and these pathogens that come into our body when we eat. When you eliminate that stomach acid, you start to have problems with absorbing and manufacturing B12; you can get deficient in diamine and then they start getting deficient in those things. And then before, you get labeled with pre-senile dementia or Alzheimer’s, and some of that’s coming from the fact you’re just not producing enough B12 because you’re blocking the stomach acid, so it won’t allow you to do that. So, to answer your question, the majority of my patients go on digestive enzymes to help them make sure they’re breaking down their food. We’re told “you are what you eat,” and people become pretty jaded to that, but it is true, but just as important as “you are what you eat” is “you are what you absorb.” Many individuals with chronic illness are simply not absorbing their food, so they’re not getting the nutrients.
Ari Whitten: Are there any other gut issues? Do you do anything with gut permeability, for example, or dysbiosis? Do you examine those, and go about treating those as well?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, absolutely, and this is where the testing comes in, otherwise you’re just guessing. What I’ve found is that you can’t just put everybody on a single protocol. However, you can follow a process that if put in the right order will set people up to have the most success. My success with fibro patients is about 85%, which is pretty good for that group. [Yeah, that’s great.] That’s why I’m so adamant about a process because I think if you don’t follow a process, you could go down the rabbit hole of so many different things and never come out because there are so many problems. Where do you start? But to answer your question, I test. So, I want to find out if they have leaky gut, and if they do, then I correct leaky gut. Do they have a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth? If they do, we start to correct that.
Do they have food allergies that are playing a role in their migraine headaches or in their pain or in their IBS? Do they have yeast overgrowth? Do they have parasites? I’m not one of these people who thinks that everybody who has a chronic illness or who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is because they have a parasite. I believe it’s an assortment of all these things that come together that then put the person in the state that they’re in, which is a state of poor health. As for testing, I can sift through who needs what, who has a problem where, and then start addressing those things.
Ari Whitten: Do you have any recommendations on specific tests that you think are better or worse for those things? I know food intolerance is obviously a very contentious issue where a lot of people say the IGG food intolerance testing is just not valid. Do you have any thoughts on gut permeability tests or stool testing to test for parasites or things of that nature?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, so there’s a lot of great labs out there, and I don’t want to burn any bridges, but I like and use a lot of different ones. For yeast overgrowth and for stool testing in particular, I like Genova, great smokies, they started as a stool-testing company back in the 80’s. They’ve done it for so long. So, stool testing for Candida is one approach. I also like to look at Candida antibodies, which is a blood test. For looking at leaky gut, Genova has a test, DiagnosTech has a test, so there are different people who have tests for that. Food Allergy. There is, and I’d be the first one to tell you that the Eliza test or even the ALCAP test are two controversial tests, especially in the conventional medical world, because conventional allergists do the skin prick test or the RAST test and don’t really believe in the delayed sensitivity IGG tests.
I do with the caveat that you’re going to get false positives and you’re going to get false negatives. It’s just the way it is, but it’s a tool and it depends on how you use the tool. It allows the patient to at least be able to have something that they can see and steer clear from, and then I combine that with them doing an elimination diet, too, and a challenge diet on the back end of that. I do all that testing.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Nice. Is there any other layer to the Murphree Method beyond the gut? I don’t want to keep you overtime, because we’ve gone about five minutes over already. I don’t want to assume that you have time. Do you have a hard cutoff coming up?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: No, I’m good. So, now it gets interesting because as you said, there are layers. You can take somebody this far, and then most of the time, if you can get them in a deep restorative sleep, you will see big improvements in these folks. Now, one of the challenges I find is that when my patients are on half a dozen to a dozen drugs, and those drugs are causing problems, they’re contributing to their symptoms. If you look at sleep medications like Ambien, the potential side effects of Ambien are diffuse achy muscle pain, brain fog, irritable bowel restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression, poor coordination, balance issues. What does that sound like?
It sounds like the symptoms of CFS. So, I have to slowly wean them off these medications as they’re getting better, and then what they see, whether it’s Lyrica, Ambien, Savella, Cymbalta or opioids, whatever it is; as they are able to get off of these, oftentimes they see that their aches and pains and obviously their energy and their moods actually improve coming off these medications. So that’s one layer, and that can be a pretty tough layer with some of these folks. On the other hand, if they’re not making progress, they could have a problem with heavy metal toxicity. I’m not one of these doctors that thinks that everybody needs to have their amalgams taken out and be chelated, although when I had my medical practice, we had a huge chelation practice.
There are definitely layers, and some people can get so far and then you have to look deeper. Some folks have Lyme disease and have never been properly diagnosed. So, it’s different paths for different people, and the patient results are going to dictate where you go next.
Ari Whitten: Interesting. So, after sleep, neurotransmitters, hormones and gut health, at that point you have an array of different testing options to figure out what’s going on in that specific individual.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah. Case in point, if they’re carrying around 40 extra pounds—and a lot of my patients are overweight—because they’ve gotten so run down they can’t exercise and so many of them have a sluggish metabolism, doesn’t matter what they eat or don’t eat. They gained this weight over a period of years, and you combine that with medications that can cause them to gain weight, like some antidepressants and Lyrica, [inaudible]and Neurontin—these things that are notorious for causing weight gain— they’ve got to lose that weight because that’s where they’re storing inflammatory chemicals. Any extra fat cells that you have store toxins and inflammatory chemicals, and until you start to get rid of those chemicals, get rid of that weight, you’re going to struggle. This is so obvious that when people realize this but sometimes don’t think about it, but if you’re carrying around 40 extra pounds, that’s a lot of weight; that would be like me carrying around a five-year-old kid on my back all day. That’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to your circulatory system, your respiratory system, your joints, and everything else. So, by losing the weight, they typically see their energy go way up and their pain go way down. Sometimes that’s the last thing that has to happen for them.
Why you need to use a systematic approach when treating fibromyalgia
Ari Whitten: You mentioned heavy metals. Do you put a lot of focus on toxins and detoxification?
I have to say that it’s interesting having this conversation with you because a lot of the CFS experts that I’ve had on this podcast would fall into one of two categories. They’re either hyper-focused on what’s going on in the brain and addressing stress components, and oftentimes they have their methods for addressing that component, and, for some people, that’s their whole approach: to address the brain through affirmations and different cognitive behavioral techniques, meditation, Yoga and that sort of thing.
Then I also know some CFS doctors who are hyper-focused on infections and toxins, and all their attention goes there. I really like that you’re doing this in a more holistic and all-encompassing systems biology perspective where you’re systematically addressing all these different layers and giving them all a lot of attention rather than hyper-focusing on just one or two. That said, what degree of importance do you think toxins and infections play in chronic fatigue? Do you think that they are right up there as some of the most important things to address? I know some doctors who feel that infections are pretty much going on in everybody with CFS, and that’s where almost all their attention goes. Are you on board with that, or do you differ from that considerably?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Well, it’s important not to be a carpenter where if your only tool is hammer, then everything looks like a nail. You have to be careful because if you do that, you pigeonhole yourself into that mentality, and you’re going to miss a lot of things. I will say, Ari, that for ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I think viruses are huge—for fibro, not so much. So, when we get vaccines they’re trying to do for fibro, and people are saying it’s all due to a virus, I test them, and I don’t see it. I tested for years and years, and sometimes I still will: I don’t see it. I would do these big panels. Do I see it in chronic fatigue syndrome patients? Definitely. That’s what really separates the two; in my opinion, there’s definitely an immune component here that does not in the fibro community, and this immune component is typically some type of virus, Mycoplasma, something that is really wrecking habits, could even be Lyme disease, and toxicity issues are much more important in the CFS group than they are in the fibro group. If you look at research, you’ll see that those with CFS often have parts of their brain where they have a lot of white matter where they have toxicity issues that even show up in PET scans. You also see that many of them have chemical sensitivity, so they have something wrong with their liver. They can’t process chemicals like a normal person. All that occurs much more than in the general population, and much more than you would see in fibro patients.
Dr. Murphree’s approach to POTS
Ari Whitten:Interesting. I have one more question for you, which is POTS— postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I know there’s a number of theories, and I don’t know if the research is really clear yet on what actually causes this, but how do you explain that syndrome, and what kinds of strategies do you use to try to fix it? …We should also maybe explain what that is for people who are unfamiliar with the term.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Sure. With POTS, I think a challenge for me is that they lump it in with like dysautonomia, and, early on, everybody that had fibro had dysautonomia, and that’s just not the case. With POTS, what happens is when you go from lying down, reading, sitting and you go to stand up, you get this misfiring in your body’s system and the heart goes crazy. And I see a portion of that in a lot of my patients, but not as pronounced as in someone that would go get the tilt table test and get the diagnosis.
I’m definitely not an expert, and I’m a little bit biased because I think that dysautonomia is a term that leaves a bad taste in my mouth for a lot of reasons. Having said that, in full disclosure, I had a patient a few years ago who was a young patient. I think she was 11 years old, and I was doing the Murphree Method, and then, as her parents kept sharing information with me, I intuitively realized I needed to get her to a POT specialist. Sure enough, that’s what she had, even though I didn’t want to believe it, but I just intuitively knew I needed get her to this person. Once he started treating her, everything just fell into place for her, and she’s totally normal now. So, I had to eat some crow.
De-stressing for optimal health
Ari Whitten: Very interesting. I lied. I have one more question for you. We haven’t talked about, meditation or yoga or any sort of destressing techniques that target the brain and calm the brain and Vagal nerve activation and that sort of thing. Do you use meditation or yoga or any particular destressing technique in your practice, and do you find it to be very helpful?
Dr. Rodger Murphree: I do. I’m actually 87, so it has worked for me. I meditate every day. I exercise every day. I just don’t know how you could be in a high-stress environment such as we’re all in and survive if you didn’t have some techniques to do that. One of the chapters in my book is all about that. It’s all about how you can’t separate the mind from the body. It’s all connected, and the thing is, everybody’s under stress. We’re all under tremendous mass stress. I know you’re a super busy guy. We’re all under so much stress. Maybe you can go live in a cave and be in India and be a Shaman or whatever it is, but most of us can’t do that. We have families, we have people who depend on us, so the key is to protect yourself from the stress because the stress is not going to get any less. It’s only going to increase. As we’re doing this interview, my phone’s blowing up with texts; I glanced at it a minute ago, and I have 15 texts. You have to answer them, we’re conditioned that way, but my patients in the beginning, they don’t even feel like they can think. You and I, we can have positive thoughts; we can have rational thoughts. We have really healthy habits: we eat well, we exercise, we do these things and we do them.
But even for us, I know for me, when I do get sick—and I don’t get sick very often—that goes out the window. Forget positive thinking, forget meditation, forget exercise, forget eating healthy. I’m going to eat whatever, and that’s where they’re at in the beginning. But as they start feeling better, then absolutely I want them to spend what I call the hour of power every day. So, every day for an hour, it’s meditation, prayer, or reading something positive. I don’t start the day reading the news: that’s a disaster. I haven’t even watched the news in 15 or 20 years, but it’s that hour of power, and it may not be an hour for you. It could be a quarter of an hour of power to where every day you’re in that habit.
The first thing I do before I get out of bed, and this is from one of my mentors—the four-hour work week from Tim Ferris, where he talks to one of the people they interviewed in his book Tools of Titans—is to say something I’m grateful for something every day before I get out of bed. I don’t think we do that, and so every day before I get out of bed, I thank God for how grateful I am for different things in my life. It changes things; I want to look back on the day before, and I want to say give thanks. That’s how it starts, and I think if we can instill in our patients to be grateful because there’s always going to be somebody that’s worse off than you, and if you can have that mindset, even on your worst day, there’s a ray of hope that you’re going to have some optimism, that the next day is going to be better.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I really enjoyed this conversation, Dr. Murphree. It’s been an absolute pleasure and thank you for hanging out with me a little over time. I appreciate that. Where can people find out more about your work? The second question is if somebody wants to work with you one on one, if they’ve got fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, where can they find you, and what is your ideal client? If you want to speak to those people directly and say, “If you’re experiencing this, this and this, I’m probably a good fit for you to work with.”
Dr. Rodger Murphree:First of all, I want to thank you for having me on here, Ari, because I’ve watched your podcasts, and I’ve seen some of your guests, and I feel really honored to be on here. You’re doing amazing work, so I really appreciate you reaching out to me. I really appreciate this opportunity to share my message. I’m definitely on a mission because for fibromyalgia right now, if you go to Mayo [Clinic], they’ll do this [inaudible]thousand dollar workup ,and at the end of it they’ll say, “Yeah, you do have fibromyalgia,” and they’re going to stick you in a two-week class with a sociologist and a psychologist to learn to live with it. And that’s it. So, I’m on a mission to educate people: don’t learn to live with it. No one wants to live with chronic pain and no energy and anxiety and irritable bowel and no sleep. That’s not living, that’s existing. I’m on a mission to help people learn how to overcome it. As far as reaching out to me, the best way to do so is to go to my website, yourfibrodoctor.com. There’s a tremendous amount of free resources on there. You can take advantage of videos, blogs, and all of it’s free. If it resonates with you, reach out to me and I would love to be helpful in any way that lines up with your goals.
Ari Whitten: Wonderful. Dr. Murphree, it has been an absolute pleasure having you on. I’ve really enjoyed this, and I look forward to a part two sometime. It’d be great to have you on again.
Dr. Rodger Murphree: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds great. Thanks, Ari.
Ari Whitten:Great. Take care.
The Murphree Method – Natural Treatment For Fibromyalgia with Dr. Rodger Murphree – Show Notes
The difference between CFS, ME and Fibromyalgia (5:27)
Dr. Murphree’s take on the primary causes of Fibromyalgia (10:47)
HPA Axis dysfunction in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue System (21:46)
Dr. Murphree’s approaches to fixing sleep (29:24)
How neurotransmitters affect fibromyalgia (30:13)
The Murphree Method – light therapies (33:33)
How your weight can affect fibromyalgia (36:44)
The different tests Dr. Murphree uses to diagnose fibromyalgia (41:54)
The link between thyroid health and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (52:08)
How gut health influence energy and fibromyalgia (56:42)
Why you need to use a systematic approach when treating fibromyalgia (1:08:12)
Dr. Murphree’s approach to POTS (1:11:38)
De-stressing for optimal health (1:14:21)
To get in touch or work with Dr. Murphree, go check out his website.