The chief symptom of fibromyalgia is overwhelming musculoskeletal pain. Patients often describe their pain as being all over the body, with any type of touch—light or firm—making the pain worse. Other common symptoms may include multiple tender joints, joint stiffness, brain fog, depression, and anxiety. Sleep problems, headaches, and sensitivity to odors and noises are also common symptoms. The disease affects an estimated 10 million Americans, with the vast majority being women, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association.
There’s no test to specifically diagnose fibromyalgia, and the complexity of symptoms often frustrates both physicians and patients seeking help. Some physicians dismiss the disease as psychological.
Several factors may be involved in precipitating fibromyalgia, but the disorder’s actual cause is unknown. Stress is associated with fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder sometimes precedes it. In addition, chemical odors can increase symptoms, which suggests that allergy-like sensitivities may be part of the problem. Therefore, it’s important for fibromyalgia patients to avoid exposure to many common chemicals, which might include copy machine fumes, printing inks, pesticides, and chlorine.
Conventional doctors often resort to writing prescriptions for antidepressants or analgesic drugs, which may produce unwanted side effects.
As with most serious health problems, it’s a good idea to adopt a diet rich in quality proteins, such as fish and organically raised chicken, and nonstarchy vegetables. It is also important to minimize or completely eliminate foods containing refined sugars and starches, as well as gluten-containing grains.
Several supplements have been found to help people with fibromyalgia. If you take more than two of these supplements, reduce the suggested dose.
Vitamin D. Most patients with fibromyalgia are deficient in vitamin D, a nutrient needed for the body’s production of both bone and muscle. Numerous studies have found that a deficiency of this vitamin is involved in low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and neuropathy. Vitamin D supplements can have analgesic benefits, and a study published in Endocrinology Practice found that vitamin D supplements can in fact reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. Take 5,000 IU daily.
B-Complex Vitamins. At least three of the B vitamins—vitamins B1, B6, and B12—have analgesic properties, and a deficiency or marginal intake of these vitamins could very well increase sensitivity to pain. One study (of post-surgical patients) found that the B-complex vitamins reduced requirements for pain-reducing drugs. Take a high-potency B-complex with 20–50 mg of vitamins B1, B2, and B3.
S-adenosylmethionine. Several human studies have found that S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe, pronounced sammy) can reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. European researchers reported that 800 mg of SAMe daily led to improvements in fibromyalgia disease activity, pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, and mood. SAMe plays a role in a biochemical process called methylation, which is involved in producing neurotransmitters involved in pain and anxiety. Take 600–800 mg of SAMe daily.
Glutathione. Fibromyalgia patients tend to have low levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant made by the body. It’s difficult to absorb dietary glutathione, but two precursors—N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and alpha-lipoic acid—are well absorbed and increase the body’s production of glutathione. Both supplements are rich in sulfur, one of glutathione’s building blocks. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), another sulfur-rich supplement, might also be helpful because it has successfully been used in the treatment of connective tissue disorders. Take 500–1,800 mg of NAC or 1,000 mg of MSM.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Italian researchers gave fibromyalgia patients either acetyl-L-carnitine (a form of the amino acid L-carntine) or placebos daily for 10 weeks. Patients taking acetyl-L-carnitine had significant reductions in pain, compared with patients receiving placebos. Take 1,000–1,500 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine daily.
Coenzyme Q10. Studies have found that fibromyalgia patients have low levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is needed by cells—particularly muscle cells—to make energy. A three-month study found that a combination of CoQ10 and Ginkgo biloba extract reduced fibromyalgia symptoms. Take 200 mg of CoQ10. Try adding 200 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract.
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