- How Do You Know Which Type of Magnesium is Best for You?
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- Vitamin D for fibromyalgia pain
- Turmeric for fibromyalgia pain
- 5-HTP for fibromyalgia and sleep
- Cherry juice for fibromyalgia and sleep
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How Do You Know Which Type of Magnesium is Best for You?
Dr. Laurie Steelsmith April 4, 2018 Supplements Email Print Twitter Pinterest Facebook
Call it the Mighty Mineral. Playing a leading role in over 300 biochemical functions, magnesium may be prolific in some of the most healthful foods out there—almonds, spinach and avocados, to name just a few—but studies out of the National Institutes of Health report that most U.S. residents aren’t getting enough of the good stuff. What’s more, certain situations—from alcoholism and intestinal problems to a less-than-stellar diet—can cause your body to lose magnesium quicker than you can replenish it.
Consider it a cause for concern. Magnesium works with a vital energy-storage molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to provide your body with energy—indeed, ATP can’t operate without magnesium. And as for those 300 biochemical functions? They, too, are crucial, from building and maintaining healthy bones to transporting calcium and potassium to cell membranes in a process that’s critical to nerve function, normal heart rhythm and muscle contraction. What’s more, magnesium naturally supports good digestion and cognitive health. In other words, ensuring you’re getting enough of “the mighty mineral” should soar to the top of your health to-do list. (According to the NIH, males between 31 and 50 should get 420 mg per day, women in the same age group should receive 360 mg daily, and nursing mothers should aim for 320 mg.)
Besides piling your plate with magnesium-rich foods—cashews, black beans, edamame, and oatmeal are also savvy choices—you may elect to start taking magnesium supplements. But from magnesium citrate to magnesium taurate, it can be challenging to make a decision that will be most advantageous to you and your situation. In addition to consulting with your primary care physician or naturopath, here’s a brief breakdown of 7 of the different types of magnesium to aid you in your efforts:
1. Magnesium chloride
Perhaps the most popular magnesium supplement on the market, magnesium chloride—which is extracted from brine or ocean water, and is argued to be the most effective form of dietary supplementation—organically encourages sleep, digestion, bone health and a sense of calm (both mental and physical). That said, supplementing with this form of magnesium may cause diarrhea.
2. Magnesium sulfate
Sound familiar? If you, too, are the sort of person to read the fine print on everything from cereal boxes to bath products, chances are magnesium sulfate will remind you of bath time. Otherwise known as Epsom salts, magnesium sulfate has long been a boon for athletes—or, really, anyone with sore muscles; it’s also widely known for its laxative effects.†
3. Magnesium citrate
Citrate might sound familiar too—consider it an erudite way of saying that it’s derived from citric acid (in this case, magnesium salt is obtained from the citrus acid). With excellent bioavailability—that is, the efficacy with which a substance is absorbed and used by the body—it’s no wonder magnesium citrate one of the most highly recommended magnesium supplements by health professionals. Often used to naturally support digestion—specifically, to alleviate constipation and acid indigestion—it’s also, bonus points, easy on the wallet. However, it may lead to dehydration (and the imbalance of minerals that arrives with this), in that it pulls water into the intestines.
4. Magnesium oxide
With lower levels of bioavailability than its other iterations—that is, it scores only 4 percent, while magnesium citrate has a bioavailability of 90 percent—magnesium oxide is found in Milk of Magnesia and similar products, and, as such, organically encourages improved digestion.†
5. Magnesium glycinate
Feeling stressed? This may be the form for you. While magnesium in its many different forms has been shown to naturally support muscle relaxation, magnesium glycinate might just take the cake (to note: the amino acid glycine is known for the calming impact it can have on the mind and body).† Additionally, it has optimum bioavailability and, unlike some of its kin, isn’t known for its laxative properties.
6. Magnesium orotate
Those searching for supplements that may organically encourage heart health might give this type a try. With its inclusion of orotic acid (formerly known as B13), it’s also a favorite among athletes, given that it may naturally support the repair of tissues, as well as enhanced stamina and performance.† This is partly reflected in its price tag: Magnesium orotate often comes with a heftier fee than, say, magnesium oxide or citrate.
7. Magnesium L-threonate
Dubbed a “breakthrough” supplement by some, magnesium L-threonate possesses not only good bioavailability but also the potential to improve cognitive functions, with the National Institutes of Health reporting that memory deficits—particularly short term memory loss caused by chronic pain—may be just one of the potential benefits of this form of magnesium. This is encouraging news, especially when considered with other research, including a 17-year study that followed more than 1,000 Japanese people over the age of 60; those who consumed more than 200 mg per day were 37% less likely to develop any type of dementia. In the interim, magnesium L-threonate may sharpen your wit and ability to remember an acquaintance’s name—just as it may remind you to eat your legumes: A mere cup of black beans will give you 120 mg of the magical mineral, possibly leaving you feeling just as mighty.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Dr. Laurie Steelsmith
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness. Visit her website at www.DrSteelsmith.com.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness. Visit her website at www.DrSteelsmith.com.
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There are few side effects from SAM-e, but you should avoid it if you have bipolar disorder because it may worsen symptoms of mania.
Turmeric. For centuries, this spice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve arthritis pain and other conditions. Modern-day science shows that the active compound in it, called curcumin, may help fight inflammation.
Although there’s little research on turmeric for fibromyalgia, it may be worth a try since curcumin works like a pain reliever in the body.
Magnesium. A common mineral found in leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains, it plays an important role in muscle and nerve function. Some experts believe supplements may help ease the muscle pain, stiffness, and cramping caused by fibromyalgia.
One small study shows that women who took 300 milligrams of the mineral a day had less tenderness and depression after 2 months.
While more research is needed, magnesium is safe for most people. The main side effects are stomach problems, like diarrhea.
5-HTP. This natural substance gets changed in your body to serotonin, a brain chemical that influences your mood, sleep, and how much pain you can put up with.
Research shows that people with fibromyalgia tend to have low levels of serotonin. One study shows that people who took 100 milligrams of 5-HTP three times a day improved their symptoms, including pain, sleep, anxiety, and stiffness, after one month.
“The effect of 5-HTP on fibromyalgia isn’t yet well understood, but what we do know makes sense,” Fleming says. “I wouldn’t yet recommend for my patients to definitely take this supplement.” But there is little risk, he says, so he wouldn’t tell people who already take the supplement to stop.
Capsaicin. You might be able to reduce the amount of pain signals your nerves fire off if you spread a cream with this chemical onto your skin.
Research shows it may ease fibromyalgia in the short term. In one study, people who used it on the skin three times a day had less pain.
“Capsaicin may be helpful, but it’s limited to the area where you apply the cream,” Fleming says. “So if you’re experiencing pain throughout your entire body, it may not be the best treatment.”
Last updated by Dr Sarah Brewer on August 24, 2019
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that is accompanied by muscle tenderness, disrupted sleep and fatigue. A number of supplements can help. Some, such as vitamin B1 (thiamine), ubiquinol coenzyme Q10, magnesium, acetyl-l-carnitine and ribose improve energy production in muscle cells, while other such as cannabidiol (CBD hemp oil), celadrin, omega-3, vitamin D and turmeric improving pain and inflammation. Other supplements, such as 5-HTP, cherry juice and lavender oil can improve sleep quality.
What is fibromyalgia?
The word ‘fibromyalgia’ describes pain felt in muscle fibres and other connective tissues. Widespread tender points develop on the body that hurt when pressure is applied. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies show that when a stimulus such as mild pressure is applied to tender points in fibromyalgia, parts of the brain involved in pain response are activated, so that a stimulus that should be perceived as touch is instead experienced as pain. As a result, fibromyalgia is now consider a centralized pain disorder involving abnormal pain perception.
The main symptoms that identify fibromyalgia are widespread chronic pain, fatigue and sleep disorders. Pain often starts during early adulthood and may come and go in different areas, along with abnormal nervous system sensations of numbness, tingling or burning. Other symptoms can include over-sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises or smells, fatigue and headaches. Central nervous system symptoms can include memory problems and difficulty thinking straight, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression. People with fibromyalgia are also more likely to experience gut symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation, pelvic pain and, in women, painful periods.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is the second most common rheumatic condition after osteoarthritis. Fibromyalgia is believed to affect between 3% and 10% of the population, depending on how it is defined. While women tend to have more tender points than men, new diagnostic criteria place less emphasis on these, so that more men are now being diagnosed with fibromyalgia than in the past. Even so, two out of three people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are female.
Twin studies suggest that around half the risk of developing fibromyalgia and related pain conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome and migraine) is genetic, while half is related is environmental factors such as stress, exposure to certain infections (eg Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease) or to severe trauma (eg motor accidents, surgery).
Some researchers have linked fibromyalgia with abnormal function of mitochondria – the powerhouses that involved in fat burning and energy production in cells. In particular, the level of mitochondrial DNA which regulates the activity of mitochondria, may be reduced in people with fibromyalgia compared with both healthy controls and those with chronic fatigue syndrome.
This might be related to an underlying degree of inflammation in fibromyalgia.
Other recent research has found that people with coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity are more prone to developing fibromyalgia, suggesting that gluten may play a role – at least in some people.
Sleep problems in fibromyalgia
People with fibromyalgia experience lower sleep quality and sleep efficiency, with less time spent in refreshing REM (rapid eye movement, or dreaming) sleep. You are also more likely to sleep lightly, and to wake several times during the night with short sleep durations.
The results from 25 case-controlled studies, involving over 2000 people, show significant differences in wake time after sleep onset, reduced total sleep time, with significantly more time spent in stage 1 light sleep and significantly less time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep in those with fibromyalgia compared with controls.
A number of treatments can help fibromyalgia, including stress reduction programs, cognitive behavioural therapy, structured exercise and drugs that help to normalise pain perception (some of which are also used as antidepressants).
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and paracetamol only offer limited effectiveness against chronic pain. Opiate painkillers (eg dihydrocodeine, oxycodone) are best avoided as they can worsen hypersensitivity to pain in people with fibromyalgia (a condition known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia) and are also highly addictive.
Following a gluten-free diet has been helpful in some cases, and is worth trying to see if symptoms improve. You may find it helpful to avoid caffeine, artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame), monosodium glutamate and other artificial additives, too, as these have been associated with increased pain in people with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Follow a diet that is as natural and unprocessed as possible, such as a Mediterranean-style diet. A study involving 486 Spanish women with fibromyalgia found that those who ate the most fish (2 to 5 servings per week) plus fruit, vegetables and dairy products, and the least cured meats and sweetened drinks, had higher levels of optimism and lower levels of depression than those following less healthy diets.
Best supplements for fibromyalgia
The most effective supplements for fibromyalgia are those that support mitochondrial function, reduce pain, or which promote sleep. The first group of supplements to consider are those that improve energy production in muscle cells, helping muscles to relax and reducing the tightness and worsens pain. These include thiamin (vitamin B1), magnesium, acetyl-l-carnitine, ubiquinol coenzyme Q10 and ribose. Other supplements that help to reduce pain include cannabidiol or CBD oil, celadrin, omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D3 and turmeric. SUpplements that can improve sleep problems include CBD, 5-HTP, and cherry juice.
Thiamin (vitamin B1) for fibromyalgia
Vitamin B1 (thiamin or thiamine) is needed for energy production in mitochondria. Researchers have suggested that the chronic fatigue that accompanies inflammatory and autoimmune conditions could be related to mild thiamin deficiency and associated enzyme abnormalities affecting intracellular transport.
The hidden link between fibromyalgia and thiamin deficiency was first suggested twenty years ago, as there are a number of similarities between the symptoms of fibromyalgia and those that occur with thiamin deficiency, including irritability, headaches, fatigue, muscle tenderness and weakness, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disturbances.
This was recently tested in a small trial which, although it only involved 3 women with fibromyalgia, provides preliminary evidence of benefit. The three women were started on a dose of 600mg thiamine per day, which was increased by 300mg every three days, as necessary, until benefit occurred. The researchers stated that the therapy seems to have an ‘all or nothing’ effect, so that below a certain daily minimum dose, no improvement was observed.
Patient 1 stayed on the starting dose of 600mg thiamine per day due to early benefit, and at the end of the 20 day trial experienced a 71.3% reduction in fatigue and an 80% reduction in pain.
Patient 2 and patient 3 did not notice a benefit until the dose was increased to 1500mg per day, and then had an abrupt improvement when the dose was increased to 1800mg per day.
After 20 days treatment, Patient 2 experienced a 37% reduction in fatigue and a 50% reduction in pain scores, while Patient 3 experienced a 60.7% reduction in fatigue scores and a 60% reduction in pain.
While these are high doses, vitamin B1 is water-soluble and therefore relatively non-toxic. In this study, the researchers stated that ‘No side effects owing to the dose of thiamine administered to the patients were observed during this study. In literature, there is no study that has observed side effects linked to the daily use of high doses of thiamine.’ They added, ‘We believe that this report opens a ray of hope for the therapy of fibromyalgia.’
The upper tolerable level for long-term use of thiamin as a supplement is suggested as 100mg per day. Higher doses can be taken short-term, but if you decide to take them longer term, this is best done under medical supervision.
See the best thiamin and vitamin B complex supplements at Healthspan.co.uk, Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Magnesium for fibromyalgia
Magnesium is needed for the action of as many as 600 enzymes in the body, and is vital for energy production in cells. Some evidence suggests that fibromyalgia is associated with disturbances in calcium-magnesium flow in and out of cells, which may affect muscle function and the synthesis of melatonin – your natural sleep-inducing hormone.
Magnesium has a relaxing effect on muscles and also helps to reduce cramps and constipation.
People with fibromyalgia may have lower than normal levels of magnesium, according to hair mineral and blood analysis studies, although this is not always the case. One study did not find a difference in magnesium levels between those with and without fibromyalgia, although this study only measured serum levels (magnesium in blood fluid) not magnesium inside red blood cells which is the more accurate measure.
A trial involving 60 women with fibromyalgia compared the effects of taking 300mg magnesium citrate per day against amitriptyline (an antidepressant that reduces pain perception) and both magnesium plus amitriptyline. After 8 weeks of treatment the number of tender points and pain and depression scores decreased significantly in both groups taking the magnesium citrate, with combined amitriptyline plus magnesium citrate treatment proving most effective in all measures except numbness.
See the best magnesium supplements at Healthspan.co.uk, Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Acetyl-l-carnitine for fibromyalgia
Acetyl- l-carnitine is a non-essential amino acid that is made in the liver and is also found in some foods such as red meat, dairy, avocado and soy products. Acetyl-l-carnitine is needed to transport long chain fatty acids into mitochondria so they can be burned to produce energy. L-carnitine is also needed to break down the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) so they can be used as an energy source by muscle cells when other sources of energy are in short supply. If acetyl-l-carnitine is in short supply, muscle cells become less efficient at producing energy, and this may play a role in chronic fatigue and muscle pain in fibromyalgia.
Some studies suggest that acetyl-l-carnitine can improve abnormal nerve symptoms such as the pain, burning sensations, pins and needles and numbness experienced by people with another chronic pain condition, diabetic neuropathy. It appears to promote regeneration of nerve fibres, and to improve sensitivity of nerve fibres to vibration perception as well as reducing pain. The best dose appeared to be at least 2g acetyl-l-carnitine per day to reduce pain scores and improve nerve conduction speed.
Acetyl-l-carnitine was trialled in 102 people with fibromyalgia, who received either 1,500 mg acetyl-l-carnitine per day, or placebo, for 8 weeks. Muscle pain and the number of tender points declined significantly and by 10 weeks, there was a statistically significant reduction in musculo-skeletal pain and depression for those taking acetyl-l-carnitine compared with placebo.
Another study involving 65 women with fibromyalgia found that acetyl-l-carnitine (1,500mg per day) was as effective as the prescribed antidepressant, duloxetine, in improving pain, depression and quality of life.
Some supplements combine acetyl-l-carnitine with alpha-lipoic acid for a synergistic effect.
See the best Acetyl-l-carnitine supplements at Healthspan.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Ubiquinol coenzyme Q10 for fibromyalgia
Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant needed by mitochondria, where it forms a vital part of the electron transport chain that generates energy. Cells with the highest energy requirement have the greatest need for ubiquinol, and it normally becomes concentrated in muscle cells. Low muscle levels of coenzyme Q10 have been implicated in the development of fibromyalgia symptoms.
During energy production, ubiquinol (the active or reduced form of coenzyme Q10), donates an electron and is converted into the depleted form, ubiquinone. Ubiquinone must then accept an electron from another donor to be converted back into active ubiquinol. This cycle repeats itself over and over within the mitochondria. Taking either form of co-enzyme Q10 as a supplement will provide benefit, but taking ubiquinol puts you one step ahead.
People with fibromyalgia appear to have significantly lower blood levels of ubiquinol than normal, and the ratio of depleted ubiquinone to total coenzyme Q10 is significantly increased. This suggests that ubiquinol is the better form of supplement to take for people with fibromyalgia.
Taking ubiquinol supplements can restore levels and reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain and fatigue. In one study, taking 100mg ubiquinol supplements per day, for 12 weeks, resulted in significant improvements in chronic fatigue scores.
Another study involving 20 women with fibromyalgia the effects of taking coenzyme Q10 (100 mg, three times a day) were compared against placebo. After 40 days, significant clinical improvements were seen in those taking the coenzyme Q10, with reductions in pain, fatigue, morning tiredness and number of tender points. Blood tests also showed significant reductions in inflammation, an increase in antioxidant enzymes, new mitochondrial biogenesis, and beneficial changes in gene expression.
Another study involving 22 women with fibromyalgia found that taking 200 mg coenzyme Q10 twice a day significantly improved pain-related outcomes by 24-37%, fatigue (by 22%) and sleep disturbance (by 33%) compared to a period in which they were not taking supplements.
Start with a dose of 100mg ubiquinol and increase to 200mg after a month if necessary. You can also increase further to 300mg to assess the benefits (although this is not a cheap supplement to take).
See the best ubiquinol coenzyme Q10 supplements at Healthspan.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Ribose for fibromyalgia
Ribose is a sugar which forms part of the backbone of ribonucleic acid (RNA), the strands of genetic material which distribute the code needed for protein synthesis in cells. Phosphorylated derivatives of ribose, such as ATP, FADH, coenzyme-A and NADH are also vital for energy production in cells.
Ribose supplements are absorbed into the circulation intact, ready for use by cells, and saves them having to synthesise their own. Magnetic imaging of skeletal muscle has shown that resting levels of ATP are 15% lower in people with fibromyalgia compared with those without fibromyalgia and ribose helps to replenish the deficit, and helps muscles to relax. Taking ribose increases cellular energy synthesis in heart and skeletal muscle, and is used in the medical treatment of conditions associated with impaired energy metabolism such as chronic heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
A study involving 41 people with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue assessed the effects of taking ribose at a dose of 5g, three times a day, mixed with food, water, or another beverage, for around 18 days. Taking ribose significantly improved energy levels, sleep, mental clarity, well-being and reduced pain intensity. Two out of three people experienced significant improvements while taking ribose, with an average increase in subjective energy levels of 45%. While this was a pilot study, with no control group, the medical researchers involved continue to successfully use D-ribose in people with fibromyalgia and fatigue.
In nature, ribose occurs in the ‘right-handed’ form known as D-ribose, which is the biologically active version. Its mirror image, L-ribose only occurs synthetically, and is not found in nature, so check supplements provides D-ribose.
See the best d-ribrose supplements at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
The following supplements are especially helpful for addressing muscle pain in fibromyalgia, and include cannabidiol (CBD), celadrin, omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D and turmeric.
Cannabidiol (CBD) for fibromyalgia pain
Cannabidiol is an active ingredient extracted from the flowers, leaves and stems of industrial hemp plants. These plants are specially selected to ensure high levels of CBD but low levels of the psychoactive substance, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana. CBD is mixed with olive oil, coconut oil or hemp seed oil to maximise its absorption.
Cannabidiol or CBD oil has direct effects on the brain to reduce pain perception, relieve anxiety, lift mood and promote refreshing REM sleep. It works by enhancing the effects of other brain chemicals, such as serotonin, and through effects on the brain’s own endocannabinoid systems. CBD does not produce a ‘high’ and is not addictive.
CBD oil is antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory effects to improve pain and stiffness. It also has a direct analgesic effects on pain perception in the brain, is relaxing and promotes feelings of well-being. CBD oil also improves sleep quality by promoting deep and refreshing REM dream sleep.
See the best CBD oil products at Healthspan.co.uk , Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Celadrin for fibromyalgia pain
Celadrin is a blend of waxy, cetylated fatty acids (CFA) that was first discovered in a strain of mice renowned for their immunity against arthritis. The CFA used in food supplements is derived from monounsaturated fats in olive oil.
Celadrin improves the flexibility and resilience of cell membranes, including those of muscle cells, and their mitochondria, to improve their efficiency. Celadrin also has a natural anti-inflammatory, pain-killing action by blocking an enzyme (5-lipoxygenase) that makes inflammatory substances known as leukotrienes.
Celadrin has been shown to help reduce severe pain triggered by pressure on sensitive points in muscles (myofascial pain syndrome). In a study involving 72 people with pain trigger points in the neck, physiotherapy plus applying a cetylated fatty acid cream twice daily was significantly more effective than those who received physiotherapy plus a placebo cream.
Celadrin can be taken by mouth (1g provides 520mg CFAs) and applied as a cream.
See the best celadrin products at Healthspan.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Omega-3 fish oil for fibromyalgia pain
Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) derived from algae and oily fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards) have a powerful inflammatory action to reduce pain, stiffness and tenderness. Omega-3s also appear to have direct effects on the brain to lift a low mood and normalise pain perception.
If you don’t eat much oily fish, then a supplement is an excellent idea. Even if you do eat oily fish twice a week (the recommended maximum for fertile women due to pollutants) you will not achieve the high intakes needed for optimum anti-inflammatory effects.
A small study involving patients with neuropathic pain (including fibromyalgia) found that taking high doses of fish oil (at least 2.4g/day of EPA-DHA, equivalent to a good sized portion of salmon every day) experienced significant improvements in symptoms.
See the best omega 3 fish oil supplements at Healthspan.co.uk, Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Vitamin D for fibromyalgia pain
Once upon a time, vitamin D was all about calcium absorption and healthy bones. Now vitamin D is recognised as a hormone that has wide-reaching effects in the body, including cell growth, nerve conduction, muscle fibre contraction, and can help fibromyalgia through the regulation of mood, pain perception, sleep and by reducing fatigue.
Recent studies show that low vitamin D levels are common in people with fibromyalgia. Twelve studies, involving 1,854 people with chronic widespread pain, found they were 63% more likely to have low vitamin D levels than healthy controls. Conversely, those with low vitamin D levels are 93% more likely to experience chronic widespread pain, and 77% more likely to experience depression than those with normal vitamin D levels.
It’s now also known that low vitamin D levels can heighten pain sensitivity and increase pain processing.
A study involving 30 women with fibromyalgia who were also deficient in vitamin D, gave half oral vitamin D supplements, while the other half received placebo. Within a week, those taking the vitamin D supplements experienced improvements in physical function, with reduced morning fatigue and a marked reduction in pain compared with placebo.
Another study involving 58 people with chronic, widespread muscle pain (including fibromyalgia) and vitamin D deficiency showed that taking vitamin D3 supplements markedly decreased pain, physical weakness, number of tender points and improved mood and waking feeling refreshed. A total of 85% of patients were satisfaction with the treatment results.
Vitamin D supplements offer so many health benefits that I strongly recommend them for everyone – especially during winter months when you cannot synthesise your own. A sensible dose is 50mcg (2000IU) per day, but some people may need 100mcg per day (the upper tolerable safe level for long-term use from supplements) to maintain optimum vitamin D3 status. Ask your doctor for a blood test to determine the dose you need.
See the best vitamin D3 (the best absorbed form) supplements at Healthspan.co.uk, Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Tablets and oral sprays are equally effective.
Turmeric for fibromyalgia pain
Although turmeric has not been investigated specifically for reducing pain in fibromyalgia, it has powerful anti-inflammatory, analgesic effects. Turmeric suppresses the production of inflammatory chemicals, including TNF-alpha, which is the same molecule targeted by new TNF antibody drugs used to treat severe inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.
Turmeric/curcumin extracts have been shown to halve the level of joint pain in people with ostearthritis, at a dose of 1000 mg curcumin per day. If nothing else has helped your pain and tenderness, turmeric is well worth trying. Some supplements combine curcumin with black pepper (piperine) extracts to boost absorption, while others formulate turmeric in liquid micelles.
See the best turmeric products at Healthspan.co.uk, Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
The following supplements, 5-HTP, tart cherry juice and lavender oil, improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety which will also help to reduce pain perception. Cannabidiol or CBD oil, mentioned above, is also great for improving sleep.
5-HTP for fibromyalgia and sleep
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid that acts as a building block to make key brain chemicals such as serotonin (to lift mood) and melatonin (your natural sleep-inducing hormone) and endorphins which are involved in regulating pain perception.
5-HTP is especially helpful for people with fibromyalgia, as the widespread pains, fatigue and sleep disturbance have been linked with low levels of serotonin. Taking 5-HTP helps you fall asleep faster and improves the architecture of sleep so you spend more time in REM (rapid eye movement, or dreaming) sleep, and wake feeling more refreshed.
Studies show that 5-HTP can improve pain and morning stiffness, reduce the number of tender points, anxiety and fatigue, as well as improving sleep patterns in peopel with fibromyalgia.
5-HTP is converted to serotonin by an enzyme which requires vitamin B6 to work properly, and this is often included in 5-HTP supplements.
Start with 100mg at night, increasing if necessary to a maximum of 300mg daily. It may take a few weeks to notice the full effects. NB Do not take 5-HTP if you are on prescribed antidepressants – check with a pharmacist or doctor if uncertain.
See the best 5-HTP products at Healthspan.co.uk, Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Cherry juice for fibromyalgia and sleep
Tart cherries (especially Balaton and Montmorency strains) are a rich source of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, and provide five times more melatonin than other fruit sources such as blackberries and strawberries.
Cherries also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid needed for the synthesis of melatonin in the brain, and the production of serotonin and dopamine which influence mood.
Research shows that drinking Montmorency cherry juice increases the amount of time spent asleep. When people with insomnia drank cherry juice twice a day, for two weeks, they slept for over 84 minutes longer each night than when drinking placebo.
Cherry juice also has an anti-inflammatory pain killing effect that mimics that of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Drinking sour cherry juice can reduce muscle and joint pain and inflammation and reduce muscle damage after exercise by reducing oxidative damage.
See the best cherry juice products at Healthspan.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Lavender oil for fibromyalgia and sleep
When inhaled, lavender oil has a sedative effect and is often sprinkled on a hanky tucked under a pillow to improve sleep. When patients on a hospital intermediate care unit had a jar of 100% pure, therapeutic-grade lavender oil (Eden’s Garden brand) placed beside their bed (from 10pm until 6am) their perception of sleep quality improved, and their also had a lower average blood pressure throughout the night compared to those who did not inhale lavender oil.
Pharmaceutical grade lavender oil capsules are also licensed as a traditional herbal medicine to relieve anxiety, tension and stress, which can interfere with sleep. Clinical trials involving 2,200 people show that lavender oil is as effective as prescribed lorazepam for treating mild anxiety, with benefits seen within two weeks.
See the best lavender oil products at Boots, Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Finally, you may find an adaptogenic herb helpful, with Ashwagandha or Rhodiola most usually recommended for relieving fatigue and exhaustion in fibromyalgia.
Everyone is different, and the supplements that help one person with fibromyalgia may not help another. Please leave comments below to share which supplements have worked best for you.
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Dietary soy supplement on fibromyalgia symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, early phase trial
TY – JOUR
T1 – Dietary soy supplement on fibromyalgia symptoms
T2 – A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, early phase trial
AU – Wahner-Roedler, Dietlind L.
AU – Thompson, Jeffrey M.
AU – Luedtke, Connie A.
AU – King, Susan M.
AU – Cha, Stephen S.
AU – Elkin, Peter L.
AU – Bruce, Barbara K.
AU – Townsend, Cynthia O.
AU – Bergeson, Jody R.
AU – Eickhoff, Andrea L.
AU – Loehrer, Laura L.
AU – Sood, Amit
AU – Bauer, Brent A
PY – 2011
Y1 – 2011
N2 – Most patients with fibromyalgia use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Properly designed controlled trials are necessary to assess the effectiveness of these practices. This study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, early phase trial. Fifty patients seen at a fibromyalgia outpatient treatment program were randomly assigned to a daily soy or placebo (casein) shake. Outcome measures were scores of the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) at baseline and after 6 weeks of intervention. Analysis was with standard statistics based on the null hypothesis, and separation test for early phase CAM comparative trials. Twenty-eight patients completed the study. Use of standard statistics with intent-to-treat analysis showed that total FIQ scores decreased by 14 in the soy group (P =.02) and by 18 in the placebo group (P .001). The difference in change in scores between the groups was not significant (P =.16). With the same analysis, CES-D scores decreased in the soy group by 16 (P =.004) and in the placebo group by 15 (P =.05). The change in scores was similar in the groups (P =.83). Results of statistical analysis using the separation test and intent-to-treat analysis revealed no benefit of soy compared with placebo. Shakes that contain soy and shakes that contain casein, when combined with a multidisciplinary fibromyalgia treatment program, provide a decrease in fibromyalgia symptoms. Separation between the effects of soy and casein (control) shakes did not favor the intervention. Therefore, large-sample studies using soy for patients with fibromyalgia are probably not indicated.
AB – Most patients with fibromyalgia use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Properly designed controlled trials are necessary to assess the effectiveness of these practices. This study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, early phase trial. Fifty patients seen at a fibromyalgia outpatient treatment program were randomly assigned to a daily soy or placebo (casein) shake. Outcome measures were scores of the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) at baseline and after 6 weeks of intervention. Analysis was with standard statistics based on the null hypothesis, and separation test for early phase CAM comparative trials. Twenty-eight patients completed the study. Use of standard statistics with intent-to-treat analysis showed that total FIQ scores decreased by 14 in the soy group (P =.02) and by 18 in the placebo group (P .001). The difference in change in scores between the groups was not significant (P =.16). With the same analysis, CES-D scores decreased in the soy group by 16 (P =.004) and in the placebo group by 15 (P =.05). The change in scores was similar in the groups (P =.83). Results of statistical analysis using the separation test and intent-to-treat analysis revealed no benefit of soy compared with placebo. Shakes that contain soy and shakes that contain casein, when combined with a multidisciplinary fibromyalgia treatment program, provide a decrease in fibromyalgia symptoms. Separation between the effects of soy and casein (control) shakes did not favor the intervention. Therefore, large-sample studies using soy for patients with fibromyalgia are probably not indicated.
UR – http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=80052704876&partnerID=8YFLogxK
UR – http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=80052704876&partnerID=8YFLogxK
U2 – 10.1093/ecam/nen069
DO – 10.1093/ecam/nen069
M3 – Article
C2 – 18990724
AN – SCOPUS:80052704876
VL – 2011
JO – Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
JF – Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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M1 – 350697
We explored the need for CoQ10 supplements in the article “Coenzyme Q10: Ubiquinol, Ubiquinone, Do You Need It?” Here we dig deeper to understand why more doctors don’t recommend them when they can support natural healing.
Tom writes, “After years of being on cholesterol medicine, having constant unexplained aches/pain and recently being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my wife is pain free. My doctor recommended taking a supplement called CoQ10, which is apparently depleted from the body when talking statins . This has changed her life.”
Tom’s report of his wife’s experience is just one of many who find CoQ10 supplements help troubling conditions that defied usual medical treatments. He wonders why more doctors don’t recommend CoQ10 for their patients.
Tom’s right to wonder. Your body needs adequate amounts of CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) to support proper functioning of all cell-types. Its role as a potent antioxidant helps fight free radicals and protects against oxidative stress, culprits in accelerated aging and chronic disease.
In addition, “CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels,” say Mayo Clinic experts in their report, “Coenzyme Q10”.
Some need to take these supplements to support their natural healing.
So, why don’t more doctors recommend CoQ10 supplements?
Here we put on our detective hat and start investigating… We’ll start with a look at CoQ10 supplements’ studies as doctors pride themselves in relying on research to guide their decisions. Then we’ll turn to the role of money; not only in funding studies but in marketing to and educating doctors. Lastly, we’ll briefly look at the role of medical culture in this troubling question.
Here’s what experts from the University of Maryland Medical Center, The Mayo Clinic, and one of the world’s foremost CoQ10 authorities, Peter Langsjoen, MD say.
University of Maryland Medical Center
Experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center in their “Coenzyme Q10” report say that using coenzyme Q10 supplements alone or in combination with other drug therapies and nutritional supplements may help prevent and treat many chronic diseases. Here’s a sampling of CoQ10 studies included in their report:
Heart. People receiving daily CoQ10 supplements within three days of a heart attack were significantly less likely to experience subsequent heart attacks and chest pain. They were less likely to die of heart disease than those who did not receive the supplements.
Researchers routinely find low CoQ10 levels in people with congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF occurs when the heart (a large muscle) is not able to pump blood effectively causing fluid accumulation in the lungs, legs, and other areas. Several studies suggest that CoQ10 supplements help reduce this fluid accumulation. However, not all clinical studies agree.
Other studies found it helped reduce heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Breast Cancer. Studies found that CoQ10 supplements (along with conventional treatment and a nutritional regimen including other antioxidants (vitamins C, E, and selenium) and essential fatty acids may shrink tumors, reduce pain, and cause partial remission in some women.
Gum Disease. Several studies found that many people with gum disease have low levels of CoQ10 in their gums. When given CoQ10 supplements their gums healed faster.
More studies underway suggest that CoQ10 may:
- Improve immune function
- Increase sperm motility leading to enhanced fertility
- Help Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
- Reduce damage from stroke
- Boost athletic performance
- Enhance physical activity in people with chronic fatigue
- Improve exercise tolerance
- Improve tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
- Create healthy skin (cosmetic use)
- Delay aging and increase longevity
Mayo Clinic experts say in their “Coenzyme Q10” report that CoQ10 supplements remain controversial as a treatment in many areas. Here is a summary of what they report in their analysis of studies.
Strong scientific evidence was found for using these supplements in treating people with low CoQ10 levels.
Good scientific evidence was found for using CoQ10 supplements in the treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Unclear scientific evidence, meaning that there is evidence, but needs more research, was found for the use of CoQ10 supplements in treating these conditions:
- Age-related macular degeneration;
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- Heart conditions such as angina (chest pain), heart attack, mitral valve prolapse (in children), heart failure, heart protection during surgery, Anthracycline chemotherapy heart toxicity, cardiomyopathy, coronary heart disease;
- Cancer: breast and prostate;
- Chronic fatigue syndrome;
- Cocaine dependence;
- Exercise performance;
- Friedreich’s ataxia;
- Gum disease (periodontitis);
- Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels);
- Increasing sperm count;
- Kidney failure;
- Lipid lowering (along with statin drug therapy);
- Mitochondrial diseases;
- Muscular dystrophies;
- Myelodysplastic syndrome;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Post-surgical recovery after melanoma surgery; and
- Tinnitus (ringing of the ears).
Fair scientific evidence against (meaning it may not work) was found in the use of CoQ10 supplements for diabetes and Huntington’s disease.
Peter Langsjoen, MD
Peter Langsjoen, MD, reports in his paper, “Introduction to Coenzyme Q10,” that there is strong evidence for the use of C0Q10 supplements in the treatment of heart failure.
Dr. Langsjoen says, “The clinical experience of CoQ10 in heart failure is nothing short of dramatic, and it is reasonable that the entire field of medicine should be re-evaluated in light of this growing knowledge. We have only scratched the surface of the biomedical and clinical applications of CoQ10.”
He also notes that studies at the time of his report focus on the treatment of disease states rather than the prevention of disease. This makes it hard to make science-based recommends on whether healthy people should take these supplements.
Clearly, Coenzyme Q10 supplements will benefit from further research. The problem is that nutritional supplement studies lack the funding of big corporations that pharmaceutical and high-end technology research enjoys.
The discovery of CoQ10 was based primarily on support from the National Heart Institute of National Institutes of Health at the Institute of Enzyme Research, University of Wisconsin, according to Langsjoen.
Greater funding supports research credibility. It allows for more studies, more participants in the study, and staff to perform the study as well as to manage and interpret the data.
Doctors also may lack knowledge of study findings. Companies that manufacture nutritional supplements can’t afford the expensive pharmaceutical-type marketing campaigns that often include face-to-face education of doctors on their research findings by sales reps.
Another factor may be the culture of mainstream medicine. “Modern medicine seems to be based on an “attack strategy”, a philosophy of treatment formed in response to the discovery of antibiotics and the development of surgical/anesthetic techniques… Yet in this age, a patient may be cured of leukemia through multiple courses of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, only to die slowly of unrecognized thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency,” says Langsjoen.
He recommends that medical treatment include therapies that support the person’s overall health such nutritional supplements along with therapies that attack disease.
Research, physician education, marketing campaigns, and a medical culture characterized as “attack medicine” all contribute to why more doctors don’t recommend CoQ10 supplements.
Only, these factors deal with the many, not the few. Ask your doctor what she or he thinks of CoQ10 supplements (feel free to provide the articles listed in the resources section).
Then based on your unique needs, decide if CoQ10 supplements are right for you!
MayoClinic.com, “Coenzyme Q10” at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient-coenzymeq10.
Peter Langsjoen, “Introduction to Coenzyme Q10” at http://faculty.washington.edu/ely/coenzq10.html.
University of Maryland Medical Center, “Coenzyme Q10” at http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/coenzyme-q10-000295.htm.
Back and Joint Discomfort
Turmeric is a root that’s part of the ginger family. It curbs inflammation, says Eva Selhub, MD, a clinical associate at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of Your Health Destiny.
You can cook with this dark yellow spice or make tea with it. Or take it in capsule form.
Devil’s claw root is an herb that may ease low back pain and common arthritis discomfort. Studies have used 30-100 milligrams of the active compound, harpagoside, per day. If you have a sensitive stomach, stick with a low dose or you might get a mild stomachache.
Capsicum/capsaicin comes from chili peppers. A skin cream with 0.025%-0.075% capsaicin may soothe your back pain. Apply it directly to the area that hurts. Supplement pills may also help with diarrhea and cramps.
Comfrey. If you have lower or upper back pain, you could try a skin cream made with comfrey extract. Use it three times a day. Make sure that you have seen a doctor first to diagnose your pain. Back pain can have many causes, and some can be life-threatening. Comfrey can harm your liver if you take it by mouth, so don’t drink comfrey tea.
Glucosamine may help with joint pain, but the research is conflicting. Chondroitin, which is often sold with glucosamine, may ease pain and give you better joint movement. They are part of what makes up the cartilage in your body.
Many people who take glucosamine and chondroitin combine it with aspirin or other treatments. So it’s hard to say which is effective.
Give it time. It may take up to 4 months to see an improvement.
Sports Performance and Recovery: Top 8 Supplements for Athletes
When I first started exercising and weight lifting to reach specific health goals I didn’t know anything about the benefits of using supplements to optimize my performance and recovery. At that time I was taking a multi-vitamin, a probiotic and vitamin C for general health. Now five years later, I have researched and experimented with a lot of different supplements, protein powders and diet changes in order to find what works best for my body and to help me reach my health and performance goals.
Eating whole, organic foods is a cornerstone of athletic performance, but nutrient-depleted soil, GMO foods, and food transportation practices all increase the importance of supplementation, even for healthy individuals. While supplements should not take the place of food, they have a beneficial role in our nutritional playbook. A growing body of evidence shows that supplements are key players in a sports performance regimen or on an as-needed basis for training recovery.
So what does recovery mean? Recovery is repairing muscle and tissue, removing waste products, and reducing inflammation. It’s also replenishing nutrients and energy stores necessary for cellular activity and restoring central nervous system function, which means repairing the communication pathways between the brain and the body. The post-workout recovery process is critically important if you want to continue to stay healthy and active!
In addition to the supplements listed below, there are a few other good habits to include post-workout. Eat a good meal including protein and carbohydrates post-workout in order to give nutrients to your muscles and to avoid excess soreness. Another important aspect of training is sleep. It is important to sleep 7-9 hours per night in order to allow the central nervous system to repair and recover. Sleep is also important for fat loss and muscle building because growth hormone is released during sleep. And lastly, don’t forget water! I recommend drinking at least ½ your body weight in ounces of water everyday (and more if you sweat)!
With the fundamentals of nutrition, sleep, and hydration in place, here are my ultimate 8 supplements to help increase recovery and sports performance.
Supplements for Exercise and Training Recovery
Probiotics supply the gut with healthy flora necessary for digestion, absorption, elimination and immune function. If your gut or digestion isn’t operating properly you won’t recover properly either, thus slowing the repair of muscle and tissue leading to more inflammation. A healthy target dose for daily health maintenance is between 20 and 50 billion CFUs. While we don’t always recommend the same probiotic to everyone — and your naturopathic doctor will help find what works best for you — here’s one we love (if you don’t already have an account with Fullscript, our online medicinary, you’ll need to create one for purchases).
2. Omega-3 Fish Oil
Most known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is also essential for hormone synthesis and improves bone repair while reducing muscle soreness. I aim for 3-5g daily to maximize the benefits. As with probiotics, your naturopathic doctor will dial in what works best for you when it comes to fish oil, but here’s one that’s a great start if you’re not already taking one.
3. BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
Very well known in the exercise world for enhancing muscle protein synthesis and preventing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Studies have also shown that BCAA’s are energizing and aid in weight loss. I love using Designs for Health BCAA powder with glutamine.
Sore muscles are common after hard exercise, in athletics and recreation alike. When a muscle group is subjected to unfamiliar or excessively strenuous conditions, it sustains temporary damage that triggers an inflammatory response. The soreness and stiffness associated with this are referred to as Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is sometimes inevitable after hard exercise, but a variety of supplements can minimize the severity of its symptoms.
Amino Acids for Rebuilding Tissue
Proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are then used as building blocks to repair and rebuild tissue in the body. Because of this function, amino acid supplements have been produced as a potential way of rebuilding damaged muscles faster and reducing muscle soreness and stiffness. According to a 2010 clinical trial published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,” amino acid supplementation may attenuate muscle soreness, though it bears no significant effect on stiffness and muscle function after exercise.
Creatine for Preventing Soreness and Stiffness
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that supplies energy to muscle cells, and it is available as a supplement for building muscle and ameliorating sore and stiff muscles. According to a September 2004 study published in “Life Sciences,” creatine supplements reduce cell damage during eccentric exercise, an exercise in which a muscle lengthens in response to tension, and prevent inflammation post-exercise, making it useful in preventing soreness. Creatine has demonstrated this effect when taken in the days leading up to intense exercise.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Reducing Soreness
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients found in sources like oily fish and flax seeds, but are also found in dedicated supplements. Omega-3 supplements are typically taken for heart health and healthy brain function, but a March 2009 study from the “Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine” suggests they are useful in diminishing the severity of muscle soreness from eccentric exercise. Subjects taking omega-3 supplements regularly show significantly reduced muscle soreness and stiffness 48 hours after exercise and beyond.
Other Supplements for Reducing Inflammation
Anti-inflammatory supplements function by reducing the muscular inflammation associated with DOMS, reducing soreness and stiffness. Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme blend found in pineapple and available as a supplement, is shown to be effective in reducing inflammation when taken for short-term relief. The ground root kava kava is shown to contain chemicals known as kavalactones, which are shown to relieve pain and facilitate relaxation, though kava kava may cause liver damage. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and specific supplements, has also been shown to be effective in decreasing the cumulative effects of post-exercise muscle soreness.