Do you suffer with chronic fatigue to the point of always being exhausted? Do you have chronic pain, with burning and aching in your muscles? Do you have difficulty sleeping at night, difficulty getting that deep, restful sleep that makes you feel refreshed in the morning? If you have answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you may be suffering with a condition known as “fibromyalgia.”
Fibromyalgia is a somewhat controversial disorder. It is sometimes known as “chronic fatigue syndrome,” “chronic myofascial pain syndrome” and other names. It is estimated that up to about 5-6% of the population may suffer with this condition. It seems to primarily affect women, although it certainly does affect men and even children.
The pain associated with fibromyalgia can be limited or diffuse (spread out). Patients complain of deep aching, throbbing, stabbing and shooting pains throughout their body. , There may be tingling and numbness in the extremities, as well as frequent morning stiffness and increasing discomfort. The fatigue discussed can be quite overwhelming, to the point that it even interferes with the simplest daily activities.
Additionally, most patients with fibromyalgia do have some associated sleep disorder, which prevents them from getting a full, deep night of sleep. There are other associated symptoms with fibromyalgia, including migraine and irritable bowel syndrome.
Many patients complain of difficulties with their memory and concentration, skin sensitivities, or mood swings. The cause of this ailment is not clearly known. Unfortunately, there is no specific lab test for this condition. It typically takes approximately five years to make an accurate diagnosis. As a physician who cares for patients with fibromyalgia, I can tell you first hand it can be an extremely disabling disorder — as it affects the patient, as well as the entire family.
With this as an introduction, I was happy to see an article appearing in the current edition of the Journal of Rheumatology International. The role of free radicals in fibromyalgia has been controversial. In a study published in this journal, 85 female patients with primary fibromyalgia were matched with 80 healthy women. Their oxidant/anti-oxidant balance was measured. There was a particular toxic metabolite (a substance essential to the process in which energy is provided and new material is created) called malondialdehyde, which is used as a marker for free radical damage. Additionally, there is an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which is a powerful anti-oxidant. It was found that those women suffering with fibromyalgia had significantly higher levels of malondialdehyde and significantly lower levels of superoxide dismutase, compared to the controlled subjects.
The authors concluded that the oxidant/anti-oxidant balances were changed in fibromyalgia, and that free radical levels may be responsible for the development of this condition.
The traditional treatment for fibromyalgia in the United States primarily involves drug therapy. Fortunately, there are some alternative complimentary treatments as well. There are several nutrients that have been shown over the years to have some benefit for this condition.
In one study, subjects were given oral doses of 200 mg of co-enzyme Q10 and 200 mg of gingko biloba each day for twelve weeks. A progressive improvement in the quality of life scores was observed over the course of the study. At the end of the study, 64% of individuals reported that they were better, while only 9% claimed that they felt worse. In another study, 21 consecutive patients with fibromyalgia were included in an open four-week pilot study. These patients were given melatonin 3 mg at bedtime. At the end of one month, patients reported a decrease in the number of tender points and severity of pain, along with overall improvement in sleep. Although this was an open study, the preliminary results suggest that melatonin could be an alternative and safe treatment for patients with fibromyalgia.
The micro-mineral selenium has been studied in fibromyalgia. In one study from about five years ago, 68 consecutive patients with fibromyalgia were matched with 97 healthy controls. It was found that those patients suffering with fibromyalgia had a significantly decreased amount of selenium in their blood compared to the controlled subjects. Selenium is renowned as a powerful anti-oxidant, and it is a co-factor for certain anti-oxidant enzymes in the body. Without the addition of adequate selenium, these enzymes cannot properly function.
Other nutrients that have shown some benefit for fibromyalgia include malic acid and magnesium. The typical recommended dose of magnesium is 400-600 mg daily and malic acid 1,000-1,500 mg daily. Finally, there is one nutrient that I have saved for last which is probably the most powerful — S-adenosylmethionine (otherwise known as SAMe). In one study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, 800 mg of SAMe was administered daily, versus placebo for 6 weeks in 44 patients with primary fibromyalgia (double-blinded). At the end of the study, there was a statistically significant improvement in pain, fatigue, morning stiffness and mood in the treated group, compared to the placebo group.
If you suffer with fibromyalgia or know someone who does, you may have been searching for this information for a long time. I know how desperate patients with fibromyalgia can be. I would recommend a quality multivitamin as a core vitamin, mineral and antioxidant complex. To this, I would add supplemental daily doses of gingko boloba 120 mg, coenzyme Q10 200 mg, magnesium malate complex, and at least 400 mg a day of SAMe.
Additionally, you should take melatonin 3 mg at bedtime. If you are not used to taking vitamins, you might start with half doses of everything for one or two weeks, then go to full doses. Certainly give it at least 6-8 weeks to determine if you are getting any benefit. Although I have not seen any specific studies in the use of alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-L carnitine in fibromyalgia, the following nutrients, which help with energy production, might also give additional benefit. As always, we welcome your comments.
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