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Supplements for Fibromyalgia

by Gary F. Zeolla
(a.k.a. Reepicheep)

The following message was posted in the "alt.med.fibromyalgia" Newsgroup.

Note: I am no longer taking most of the supplements mentioned on this page. The reason for this is my whole philosophy in regards to supplements has changed. This is discussed in the article A Better Approach to Supplements, and the supplements I am now taking are listed at Current Supplements. I considered removing this page, but decided to keep it up as it does supply some useful information about these supplements discussed here.


I was recently (8/27/01) diagnosed with fibromyalgia (TM). Since that time I have been doing a lot of investigation as regards to supplements that might help with the condition. And what is interesting is I was already taking, or at least had tried in the past, supplements that are said to help.

As such, so far I havenít tried anything new. But what I have done is increased somewhat the amounts of some supplements I was taking, along with starting to take some supplements I still had around from trying them in the past.

Below is a list of supplements I am currently taking, along with a short discussion on why I was already taking them. Iím posting this in hopes of getting some feedback as to whether others have found any of these to be helpful and if anyone can suggest others to try.

I am going to a naturopath next Friday (9/14/01). I am most sure he will suggest some supplements. So Iím holding off starting anything new until the appointment. But I want to have as much information as I can before then so I can better evaluate his suggestions.

Currently Taking

CVS Spectravite Senior
(equivalent to Centrum Silver)

(100-150% of the RDA for 16 nutrients, 417% of vitamin B12, and lesser amounts of 10 other nutrients)

I have tried taking high potency multiple vitamins before, but I always ran into problems. I know this will sound weird to some, but large dosages (500 mg or more) of vitamin C cause me to urinate frequently. This can be particularly troublesome when I have to start getting up several times at night to go to the bathroom! I can only guess that my diet gives me more than enough V-C (about 300-400 mg), so I simply donít need these larger amounts.

Also, anything larger than about 100 I.U.s of vitamin E gives me the diarrhea. So taking large amounts of either of these vitamins separately or in a multi is not possible for me. And, of course, most high potency multiís have such dosages of these vitamins.

Twinlab Calcium Citrate Caps
(Calcium: 150 mg; Magnesium: 75 mg - 2/day)

I take this for neurological ďticsĒ (muscle twitches) that I get. And it definitely helps. I have tried other brands or just taking magnesium alone, but the tics always come back. So I keep returning to this Twinlabís product. What is interesting is the magnesium in this supplement is magnesium oxide, but Iíve read that this is the least absorbable form. But again, this supplement seems to work.

Twinlab Magnesium Caps
(400 mg)

I tried this previously as I read that magnesium more than calcium would help with my tics. But again, taking magnesium alone didnít work. So I went back to the Calcium Citrate Caps. But since Iíve now read that larger dosages of magnesium are supposed to with FM, I started taking this again. It contains both magnesium oxide and magnesium aspartate. The latter is supposed to be better absorbed than the former.

With this supplement and the magnesium in the above one and the 100 mg in the CVS multi, I take a total of 650 mg of magnesium, along with 500 mg of calcium (300 in the two Calcium Citrate Caps and 200 mg in the CVS multi).

Twinlab Super Acidophilus

I used to take three different prescription drugs and had a course of antibiotics years ago for an infection. Iíve heard that such drugs can destroy the intestinal flora, so I took acidophilus for several weeks a while ago to try to restore this flora. And Iíve also read that such intestinal problems can contribute to FM, so I started using what I had left of this supplement. I also consume soy yogurt with acidophilus and other beneficial bacterium in it on a regular basis.

Twinlab Fish Oil Capsules

I have numerous allergies and have read that omega 3ís can help with allergies, so I started taking this a few weeks ago. Iím not sure if it has helped with my allergies yet, but then from what I read, it can take several months to do so. Iíve also read that omega 3ís can help with chronic pain, so I will probably either keep taking this supplement or just eat more fish. The latter would probably be a better option.

The cheapest place I found for purchasing Twinlab's products is WebVitamins.com.

Enada NADH
(5 or 10 mg)

In February of this year I developed restless leg syndrome. My neurologist said that low dopamine levels cause RLS. This is also the cause of Parkinsonís, which is rather scary given my paternal grandmother died of Parkinsonís. My neurologist prescribed Mirapex, but it made me feel horrible.

So I search the ĎNet and found that NADH was supposed to increase dopamine levels. I also saw studies showing it helped with Parkinsonís, so I figured it was worth a try. And it definitely has helped with the RLS. It also has helped with my insomnia. However, I havenít noticed that it has helped with my fatigue as it has been claimed to do.

Since I started the NADH shortly before I developed the fibro-pain, I stopped taking it for a week on the off chance it was somehow contributing to the pain. I didnít notice any difference in the pain, but what did happen is I began having problems sleeping and the RLS began to come back. So I re-started it and have been sleeping again, at least most nights. So this is definitely a supplement I will keep taking.

I was taking 5 mg, but decided to try 10 mg. And doing so enabled me to sleep even better. In fact, I felt like I was sleeping too much, almost nine hours one night! So now I am alternating between 5 and 10 mg, and that seems to be the best balance.

The main problem with NADH is it is rather expensive. But the cheapest source I have found for it is ImmuneSupport. For more in regards to my experiences with NADH and RLS, see the following article on my Web site: Dealing with Restless Leg Syndrome.

GNC:
Agree with Meals
(digestive enzymes - 3/day)
Betaine HCL
 (325 mg)

Iíve read that food allergies can be caused my improperly digested food. So I started taking these. But Iím not sure if they are helping or not. The amount of HCL is probably too low to make a difference, but taking higher amounts could get rather expensive. Then again, Iíve read that digestion problems might be contributing to FM, so it might be an idea to try a better digestive aid and larger amounts of HCL.

Nutraceutical Enzaplex
(digestive enzymes with 66 mg calcium - at bedtime)

This is another digestive aid, but I only take this one at night as for some reason it seems to make me drowsy. It also adds another 66 mg of calcium.

GNC Essential B
(100-1000% of the RDA for eight B vitamins, plus 250 mg of choline and inositol)

B vitamins are supposed to help with neurological problems, fatigue, and even RLS. So Iím taking ďextraĒ amounts of these. I was taking only one a day, even thought two is the recommended dose. But with the FM, I decided to increase to two a day. But frankly, between what Iím getting in my diet and in the CVS multi, Iím not really sure if extra Bís are even necessary.

CVS Glucosamine 1500 mg/ Chondroitin 1200 mg

Before my pain spread throughout my torso, it was mainly focused on the lowest front left rib. One doctor I went to said it might be damaged cartilage. So just in case it was, I decided to try taking this as research shows glucosamine and chondroitin help with cartilage problems from arthritis. However, there is not any research showing if it helps cartilage damaged in other ways. But since CVS just happened to have this on sale, I figured it was worth a try.

Since being diagnosed with FM, I doubt that the pain is from damaged cartilage. But then, I did see on ImmuneSupportís Web site that glucosamine and chondroitin might help with fibro-pain, so since I already had the supplement (enough for two months), I figured I might as well keep taking it. Iím not sure if I will get more when this bottle runs out.

Solgar Milk Thistle
(extract 175 mg; powder 300 mg)

As I said, Iíve taken prescription drugs in the past. And any drug can potentially cause liver damage, so I took milk thistle for a couple of months after I got off of my neurological drugs last summer. But now Iíve seen milk thistle recommended for FM sufferers as there might be a liver problem connection. I also read that milk thistle has antihistamine effects. So since I still had a bottle around, I figured it was worth a try.

Twinlabís VegeFuel
(a soy based protein powder)

I was drinking this immediately after I worked out at the gym when I was still able to lift weights. I was doing so as studies show consuming protein immediately after a workout helps the muscles recover better from the workout. Also a recent study showed that consuming a soy based protein drink after a workout reduced post-exercise soreness better than a whey based one. Also soy has been shown to increase antioxidant levels in the body, which whey does not (ďPhysicalĒ magazine, Sept., 2001, p.23).

Given these properties of soy, I continue to drink a glass of this after the now much reduced exercise I am doing. If it helps with post-exercise soreness, I figure it might help keep post-exercise fibro-pain from flaring up.

Arnica gel and pellets

I started using arnica gel for the pain in my torso before I was diagnosed with FM. It is supposed to help with muscle pain and the healing of pulled muscles and bruises. Iím not sure if it helped or not, but I continue to put it on particularly sore spots. But since the pain has now spread to such a large area, I recently got arnica pellets to be taken internally. Iím only using them after I exercise.

Effects

So what effects have all these supplements had? Thatís hard to say since, as indicated, most I had already been taking. Then again, from reading through posts on this group, it is apparent that my fatigue and pain have never been as bad as many in this group have had it. And maybe one reason this is the case is because I was already taking helpful supplements.

The pain has also subsided somewhat in the past couple of weeks. That might be due to these supplements, or it could simply be because I havenít been trying to do as much. Up until August 4th I was still trying to lift weights, but I havenít been to the gym since then. Than again, the fatigue seems to be getting worse. A short walk and stretching left me rather exhausted yesterday.

Canít Take

I should also mention that I have tried some other supplements that are recommended, but have had side effects from them. I mention above that I have had problems with taking high dosages of vitamins C and E.

I have tried taking valerian before for sleep problems. But the ďsweaty socksĒ smell and taste of it made me sick in the stomach. I almost threw up the third and final night I took it. I had the same effects from black cohosh and hyssop, both of which I tried for my tics.

Taking larger magnesium amounts than the ones mentioned above gives me the diarrhea. But then, I just read on the ĎNet that this could be due to me taking magnesium oxide and is happening because my body isnít absorbing the magnesium. A chelated form was said to not have this effect (http://web.mit.edu/london/www/magnesium.html). But again, what Iím taking seems to help control the tics, so I am leery to try something else.

Possibilities

There are a lot of other supplements I have seen recommended. The main one Iím thinking of trying is malic acid. Iíve seen a lot of recommendations for its use. I thought of picking up some at GNC this week, but I figured Iíd better wait until I went to the naturopath next week. He mentioned malic acid as a possibility when I talked to him on his radio show, but, of course, he referred to *his* malic acid supplement. And I know he will say his supplement is better than GNCís.

I am curious about one thing about this supplement though. It is said to be found in the highest concentration in apples, and lesser amounts in other fruits and veggies. I was wondering if anyone knows how many apples youíd have to eat to get a ďtherapeutic dose?Ē

Iíve seen 5-HTP strongly recommended to help with sleep and increase serotonin levels, which are usually low in FM. But as I said, the NADH seems to be helping with sleep, and it is also supposed to increase serotonin levels. From what I understand, NADH does so indirectly by sparing tryptophan from being converted into NADH, and thus more tryptophan is available to be converted into serotonin.

Various amino acids are often recommended, such as arginine, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. But Iíve never really understood the rational for taking separate amino acids. It seems to me that if one is consuming enough protein then there should be adequate consumption of such amino acids. My VegeFuel alone has the kind of amounts of these amino acids that are usually recommended. I know this as the amino acid profile is on the label.

High dosages of various antioxidants are often recommended. As indicated, I canít take large dosages of vitamins C and E, but there are many other antioxidants that Iíve seen mentioned, like grape seed extract, IP6, alpha lipoic acid, and others. But my diet probably gives me plenty of antioxidants. I eat about ten servings of fruits and veggies a day, along with the above-mentioned VegeFuel and soy yogurt, and other soy based products. The soy products would even be high in IP6. Also, the NADH is also high in antioxidant potential. So I doubt additional antioxidants would provide much benefit.

MSM has been mentioned quite frequently in this group. However, I was taking MSM (3,00 mg) over the summer. I started taking it as I read it might help with allergies. After taking almost two bottles, I didnít notice any effect. As with the NADH, I started taking the MSM shortly before I developed the fibro-pain. So I quit taking the MSM before I finished the second bottle. But unlike the NADH, I didnít see a reason to start taking it again. It should also be noted that MSM occurs naturally in raw fruits and veggies. And since I eat plenty of these, then I probably am getting enough MSM as it is.

CoQ10 is a versatile supplement that is sometimes recommended. Iíve used it before, but stopped due to the expense.

Bromelain was discussed at length recently in this group. It can be used as a digestive aid or for anti-inflammatory effects. For the former it should be taken with meals, and for the latter in-between meals. Iíve tried bromelain before for allergies, but it didnít seem to help.

Another supplement discussed at length here recently is Saint Johnís Wort. It is supposed to help with mild depression and to raise serotonin levels. But as the recent discussion showed, it does have the risk of side effects. So I am rather leery about trying it. And besides, my depression hasnít been too bad lately, and again, the NADH is also supposed to raise serotonin levels, so I have to be careful to taking another supplement that would do the same as too high of serotonin levels can also be a problem.

Conclusion

There are many other supplements that are recommended or have been tried by FM sufferers. But the above are the main ones Iíve come across. If anyone has comments on any of these or can recommend others to try, please let me know. But again, Iím going to wait until my appointment with the naturopath before stated anything new. Plus, I really canít afford to be taking what I already am taking, let alone to start taking more! So I really need to try to narrow down what will help the most. Iím hoping the naturopath will help in that regard.

Iíve mentioned the brand names of products I am using as thereís been a discussion here of late about the quality of supplements. From third party studies Iíve seen, GNC and Twinlab products are reported to at least contain what the labels say they do. So that is why I mostly use these brands. Iím not so sure about the CVS products though. But I guess I should add: All product and company names are registered trademarks of the respective companies. And the lest expensive place I found for purchasing many of these supplements is WebVitamins.

Bibliography:
I cannot really say exactly where I gathered most of the above information as I have been reading so many different FM related Web sites of late. But the following three books have chapters on FM which discuss many of these supplements. All three of these books are very good. However, the book by Balch and Balch is a bit unrealistic. If you took all of the supplements they recommend for any particular ailment, you would easily end up paying several hundred dollars a month for supplements!

Balch, James and Phyllis Balch. Prescription for Nutritional Healing.
Gallagher, Martin. Dr. Gallagherís Guide to 21st Century Medicine.
ďHealthWatch Newsletter.Ē Pro Health, 2001 Treatment Edition, Vol. X, No. 2. (The newsletter I received with my NADH order from ImmuneSupport.)
Murray, Micahel and Jospeh Pizzorno. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.

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Note: Again, see the articles A Better Approach to Supplements for my new philosophy on supplements and Current Supplements for what I am now taking.


Disclaimer: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any treatment program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

Supplements for Fibromyalgia. Copyright © 2001 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above Newsgroup Post was posted on this Web site September 7, 2001.

Dealing with Health Difficulties
Dealing with Health Difficulties: Fibromyalgia

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