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The Benefits of Supplements for Fibromyalgia
In this modern world, it is a commonly held belief that pain medications are overprescribed. In my nursing practice, I agree with this wholeheartedly — but I also know firsthand that this perception is harmful to the people who are in physical pain and need medications to function.
On the flipside, I also know firsthand that supplements can work wonders for pain disorders. Through my own research and working with an integrative medicine physician, I have taken supplements to reduce my own chronic pain and have needed less pain medication.
Interestingly, people in general are utilizing alternative therapies so much — not just for fibromyalgia — that Congress formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). The NCCAM researches the effectiveness of alternative therapies and is in the process of creating guidelines for safe use of supplements.
Every person is different and this list is in no way meant to replace any medication that your physician prescribed. It is also, in no way, meant to negate the pain you are suffering. It is simply a result of my research and firsthand experience with chronic pain — I am hoping that, if using supplements interests you, that you may find this helpful.
The Use of Supplements for Fibro Pain
The jury is still out as to if the use of herbs and supplements are helpful to treating fibro pain. There are studies that show that certain supplements may reduce fibromyalgia pain. There are also studies that indicate that the use of supplements may not help reduce fibro pain.
In any event, if you are interested in supplements that may potentially reduce fibro pain, here are several that have potential to reduce your pain. In addition, we discuss addressing nutritional deficiencies, which can worsen pain in general.
5-HTP, or 5-Hydroxytryptophan, helps to build serotonin. For people with fibro, 5-HTP can improve sleep and reduce pain. In one study, 5-HTP also improved depression and anxiety symptoms as well.
This supplement is generally well tolerated. It has received some bad press because some users experienced eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, but experts believe this was a result of contamination of the actual supplement as opposed to the supplement itself.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that induces sleep. It is purchased OTC and people often buy it when they have difficulty falling asleep. For someone with fibro, it may do more than just induce sleep.
People with fibro often have sleep problems and associated fatigue. The use of melatonin can reduce these symptoms, but research shows that it may also reduce pain as well.
It can cause daytime sleepiness so users of melatonin are cautioned to not drive until they know how it will affect them.
St. John’s Wort
Although there is no evidence that St. John’s Wort reduces fibro pain, it is a well-known supplement that is thought to reduce depression symptoms. In fact, there are several studies that find it more effective than tricyclic and selective SSRI antidepressants.
As fibro is often associated with depression, St. John’s Wort may be used for the treatment of this part of the disease.
SAM-e, or S-adenosylmethionine, is thought to increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body, although the exact mechanism is not known at this time.
Preliminary research shows that the use of SAM-e may improve mood and promote sleep. However, it is not yet known if it can reduce pain or reduce depression.
Research on L-carnitine is still very limited. However, the limited research suggests that L-carnitine may prevent the fatigue associated with fibro. It may also improve pain.
Probiotics are heavily researched and are well-known to promote gut health. They contain ample amounts of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that can help with the breakdown of food and improve digestion. People with fibro are prone to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and probiotics are a great treatment for the use of IBS.
Probiotics are well tolerated but may cause gas and bloating.
Nutritional deficiencies in general can cause pain in any patient population. Correcting nutritional deficiencies is important.
Vitamin deficiencies should be addressed initially. These can be replaced in the body, if found to be lacking, through the use of nutrition or supplementation. Examples include calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, and magnesium.
Adding antioxidant supplements to the regimen can promote immunity. Examples include omega-3 fatty acids and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
The Bottom Line…
All of the supplements listed in this article are meant to be a starting point for discussion with your physician. As previously stated, they should not replace any medication in your regimen unless discussed with your physician. All supplements should be cross-referenced with your medication list, because as with medications in general, they can interact with each other.