Nutrients for fibromyalgia recovery

February 24, 2012

Fibromyalgia, Pain

Not only is it a mouthful to say, the fibromyalgia (FM) label is often what comes at the end of a very long search for the cause of a multi-symptom syndrome.

by Betsy Timmerman — 

It can be overwhelming to hear the diagnosis: “You have fibromyalgia.” Not only is it a mouthful to say, the fibromyalgia (FM) label is often what comes at the end of a very long search for the cause of a multi-symptom syndrome.

When first confronted with the problems of body-wide pain, stiffness, confusion, irritable bowel and bladder issues, brain fog and a major sleep disorder, the task of recovery seems more than daunting. But there is much you can do on your own, once you learn the basics of FM recovery.

Remember the hallmark of FM, which is that the central nervous system perceives pain when non-pain producing stimuli are present. It is this pattern that must be changed if true recovery is to begin. If you want to have a better life, you need to assemble a good heath care team and formulate an integrative approach to treatment. Traditional medicine has some good tools for help in controlling the overwhelming pain, fatigue and sleep deprivation that comes with the territory.

Complementary medicine has many effective healing modalities — from myofascial release and Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy (trigger point therapy), which are used to relieve sore and aching muscles — to prescribing the right supplements and foods for healing the body. Myriad techniques also exist to help the central nervous system calm down, enabling the muscles to relax and the brain to let go at bedtime. Yoga, hypnosis and other types of mind/body work can help the unconscious mind align with what the body needs.

What is important to know is that what you put in your mouth will make a difference in your recovery. With supplementation and diet, you can increase the amount and types of neurotransmitters your gut produces. You will also be able to jump-start your immune system, which needs to function optimally if you are to recover from FM.

So here are the basics of FM 101 — healing with foods and supplements.

• Additional magnesium is helpful for almost all FM sufferers. It is needed for muscle relaxation and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production so that the mitochondria (cell organelles where energy is produced) can do their job and provide the body with enough oxygen for muscle strength and recovery. Malic acid combinations are available with magnesium and can offer greater help for some people. Magnesium glycinate is easier on the gut, but remember that magnesium is a natural laxative. For highly sensitive individuals, administering topical magnesium a couple of times a day is best. Soaking in Epsom salts also works well if you have a deep tub.

Some people report immediate pain relief and an increase in energy when taking magnesium. Those with fibromyalgia typically need 800 to 1,000 mg of magnesium per day. If you take it in a calcium formula, look for a 1:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium, not a 2:1 ratio.

• FM patients also need a full-spectrum, whole-food vitamin/mineral product to get the basics for optimal cellular health and enzyme activity. You get what you pay for here, so do not skimp. Make sure you purchase high-quality products. In order to get the base minerals you need from a good product without fillers, remember to take at least 4 to 8 pills per day.

• Extra B vitamins are often indicated for the energy-deprived FM sufferer and are soothing to the nervous system. FM patients are notoriously deficient in B vitamins.

• Manganese is also deficient in the FM person. This mineral helps with thyroid function and muscle repair; 10 mg daily should be sufficient.

• Avoid the nightshade vegetables as they contain solanine, which irritates and amplifies pain in arthritics and FM sufferers. Avoid bell and chili peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and tobacco for 60 days. Keep a log of your pain during that time to see if avoiding these foods results in positive changes for you.

• Vitamin D (a pro-hormone) is necessary for people suffering from chronic pain. A vitamin D deficiency can be part of the reason you have pain. Get your levels checked before you decide how much to take per day. Most nutritionists and natural doctors recommend a minimum of 2,000 mg to 5,000 mg per day.

• Vitamin C helps the adrenals produce stress hormones. Take vitamin C to bowel tolerance; then reduce the dose until you no longer have loose stools. Most people will need 2 to 5 grams per day.

• FM sufferers are also deficient in five out of the seven essential amino acids, which help break down proteins efficiently. They produce the enzymes needed to stimulate healthy body tissues and help maintain blood sugar and hormone levels. You can get these from a good-quality protein drink or in pill form.

• Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) also helps greatly with pain reduction. It is a natural detoxifier, so start slowly (approximately 1,500 mg per day) and then increase the dose (up to 3,000 to 10,000 mg), as needed. See if the symptoms lessen. Most people can take MSM even if they cannot tolerate sulfur; however, there is always the sensitive patient who cannot tolerate MSM.

The above is just a partial list of important supplements to take if you are suffering from FM. Individual body chemistry will also play a role in formulating what to take.

I would also add fish or krill oil, as cellular membrane function is compromised in FM. Get a high-quality product that is clean and tested for safety. Some companies use lard in their formulas. A reputable company has a purity seal on the label and uses tocopherols in the formula to prevent rancidity.

Other “helpers” to consider are SAM-e, enzyme supplementation, probiotics, CoQ10 and 5-htp.

Eating foods with higher levels of protein is helpful with FM because the extra amino acids and enzymes are needed. All of the essential amino acids are found in two ounces of meat. You should ascertain your blood type and metabolic type (see Being aware of these two factors, you can avoid foods that trigger your symptoms. Food allergies are a big problem in FM sufferers because of the “leaky gut” connection.

Of course, avoid high-glycemic foods — sugar and all processed foods. They offer no nutritional value for the most part, and deplete the body of vitamins and minerals, which are needed for enzyme production and food breakdown.

Make sure to eat organic foods as much as possible. If price is an issue, try to avoid foods heavily sprayed with pesticides. Eat meats that are clean and grass fed. Bison (buffalo) is delicious, and you do not have to worry about e-coli in grass-fed herds. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, it will be harder to balance all the amino acids you need daily, but it can be done by educating yourself.

It is a good plan for everyone to lightly detox, but FM sufferers are quite often rapid or uneven detoxifers and are unable to do this without side-effects. Start by eating more greens, and then work up to products that open your detoxification pathways. There are plenty of products that only open one pathway and eliminate the uncomfortable toxic-dumping symptoms.

Avoid dairy unless it is raw, and if you are lactose- or milk-protein intolerant stay away from it entirely. In the U.S., there is, unbelievably, a lot of pus in our milk supply because cows living in close proximity to each other are given antibiotics to avoid the spread of infection.

Finally, understand that you might have FM for many reasons, but vitamin and mineral deficiencies will contribute to your inability to heal. If these deficiencies are corrected, you will feel better, your body will do its work more efficiently, and your muscles and central nervous system will improve.


Betsy Timmerman is a certified Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy (trigger point therapy) therapist, a fibromyalgia educator and a First Line® Therapy educator. She provides workshops and one-on-one consultations to help people recover from fibromyalgia. or 623-251-7547.

Reprinted from AZNetNews, Volume 30, Number 3, June/July 2011.

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