If you suffer from pain, fatigue and sleep disorders associated with fibromyalgia, you may be wondering if supplements can help. Medical experts are dealing with the same issue. “While research on some supplements is promising, it’s still too early to say for sure whether they help,” says Kevin Fleming, MD, medical director of Mayo Clinic’s Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic.
To make things more difficult, some pills can have harmful side effects. They may also not mix well with other medicines or vitamins you are taking.
Choose a supplement
Before deciding to take one, consult your doctor. And always do your homework. “You want to make sure the benefits are worth it,” Fleming said. “Consider how long a supplement has been used for the symptoms of fibromyalgia.” He says the new supplements that became popular over the last 3 or 4 years do not have a long track record, so long-term effects are not known.
Some common supplements that some people use:
Vitamin D.The experts do not know exactly why, but they think that muscle and bone pain can occur if you do not consume enough of this nutrient. In one study, researchers gave people with fibromyalgia with low levels of vitamin D a daily supplement or placebo (a dummy pill) for about 6 months. Those who took the supplement had less pain and fatigue. “If you have fibromyalgia, ask your doctor to have your blood tested for your vitamin D level,” says Fleming. If it’s low, a supplement can increase your levels. But do not take a pill in high doses without your doctor’s permission. More than 4,000 IU per day can lead to health problems,
Even . It is a substance that is naturally found in your body. It blocks cytokines, proteins in the body that cause inflammation, says Fleming. “It can also help improve mood, which can help you better manage pain.” Danish researchers found that taking 800 mg daily for 6 weeks reduced pain, fatigue and sensitivity people with fibromyalgia.
SAM-e has few side effects, but avoid it if you have bipolar disorder, as it may worsen the symptoms of mania.
Turmeric. For centuries, this spice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve arthritis and other pain. Modern science shows that the active ingredient contained in it, called curcumin, can help fight inflammation. Although there is little research on turmeric for fibromyalgia, it is worth trying because curcumin acts as an analgesic in the body.
5-HTP.This natural substance is transformed in your body into serotonin, a brain chemical that influences your mood, your sleep and the pain you can endure. 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 is not well understood yet, but what we know is logical,” Fleming said. “I would not recommend to my patients to definitely take this supplement.” But there is little risk, he says, so he would not tell people who are already taking the supplement to stop.
Capsaicin . You might be able to reduce the amount of pain signals your nerves trigger if you spread a cream containing this chemical on your skin. Research shows that this could relieve fibromyalgia in the short term. In one study, people who used it three times a day on the skin felt less pain. “Capsaicin can be helpful, but it’s limited to the cream’s application area,” says Fleming. “So, if you have pain all over your body, it may not be the best treatment.”