Excerpts from an article on fibromyalgia which has information which could be helpful to all of us as we deal with chronic pain.
If you’re looking for natural ways to fight the aches, stiffness and inflammation, supplements can be a powerful weapon against symptoms. From vitamin D to brown seaweed extract, an arsenal of tools can help reduce pain. Here, experts reveal what works and why…
If you’re not including supplements as part of your pain-management regimen, you could be missing out.
“The right supplements can help muscles relax, which leads to a reduction of pain,” says Jacob Teitelbaum M.D., medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers. “Others can prevent pain altogether.”
Some lessen symptoms in as little as a week, while others take longer – 6-12 weeks. But when you’re standing in the supplement aisle, the hard part is figuring out which live up to their hype.
Read on for expert advice on the top 7 supplements for relieving pain and other symptoms.
1. Vitamin D
The “sunshine vitamin” isn’t only good for building bones. An Irish study of fibromyalgia sufferers published in the Clinical Rheumatology journal found a strong correlation between low vitamin-D levels and the muscle aches, anxiety and depression associated with fibromyalgia.
Many of us don’t naturally get enough of this important vitamin, usually because we don’t spend enough time in the sun, our best source of D.
“And as we age, it’s harder for the body to produce vitamin D on its own,” says Angela Snyder, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., a registered dietitian at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md.
If you can’t catch the recommended 10 minutes of sunny rays a day – or don’t want to be outdoors without sunscreen, which blocks vitamin-D-producing UV rays – there are other ways of getting your daily dose of D. Milk might seem like the obvious choice, but you’d need at least two and up to six or more 8-ounce glasses of milk a day.
Swallowing supplements is easier. The government’s daily recommendation of vitamin D is 200 international units (IU) for women age 19-50, 400 IU for women 51-70, and 600 IU for women 71 and up.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that many people – especially those who are older, have dark skin or are obese – may need a higher daily dose.
Although the current recommended maximum is 2,000 IU a day, some nutrition scientists believe it should be raised. The Food and Nutrition board at the Institute of Medicine is determining whether to update this recommendation.
2. Fish Oil
Thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil has terrific anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce pain.
It reduces the body’s production of inflammatory hormones (prostaglandins), says Nehad Soloman, M.D., a board-certified rheumatologist in Phoenix, AZ. And that may mean less stiffness or fewer tender joints.
Taking at least 2,400 mg of fish oil a day can significantly reduce pain, according to a study conducted at the Canadian Centre for Integrative Medicine, published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.
Soloman suggests choosing a mercury-free brand (check the label), although fish oil supplements are considered safe.
S-Adenosyl methionine, more commonly known as SAMe, is a synthetic form of a compound the body naturally produces. We need it for proper immune function, and it plays a role in the forming cartilage and our DNA, Soloman says.
As we age, our bodies produce less of it, which may explain the increased aches after your 40th birthday.Taking a SAMe supplement not only lessens chronic pain, it can also boost your spirits.
“It assists in the production and breakdown of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine – brain hormones that influence and regulate moods,” he says.
In fibro studies, the recommended dosing is 400 mg twice a day for six weeks, starting with a lower dose and increasing gradually to avoid stomach upset, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. But dosing varies by patient, so ask your doctor.
4. Ribose (Diabetics may want to skip this one; ribose is a sugar)
Tight muscles are a common cause of pain. To relax and release, muscles need energy, Teitelbaum says. And that’s where ribose supplements come in.
Ribose, a simple sugar, can increase energy by an average of 61% – and cut the pain experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers by an average of 15.6%, according to a study Teitelbaum led, published in the Journal of Alternative Complimentary Medicine.
“The energy-building benefit of ribose directly improved the debilitating symptoms of this condition,” Teitelbaum says. Teitelbaum recommends a 5 g dose three times a day.
This mineral is a major player in every body part. Not only is it credited with keeping the heart, kidneys and bones strong, it also helps us avoid muscle spasms, weakness and back pain, according to Teitelbaum.
Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, 100% wheat bran cereal and raw spinach. But these foods are a good source only if you eat them raw – half of the minerals’ benefits are lost when cooked.
Since most people don’t get enough magnesium from these foods alone, take a 200-400 mg magnesium supplement daily.
6. B-complex vitamins
Low levels of the 8 vitamins that make up B-complex – which includes folic acid, riboflavin and thiamine – leave you at higher risk for inflammation, according to a recent Tufts University study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
B6, specifically, was found to help protect against the inflammation that often causes fibromyalgia symptoms.Added bonuses of B vitamins: They can help increase metabolism, maintain muscle tone and enhance immune system function.
Around 200-500 mg is necessary for pain relief, Teitelbaum says.
7. Brown Seaweed Extract
You may not be familiar with these capsules, but this supplement is one to look for. "It’s showing great promise in the fight against chronic pain,” Soloman says.
In fact, taking 1,000 mg of brown seaweed extract daily can reduce joint pain and stiffness by 52%, according to a 2011 study from Australia’s Centre of Health and Wellbeing, published in the journal Biologics.
Even better: These benefits kicked in after just one week, so you don’t have to wait long to find out if it’s working for you. Supplement Smarts
Check with your doctor before taking these or other supplements.
“Like prescription drugs, it’s possible to take too much. And many supplements have side effects,” says David Pisetsky M.D., Ph.D., chief of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.
Questions to ask your doctor include:
1. What’s the right dosage for me?
2. Should I take it with food?
3. What time of day should I take it?
4. Will this supplement interact badly with my prescriptions?
5. Does it have side effects that might mimic or aggravate my symptoms (such as depression or sleep difficulties)?
For more information, visit these resources for more information and support:
The National Institutes of Health: Information and resources from the U.S. government’s medical research agency.
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