Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome of body-wide pain. Tender points are the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. People with fibromyalgia also have persistent fatigue, memory and mood disorders, and insomnia
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Possible triggers include:
- Physical or emotional trauma
- An abnormal or over-reactive pain response
- An infectious organism, such as a virus
Sunlight exposure and fibromyalgia risk
There is no evidence that risk or symptoms of fibromyalgia are related to sunlight exposure.
Some people with fibromyalgia have a vitamin D deficiency. If so, vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B (UVB) would reduce the symptoms.
Vitamin D and fibromyalgia
Vitamin D levels
Several studies report that people with fibromyalgia have lower vitamin D levels:
- In the United Kingdom, 43% of females with fibromyalgia had very low vitamin D levels compared to 19% without fibromyalgia.
- In Belfast, Northern Ireland, people with fibromyalgia frequently had low vitamin D levels. The study also linked anxiety and depression to low vitamin D levels.
However, other studies have different observations:
- In Israel and Brazil, vitamin D levels did not vary in people with or without fibromyalgia. In the same Brazilian study, there was no connection between vitamin D levels and pain intensity.
- In Turkey, neither vitamin D levels nor bone mineral density varied in people with or without fibromyalgia.
In all of the above studies, vitamin D levels could be the result of disease condition rather than the cause of the disease. Thus, the evidence that vitamin D plays a role in fibromyalgia is weak at best.
How vitamin D works
Some studies have reported that vitamin D may reduce the risk or symptoms of fibromyalgia by lowering inflammation. Vitamin D reduces cytokine production. This protein causes inflammation. However, one study found that fibromyalgia pain was not directly affected by these compounds.
There is no evidence that vitamin D reduces the risk of fibromyalgia. However, it may reduce inflammation. Based on studies of other diseases, it might be worthwhile to keep vitamin D blood levels above 30–40 ng/mL (75–100 nmol/L).
Vitamin D has been used to treat fibromyalgia in several studies and observations:
- In the United Arab Emirates, people diagnosed with fibromyalgia or muscle pain benefited from vitamin D. However, it was unclear whether those with muscle pain actually had fibromyalgia.
- People in Minnesota with fibromyalgia who initially had low vitamin D levels (10–25 ng/mL [25–63 nmol/L]) participated in a clinical trial. Some people received placebos. Others took 7000 international units (IU)/day of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is the type of vitamin D made in the body. After 8 weeks, those receiving placebos showed no improvement. The vitamin D3 group showed significant improvement in fibromyalgia assessment scores. However, they did not show significant improvement in most musculoskeletal symptoms or in activities of daily living. In addition, those with severe vitamin D deficiency had no symptom improvement during the trial nor one year later.
- Diffuse back pain related to vitamin D deficiency is often diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Raising vitamin D blood levels reduces that type of pain.
Vitamin D may reduce fibromyalgia pain. Those with fibromyalgia should consider increasing their vitamin D levels above 30–40 ng/mL (75–100 nmol/L).
As anyone suffering from fibromyalgia knows, the condition is not a simple one to treat. Aside from the core issue of pain in muscles and ligaments, there are a number of associated issues such as sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Facing such complexities, many physicians believe that the best approach is to treat symptoms on a case-by-case basis in order to improve patient’s quality of life.
Improving nutrition is an important part of this and your diet of course has a key role to play in this. In addition, many look to supplements to help muscles to perform optimally. If they are not supplied with the correct amount of nutrients they cannot operate at full capacity and therefore are more likely to cause pain.
Muscle cells use an active transport system and they need the correct amount of minerals for this to work efficiently.
If you’re deficient in these they can’t be supplied by a normal diet, which is where supplements come in.
Research into the effects of supplements are ongoing but there is as yet insufficient evidence to know for sure which ones will work. However, as long as you’re careful and speak to a physician first, taking supplements should not be detrimental and should only have a positive impact.
Let’s look then at a selection with which you should consider adding to your diet.
- Vitamin D According to a 2014 study published in the journal Pain 30, women who took Vitamin D over a 20-week period saw improved physical functioning and reduced pain, compared to a control group that received a placebo.
- Omega-3 fatty acids These come primarily from fish oils, which have great anti-inflammatory properties. This can really help with fibromyalgia pain and also offer improved immunity, which is great for general health. However, if you are taking blood-thinning medications then speak to your doctor before taking these.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) S-Adenosyl methionine, fortunately, more commonly known as SAMe are a synthetic form of a compound that the body produces naturally. It’s related to immune function and helps form cartilage. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less of it as we age, and this could be exacerbated for fibromyalgia sufferers. A common dosage starts at 200mg twice a day for six weeks, moving up gradually to 400mg to avoid side effects such as an upset stomach.
- Ribose Ribose supplements help with tight muscles – a common form of fibro pain. Ribose is a simple sugar, and increases energy to muscles, helping to relax them. According to a 2012 study published in The Open Pain Journal, it reduced pain experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers by an average of 15.6 per cent.
- Magnesium Studies suggest that fibromyalgia sufferers are deficient in magnesium, which is a significant problem considering it plays a role in keeping every body part healthy. In one 2013 study, women who took 300 mg/day of magnesium citrate for eight weeks reported a reduction of tenderness as well as other symptoms.Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and spinach. Unfortunately, about half the dosage is lost when these foods are cooked so a supplement is recommended – 280 to 300mg per day with meals. Magnesium supplements can interact with other medication, such as those for high blood pressure, so make sure you talk to your doctor first if you are taking anything.