Symptoms associated with fibromyalgia - pain is not the only one
If you are interested in using some of the alternative therapies mentioned here, it may be useful to seek the services of a person knowledgeable about their use, such as an herbalist or a homeopath.
There are many symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Although widespread pain is the primary symptom, many people with fibromyalgia will also experience one or more of the following symptoms:
• Paresthesias (numbness, tingling or other unpleasant sensations)
• Dry eyes and throat
• Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome)
• Sleep disturbances
• Cognitive dysfunction (“fibro fog”- short term memory loss, difficulty concentrating)
• Skin issues (rash, sensitivity, sensitivity to temperature changes)
• Pelvic pain
Supplements and herbs can target some of the symptoms mentioned above that traditional medications may not treat entirely or effectively. Supplements and herbs may also have less unpleasant side effects than some prescription medications. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used supplements and herbs.
Supplements as a primary home remedy against fibromyalgia
Magnesium- magnesium is used in the body to regulate other minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin D, calcium, zinc and potassium. All of the body’s organs require magnesium to function well. Not getting enough magnesium can cause sleep disturbance and restless leg syndrome, among other symptoms. Some studies in fibromyalgia have indicated that supplementation with magnesium may improve pain, but more studies are needed. If you want to try magnesium supplements, check with your physician as magnesium may worsen heart or kidney disease.
Vitamin D- known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is becoming widely recognized as one of the most important vitamins. Many people lack vitamin D. Vitamin D comes from food sources and from absorption through the skin from direct exposure to sunlight. Deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to depression and anxiety in people suffering from fibromyalgia, as well as muscle and bone pain. An easy way to get more vitamin D is to take a walk every day outdoors. Vitamin D can be found in many foods and can also be taken as a supplement in capsule or liquid form.
Calcium- calcium does not only help to build strong bones and teeth, but is also involved in neurotransmitter release and facilitating muscle contraction. Abnormal levels of neurotransmitters have been implicated in fibromyalgia. In addition, many people with fibromyalgia suffer from muscle cramping, pain and restless leg syndrome. Calcium can be found naturally in many foods, but is often taken as a supplement. Supplements are available which combine calcium and vitamin D.
B- vitamins- the B-complex vitamins serve many important functions, such as breaking down carbohydrates into energy and assisting the nervous system to function well. As fatigue and abnormal nervous system functioning are common in fibromyalgia, the B vitamins are important for people with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia cures found in your kitchen
Capsaicin cream- capsaicin is an ingredient found in chili peppers. It can be made into a cream that can be applied to the skin. Some people find that massaging capsaicin cream into their tender points decreases their muscle pain. Caution should be used when using the cream, as accidentally getting any capsaicin in the eyes can cause severe irritation. Always wash your hands carefully after applying the cream.
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) - 5-HTP is one of the building blocks of serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that has been implicated in fibromyalgia. Many people with fibromyalgia have been found to have low levels of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin may cause depression, sleep disturbance and possibly muscle pain. Studies of people with fibromyalgia have shown that supplementation with 5-HTP may be helpful in reducing symptoms, although more studies are needed in this area.
Melatonin- melatonin is important in normal sleep patterns. Melatonin can be taken as a sleep aid for those who suffer from sleep disturbances. It is generally well tolerated, but may cause daytime drowsiness in some. Caution should be exercised when driving until you know how melatonin affects you.
Skullcap- skullcap can be used to help reduce muscle pain and tension. It my also be used as a sleep aid. Chinese skullcap has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammation, headaches, allergies and infections. American skullcap is often used as a mild relaxant for anxiety. These two herbs are not the same and are used to treat different symptoms.
Astralagus- astralagus may be used by people with fibromyalgia to combat fatigue and digestive disturbances, such as IBS symptoms. Astralagus is also thought to boost immunity. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and although fibromyalgia is not a true inflammatory disease, people with fibromyalgia may find this herb helpful in combating muscle pain. Astralagus may be used topically or may be found in capsule form.
St. John’s Wort - this herbal remedy has gained popularity as a natural treatment for depression. Depression is not uncommon amongst people who have fibromyalgia. St. John’s wort should never be taken with traditional antidepressants. Caution is advised for patients taking drugs that are considered to be anticoagulants. St. John’s wort may potentiate the effects of these drugs.
Ginkgo Biloba - Many people with fibromyalgia experience the phenomenon known as “fibro fog”. This cognitive dysfunction results in difficulty in concentration, loss of short term memory, fatigue and sometimes difficulty in thinking of the right word to use when speaking. Gingko biloba is thought to improve circulation, and also to improve mental functioning.
SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) - this substance is found naturally in almost every part of the body. Important to fibromyalgia, this compound helps to regulate chemicals thought to have “gone awry”, such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. It works in conjunction with B-compound vitamins, so being deficient in B-vitamins may cause deficiency in SAMe. SAMe is thought to help with muscle pain and stiffness, as well as in depression. Some studies have found SAMe to be useful in combating fibromyalgia symptoms; however, more studies are needed.
Although many people with fibromyalgia choose to use supplements and herbs to treat fibromyalgia, they should not be used indiscriminately due to their possible side effects and interactions with prescribed medications. If you are considering using supplements and herbs to treat your fibromyalgia symptoms, your physician should always be aware of any of these substances that you are using, including dosages. It is important to “do your homework” and research these substances before using them. It is also advisable to consult a professional experienced in their use.