Supplements That Work for Chronic Pain & Fatigue or Fibromyalgia
Which Supplements Can Help With Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
My Pain & Fatigue Symptoms
Before I started taking supplements for fibromyalgia my daily experience was one of almost constant pain and fatigue, which had a huge impact on my ability to function. I had:
Widespread muscular pain throughout my body
Impaired ability to perform mental tasks
Triphala to Treat Constipation
Like many people with fibromyalgia, I ended up taking co-codamol to ease the pain. One of the side-effects of co-codamol is constipation which I initially dealt with by eating prunes and figs or by having a spoonful of syrup of figs each morning.
Then one day I was reading Dr Michael Mosley’s book, The Clever Guts Diet, and he mentioned a herb called triphala, an Ayurvedic herbal formulation made from three fruits native to India. It is considered to be a great bowel tonic and digestive aid. Specifically it can help to treat constipation.
I found that taking a quarter of a teaspoon of triphala with a glass of water about half an hour before my main meal really helped to keep my digestive system in good shape. Most importantly I didn’t have any problems with constipation while taking it, even though I was continuing to take co-codamol.
D-Ribose To End Fatigue?
As is quite often the case, on a day when I wasn’t even thinking about trying to treat fibro symptoms, I stumbled across a product called D-Ribose, which people were saying they had used to treat fibromyalgia. I read up on it and found Dr Teitelbaum’s website End Fatigue to be most informative. According to Dr Teitelbaum (or Dr. T as he likes to call himself),
“Research has repeatedly shown that giving ribose to energy-deficient hearts and muscles stimulates energy recovery. A recent study showed that in people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, ribose increased energy an average of 45% in just 3 weeks.”
He goes on to say:
“A key molecule, called adenosine triphosphate (or ATP for short), is known as the energy currency of the cell because the amount of ATP we have in our tissues determines whether we will be fatigued, or will have the energy we need to live vital, active lives. Ribose provides the key building block of ATP, and the presence of ribose in the cell stimulates the metabolic pathway our bodies use to actually make this vital compound. If the cell does not have enough ribose, it cannot make ATP. So, when cells and tissues become energy starved, the availability of ribose is critical to energy recovery.”
D-Ribose comes as a white powder that needs to be dissolved in water, it has a sweet taste and is quite pleasant to drink. Dr T says it takes about three weeks to take effect but I noticed some changes after two weeks. My vision became brighter and I felt generally more alert. I had more mental energy than before and found it generally easier to focus and concentrate.
I expected there would be a more dramatic improvement after three weeks but that didn’t quite happen. I still take it first thing in the morning and it does seem to help me wake up and become more mentally focused but I don’t really notice much change if I take it later in the day. That said, my mental functioning is overall much better than it was before I started taking it.
Magnesium Malate for Increased Energy
Magnesium is a key mineral required by the body for many important biological functions. Critically for people with fibro, it plays an important role in muscle health and energy production.
Magnesium can’t be taken on its own and has to be bonded to something else before it can be taken as a supplement. There is a specific form of magnesium called magnesium malate which is magnesium bonded to malic acid, an organic compound found in some fruits.
Of all the different forms of magnesium you can take in supplemental form (e.g. magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium chloride and so on) magnesium malate is the one that is said to provide the most energy.
I’ve been taking magnesium malate for about 4 weeks and I can’t begin to describe the effect it has had. In brief I’ve had much more energy, both physically and mentally, and much improved mental focus. I have also been able to reduce the amount of painkillers I have needed to take.
I used to be a very keen walker and would think nothing of going out for a 5-mile walk. As the pain and fatigue took hold I found myself doing less and less walking because I simply didn’t have the physical resources for it. I tried ‘pushing myself’ to see if I could improve my overall fitness and stamina but it always ended up backfiring one way or another.
Now that I’m taking the magnesium malate I find I can once more walk longer distances, even those that involve some uphill walking, without suffering any adverse consequences.
About a week after I started taking the magnesium malate I noticed a dramatic change. Having felt a bit sluggish in the morning I forced myself to go out for a short walk, but when I got outside I felt so much better and I soon started to think I could walk a little bit further. What was supposed to be a short walk turned into a much longer one and I found myself with more energy as the walk went on. This was a significant change from what I’d been used to for nearly two years.
Two days later something similar happened and I found myself quite easily doing a walk I had previously considered impossible. Although I experienced a bit of a plateau after the excitement of the first week of increased activity, I still feel as though the magnesium malate is aiding my recovery. Ultimately time will tell.
Magnesium The Laxative
Ironically, having needed to take a laxative to combat the constipative effects of co-codamol I now found myself with the opposite challenge. Although some forms of magnesium are worse than others for being laxatives (magnesium oxide being particularly bad), all forms of magnesium have some kind of laxative effect.
What I’ve found to work quite well to counteract this is eating dates. Oddly if you read up about dates online you’ll find some pages saying they have a constipative effect and other pages saying they have a laxative effect. I guess we are all different but personally I find eating dates has a constipative effect. For me eating three or four dates with breakfast just about balances out the laxative effect of taking the magnesium.
Tryptophan for Improved Sleep
The final supplement I want to talk about is tryptophan, an amino acid which is a precursor to both serotonin and melatonin, the latter being the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.
Tryptophan comes in pills or in powder form but I bought the powder form because I find it easier to control the dosage. It doesn’t dissolve all that well in cold water but it dissolves much better in warm water. I have been taking this for about 5 weeks and find that when I take 500mg in the evening it helps me to get a good night’s sleep.
Prior to taking the tryptophan I would wake up every hour or two feeling uncomfortable, but now I tend to sleep for much longer periods at a time and I feel more refreshed the next morning.
General Conclusions About Taking Supplements for Fibromyalgia
Ideally I would prefer not to take any supplements at all but if it’s a choice between the fibro symptoms and supplements, I’ll choose the supplements every time. At the time of writing this article it is still early days for me taking supplements but I have experienced sufficient improvement to believe that recovery is not far away.
Supplements can be useful for dealing with the condition but I hope one day to be able to live without them. As with any form of treatment, they will work even better when combined with a positive belief about your own recovery. For me that belief is even more important than which form of treatment we choose.
I’ll be talking about the role of belief in recovery from illness in a future article and I hope to update this article in due course as and when I am in a position to draw further conclusions. I have tried other supplements as well, such as ashwagandha, but I have limited the scope of this article to the ones that worked for me.
If you have had any first-hand experience of taking supplements to treat fibro / chronic pain & fatigue, or if you have found any other course of treatment to help with your recovery, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.
I am not a qualified doctor and what I have shared here does not constitute medical advice. If you are considering taking supplements of any kind to treat your condition, it is advisable to consult your doctor or a suitably qualified professional beforehand. It is equally important to do your own research and not rely on other people’s claims.
Please be aware that any action you take as a result of reading this article is strictly at your own risk and the author will not be liable for any losses or damages experienced as a result.
I am not offering a cure or recommending any miracle supplement, but simply sharing my experiences in the hope they will be of value to others.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Rob Butler