Dr. Holly
Dr. Holly
Dr. Holly

I had polymyalgia: which means a combination diagnoses, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia all at the same time…and now none of it!

Did I mention I also had a deteriorating spine at the same time?  I used to take 3-4 Tylenol 3s with codeine 4-5 times a day to keep going (I used to run several multimillions $$ businesses and had to keep going!).

It took coughing up blood to stop and say:  This just ain’t working – I need to do something else!

Now I have no pain and lots of flexibility – you can too.

Let’s look at understanding the different causes and then we can look at why there are different ways to eliminate the problem.

Fibromyalgia – what is it and what causes it?

Most agree that Fibromyalgia affects the muscles and soft tissue. Fibromyalgia symptoms may include:

  • chronic pain in the muscles
  • fatigue
  • sleep problem
  • painful tender points or trigger points at certain parts of the body

There is a lot of controversy surrounding fibromyalgia… and there may be a variety of underlying issues from sleep and diet to viral and bacterial infections (i.e., Lyme disease) to hormonal issues & chemical issues (that affect nerve signaling) to stress and how we think and feel.  Often women who are type A personalities suffer from fibromyalgia – but then so do others.

According to WEBMD “Fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms can be relieved through medications, lifestyle changes, stress management, and other fibromyalgia treatment.”

According to the American Health Care Foundation, the root of pain was identified as being caused by a prolonged oxidative attack. Now, a glutathione component, GSH, recognized as the Master Anti-oxidant, produced by the body and millions of times more powerful than any anti-oxidant found in food or supplement, can relieve eliminate the free radicals causing the problem…but glutathione is useless when found in food or supplement. So, we need to get the body to make more of it, using Protandim which turns on the genes that make the tools that make glutathione) or OGF (Dr. Keller’s original glutathione formula) that provides all the nutrients necessary for the tools to make glutathione.

Some researchers believe it has to do with low levels of serotonin (which leads to lowered pain thresholds/increased sensitivity to pain due to lower levels of endorphins and increased levels of Substance P which amplifies pain signals). Others think it is associated with stress and anxiety (which may have to do adrenal function, i.e., hyper adrenalism and adrenal fatigue). But then those who get fibromyalgia often have less human growth hormone which may also contribute to muscle pain.

So, like any other disorder or dysfunction, there are many possible causes.

Let’s look at some of the alternative methods of working with fibromyalgia.

Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Now the challenge here is understanding that the appropriate combination of herbs and supplements depends on what is causing the fibromyalgia. The more specific we are in identifying the underlying causes, the more effective we can be in eliminating the problem. So as usual, find a good health practitioner who can help you walk through the steps.

Glutathione – GSH – and all the others

Glutathione is an incredibly important compound in the body and yet is hugely misunderstood:

1) The Glutathione complex is actually a multitude of compounds and not just GSH:

  • GSH: major detox (i.e., without sufficient glutathione, acetaminophen can easily become toxic & overdose); protects cellular protein thiol groups (insufficient glutathione allows NAPQI to react with cellular proteins and kill the cells); involved in Leukotriene synthesis; cofactor for glutathione peroxidase
  • glutathione disulfide or GSSG or L-glutathione
  • glutathione synthetase
  • glutathione reductase
  • glutathione transferase
  • glutathione S-transferase or GST (glutathione enzyme found in microsomes and the mitochondria & previously known as ligandins)
  • glutathione peroxidase
  • S – D – lactoyl – glutathione

S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe)

The S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) compound occurs naturally in the body. It is required for:

  • effective immune function
  • helps maintain cell membranes
  • contributes to the production and breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine
  • plays a role in the formation of cartilage
  • plays a role in our genetic material (DNA)

Some studies suggest that SAMe may help with fibromyalgia. A double-blind study evaluated the effect of SAMe or placebo in 17 people with fibromyalgia, 11 of whom had depression. The number of tender points decreased after SAMe but not placebo. Depression, as assessed by two rating scales, improved after SAMe but not placebo. (Note: There is a good correlation between depression and fibromyalgia: for some it may be due to a similar underlying cause and for others it may be due to a reaction of having the consistent pain issues that are not being resolved).

Another double-blind study gave 44 people with fibromyalgia 800 mg of SAMe a day or a placebo. After 6 weeks, there were statistically significant improvements in pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, mood, and clinical disease activity. However, on the tender point score, muscle strength, and mood (evaluated by the Beck Depression Inventory) assessments, there was not a significantly difference.

Another double-blind study compared SAMe (600 mg a day) administered intravenously or placebo in 34 people with fibromyalgia. After 10 days, there was no significant difference in tender points.

Note: SAMe may cause indigestion, dry mouth, and insomnia. Rarely, people experience severe diarrhea, heartburn, headache, and dizziness.

Caution:  People with bipolar disorder should not take SAMe, as it may worsen manic episodes. People who are taking the drug levidopa (commonly prescribed for Parkinson’s disease) should avoid SAMe. People taking antidepressants should not use SAMe without first consulting their doctor. The safety of SAMe in pregnant or nursing women or children has not been established.


Magnesium is a mineral found in foods and hugely important in our bodies…necessary for over 380 basic cell processes in every cell of the body. While magnesium used to be found in sufficient amounts in foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains; the soils are now depleted of magnesium and consequently, we don’t get it in our food.

Magnesium, along with malic acid (a fruit acid found naturally in apples) are often suggested for people with fibromyalgia because they are both needed for the generation of energy in cells in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Usually people with fibromyalgia are very depleted in their energy stores. However, if the mitochondria (the organelle in the cell that is making the ATP) is not functioning properly, then increased Magnesium and malic acid are not going to help. Further, if the problem is due to a combination of other deficiencies, i.e., Vitamin B1, B2, B3, and other enzymes, then again the Magnesium and malic acid are not going to help.

One study of 97 people, however, found no association between magnesium and fibromyalgia.

A double-blind study designed to examine the effectiveness and safety of magnesium (50 mg three times a day) and malic acid (200 mg three times a day) in 24 people with fibromyalgia. After 4 weeks, the magnesium/malic acid combination was not more effective than placebo.

In both of these studies, the criticism is found in both the type of magnesium used and the dosages.

The participants later received 6 months of the combination in larger doses (up to 300 mg magnesium and 1200 mg malic acid per day) for 6 months. This time, the combination resulted in a significant improvement in pain and tenderness, however, this portion of the study was open label (both the researchers and participants know which treatment is being administered) and not blinded, so the results, while promising, cannot be used as evidence that the combination was effective. Further studies are needed.

Caution: Alternative medicine usually recommends the gradual increase in magnesium until you have three days of loose bowels. This indicates that the body has absorbed enough and now is eliminating extra through the digestive tract which is causing the loose bowels. Continued high dosages may also cause nausea, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and confusion. It can interact with certain medications, such as those for osteoporosis, high blood pressure (calcium channel blockers), as well as some antibiotics, muscle relaxants, and diuretics.

Vitamin D

Fibromyalgia and generalized aches and pains not meeting the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia have been attributed by some researchers to vitamin D3 deficiency. One large German study, 994 people, found a strong correlation between low levels of vitamin D and higher rates and longer duration of generalized bone and/or muscle aches and pains.

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings published a study, 150 people, who had persistent, non-specific musculoskeletal pain. The researchers found that 93% of them had deficient levels of vitamin D. On the other hand, there is wide spread Vitamin D deficiency in North America.

In another study, vitamin D levels were assessed in 75 people who were diagnosed by the ACR as having fibromyalgia; and no relationship was found between vitamin D levels and musculoskeletal symptoms but, vitamin D deficiency was linked to anxiety and depression in people with fibromyalgia.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-HTP is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as an intermediate function in the process of creating serotonin and melatonin from tryptophan. There is evidence that it may reduce the number of tender points in people with fibromyalgia, possibly by effecting pain-modulating systems in the brainstem.

A double-blind, placebo controlled study looked at 5-HTP or placebo in 50 people with fibromyalgia. After four weeks, people taking 5-HTP had a significant improvement in pain, the number of tender points, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep. Side effects were mild and transient.

Vitamin B12

A Swedish study found low levels of vitamin B12 in the cerebrospinal fluid of people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Twelve women who met the criteria for both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome were studied, along with a control group of 18 healthy women.

The results showed that the levels of homocysteine in the cerebrospinal fluid were over three times higher in the women who had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome compared to the control group. Cerebrospinal fluid vitamin B12 levels were also low in 7 out of 12 people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers and works to temporarily relieve pain.

When applied to the skin, capsaicin cream has been found to deplete substance P, a neurochemical that transmits pain, which desensitizes a person to pain. People with fibromyalgia have been found to have higher levels of substance P.

One study examined the effectiveness of capsaicin in fibromyalgia. Participants in the study applied 0.025% capsaicin cream four times a day to tender points. After 4 weeks, they had a reduction in pain. For more information including side effects and safety concerns.

So why manage it, when you can eliminate it?

Here’s to your health.

For more information, contact: holly@choicesunlimited.ca

Dr. Holly is a naturopathic doctor that holds a PhD in Psychology and Biochemistry, specializing in balancing mind, body and energy of the system.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or other health care practitioner.