While prescription pain medications can help take the edge off of fibromyalgia pain – they are not without their risks. Most prescription medications have a long list of adverse side effects. Opioids, in particular, can lead to dependency problems for some patients. A recent Time magazine article noted that there are an estimated 100 million people in the United States suffering from chronic pain, with roughly 5 to 8 million of them using opioids for long-term treatment of pain. The article also highlighted a disturbing trend in the rise of opioid abuse, noting, “Between 2007 and 2010, the number of hospitalizations for opioid addiction increased four-fold”. 
So what other options are there for safely treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia or chronic pain? For many, natural approaches have proven to be a safe and effective alternative (or complimentary) treatment. Some of the most common natural treatments for fibromyalgia include herbs, supplements, acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness techniques, massage therapy and more. While no single method will completely relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia – trying multiple approaches consistently can, over time, result in significant positive changes and more lasting relief.
Among these natural approaches, one of the fastest growing and most promising is the use of natural herbs and supplements to provide lasting relief from pain, fatigue, depression and many of the other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Herbs and supplements can help relieve some of the symptoms without many of the risks or side effects associated with prescription painkillers or other medications. These herbs and supplements often help address nutritional deficiencies or other underlying causes that may be contributing to your pain – giving you more lasting relief. We’ve pulled together a list of 10 of the most popular and effective herbs and supplements for treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Lets take a look:
5-HTP is a chemical the body creates from the amino acid tryptophan. After the body converts tryptophan (an amino acid found in some of the foods we eat) into 5-HTP, it is converted into yet another chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps brain cells send and receive messages from each other. This important neurotransmitter affects nearly all of our brains cells – helping to regulate things like mood, behavior, sleep, body temperature, appetite, sexual desire, memory, and more. Researchers believe 5-HTP may positively influence sleep, mood, anxiety and even pain sensation.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Three studies have suggested that 5-HTP can improve symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, anxiety, morning stiffness, and fatigue. Many people with fibromyalgia have low levels of serotonin, and doctors often prescribe antidepressants. Since 5-HTP, like antidepressants, raises levels of serotonin in the brain, it may work too.”
SAMe is a naturally occurring chemical that has shown promise in helping to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is commonly used for depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, chronic back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive difficulties and more. The University of Maryland Medical center has noted that SAMe can be effective in “reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia – including pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, and depressed mood.”
A double-blind, randomized clinical trial by Harvard Medical School also found that SAMe can be an “effective, well-tolerated, and safe adjunctive treatment” in treating depression.
Turmeric is a natural pain reliever and healer. This powerful pain reliever comes from the roots of a plant in the ginger family, which has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for pain. Turmeric owes its pain relieving powers to curcumin, a compound found within the herb. Curcumin helps the body block the COX-2 enzyme – an enzyme that can trigger pain and inflammation. In addition to taking a turmeric supplement, it can be used as an ingredient in cooking to add spice/flavor to your food or as an ingredient in pain relieving tea recipes.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid is a super powerful antioxidant. It has earned the title of “super antioxidant” for two reasons. First, it has the unique ability to regenerate itself – as well as other antioxidants – boosting your body’s ability to fight and neutralize harmful free radicals that cause chronic illnesses. Second, it is able to cross the blood/brain barrier, allowing it to more readily pass into the areas where it is most essential.
In addition to these unique abilities, alpha lipoic acid also helps improve circulation – boosting the flow of oxygen and blood to throughout the body. This boost in circulation is important for those with fibromyalgia because it ensures that important vitamins and nutrients are delivered to the various systems in the body – giving them the ability to repair, rebuild and function properly.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
One of the biggest challenges for fibromyalgia sufferers – besides the pain – is the complete exhaustion or lack of energy. The exhaustion and weakness from fibromyalgia has a profound impact on daily life and the ability of sufferers to function normally. Coenzyme Q10 can help combat this problem. Think of it as the energy enzyme. It is responsible for the body’s production of ATP – the primary source of fuel for energizing the cellular functions of the body. CoQ10 helps boost energy and improve your ability to tolerate activities that require physical exertion.
Another valuable supplement for boosting energy is Ribose. Ribose is a sugar – but unlike the added sugars or artificial sweeteners you’ll find in most of your food and drinks – ribose provides lasting energy and boost in mood. No more quick sugar high followed by a fast crash. This beneficial supplement has been used to help combat chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and more.
Magnesium deficiency is a leading cause of symptoms like pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, exhaustion and more. According to some estimates, magnesium deficiency affects nearly 80% of Americans. This important mineral is involved in over 300 different chemical reactions in the body – making it especially important to your body’s ability to function normally.
For those suffering from fibromyalgia or other forms of chronic pain, magnesium may help relieve a variety of symptoms. It can help calm the nerves, reduce tension, improve sleep, relax muscles, relieve tender joints and more.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids have a long list of health benefits such as fighting inflammation, preventing cognitive decline, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, fighting rheumatoid arthritis, relieving inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), improving bone health and more.
Its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties make it a must have for fibromyalgia sufferers. In one study of chronic pain patients, symptoms such as stiffness, pain and tender joints were reported to have decreased significantly after taking an Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement for approximately three months.
Also of special benefit to fibromyalgia sufferers are its potential depression and cognitive decline fighting properties. Some studies have reported enhanced results when taking Omega 3 in addition to prescription depression medications. Omega 3 has also been shown to prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
Like 5-HTP and SAMe, Rhodiola Rosea is a powerful herb for boosting mood and helping the body cope with stress. For many people suffering with fibromyalgia, symptoms like depression, cognitive difficulties (a.k.a. fibro fog) and fatigue are common. Rhodiola is an adaptogen, which is a class of herbs that can help us adapt to stress and change and become more resistant to their negative effects. Among Rhodiola’s many benefits, the four most relevant for fibromyalgia sufferers are its ability to defend against stress, provide a natural energy boost, combat feelings of depression and improve mental clarity.
For many fibromyalgia patients, migraines are a common and debilitating symptom. In a study of over 1,700 fibromyalgia patients, over half reported frequent migraines. Of those who met the criteria for migraines, other symptoms such as hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder were significantly more common. 
For those suffering from migraines, butterbur may be an effective herb for reducing the frequency/severity of these debilitating headaches. In some cases, butterbur has also helped to prevent the occurrence of migraines. Most notably, a study conducted by Albert Einsteins’s College of Medicine in New York City found it to be effective in the prevention of migraines. Other studies have shown it to reduce the frequency of migraines by as much as 50% some patients.
These are just a few of the many herbs, vitamins and supplements that can be used as part of a natural approach to treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Herbs and supplements, when combined with other alternative and traditional forms of treatment – can help provide lasting relief and pave the way for a happier, healthier you. What natural herbs or supplements have you found to be most beneficial for you? Share your experiences with us on the Fibrolief Facebook Page!
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) | University of Maryland Medical Center http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/5hydroxytryptophan-5htp#ixzz3erHLBr3Q
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