New research suggests that fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome) can be improved through therapy based on vitamin B12 and folic acid.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME, has some of the same characteristics as fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is best described as chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain. However, it also involves fatigue, stiffness, and numbness in certain body parts, along with headaches, sleep disorders, and mood changes. Both fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis can impact a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks, thus lowering the quality of life.
Nutritionists and medical scientists will tell you that vitamin B12 and folic acid are important in maintaining good health. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep our nerve and blood cells healthy. It also helps prevent a type of anemia that makes people feel tired and weak. Folic acid is crucial to cell development and metabolism.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis patients have responded well to frequent vitamin B12 injections with oral folic acid. In the study, researchers analyzed close to 40 ME patients with or without fibromyalgia who received the B12 at least once a week for anywhere from six months to several years. Patients were grouped into good and mild responders for B12 and folic acid therapy. It turned out that 80 percent of the good responders had myalgic encephalomyelitis and 52 percent of mild responders had ME and fibromyalgia.
The research team discovered that good responders received more B12 injections with a higher doses and for a longer time, as well as higher daily amounts of the oral folic acid. Most of the good responders did not use strong painkillers along with the B12 and folic acid to treat their symptoms. About 70 percent of the mild responders did use painkillers, yet still reported more pain and discomfort than the good responders. Some experts suggest that analgesics (painkillers) may interfere with B12/folic acid treatment.
When asked how they felt, the good responders said that they felt their health improved ”very much”.
Conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Gottries Clinic, the study revealed that many good responders were also under treatment with thyroid hormones, which could also contribute to the positive impact of the B12 and folic acid therapy.
While the Swedish researchers concluded that B12/folic acid treatment indicated an overall “positive health response” in patients with ME and fibromyalgia, they also recommend that thyroid dysfunction be taken into consideration when developing clinical trials for ME and fibromyalgia patients.
Tips to improve living with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
Living with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can be a real challenge. Many people are tempted to simply pop a pill in a desperate attempt to gain relief, but pain pills are not intended for long-term use. It is lifestyle adjustments that often bring positive results in people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Lifestyle changes, such as getting a good night’s sleep, as well as reducing caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, can go a long way in helping fibromyalgia sufferers feel more comfortable.
Sleep is one of the most difficult issues for people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, but if a patient can limit noise, light, and other possible distractions, such as pets, it can be easier. Keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, listening to soft music, or reading before bed can also help. Rheumatologists tell their patients with chronic pain and fatigue to avoid naps. Following a regular sleep schedule is advised so that your body clock does not get confused.
Here are some other tips to improve quality of life:
- Reduce stress – try yoga, pilates, mediation, psychotherapy, or biofeedback.
- Stretch daily – make stretching out your muscles a ritual throughout the day.
- Exercise regularly – research shows exercise improves joint movement, insomnia, and fatigue.
- Pace yourself – do not overdo it. You may have days where you feel really good, but you can set yourself back if you go overboard with activity.
- Pay attention to diet – some studies show fibromyalgia sufferers are sensitive to certain foods. For example, some are sensitive to MSG (monosodium glutamate) or dairy.
- Try alternative therapies – acupuncture and massage therapy have been known to help some people who suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
- Visit your doctor – maintain regular checkups to discuss all treatment options.
There is no denying it, having fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can be life altering. Making changes to lifestyle and learning how to modify daily activities are a must if you are a sufferer. It is important to remember that every patient is different, and while one lifestyle adjustment may work for one person with fibromyalgia, it may not work for another person with fibromyalgia. It is really about trial and error.
Today, it is estimated that about 5 million Americans, mostly women, are living with fibromyalgia. As well, there are more than one million reported cases of chronic fatigue syndrome. The numbers for chronic fatigue may be off, as experts say they believe many cases go unreported. The point is, if you suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, you are not alone. If you find you are really struggling, speak to your doctor about support groups and forums. There are a number of reputable groups they can guide you to. An opportunity to converse with someone who really understands what you are going through can be very comforting.
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