The truth about fibromyalgia and vitamin D

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WASHINGTON, January 20, 2014–New studies prove vitamin D to be a critical factor for fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) pain abatement and confirm multiple determinations that FMS is a physical disorder.

Recent research indicates that vitamin D, a hormone found in bones, muscles, immune cells, brain cells and every receptor, may be a piece in the larger puzzle that is FMS. There appears to be a link between low levels of vitamin D, chronic pain and FMS.

The recent media storm over vitamin D and chronic pain was really many years in the making. A 10-year long study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that healthy levels of vitamin D have plummeted across all age, culture, gender and nationalities starting around 1989.

This phenomenon may be the result of widespread warnings to avoiding too much sunlight and recommendations to use sun block, reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches our bodies and is converted to vitamin D.

Building on an older 2003 study, which had already pinpointed low levels of vitamin D as a source of many symptoms of chronic pain, the 2009 study expanded and confirmed these findings.

Also in 2009, the Mayo Clinic reported that those with low levels of vitamin D had to ingest twice the amount of narcotic analgesic to achieve the same relief as those with healthy levels of vitamin D.

Like medical researchers, doctors are also seeing a correlation between pain and vitamin D in treating their patients.

Dr. Greg Plotnikoff of the Alina Center for Health Care Innovations chronicles the story of a woman in her 40s that had seen over 30 doctors for her chronic pain. Twelve doctors “called her crazy. She had weakness, achiness, fatigue and three more pages of symptoms and was treated with seizure medications and all kinds of things that didn’t work.”

To her relief, however, after six months of aggressive vitamin D treatment, she was pain-free and able to cross off all three pages of symptoms in her medical file. She was also ecstatic that she “wasn’t crazy.”

In his practice, Dr. Plotnikoff tested and treated another 150 people with chronic pain, associated depression, fatigue and muscle aches. About 93 percent of participants had very low levels of vitamin D, with white women of childbearing age having the lowest levels—an interesting correlation with FMS.

After aggressive vitamin D treatment, Dr. Plotnikoff reported patients declaring “Whoo! I got my life back!”

Doctor Plotnikoff’s work, as well as the studies concerning vitamin D and chronic pain fit together nicely with FMS symptoms and potential treatment.

Even though vitamin D is not currently characterized as a cause or cure for FMS, in many cases it can reduce or eliminate chronic pain, anxiety and depression at a low cost.

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Wikimedia Commons

Supporting this view, new studies show most FMS sufferers have a vitamin D deficiency, according to Dr. Florian Wepner at the Orthopedic Hospital Speising in Vienna.

Dr. Wepner’s research randomly assigned participants with FMS and low vitamin D levels to either a vitamin D or a placebo regimen. The results were encouraging; those who orally ingested vitamin D had substantial reduction in pain while the placebo group reported no change in their pain level.

Although vitamin D is found in milk, eggs, cod liver oil, shiitake mushrooms and certain fish including tuna, it is nearly impossible to get a healthy dose of vitamin D from diet alone. The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, with supplements a close second.

Manufactured by our bodies, vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and healthy bones. It is also an immune system regulator and may help in maintaining a healthy body weight and cognitive functions.

What role vitamin D actually plays in causation of FMS or why reduced levels of vitamin D affect FMS sufferers is not yet clear, but current research of a link between vitamin D deficiencies and FMS is encouraging.

Pharmaceutical grade vitamin D is 99 percent pure and has a greater rate of bioavailability, the actual amount of the vitamin that reaches the circulatory system, so before embarking on vitamin D treatment for FMS, it is important to consult your physician for testing current levels of vitamin D and obtaining the correct grade of supplement.

Additionally, since vitamin D is activated by kidney and liver function, if there is an issue with these organs, vitamin D intake must be adjusted accordingly.

A vitamin D deficiency may take months to overcome, so patience is also a requirement.

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based psychotherapist and writer.

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  • Ewelina Savas

    What is the ultimate desired level of vit D to curb the Fibromyalgia symptoms? From what I’ve been reading the recommended level for pain and for autoimmune disorders treatment is above 100 mg. The FDA’s ‘normal’ standards are 30-60 mg. After years on prescription (50.000 U for first three months) and supplements after that my level right now is 38, the highest ever. My doctor is pretty satisfied with it. He recommended just 2000mg a day. I take 3000mg 2 x day for over 2 years now – that’s how I increased my level to 38mg. How do I approach my doctor to put me back on prescription vitD?