Vitamin/Mineral Supplements are Generally Not Helpful for Fibromyalgia, Says New Research Review

Vitamin/Mineral Supplements are Generally Not Helpful for Fibromyalgia, Says New Research Review

By Donna Gregory Burch.

Many of us with fibromyalgia – myself included – have cabinets full of over-the-counter supplements that we’ve tried in an effort to reduce our symptoms.

Now, a new systemic review of vitamin/mineral use among those with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) confirms what many of us already knew: We’re wasting a lot of money on supplements that don’t work.

Donna Gregory Burch

The Netherlands-based study pooled data from 27 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies and tried to discern whether FMS/CFS patients suffer from vitamin/mineral deficiencies, and which – if any – vitamins/minerals actually improve symptoms.

The bottom line? “Little evidence was found to support the hypothesis that vitamin and mineral deficiencies play a role in the pathophysiology of CFS and FMS, and that the use of supplements is effective in these patients,” read the review. 

But there were a few vitamins/minerals that showed positive results in FMS patients. The findings included:

  • A 2013 study showed taking magnesium citrate in conjunction with the antidepressant amitriptyline was more effective at reducing pain and other measured outcomes than amitriptyline alone.
  • A 2010 study concluded combining exercise with vitamins C and E may lower oxidative stress in FMS patients, but it did not improve their overall symptoms.
  • A 2014 study found that supplementing with vitamin D3 in fibromyalgia patients led to less pain.

Overall, supplementing with vitamin D received mixed results, depending on the study. “Most studies investigating vitamin D found no significant associations between vitamin D and clinical parameters in CFS and FMS patients,” read the review. However, two studies did find that pain levels were higher in FMS patients whose vitamin D levels were less than 30ng/ml versus those with higher levels.

When researchers studied vitamin/mineral levels in FMS patients, they found:

  • “All studies investigating vitamin A, vitamin C, ferritin, iron and selenium found no significant associations between vitamin and mineral status and clinical parameters in FMS patients,” read the review.
  • “All studies that investigated vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, molybdenum, phosphorus, sodium and iodine, and the majority of studies that investigated potassium and selenium status found no statistically significant difference between patients and [healthy] controls.”
  • “In contrast, all studies that investigated vitamin B1 and manganese, and the majority of studies that investigated vitamin A found statistically significant lower serum values in [FMS] patients versus controls.”
  • “Consistent significant lower circulating concentrations were found repeatedly and in the majority of studies for vitamin A and vitamin E in patients compared to controls. However, the significant difference in circulating concentrations of vitamin E between patients and controls disappeared when excluding low quality studies. … In addition, RCTs testing supplements containing these vitamins and/or minerals did not result in clinical improvements.”
  • There were mixed results for levels of copper, ferritin and zinc. Three studies showed higher copper levels in FMS patients compared to one study with lower levels. Ferritin levels were lower in two studies of FMS patients, but higher in two others. Three studies showed low zinc levels in FMS patients, but two studies showed higher levels. Taken together, all of these studies essentially cancelled one another out.

The researchers who completed the review acknowledged their findings were limited by the quality of the available studies. Most of the studies included in the review were observational in nature, so their conclusions are not as valid as those coming from an RCT using a placebo and healthy controls.

Very few RCTs have been conducted to investigate the effect of vitamin/mineral supplementation in FMS and CFS patients. That’s mainly because there’s little financial incentive to study low-cost supplements.

“The current literature on vitamins and minerals in CFS and FMS is of poor quality and stresses the need for well-performed intervention research and large population-based and age-matched prospective studies in CFS and FMS in order to gain more insight in the role of vitamins and minerals in the pathophysiology of CFS and FMS,” the review said. “According to our results, potential vitamins and minerals that should be further examined include vitamin A and vitamin E.”

Now it’s your turn: Do you supplement with vitamins/minerals for fibromyalgia? If so, do you find it helpful? Please share your experiences in the comments section! 

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

 

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Jean Price at 3:37 pm

    I personally think they’re are many needles in many haystacks when it comes to how vitamins and minerals affect our health! Sadly we don’t have many clues, since the research in this area is lacking! It takes money to do the reasearch scientifically…and yet these things can’t be patented or giving an inflated price to recoup the losses in research! So we likely won’t have big scientific studies in the future either! It would be good to understand the many ways we can be affected…and helped…from various supplements!

    Having said this, we DO know already that certain conditions and certain medicines can deplete our vitamins, yet we don’t know how much difference the cellular level versus the circulating or serum level is! And what any of it means regarding how we feel! I think it’s prudent to have levels checked before starting supplements, though…and rechecked to see if they are actually getting into your system, since this is also a factor that can vary! Some doctors think most supplements end up in the bathroom commodes….excreted by us anyway! And I know this can happen at times, especially with excesses of things our bodies don’t need at the time! Yet a good multivitamin today is usually a plus, considering how much our food sources vary and how preparation can also destroy many nutrients too. And when you do have low levels, it’s good to do a replacement supplement and be rechecked…even if you can’t pinpoint exactly how you may have felt differently! All in all, another informative and well written article Donna…like all of yours! You make us think and give us insight into good information…I always enjoy reading them!

  2. Carina at 7:14 am

    I take a lot of supplements, and I have stopped taking even more when I realized they had zero effect on my symptoms. High dose thiamine gives me more energy, as does vitamin D. Magnesium is helpful, plus I need more calcium anyway. Ubiquinol helps a little, so I still take it, as does a good vitamin B mix and a multivitamin. Herbals (Source Naturals Theanine Serene with Relora and holy basil extract) help more with sleep than with pain, but I need help with that, so I’m not complaining about taking those.

    While supplements haven’t helped with pain (curcumin was a waste of money for me), they do help with energy levels and sleep, and those are important, too. For those of us who cannot tolerate any of the drugs or just can’t take them, supplements help. We need more research in this area!!

  3. Jill J at 10:58 am

    Magnesium (400 mgs 2x a day) + Tumeric/curcumin 2× a day + Vit D3 (2,0000 mgs 2x a day) have brought my pain level down to between 1-3 most days. I supplement with heating pad and IB when necessary, and flexeril (at night) when higher pain level for more than 3 days.

  4. Patricia Richardson at 7:58 am

    I disagree that we do not need supplements. But what we also need is a professional to guide us through maze. Enlist the aid of a “functional” or”integrative” physician who works with people with chronic diseases. Or, read the book “The Fibro Manual: a Complete Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor” by Ginevra Liptan, M.D. You need lab tests to determine what vitamins and/or minerals you are deficient before taking them randomly.

  5. StevefromMA at 6:32 am

    Hi Donna,

    Yes, have tried any supplements on PubMed that supposedly helped FM pain, some with RCT…CoQ10, etc., alphalipoic acid, (too acidic to use,) too many to name. None worked. I do take 4000 iu of D3 daily to bring my level to 60 but that did not decrease pain. I take probiotics since I get them free but no effect for me, do not have IBS problems. I’m taking Chinese meds as part of my acupuncture, scary, and not sure if the will work yet. Will try turmeric at some point, thanks for your heads up on an earlier post about it. I’m afraid that with the more I read and as time goes on, I’m not sure how much anyone really knows about what helps FM at this point. The research, such as it is, is still at a basic research level for what the pathophysilogy is, though some people are more certain than others. If anyone is going to help me, they need to work pretty fast before time catches up with me and, like most of us, every day is a real challenge. People like you are helpful, though, thx.

  6. Dorothy Morris at 5:44 am

    I personly have found that nothing helps substancely enough to publish very good news to people.Many drugs on the market just take the edge off.

  7. Heather at 4:52 am

    I tend to disagree a little with this. While all Vit/supp may not be suffcient my Dr out me on COQ10 along with VIt C, D3 because it’s low, and it has helped some. The important thing to note is that all Drs are not telling those with Vit D dedciciency to take Magnesium which I also take. They have to be taken together to work appropriately or you will end up Magnesium deficient and the extra aches and pains that Drs believe are Vit D are not it is from Magnesium. When taking high doses of D it pulls Magnesium and Calcium reserves which can lead to increase pain, cramping, and muscle spasms of not taken together. Vit D must also be taken with the largest meal of the day for best absorption. A lot of Dr fail to tell patients these small but yet very important details causes patients to suffer more. A little sunlight 20 min a day with no sunscreen is the best Vit D replacement for anyone though. Those with fibro bodies go haywire leading to array of problems and Vit/supp def is just one. Also if the thtroid, adrenals, hormones, Vit D, B12, any are off it can cause issues but correctable. So for some it may not work for others just a little as we have many other disorders that go along with Fibro. But I have found some small amount from it. Getting your Drs to do proper bloodwork is very important so keep asking and do your research. Be your own ADVOCATES

  8. Julie Pickett at 4:06 am

    I was diagnosed with FMS 12 months ago however this was complicated by hyperparathyroidism resulting in removal of a small parathyroid tumour in 2013. On reflection, I believe that FMS had been present concurrently with the parathyroid disease. During that time my D3 levels were 20 and I was supplementing with vitamin D twice daily. My D3 levels are now 30 but I continue taking vitamin D once a day as I find it difficult to maintain a normal level without it. Personally, I think the pain associated with FMS is reduced with this. I also take magnesium which has helped immensely with reducing restless legs and muscle aches; particularly in my calves.

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