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Natural Relief for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Healthnotes Newswire (March 15, 2007)—A new study shows that a naturally occurring sugar called D-ribose could help improve well-being in people with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, two perplexing and difficult-to-treat conditions.

Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia share many characteristics and often go hand-in-hand. According to the Arthritis Foundation 50 to 70% of people with fibromyalgia also fit the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome, and vice versa. Both conditions are more likely to occur in women than in men.

Chronic fatigue syndrome usually begins with a flu-like illness and is characterized by impaired memory and concentration, insomnia, long-lasting fatigue after exercise, and profound fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest. People with chronic fatigue syndrome often have a sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.

Widespread bodily pain, fatigue, multiple tender points, sleep disturbances, and an increased sensitivity to stimuli (light, touch, odors, and noise) are commonly associated with fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia are also likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and to have difficulty concentrating, sometimes called “fibro fog.” These symptoms are more likely to begin after some sort of injury or trauma.

Depending on which symptoms predominate or, sometimes, which condition the doctor is more familiar with, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or both may be made.

Besides having many symptoms in common, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia may both be related to a shortage of energy at the cellular level. D-ribose is a component of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the compound that supplies nearly all of the body’s energy.

“As D-ribose has been shown to increase cellular energy synthesis in heart and skeletal muscle, this study was done to evaluate if D-ribose could improve symptoms in [fibromyalgia] and/or [chronic fatigue syndrome] patients,” said the new study’s authors in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Thirty-six people with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or both were asked to take 5 grams of D-ribose three times per day until the bottle was gone, which took an average of 25 days. By the end of the study, the people reported significant improvements in energy levels, sleep patterns, mental clarity, pain intensity, and feelings of well-being. The average energy increase was 45%, and about 66% of the people said that they felt “somewhat better to much better” while taking D-ribose.

These findings need to be confirmed in controlled studies in order to rule out the possibility of a placebo effect. However, because there are few effective therapies to help treat people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, D-ribose might be worth a try.

(J Altern Complement Med 2006;12:857–62)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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