Vitamin D3 Shows Benefits for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia Syndrome, or FMS, is a recently emerging disease that primarily affects women of childbearing age—currently it’s estimated that one in 50 Americans lives with FMS. Its symptoms are diverse in their nature and intensity—in addition to pain and fatigue, people diagnosed with FMS can experience pronounced muscle stiffness, sleep disorders, diminished cognitive function and even psychological distress. Needless to say, the condition seriously compromises quality of life.
Effective treatment has been elusive so far due to the systemic nature of FMS, and there appears to be no approach that alleviates all symptoms. Recently, however, researchers hypothesized that supplementation with a specific form of vitamin D (vitamin D3, otherwise known as cholecalciferol) might at least reduce the intensity of symptoms experienced by FMS patients.
In a randomized controlled trial, 30 women with FMS and low serum D3 levels (defined as below 32ng/ml) were assigned to a treatment and control group. The goal for the treatment group was to achieve and maintain serum levels of 32-48ng/ml for a total of 20 weeks via oral supplementation with vitamin D3, with serum levels continuing to be measured for 24 weeks afterward.
During supplementation, the treatment group improved significantly on a scale of physical role functioning, while the placebo group remained unchanged. The treatment group scored significantly better on a Fibromalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) as well, specifically in relation to morning fatigue, a very common symptom. Furthermore, results indicated that even after supplementation was stopped, a marked reduction in the level of perceived pain continued to be experienced by the treatment group.
The explanation is believed to be related to the status of vitamin D3 as a necessary precursor to a hormone known as calcifediol, which FMS sufferers often display in abnormally low amounts. Prior to this trial it was not known if supplementing with vitamin D3 would lead to higher levels of this hormone, but results thus far show great potential.
“We believe that the data presented in the present study are promising. FMS is a very extensive symptom complex that cannot be explained by a vitamin D deficiency alone. However, vitamin D supplementation may be regarded as a relatively safe and economical treatment for FMS patients and an extremely cost-effective alternative or adjunct to expensive pharmacological treatment as well as physical, behavioral, and multimodal therapies,” according to lead investigator Florian Wepner, MD. “Vitamin D levels should be monitored regularly in FMS patients, especially in the winter season, and raised appropriately.”
As research continues, deeper knowledge about the benefits of vitamin D3 supplementation will become clearer. As of now, however, it’s comforting to uncover the possibilities for pain relief for those suffering from FMS with such a straightforward nutraceutical intervention.