The first part of my natural treatment protocol for FM was focused on healing my digestive tract (which I described in a previous post). The second phase is to begin incorporating d-ribose.
D-ribose is a sugar produced in the body and taken to alleviate fatigue and pain in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Here’s what the research says about this supplement.
The biggest advocate for d-ribose is Dr. Teitelbaum, a prominent doctor in the field of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia medicine. He has developed a program for treating both conditions which includes d-ribose as a core component. Dr. Teitelbaum contends that CFS/FMS is caused by an “energy crisis” in the body, leading to a cascade of different symptoms like fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, among others. One root cause of the energy problem, he argues, is that the ability of the mitochondria in your cells to generate energy is suppressed. Mitochondria produce the energy, called ATP, used by your cells to carry out all their functions. D-ribose is essential to the production of ATP. Therefore, taking additional D-ribose should help to support mitochondrial function and improve energy output in fatigued patients. (If you are interested in learning more, check out a much longer discussion found on Dr. Teitelbaum’s website here).
The evidence? Dr. Teitelbaum has authored a few pilot studies that have demonstrated some promising results. The most recent study was an open-label study published in 2012. In this multicenter study, 257 patients diagnosed with CFS/FMS were given d-ribose (5 g three times daily for three weeks). Patient symptoms were assessed in terms of subjective change in energy, sleep quality, mental clarity, pain level, and global sense of well-being, and compared to their pre-study baseline. Significant improvements were found; specifically a 61.3% increase in energy, 37% increase in general well-being, 29% improvement in sleep, 30% improvement in mental clarity, 15.6% decrease in pain.
Sounds great, right? There are some limitations to the study. First of all, there was no placebo group so we don’t have a sense of how much a placebo effect might have impacted the results. Secondly, it was quite a short study so long term effects were not captured in the results. Third, I always feel a bit suspicious of studies that lump chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia together because a lot of recent research has demonstrated different causes for the two conditions and mixing them together might conflate the results.
Personally, I have found D-ribose a helpful aid to improving my energy. I would say that it improves my energy by 15-20%. I take 5mg in the morning, and sometimes an additional 5mg in the afternoon. When I stopped taking it, I noticed a worsening of my afternoon brain fog and fatigue. I didn’t notice a worsening of pain or sleep however. I also appreciate that it is easy to take – just mix a spoonful with a glass of swater- instead of yet another pill. It is also relatively inexpensive.
As with everything fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue related, it is an individual experience, so you have to try it for yourself. In the case of d-ribose, I think it is definitely worth a try!
Check out other great posts on the Fibro Friday Linkup!
Teitelbaum JE, et al. “Treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia with D-ribose – An open-label, multicenter study.” The Open Pain Journal. 2012, 5,32-37