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Combating fibromyalgia

Q: I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and am feeling pretty overwhelmed. What can I do?

Dr. Wright: There are several natural approaches for treating fibromyalgia that you may want to discuss with your doctor. First is a nutrient IV therapy pioneered by Dr. John Myers in the late 1960s.

While it’s usually called the Myers Cocktail, the more official term for this therapy is IVFM, and it is a high- dose combination of B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium. My colleague Dr. Alan Gaby has made some modifications to the original formula, including boosting the doses of magnesium and vitamin C.

Thousands of patients around the country have experienced relief using the Myers Cocktail, and not just for fibromyalgia, but also for numerous other health problems including asthma attacks, migraines, fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome), muscle spasms, upper respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, and seasonal allergic rhinitis. It appears to be safe as long as it is carried out by a natural medicine physician (it is not intended to be a do-it-yourself solution).

Patients have reported feeling a slight pinch followed by a warm sensation at the injection site. It takes just 10 to15 minutes, and can be done as often as once a week or as infrequently as once a month. But it is a therapy that requires follow-up: Many patients report that after a month, their symptoms begin to return. Also, while some get immediate relief, for others, it takes as much as six to eight weeks to feel a difference. IVMT can cost anywhere from $15 to $100 per session, but some insurance providers may cover at least part of that cost.

Another option you may wish to discuss with your physician is lithium therapy. Lithium can help alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms without the problems associated with conventional treatments, which include tranquilizer, antidepressant, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (which only temporarily mask the pain and sleeplessness that often occur).

One study examined three women suffering from fibromyalgia, none of whom had responded to conventional treatment. When researchers added lithium to the women’s current treatment, all three noticed a marked reduction in their symptoms.

The authors of the study didn’t explain why they didn’t have the women discontinue their ineffective conventional treatments, but I’ve got a pretty good idea that their motives might have had something to do with the fact that the conventional treatments, as useless as they were for these women, are the “standard” protocol.

If your wife does decide to try lithium therapy, it’s also important to include omega-3 fatty acids, since essential fatty acids can prevent lithium toxicity.

And last, but not least, another colleague of mine (and regular Nutrition & Healing columnist) Kerry Bone has written extensively about the herbal options available for treating fibromyalgia. Subscribers can view this article, titled “Taking the mystery out of fibromyalgia — one herb at a time,” by visiting the archives portion of the website (log on with the username and password listed on page 8 of your most recent issue) and viewing the August 2004 issue.