thiamine deficiency in fibromyalgia and chronic pain

Thiamine, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue

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Fibromyalgia affects roughly six million Americans, mostly women. Its symptoms include all-over muscle and tendon pain, increased pain sensitivity, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances and brain fog. Fibromyalgia is often reported as feeling like a flu that never leaves. Similarly, symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) overlap with many of those of fibromyalgia and the two conditions are often co-morbid. With chronic fatigue, however, the predominant symptom is a fatigue that never lets up versus all-over muscle and tendon pain.

Both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are co-diagnosed frequently in women with endometriosis, especially those who have had Lupron treatments. Similarly, we are finding a high incidence of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia post Gardasil/Cervarix and post fluoroquinolone. All over muscle and tendon pain, coupled with never-ending tiredness seem to be common symptoms post medication or vaccine reaction. Could they be linked to a broader problem, specifically, thiamine deficiency?

What is Thiamine?

Thiamine or vitamin B1 is necessary for cellular energy. It is a required co-factor in several enzymatic processes, including glucose metabolism and interestingly enough, myelin production. We can get thiamine only from diet. When diet suffers, as in the case of chronic alcoholism where most of the research on this topic is focused, when nutritional uptake is impaired (leaky gut and other GI disturbances), or when other factors inhibit the enzymes necessary to carry out intracellular reactions, thiamine deficiency ensues. And thiamine deficiency can elicit a whole host of problems that are consistent with the current definitions of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Thiamine and Fibromyalgia – A Few Hints

A recent case study suggests that what is currently diagnosed as fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue may be attributable to thiamine deficiency. A very small case study (n =3) from Italian physicians found a significant reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms in patients given high dose thiamine. Researchers found:

  • Patient 1:  71.3% reduction in fatigue; 80% reduction in pain.
  • Patient 2:  37% reduction in fatigue; 50% reduction in pain.
  • Patient 3:  60.7% reduction in fatigue; 60% reduction in pain.

Thiamine and Chronic Fatigue

In a little bit larger study – 17 patients with Chronic Fatigue, researchers found a functional reduction of the enzymes involved in vitamin B metabolism (aspartate aminotransferase -pyridoxine, glutathione reductase and transketolase) compared to healthy controls, suggesting thiamine deficiency.

What This Means

It’s way too early to tell if thiamine deficiency is at root of fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue symptoms, or if adverse reactions to medications and vaccines can elicit the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, but there are hints pointing in that direction. Much more research should be done. In the meantime, if you suffer from fibromylagia or chronic fatigue or undiagnosed neuromuscular pain, why not consider testing for thiamine.  And while you’re at it, since many of these symptoms overlap with those of hypothyroidism, particularly of the autoimmune Hashimoto’s sort, why not get tested for that too. If you test positive for either of these, tell us about it, it will help other patients find solutions. To learn more about thiamine deficiency and other topics, search our growing library of research and patient stories here on Hormones Matter.

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This article was first published on Hormones Matter in October, 2013.

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Chandler Marrs, PhD

Chandler Marrs MS, MA, PhD spent the last dozen years in women’s health research with a focus on steroid neuroendocrinology and mental health. She has published and presented several articles on her findings. As a graduate student, she founded and directed the UNLV Maternal Health Lab, mentoring dozens of students while directing clinical and Internet-based research. Post graduate, she continued at UNLV as an adjunct faculty member, teaching advanced undergraduate psychopharmacology and health psychology (stress endocrinology). Dr. Marrs received her BA in philosophy from the University of Redlands; MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University; and, MA and PhD in Experimental Psychology/ Neuroendocrinology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

5 Comments

  1. Sorry for the following question, if it seems obvious, but I am really interested in understanding:

    If a blood test revealed low aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT) (between 0.11 and 0.16 microkat/L at various times, while reference range is 0.25-0.6 microkat/L), would that then indicate a need for B6 or B1 supplementation? I am guessing both, but what is the mechanism for their respective involvement?

    The internet is not at all helpful as to the meaning of low ASAT, can only find info regarding high ASAT.

  2. So roughly 1 out of 100 Caucasians are heterozygote (Carriers) of Homocystinuria. CBS homocystinuria heterozygotes have an intrinsic deficiency processing B6 (Pyridoxine) which is needed for all the B vitamin enzyme reactions. This makes the heterozygotes more susceptible to overt deficiency symptoms when suffering from malabsorbtion or hypothyroidism.

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