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Vitamin D deficiency in Saudi Arabian women with fibromyalgia

Posted on: February 2, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD

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Fibromyalgia is incredibly common; up to 2-3 % of the populations have it. Like depression, it increasingly appears that vitamin D deficiency is one cause of fibromyalgia. That is, a subgroup of people with fibromyalgia actually has osteomalacia, or adult rickets. However, not everyone with fibromyalgia has osteomalacia and not everyone with fibromyalgia will respond to vitamin D. In fact, I doubt a majority of people with fibromyalgia will respond to vitamin D.

Generally, the studies showing positive results of treating fibromyalgia with vitamin D come from the Middle East, where vitamin D levels of 3-6 ng/ml in veiled women are common. Today, let’s look at a study from Saudi Arabia that was published in early 2012.

Abokrysha NT. Vitamin D Deficiency in Women with Fibromyalgia in Saudi Arabia. Pain Med. 2012 Jan 5. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01304.x. [Epub ahead of print]

It was an open study of 30 women who, unbelievably, had an average vitamin D level of 4.76 ng/ml. Thus, almost by definition, a number of these women must have had osteomalacia. Dr. Noha Abokrysha gave some a single injection of 600,000 IU of vitamin D3 or weekly oral doses of 50,000 IU to others. For reasons of metabolism, I’d predict the 50,000 IU/week group would do better. However, we will have to wait another day for such an important comparison, as the author did not collect that data.

What Dr. Abokrysha did find was that multiple symptoms of fibromyalgia improved dramatically with vitamin D, most to the tune of <0.001 significance, which is a lot for such a small group. Remember however, these women started at osteomalatic vitamin D levels. Studies in the literature finding no effects in fibromyalgia often start with vitamin D levels of 30 ng/ml and then gave inadequate doses to boot.

I wish I could tell the millions of people suffering from fibromyalgia that vitamin D will cure the condition. Except for the subgroup with osteomalacia, I doubt it will. However, one is left with the usual questions. “Should fibromyalgia patients be vitamin D deficient?” Not in my opinion. Furthermore, they should obtain and maintain natural levels, the same levels the Maasai and Hadzabe people of Africa maintain today, about 50 ng/ml.

2 Responses to Vitamin D deficiency in Saudi Arabian women with fibromyalgia

  1. texarc@gmail.com

    One of the groups of customer patients I have the most positive feedback from are those with diagnosed nerve pains – neuralgias, fibromylagias, trigeminal neuralgia leading to migraine-like headaches, after as little as two weeks of increased Vitamin D intake, return to me as I have asked, to “let me know how it goes, please”. Some have been on gabapentin or lyrica with little or no control of the problem – and these medications are lifetime meds – one does not see “cures” from these, only lifetime costs since one must take them forever – they merely treat a symptom and not the cause. For example, one woman could not wear long sleeve blouses due to pain of the fabric on her nerves in her forearm. Within perhaps a month she returned, literally patting her arm and calling my name out across the pharmacy to see her pain was vanquished. You may be underestimating how many Americans might benefit from proper D3 dosing. I have never in my 32+ year career as a pharmacist felt so empowered to actually help people, to make a difference, for so little money and so little risk. If I could only get my fellow coaches in archery to take it as seriously…

  2. Brant Cebulla

    texarc, thanks for sharing. I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on placebo effect.

    I’m sure in your 32 years of experience you have recommended a few other supplements to people with various disorders. What has your experience been in the power of just making a recommendation, regardless of what the recommendation is? In helping people with their disorder and making a recommendation, how big of a factor is the placebo effect compared to how big of a factor is the role of vitamin D? What is your gut take?

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