Originally Published In

The American Naturopathic Medical Association Monitor & The International Association of Therapeutic Specialist's Quarterly

Natural Interventions for People with Fibromyalgia
Robert Thiel, Ph.D., Naturopath, Director of Research, Center for Natural Health Research www.healthresearch.com

Abstract: The purpose of this preliminary trial was to determine how often natural interventions could result in symptomatic improvement for people with fibromyalgia. Interventions included dietary restrictions, nutritional supplementation, and bioelectrical stimulation. All forty participants reported improvement (P < 0.0001); improvement was noted in 95.3% of symptoms monitored. Possible food intolerances were found in 92.5% of the participants.

Thiel, R. Natural Interventions for People with Fibromyalgia. ANMA Monitor 2(2):6-8, 1998
Thiel R. Natural Interventions for People with Fibromyalgia. IATS Quarterly 2(6):1, 1997


Fibromyalgia is an underdiagnosed syndrome that affects between 2-4% of the population [1]. Although its cause is uncertain, genetic factors, stress, insomnia, dietary factors, immune disfunction, a virus, hypometabolism, and calcium disorders have all been speculated as possibly having a role [1-3]. It has been described by this researcher and others as chronic fatigue combined with a nearly overwhelming pain [1,4]. Symptoms vary, but common symptoms include widespread pain (97.6%), tenderness in multiple points (90.1%), fatigue (81.4%), morning stiffness (77.0%), sleep disturbances (74.6%), paresthesias (abnormal burning/ prickly sensations (62.8 %) headaches (52.8%), anxiety (47.8%), prior depression (31.5%), and irritable bowel syndrome (29.6%) [5]. Although fibromyalgia is a multi- symptomatic syndrome, this researcher has found that most people with it will complain most about the one symptom that affects them the most: common are overwhelming fatigue, overwhelming pain, insomnia, or stomach/digestive distress.

According to Julian Whitaker (M.D.) [2] and others [1], conventional medicine often knowingly treats fibromyalgia with ineffective drugs. So it is not surprising that research has shown that most people with fibromyalgia seek help from non-medical sources [6-7].


Adults were eligible for inclusion in this trial if they came to our office, agreed to provide (and did provide) feedback, signed a consent agreement, and indicated that they suffered from fibromyalgia or symptoms of fibromyalgia. Forty people were eligible and participated : 35 were female and 5 were male.


After completing the selection documentation, all subjects were interviewed for approximately 45 minutes. All subjects were then assessed using Reflex Nutrition Assessment (RNA). RNA is a non-invasive technique used to assess nutrition status by observing the responses of muscles under externally provided human force (it is similar to other forms of muscle testing [8]. Performing RNA for people with fibromyalgia normally consists of three assessments. The first assessment is to determine if a reflex indicates a nutritional need (by observing a reduction in muscular strength); the second is to determine which nutritional intervention may help fit that need (by observing an increase in muscular strength); the third is to assess for possible food intolerances (observable muscular weakness when exposed to the food is considered to indicate a possible intolerance). Reflexes associated with fibromyalgia include heart (when major fatigue and circulation are issues), adrenal (when stress and fatigue are issues), sleeping/headache (when insufficient sleep is involved), calcium (when pain is a major factor), thyroid (when mood and circulation are issues), and parasite (when digestive issues are involved). Participants who appeared to be intolerant to one or more foods were advised to avoid them. Participants were advised to consume an average of three tablets per day of one or more nutritional supplements. Although actual supplements varied, fortified bovine heart glandulars were used for heart reflex issues; herbal glandular or flaxseeds, B6, and other herbs for adrenal reflex; soluble calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus or pineal glandular for sleeping; soluble calcium formula and/or fortified food chondroitin-sulfate-A for calcium reflex, fortified thyroid bovine glandular for thryoid reflex, and fortified herbs) for parasite reflex; some with gastro-intestinal upset also underwent bioelectrical stimulation (to stimulate immune function, see zappers) with a zapping unit. Headache reflexes normally responded to thyroid or adrenal support as indicated. Other products were used if they reflex checked as better. Monitored symptoms included muscle pain, hip/joint pain, headaches, fatigue, gastro-intestinal upset, insomnia, and depression /anxiety. Subjects were interviewed at approximately 20 day intervals to determine changes.


All participants (100.0% orally reported improvement within 60 days; the P value of improvement was <0.0001. Ages ranged from 24 - 83; the mean participant age was 52.3 years. The average participant had problems with 4.3 symptoms; improvement was noted in 95.3% of symptoms monitored. By symptoms, improvements was noted in 93.8% with muscular pain, 89.3% with hip/joint pain, 92.9% with headaches 100.0% with fatigue, l00.0% with gastro-intestinal upset, 92.9% with insomnia, and 96.2% with depression/anxiety/. The data showed that 97.4% with muscular and/or hip/joint pain noted some pain reduction in either or both. It should be added, that although paresthesia was not a monitored symptom, the majority of those who complained of it noted improvement. Age and gender did not appear to play any significant role in improvement. This preliminary trial did not attempt to differentiate degrees of improvement.

Possible food intolerances were found in 92.5% of the participants with bovine dairy the most prevalent (45.0)%, followed by caffeine (35.0%), whole wheat (12.5%), oats (l0.0%), chocolate (5.0%), and canola oil (2.5%).


Until relatively recently, fibromyalgia was considered a psychiatric disorder (or secondary to a psychiatric disorder) even though it is now considered to be a rheumatic disorder [1,8]. It is believed by many that some metabolic disorder is probably involved [1-3]. This investigator would concur. Calcium metabolic disorders are primary in many. Since calcium can impair magnesium absorption [9], this investigator suspects that the opposite is probably true: this could explain why some show some pain relief from taking magnesium combined with malic acid [2,10] (though this investigator feels most would do better by avoiding all bovine dairy while taking soluble calcium).

Thyroid issues, though often underdiagnosed [11], are frequently seen [3]. This investigator's other research on chronic fatigue [12] and pain relief[13] has demonstrated that people with fibromyalgia can positively respond to nutrition based interventions as well as to bioelectrical stimulation when gastro-intestinal upset is involved [14]. Since many with inflammatory bowels suffer from pains in joints which can be due to reactive arthritis caused by bacteria [15], it is possible that those who underwent bioelectrical stimulation may have had benefits in joint pain relief due to immune system stimulation [14]. This investigator wonders if this is why bioelectrical stimulation of a different sort, electroacupuncture, has been helpful for pain relief for people with fibromyalgia [16]. It is medically felt that fibromyalgia acts like an infection, though a medically diagnosable infection is rarely found [1].

This may be because of the relatively high incidence of food intolerance in people with it or because the infections associated with gastro-intestinal upset are not always found [17]. This investigator believes that certain food intolerances (such as bovine dairy and oats) can give the appearance of being infectious agents to the body (though this is not usually the case with caffeine). Exercise has been reported to be of value to people with fibromyalgia [1], including even aerobic exercise [18] (though caution is strongly advised before engaging in any strenuous exercise). In addition to the obvious benefits of exercise, this researcher wonders if some of the benfits my be due to heavy perspiration reducing the toxicities associated with food intolerances.

Dealing with people with fibromyalgia is both difficult and professionally rewarding. It is difficult, because many of them are desperate having been either ignored (prior to their diagnosis) or not properly treated [1,2]: this leads to frequent follow-up phone calls and some of them questioning your recommendations while they are improving (not all improve dramatically, especially at first). It is professionally rewarding, because major improvement is often seen in their symptoms while their outlook changes from being suffering semi-pessimists to improving optimists. (One of the youngest participants was somewhat this way. The good news was, although she had minimal improvement within 60 days, long-term interventions finally resulted in substantial improvement.) This researcher enourages doctors and health researchers to be willing to challenge long-standing misconceptions regarding fibromyalgia and to work toward cooperative interventions to help these people improve and lead as normal lives as possible.

[1] Nye D. Fibromyalgia--A Physician's Guide. Internet: 222.alternatives.com/cfs-news/fm-md.htm Dec. 14, l996
[2] Whitaker, J. Four things to do for fibromyalgia. Health & Healing 6(9): 3-4, 1996
[3]Lowe, J. A new explanation of fibromyalgia: The hypo-metabolism hypotheses. In: Clinical Pearls in Nutrition and Preventative Medicine, ITServices: Sacramento, l997
[4]Clauw, D. The pathogenesis of chronic pain and fatigue syndromes with special reference to fibromyalgia. Medical Hypothesis 44(5): 369-378, 1995
[5] Wolfe, F., et. al. The American College of Rheumatology l990 criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia: Report of the multicenter criteria. Arthritis & Rheumatology 33: l60, l990
[6] Dimmock, S., et. al. Factors predisposing to the resort of complementary therapies in patients with fibromyalgia. Clinical Rheumatology 15(5): 478-482, l996
[7] Pioro-Boisset, M. Alternative medicine use in fibromyalgia. Arthritis Care Reviews 9(1): 13-17, l996
[8] Dunne, F. and Dunne, C. Fibromyalgia syndrome and psychiatric disorder. British Journal of Hospital Medicine 54(5): 194-197, l995
[9] Shils, M. Magnesium, In: Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 8th ed.: 164-184 Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia: l994
[10] Russell, I., et.al. Treatment of fibromyalgia with Super Malic: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study. Journal of Rheumatology 22(5): 953-958, l995
[11] Sawin, C. Subclinical hypothyroidism in older persons. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine 11(2): 231-238, l995
[12] Thiel, R. Chronic fatigue assessment and intervention: The result of 101 cases.. ANMA & AANC Journal 1(3): 17-19, 1996
[13] Thiel, R. Musculoskeletal pain relief for people with arthritis, lupus, and fibrmyalgia. ANMA Monitor l(1): 8-10, l997
[14] Thiel, R. Efficacy of bioelectrical stimulation for people with chronic infections. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. In Review, l998
[15] Hazenberg, M. Intestinal flora, bacteria, and arthritis: Why the joint? Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 24 (Supp. 104): 207-211, l995
[16] Deluze, D. Electroacupuncture in fibromyalgia: Results of a controlled trial. British Med. Journal 305: 1249-1251, l992
[17] Clarke, H. The Cure for All Diseases, New Century Press, San Diego: l995
[18] Wiggers, S., et.al. Effects of aerobic exercise versus stress management treatment in fibromyalgia. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 23: 77-86, l997

The Center for Natural Health Research supplies research and other items for health care professionals interested in natural interventions.

For additional information check out http://www.healthresearch.com. This research for doctors and other health care professionals. Thiel is not a medical doctor. None of this research is medical advice, nor should it be construed as medical advice; nor is any of this information specific for any individual.

Copyright 1997/1998/2000 by Robert Thiel, Ph.D., Naturopath All rights reserved.