Tryptophan helps relieve the pain of fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia – a condition characterized by persistent muscle pain – or if a friend or loved one of yours is afflicted, you’d do anything for some relief, and if it can come in the form of a natural supplement that is good for you, all the better.

This study (J Rheumatol. 1992 Jan; 19 (1): 90-4) is a bit old, but it deserves a second look. Reviewing the blood levels of different nutrients, investigators found that people with fibromyalgia had consistently lower levels of tryoptophan, a protein-derived amino acid that the brain uses to make serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter.

Tryptophan is also known for an infamous episode in the 1980’s when the FDA removed it from the market after a single contaminated batch made it into the U.S., probably as a result of poor FDA supervision. Fortunately, tryptophan is slowly making its way back and 5HTP – a related compound – is readily available at health food stores.

It is not known whether fibromyalgia is in some way associated with low levels of serotonin in the brain, or whether it is some other function of tryptophan that is lacking. Nevertheless it has been a steady observation of mine that, although not a cure, either tryptophan or 5HTP can help. This is also a case where if a little doesn’t do the job, more might.

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