Role of Antioxidants in Treating Fibromyalgia

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Research on different parameters in fibromyalgia indicates that there are a multitude of factors involved in the functional changes that lead to the syndrome. Certainly antioxidant supplements are known to be helpful in many diseases, but at this point, it remains unclear whether there is any benefit for fibromyalgia patients.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a form of non-articular rheumatism characterized by chronic widespread musculoskeletal aching. Although some works have investigated the possible role of oxidative stress in the pathophysiology of FM, none has analyzed a significant number of oxidative markers in the same patients. 

Oxidative stress in Fibromyalgia

Another area gaining increasing interest is the role of oxidative stress in the initiation and progression of fibromyalgia and its related symptoms.  Oxidative stress is a complex condition that is characterized by the release of highly unstable products called free radicals.

There are many kinds of free radicals. As we digest our food, our body forms free radicals. When we are exposed to pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, and herbicides to name a few, we take on more free radicals. Every cell produces tens of thousands of these.  Free radicals’ damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Free radicals are considered unstable because they are missing an electron; this gives them the ability to disrupt normal cellular function. You gain advantage over free radicals when you use natural antioxidants to fortify your body against the advancement of fibromyalgia.

The nutrients in natural foods speed healing to your body. One thing that can be stated with certainty, having been confirmed by numerous studies, is that fibromyalgia is characterized by high levels of oxidative stress resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction. It has been confirmed that patients with fibromyalgia have abnormal DNA fragmentation and changes in the number and size of mitochondria in their muscle tissue.

Research shows that the treatment for fibromyalgia should concentrate on the reversal of the acute oxidative stress damaging DNA and the energy-producing mitochondria and on the restoration of the redox balance, which may be achieved only through the glutathione optimizing therapies.

Oxidative stress is a constantly occurring process within the body, but our bodies have evolved to limit the levels of these ‘reactive oxidants’ and the damage they inflict.  Specific enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase act directly to inactivate these potentially harmful products. 

However the consumption of dietary antioxidants also provides an effective defense mechanism by donating an electron to the free radical, rendering it harmless and thus removing it from the circulation. Antioxidants, however, prevent these harmful reactions from taking place. It has been suggested by studies that fibromyalgia actually is the result of cell damage caused by free radicals, meaning that antioxidants are extra important for fibro patients.

Antioxidants for Fibromyalgia

Issues arise when the body’s store of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase is depleted, or if the diet contains low levels of antioxidants. There are many ways to take advantage of antioxidants. The best way is thru foods and supplements.

Alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-like chemical probably best described as an antioxidant. As you’ve probably heard, antioxidants are known for reducing or eliminating “free radicals. ALA isn’t just any antioxidant, though: it’s considered to be an extra-special antioxidant for several reasons.

First, while most antioxidants are either fat or water soluble (making them less effective, or harder for your body to break down, under certain conditions), ALA is effective in both water and fatty tissue.

Second, it increases the amount of another antioxidant which is crucial for fibromyalgia patients called glutathione. ALA is also excellent at preventing damage to the mitochondria, the “powerhouse” of the cell. Mitochondria destruction plays a large part in causing both chronic fatigue and pain, since when your mitochondria are damaged; it’s more difficult for your body to turn food into energy. Increasing levels of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase within the body can significantly help defend against the damaging effects of oxidative stress. 

Asparagus contains more glutathione than any other common food item, but generally it is difficult to increase levels of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase by direct consumption. Glutathione is a small protein composed of three amino acids, cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine; the amount of cysteine in the body can determine how much glutathione the body can make.

Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin present in citrus fruits and juices, cabbage, green peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomato, kale, guava, cantaloupe, kiwi, papaya, and strawberries.  It is important in forming collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels.

Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, and helps maintain capillaries, bones, and teeth. Consuming foods with a high cysteine content can therefore help as an indirect way of ensuring glutathione levels are maintained.  Cysteine is found in a variety of foods including pork, poultry, yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions and broccoli. Omega-6 fatty acid in the form of AA can be found mainly in non-organic meats (organs in particular), and other animal-based food items. 

Our high intake of grains and oils rich in LA, coupled with our low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, has led to an overall increase of AA within our cell membranes. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. It is present in liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, and grains.  Beta-carotene is one of the best known carotenoids, the coloring in our orange and yellow vegetables.   This antioxidant fights against the damage done by free-radicals.

Not surprisingly, many fibromyalgia patients benefit from a taking Fish Oil, a unique source of EPA and GLA.   Furthermore, ensuring the body’s reservoirs of antioxidants detox enzyme precursors are kept in check can have a significant impact on many of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia syndrome.


  • Imbalance Between Oxidants and Antioxidants Found in Fibromyalgia Patients via Pro Health
  • Antioxidants for Fibromyalgia vua Everyday Health
  • How Alpha Lipoic Acid Helps Fibromyalgia Pain via Healing Fibro
  • The benefits of managing oxidative stress in fibromyalgia syndrome via Igennus
  • Treatment For Fibromyalgia: the glutathione connection via Immune Health Science

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