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No condition makes the connection between vitamin D and fibromyalgia clearer than the all too common experience of gastric bypass patients. Surgically sewing a bypass into the stomach or small intestine drastically reduces the absorption of calories from food, but it also drastically reduces the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from food, especially vitamin D.
Ruthie's case was a prime example of the power of vitamin D to heal fibromyalgia that occurs after bypass surgery. After trying for 30 years to diet her way to weight loss, Ruthie finally went in for the surgery. The pounds fell away, and her diabetes went away, but after about a month she started having pins and needles feelings when she lay down to go to bed. Three months later, the pins and needles feeling at night had progressed to shooting and stabbing pains around the clock, and she went to another set of doctors for a diagnosis.
Ruthie was fortunate to have a doctor who understood the way bypass surgery can affect vitamin absorption and the ways fibromyalgia can be due to insufficiency of vitamin D. Ruthie's blood test for vitamin D revealed that her bloodstream still had enough of the activated form of vitamin D, 1, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, but almost none of the storage form of vitamin D, the very similarly named 25-hydroxy vitamin D.
The parathyroid glands, which are tiny glands that sit parallel to and touching the thyroid, make a hormone that transforms tiny amounts of the storage form of vitamin D to the active form of vitamin D. At any given time, 99.9% of all the vitamin D in a healthy body is in the storage form, and only about 0.1% is in the active form. Parathyroid hormone accomplishes the transformation.
When Ruthie had her bypass surgery, she stopped getting out into the sun. She had very little space in her stomach to digest the foods that contain the small amount of cholesterol the body needs to make the 7-dehydrocholesterol that the skin transforms into vitamin D. And she did not have enough room in her stomach for the fatty foods—after all, she was trying to lose weight---that provide natural vitamin D.
For the first few months, the parathyroid glands took care of the problem. They worked harder and harder to make more and more parathyroid hormone to transform the existing storage form of vitamin D into the useful form of vitamin D. But they did this at a cost. All the extra parathyroid hormone also changed Ruthie's calcium and magnesium balance so she developed fibromyalgia.
The relationship between vitamin D and fibromyalgia is not that vitamin D deficiency causes fibromyalgia, but that the body's efforts to deal with vitamin D deficiency cause fibromyalgia. As the parathyroid glands surge and sputter and stop and crank up hormone production all over again, someone who is vitamin D deficient can feel energized, then strangely fatigued, and then energized again. It can be harder to keep focus and maintain concentration.
Then little pains grow into bigger pains and occasional pain becomes constant pain. All of this is due to changes in calcium and magnesium, but the answer is not to take calcium and magnesium. What is needed is vitamin D.
Assuming you do not have cancer or sarcoidosis, in which case you should consult a doctor about vitamin D supplements, you can restore your vitamin D supplies by taking about 5,000 IU (625 micrograms) of vitamin D a day for 90 days, or indefinitely if you have had a gastric bypass. If you have trouble with solid food, liquid vitamin D and vitamin D sprays may be better for you.
Taking vitamin D may not erase fibromyalgia symptoms right way. You may need just as long to restore your vitamin D levels as it took to deplete them. But if you take your D on a daily basis, vitamin D may be what helps you completely get rid of fibromyalgia pain for good.
Bilezikian JP, Silverberg SJ. Clinical practice. Asymptomatic primary hyperparathyroidism. N Engl J Med. Apr 22 2004;350(17):1746-51.