Chlorella may help with General Fatigue, Musculoskeletal Pain, Altered Sleep, Memory and Mood.

Chlorella may help with General Fatigue, Musculoskeletal Pain, Altered Sleep, Memory and Mood. Fibromyalgia is a debilitating chronic condition affecting up to 2%* of adults (CDC1). It’s notoriously difficult to diagnose, which points to the likelihood of these statistics being underestimated and the illness being even more rampant. Despite how common it is and how … Continue reading Chlorella may help with General Fatigue, Musculoskeletal Pain, Altered Sleep, Memory and Mood.

Chlorella may help with General Fatigue, Musculoskeletal Pain, Altered Sleep, Memory and Mood.

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating chronic condition affecting up to 2%* of adults (CDC1). It’s notoriously difficult to diagnose, which points to the likelihood of these statistics being underestimated and the illness being even more rampant. Despite how common it is and how life-altering the symptoms can be, there is still no known cause of the disease, and no specified treatment. The symptoms are widespread, generally with a combination of physical pain, fatigue, sleep issues, cognitive problems and mental health effects among other lesser ones (CDC1). The current established practice for treating fibromyalgia is lifestyle management, often with the addition of pain-reducing drugs (Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry2, WebMD3). With the current lack of clear and effective treatment options available, many living with fibromyalgia have also tried turning to more natural options like herbs and supplements to manage their symptoms (healthline4, WebMD5). This interest has led to the beginning stages of scientific research examining the effects of different dietary supplements including chlorella as a potential method to manage the illness (Merchant RE, Carmack CA, Wise CM6, Merchant RE, Andre CA 7)


The essence of fibromyalgia is that it causes excessive amounts of physical pain in the body. This includes overall aches, severe sensitivity to touch, as well as isolated points of pain in the body. It’s still unclear to experts why this occurs, but it’s believed to likely be due to improper pain regulation in the body, implying that it may be a nervous symptom problem, though this determination is not conclusive (Watson NF, Buchwald D, Goldberg J, Noonan C, Ellenbogen RG8, News Medical Life Sciences9). It’s also known that inflammation of the muscles, joints and ligaments plays a role. Both systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation are likely factors contributing to the condition (Bäckryd E, Tanum L, Lind AL, Larsson A, Gordh T10). Recent studies have even pointed to the possibility that the origin of the condition may be related to the immune system (Science Daily11).


There are various risk factors associated with fibromyalgia, though none of them are thought to be causes. It appears that they simply contribute to the likelihood of onset. These factors include sex (women are twice as likely to suffer from fibromyalgia), age (older adults are more susceptible), diagnosis of Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis, family history, obesity, genetic factors, viral infections, repetitive injuries, and stressful or traumatic event history (CDC1, Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry2).


One unusual aspect of fibromyalgia is that it’s classified as a biopsychosocial condition. This means that the factors contributing to the disease may be biological, psychological, or environmental (ie. social) (Turk DC, Adams LM12). Most commonly. all three planes of reference are believed to be involved and play interacting roles in the development of the condition. In the past, fibromyalgia was thought to be “imagined” by those experiencing it because of its lack of observable physical characteristics. Some healthcare practitioners questioned whether the pain patients experienced was brought about by psychological delusions, manifesting as perceived pain, rather than a real physiological issue. This has since been proven false. The pain experienced by those with the condition is very real, and has even been observed through EEG scans which show electrical instability in the participants brain waves from the explosive overreaction to pain stimuli (Martín-Brufau R, Gómez MN, Sanchez-Sanchez-Rojas L, Nombela C13).


While physical pain is the most common symptom for fibromyalgia patients, as well as the primary criteria for diagnosing the condition, it’s unfortunately not the only thing those affected with the condition suffer from. The truly debilitating nature of the illness lies in the combination of comorbidities that can amplify the negative effects of one another. General fatigue for example is one of the key symptoms experienced by those with fibromyalgia; but the prevalence of mental health issues like depression also often present can likewise cause fatigue and create an even more burdensome outcome (Gracely RH, Ceko M, Bushnell MC14). Other issues that contribute to an interrelated web of symptoms include gut microbiome abnormalities recently observed in scientific studies conducted on participants with fibromyalgia (Adrienne Dellwo15). Gut health is known to play a key role in mental health shown by the ever increasing body of research on the gut-brain axis (Limbana T, Khan F, Eskander N16) Many of the neurotransmitters required for mental wellbeing are predominantly produced in the gut, so microbiome imbalances may therefore lead to poor mental health outcomes, creating a chain of unfortunate consequences for the individual (Limbana T, Khan F, Eskander N16).


The severity of fibromyalgia symptoms vary greatly, as do the treatment methods. There is unfortunately still no clear outline for healthcare practitioners to follow when assessing patients. The approach currently used is simply to manage offending symptoms through various methods on a trial and error basis (Arthritis Foundation17). This can range from cognitive therapy to deal with mental health issues brought about from the condition, lifestyle management strategies, or pain-relieving medications. Often a combination of the above options is most effective. Exercise in particular has been shown to be one the most effective strategies to help patients sustainably cope with symptoms (. This being said, exercise regimens can be difficult for patients to begin while in the throes of their illness due to the general fatigue and body pain the condition causes. It appears that there is an unpleasant painful beginning phase where the body needs to adapt to the increased movement before the patient can experience the positive results. (Busch AJ, Webber SC, Brachaniec M, et al18)


Another key factor for effectively dealing with fibromyalgia symptoms is stress management. Stress can be one of the factors thought to contribute to the onset of the condition, in addition to causing flare-ups for those presently living with it (Gupta A, Silman AJ19). Of course, regulating stress levels is one of the symptom management strategies most subject to variability. Each person has unique circumstances, and will need to troubleshoot the most appropriate ways of lowering their chronic stress levels. This could look like psychological therapy to come to terms with past traumas and address lingering issues such as ptsd, or simply maintaining a healthy work-life balance. More short-term solutions can include the adoption of techniques or activities that down-regulate the body’s nervous system. Meditation, journaling, yoga and good sleep hygiene have all been proven to be effective solutions for lowering stress. (Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare20)


Beyond lifestyle factors, there are a plethora of medication and supplement options with various degrees of proven effectiveness. Much like lifestyle management however, responses to medications and supplements tend to be unique to the individual, and may require some experimenting with the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. The range of drugs used is broad. It can vary from prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, to even herbal supplements (healthline4). Different drugs address specific symptoms, so a fibromyalgia patient’s use of medications ideally needs to be catered to their own particular symptoms. Some drugs and supplements serve as pain killers to alleviate general aches and problematic sensitive points on the body. Others are used to improve energy levels or regulate mental issues such as depression or anxiety. If the patient has sleeping difficulties, it’s also fairly common to use supplemental sleeping aid medications. An additional family of drugs that are often used – despite the reasons for their efficacy being less clear to scientists – are muscle relaxants. Muscle relaxants have been shown to ease fatigue and pain, and provide better sleep quality (WebMD21).


While many of these drug options are helpful options for patients, they sometimes come with undesirable side effects. Antidepressants for example are a broad category of drugs frequently used by those with fibromyalgia that tend to have a long list of possible side effects. Depending on the particular type of antidepressant a patient is using, this could include any combination of weight gain, headaches, dizziness, constipation or diarrhea, insomnia, blurred vision, sexual problems, or tremors (WebMD21). Pain relievers also can have unintended side effects. NSAIDs are commonly available as over the counter pain medications for fibromyalgia patients which have been shown to increase risk of heart attack and stroke after an extended period of use, or may potentially lead to ulcers and bleeding within the digestive tract (WebMD21). Some muscle relaxants can also cause headaches, chest pains, nausea, fever, or dizziness (WebMD21). Additional factors to consider with medications are the cost and accessibility for patients.


With this long rap sheet of potential harmful side effects associated with many of the drugs often used to mitigate fibromyalgia symptoms, it’s not surprising that many individuals who’ve found long-term success managing their illness tend to rely more heavily on lifestyle factors with substances like medications or supplements serving as a compliment (Busch AJ, Webber SC, Brachaniec M, et al18). Medications certainly can be very helpful, but a number of emerging studies have been examining potential treatments that can provide many of the same benefits with less collateral damage. Among this list of promising substances is the algae chlorella. (Merchant RE, Carmack CA, Wise CM6, Merchant RE, Andre CA 7)


Chlorella has been studied and used for a broad range of health purposes, ranging from general dietary nutrient supplementation, to treatment of specific illnesses (Panahi Y, Darvishi B, Jowzi N, et al22). Most relevantly, it has been shown to assist with decreasing physical pain and improve overall quality of life for study participants suffering from fibromyalgia (Merchant RE, Carmack CA, Wise CM6, Merchant RE, Andre CA 7). Despite these hopeful results, the current science on chlorella’s usefulness for alleviating fibromyalgia symptoms is still in the early stages. The exact function of why it’s been shown to help is not yet clear, though there are several hypotheses’ researchers are examining.


One explanation for chlorella’s positive effects on fibromyalgia sufferers is that it has anti-inflammatory properties which may help to reduce the inflammation many patients experience in the muscles, joints, and ligaments (Guzmán S, Gato A, Calleja JM23, Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry2). Chronic systemic and neurological inflammation has been linked to fibromyalgia, and there is even some debate about whether the condition’s onset is actually an immunological disorder rather than a neurological or endocrine issue (Bäckryd E, Tanum L, Lind AL, Larsson A, Gordh T10, News Medical Life Sciences9). This could mean that chlorella’s proven immune system supporting functions may be suited to fight against the condition by deterring onset or minimizing symptoms (Panahi Y, Darvishi B, Jowzi N, et al22).


Another important property of chlorella to consider is its ability to improve energy levels; which could fight against fatigue symptoms, increase fibromyalgia patients’ ability to exercise, and perhaps even guard against feelings of depression (Panahi Y, Darvishi B, Jowzi N, et al22, Adrienne Dellwo15). Similarly assisting with the very important lifestyle recommendation of regular exercise is chlorella’s effect of increasing stamina, and assisting muscles in recovering from cell damage. The protein, antioxidants, and the regenerative capacity of a unique substance in the algae called chlorella growth factor are all thought to contribute (Zainul Azlan N, Mohd Yusof YA, Alias E, et al24).


With all of these potential explanations in mind, chlorella is no doubt an interesting subject for fibromyalgia patients and their healthcare practitioners to consider. As research in this area continues and the causes of the condition become more clear, it’s very likely that a surgence in more targeted treatments with minimal side effects will arise. In the meantime, the relatively low-cost, low-risk and potential high-benefit from chlorella as a supplemental aid in managing fibromyalgia symptoms alongside appropriate lifestyle strategies seems like a worthwhile approach for fibromyalgia patients to explore.


























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