D-ribose can help improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Click through to read why.
This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Learn why I’ve been supplementing with d-ribose for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and how it can help to improve symptoms…

I have made a lot of progress over the past year in terms of improving my fibromyalgia symptoms. However, the symptom that still persists is chronic fatigue. Accompanying this delightful symptom is delayed onset fatigue (aka post-exertional malaise) and a general feeling of being unwell.

These symptoms vary in severity depending on how well (or not) I pace myself, which is the basis behind my reasoning to re-evaluate how I pace.

Although I have more energy compared to this time last year, it’s slow progress and I am still very limited in what I am able to achieve each day without causing an exacerbation of symptoms. I am really focusing my attention on fatigue now and this lead me towards researching a supplement called D-ribose to see if it could further improve my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

Mitochondrial dysfunction in fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue syndrome

Within the cells of our bodies, there are structures known as mitochondria. The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the body; their job is to produce energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is used for any process in the body that demands energy. It has been suggested in recent studies that mitochondrial dysfunction may play a role in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

How the body creates energy

To understand this, we first need to gain a basic understanding of how the body uses ATP to create energy. ATP consists of one adenosine and three phosphate bonds. These phosphate bonds are high energy.

An enzyme called ATPase breaks the third phosphate bond of ATP, releasing a large amount of energy for the body to use. ATP then becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate, which has two phosphate bonds).

Re-cycling ATP to create more energy

The body then needs to recycle ADP back to ATP to create more energy. ADP passes back into the mitochondria where a process called oxidative phosphorylation occurs– this basically means another phosphate group is stuck back on to transform ADP back into ATP.

This is normally a very efficient process and it is believed that a healthy person will recycle ADP every 10 seconds. The theory concerning mitochondrial dysfunction suggests that this recycling process is slow in people with fibromyalgia or CFS. If the cells are slow to recycle energy, the person goes slow– i.e. presents with poor stamina and fatigue.

An energy crisis in the body

The problem is further exacerbated when someone then pushes their body beyond their limitations (i.e. fails to pace themselves properly as most us do!). When you do this you are effectively demanding more energy than your body can supply.

Your body is converting ATP to ADP (to give you the energy you are demanding) faster than it can recycle ADP back to ATP. You end up with a build up of ADP and a lack of ATP. This is essentially an energy crisis in the body.

More worryingly, your body can then further break down ADP to AMP (adenosine monophosphate) in a bid to provide you with the energy you are demanding. The problem with this is that AMP, for the most part, is lost in the urine and is not recycled (any that is, is recycled very slowly).

The body then needs to create brand new ATP. This is a slow process and accounts for post-exertion malaise.

What is D-ribose?

This is where D-ribose comes in. The body can make ATP from a sugar called D-ribose but unfortunately, D-ribose is slowly made from glucose– a process that can take anywhere from one to four days and which can explain the biological basis for delayed fatigue.

There is a further complication, however. If the body is particularly short of ATP, it can make a small amount of ATP by converting glucose into lactic acid. This is called anaerobic metabolism and it is believed that this is what many sufferers do to meet energy demands. The problem with this is that lactic acid quickly builds up and causes muscle pain.

Additionally, due to this process, no glucose is leftover to make D-ribose (in order to create new ATP molecules). Therefore, when you really push yourself your body cannot easily make new ATP and recovery can take days. I think we can all relate to that feeling of hitting a wall and literally being left with no energy. This is why pacing is so important.

http://februarystars.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/d-ribose.jpg

Supplementing with D-ribose to help improve fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue

Even if there is a supply of glucose present to create new ATP, this again is a very slow process. The thought behind supplementing with D-ribose is that this makes D-ribose immediately available to create new ATP. It cuts out the step where the body needs to make D-ribose from glucose and essentially helps with energy recovery.

One study of 257 patients treated with D-ribose had very promising results. Participants were given 5g of D-ribose three times daily. After three weeks, the following results were found:

  • 61.3 % increase in energy
  • 37% increase in overall well being
  • 29.3% improvement in sleep
  • 30% improvement in mental clarity
  • 15.6% decrease in pain

Improvement began in the first week of treatment.

Considerations

The participants of the study used a specific brand of D-ribose called Corvalen. It’s worth keeping in mind that not all supplements are created equally.

Side effects of D-ribose include nausea, stomach discomfort and diarrhoea. This is thought to be caused by fermenting gut. If you have any GI issues, I would suggest avoiding this supplement until those issues are resolved. It can also cause low blood sugar so not suitable for diabetics unless otherwise instructed by a doctor.

Although I haven’t gone into detail here, it is worth bearing in mind that there are other areas of mitochondrial metabolism that may need to be addressed, such as coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine, magnesium and antioxidant levels.

Finally, given all I have written above about energy production if you are not pacing yourself well, you may not see the best results (if any) from using this supplement.

My experience of D-ribose

Before I start, it is worth noting that for the past 10 months I have been taking the Vital Plan Restore program, which includes a supplement called Mitochondrial Support. Therefore it is unlikely to be D-ribose alone causing the below improvements, but rather a combination of all of these supplements.

I began taking D-ribose on the 29th of September. I bought this brand because it is about half the price of Corvalen (which I couldn’t afford due to the amount I already spend on supplements). I noticed a difference from the first dose. It made me feel more awake and alert.

However, I was finding the effects short-lived. I was taking 5g, 3 times daily as is often suggested. I was also finding that this dose was causing some mild bloating. I decided to experiment and began taking 2.5g, 6 times daily. This is a pain but easy enough to do given I’m always at home or at my mum’s. D-ribose is incredibly sweet but tolerable and I mix it into a tiny bit of fruit juice to take. I seem to tolerate the smaller dose well and taking D-ribose more frequently was when I really started to notice the effect it was having on me.

Pacing was an important factor

I decided to go back to basics with pacing, along with taking D-ribose. After just one week, I was beginning to have moments of feeling well at rest. My husband and mum have both noted that I seem to be doing better. Other improvements include:

  • Less delayed fatigue (though keep in mind what I just said above about pacing)
  • Reduced feeling of being unwell
  • I feel I am getting better quality sleep some nights
  • Improved mental clarity and concentration
  • Reduced achiness

I think the improvements I have felt are great but I know if I push myself too much that I will still get a surge of increased symptoms. D-ribose is not a miracle cure. It is a useful supplement to aid your body’s recovery. I am going to continue taking D-ribose and it will be interesting to see if it helps me to progress any further in terms of my physical abilities.

You may have read that I also wanted to try a supplement acetyl-l-carnitine. Unfortunately, this supplement did not agree with me, causing an increase in fatigue, headaches and dizziness. I, therefore, stopped taking this supplement immediately. I just wanted to include this in case anyone was wondering why I haven’t written about it.

What are your thoughts? Does the theory of mitochondrial dysfunction make sense to you? Have you tried D-ribose? Let me know in the comments below.

Pin for later:

Mitochondrial dysfunction, supplementing with d-ribose when you suffer from fibromyalgia or ME/CFS. Pin to save for later or click to read now. #chronicfatiguesyndrome #cfs #fatigue

 

Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

16 Comments

  1. I would love to try d ribose but have gut issues…im leery. I just started co q 10. Its my third day. I hope I see an improvement in fatigue. I will try d ribose in future though. If i stick to a good diet my gut issues are less. Then I will try.Thank you…fatigue is worst part of fibro

    • Hi MaryBeth, yes I think you are doing the right thing and I would try to heal your gut before trying d-ribose. Fatigue is definitely my worst symptom too Coenzyme Q10 is a good one to take. Also check out Vitalplan.com and have a look at mitochondrial support. I take that also 🙂 Good luck.

  2. I have chronic fatigue syndrome and can relate to much of what you say with regards to delayed fatigue and experiencing a prolonged crash after pushing myself too hard. Apart from the possible nausea and gut related issues you mention, are there any other possible side effects of D-ribose? Also, are there any blood tests or other tests available to confirm whether or not someone does have mitochondrial dysfunction prior to taking this supplement?
    I have only started following you on Twitter recently and am finding some of your posts very useful, thank you.

    • Hi Paula, I do think some may need to be careful re: blood sugar levels. You can find more info on d-ribose and also mitochondrial function testing on Dr Sarah Myhill’s website- http://www.doctormyhill.co.uk I don’t think the testing is something typically done through the NHS and would be quite expensive.

      If you have the concentration for reading Dr Myhill’s book is a very interesting read but there’s lots of free info on her site too.

      I’ve actually switched d-ribose out for SAM-e very recently after reading about it on a blog called fedupwithfatigue.com. I found that with d-ribose it was great for boosting my energy and feeling better overall but if I missed a dose I felt it and I didn’t like being that reliant on it. I’ve found SAM-e doesn’t make me feel as good but it feels more like my own energy if that makes any sense? I wrote about SAM-e in this post. It’s not actually something scientifically proven and I’m not sure about it for ME/CFS but I just want to be transparent about what I’m doing. I would still highly rate d-ribose though. Thanks for your kind comments 🙂

  3. Thanks for your reply and the signposts. When I have some more energy (!!) I will follow these up and read up some more. Thanks

  4. I’m trying hard to heal my gut as much as possible first but as a scientist I do agree that the mitochondria could be a problem although the link I haven’t found is why the mitochondria are different. Genetic? Maybe. That could explain the high miscarriage rate with fibro mums. Sadly, we don’t have enough knowledge just yet.

    • That’s a great step to be taking before trying d-ribose. This product really helped me with that. It would be interesting to see what causes the dysfunction in the first place. I didn’t realise that about fibro mums, that’s really sad.

      • I was told about the miscarriage link by my fibro consultant a few years ago. It’s one of the symptoms that they look for in diagnosis. I have lost 8 over the years but I’m really grateful for my daughter who is my best friend.

        • That’s a lot of heartache you have been through 🙁 I’m so happy to hear you have such a wonderful relationship with your daughter.

  5. Sarah Tucker Reply

    Hi. I’ve only just found this site but so wanted to tell you my story.
    I have fibromyalgia but won’t bore you with the symptoms as you all have it too. I am getting worse and find that pacing myself helps. What I would like to share with you in regards to the miticondria is that I have a granddaughter who has miticondrial disease and unfortunately inherited both bad genes from both her parents, the mother is my daughter. My granddaughter is severely mentally and physically disabled and has a short life expectancy, she is 7 years old now.

    I have been very interested in your reviews and think I will investigate this further with my doctor and see if I can have a test…I know it’s expensive but worth trying. I’m convinced that the miticondria is linked to fibromyalgia and so hope that it can be researched further and hopefully be managed. It’s effected my life on a day to day basis and getting worse. I still work full time but that is my limitation for the day, anything else after that in the way of excessive is impossible.

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing your story. I am so sorry to hear about your granddaughter. I do think that fibro/ME fatigue lies in the mitochondria, but in a different way. I don’t think it’s a failure but rather poor performance. I’ve had mitochondrial testing done since I wrote this post. I write about it here if you are interested. I do have a level of mitochondrial dysfunction, which is likely caused by Lyme disease.

      I also went on to learn I have low levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in my body (both so important for energy production) and I recently found out I have problems with my thyroid. So I’m a bit of a metabolic disaster lol. I’ve been convinced of the thyroid issues for years but my tests were always okay. Finally, they are out of whack. I haven’t written about these on the blog yet as I am waiting to see what the treatments will be etc.

      I think it’s worth thinking of fibro and ME/CFS as being like an onion. The diagnosis is just the start and then you have to look further, layer by layer to discover the underlying problems that can hopefully lead to improvements.

  6. Such a wealth of relevant information here in the article and the comments alike. I particularly like the onion analogy. On the supplement subject, Co-enzyne Q10 has been a marked help for several years, and a US pin mentioned magnesium gel for help with muscle pain. I have painful collection of varicose veins in each leg behind which the muscle pain grumbles, I too cannot touch anti inflammatory pills. What does help to make things bearable on this area is Magnesium gel, which I use generously on the painful areas, alternating at each end of the day with ibuprofen gel. Thankyou to the person who originally mentioned the magnesium, and respect to Donna and the respondents to her post.
    Regrads, Anne xx
    Ps anything that I can try, I will. I had to give up work, but I am used to evaluating and unpickjng cause and effect, Our animals keep me company through the day, and it is their needs that make me stay as able as I can. Putting the bagged garbage into the outside bins at the end of my useful day –4pm ish, the pain can knock the legs out from under me and I drag myself dramatically back into the house leaning on the walls. I am sure that the neighbours think that I am a secret drunk!

    ,

    • Hello! That’s great to hear co-q10 and magnesium help you. I find them super helpful too 🙂 I’m sorry you had to give up work. I too lost my job (and I’m so grateful to have this blog to put my focus into). Animals are so therapeutic. I’d be lost without my dog! You sound so strong and determined to me <3

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.