Alcohol is reported to have both positive and negative effects on health. Moderate drinking is thought to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease especially when in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and not smoking.

Researchers from the Mayo clinic in the US and the University of Michigan surveyed patients with FM to examine the association between alcohol and their severity of symptoms and quality of life.

Low and moderate drinkers had better scores for physical function, ability to work, the number of work days missed, fatigue and pain, than people who abstained completely.

So what is a moderate drinker?

Moderate drinkers have between three and seven standard drinks a week. But too much alcohol reversed this effect, the research found.

A standard drink is equivalent to 12 American oz / 355ml (1.25 units) of beer, 5 oz/ 148ml of wine (1.8 units), or 1.5 oz/ 44ml (1.8 units) of distilled spirits.


Moderate drinkers seemed to have less pain than low or heavy drinkers, even when the results were controlled for confounding factors.

Similar results were seen for the quality of life scale including social functioning, vitality and general health.

imagesDiscussing why moderate drinking may have this effect Dr Terry Oh, who led this study said, “Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter, is low in the brain in fibromyalgia, which may go some way to explain why the nervous system reaction to pain is amplified. Alcohol binds to the GABA receptor in the central nervous system that in turn may turn down pain transmission. However the effects of alcohol may also be due to improved mood, socialization and tension, and while moderate drinkers have fewer symptoms there are still many questions about how this happens.”

But, before all of you go out and fill the fridge with wine, make sure you check the effects of alcohol with your medications.

Man Undiagnosed

More research is needed, particularly on why men who reported FM symptoms were less likely than women to receive a FM diagnosis, says lead author of a recent study, Ann Vincent, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic‘s Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic. “Health care providers may not think of this diagnosis when face to face with a male patient with musculoskeletal pain and fatigue,” Dr. Vincent says. “These findings need to be explored further.”

Researchers focused on Olmsted County, Minn., home to the comprehensive medical records pool known as the Rochester Epidemiology Project, and used two methods to try to discover the number of people over age 21 with FM.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first report of the rate at which FM is being diagnosed (or undiagnosed) in a community. This is also the first report of prevalence as assessed by the FM research survey criteria.

Firstly, they used the epidemiology project to identify just over 3,000 patients who looked like they might have FM: only a third had a documented FM diagnosis. That amounted to 1.1 per cent of the county’s population 21 and older.

In the second method, researchers randomly surveyed Olmsted County adults using the American College of Rheumatology‘s fibromyalgia research survey criteria. The criteria include the hallmarks of FM: widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, feeling unrested after waking, problems with memory or thinking clearly and depression or anxiety, among other symptoms. Of the 830 who responded to the survey, 44, or 5.3 per cent, met those criteria, but only a dozen had been diagnosed with FM.

Based on the study’s findings, the researchers estimate that 6.4 per cent of people 21 and older in Olmsted County have FM—far more than have been officially diagnosed with it.

fibrommaleThe study found that the discrepancy between the number of people reporting FM symptoms and the number actually diagnosed with the condition was greatest among men. Twenty times more men appeared to have FM based on their survey response than had been diagnosed, while three times more women reported FM symptoms than were diagnosed.

“It is important to diagnose fibromyalgia because we have effective treatments for the disorder,” says co-author Daniel Clauw, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Health System Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center. Do we?



Fibro Misconceptions

Fibromyalgia is a widely misunderstood condition. If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and are trying to learn all you can about the condition, you may come across some myths and misconceptions about fibromyalgia.

Connie Luedtke, R.N

Here, Connie Luedtke, R.N., the nursing supervisor of the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., answers questions about some of the most common misconceptions about fibromyalgia.

What is the most common misconception about fibromyalgia?
The top misconception is that people think fibromyalgia isn’t a real medical problem or that it is “all in your head.” It’s sometimes thought of as a “garbage-can diagnosis” — if doctors can’t find anything else wrong with you, they say you have fibromyalgia. Being diagnosed with fibromyalgia does require that you meet specific criteria, including painful tender points above and below the waist on both sides of the body.

There’s a lot that’s unknown about fibromyalgia, but researchers have learned more about it in just the past few years. In people who have fibromyalgia, the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently; they react more strongly to touch and pressure, with a heightened sensitivity to pain. It is a real physiological and neurochemical problem.

Why does this misconception persist?
In our society, people tend to think that there is a cure or a fix for every medical problem. You go to the doctor, expecting he or she will fix whatever’s wrong with you with medication or surgery. It’s frustrating to people with fibromyalgia because the traditional treatment approach isn’t effective. And it’s also frustrating to health care providers because they want to help people. But there’s no easy fix. It takes lifestyle changes and small steps toward achieving wellness. It’s a process.

How have misconceptions about fibromyalgia changed over the years?
More people understand that fibromyalgia is a real problem, often because they know someone who has it — perhaps a sister or daughter or mother. Health care providers are seeing that people who have fibromyalgia can manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes to improve their overall functioning and quality of life. And there’s hope for the future.

Are people who have fibromyalgia more likely to try unproven remedies?
People who have any chronic disease that doesn’t respond to conventional treatment often turn to other types of remedies. People who have fibromyalgia tend to use more dietary supplements. Some people think that there’s a magic diet for fibromyalgia. They think that they should avoid refined flour and sugar, sugar substitutes, the caramel color in some soft drinks, or carbonated drinks in general. But there hasn’t been any research-based evidence demonstrating that any of these substances cause the symptoms, nor that removing these substances from your diet works to make the pain go away. There may be anecdotal evidence — people who say that something helps relieve their symptoms — but there’s no clearly identified problem foods or magical diet cure yet.

Is a placebo effect at work here?
The power of the mind is a real factor in pain perception. For example, studies have shown that anxiety that occurs in anticipation of pain is much more problematic than the pain experience itself. In that sense, the mind has a negative impact on symptoms.

Many of the people who come to our fibromyalgia clinic are perfectionists who have very high expectations for themselves; likewise they can’t adjust to more realistic expectations after they develop fibromyalgia symptoms. These people have difficulty learning to relax. They may push through the pain and keep doing activities to the point they crash and burn and need extra time to recover.

So the pain keeps reinforcing itself in a never-ending cycle. People report lower levels of pain when they can slow their heart rate by deep breathing and doing other relaxation techniques. In our clinic, we teach people about tools they can use to tap into what they have within their own power.

Can misconceptions about fibromyalgia be harmful?
If people with fibromyalgia believe there is no help for them, they’re going to stay stuck. Even if there isn’t a cure, there are treatments that can really improve their quality of life. When people learn they have fibromyalgia, they can go through the stages of grief and loss — including experiencing anger and attempts at bargaining. When they get to the peace of acceptance, that’s when they can realize there are limits to what medical technology can do. There’s no magic surgery or pill that can fix this. They need to recognize that it’s OK to ask for help with things and that it’s OK to give themselves time for exercise and relaxation each day. They need to make their own health a priority.