Guaifenesin for Fibro: Legitimate Treatment or Snake Oil?

Guaifenesin for Fibromyalgia: Legitimate Treatment or Snake Oil? by  Karen Lee Richards Health Guide June 30, 2011

Guaifenesin has long been rumored to help improve and even cure Fibromyalgia, but instead of scientific evidence, there’s only an on-going controversy. Being rather desperate for better pain relief these days, I gave it a halfhearted try. (only after investigating and finding no harmful side effects in short term use)

Guaifenesin is a common OTC cough expectorant, the single active ingredient in Mucinex tablets (600 mg timed release Guaifenesin), but usually combined with other ingredients in cough medicines.

To my great surprise, I found that guaifenesin helps my pain. It prevents most of the muscle burn I get in my legs from mild exercise, like climbing stairs, and also seems to slightly enhance the pain relief I get from opiates.

For almost two decades now, a controversy has raged over the guaifenesin protocol as a treatment for fibromyalgia.  Here is the story in a nutshell. 

Guaifenesin Protocol – The Background Story

The guaifenesin protocol for treating fibromyalgia was developed by Dr. R. Paul St. Amand in the early 1990s.  He believed that phosphate deposits throughout the body were the cause of FM and that FM symptoms could be reversed by removing excess phosphate from the body, which he claimed guaifenesin would do.

You’re also instructed that you cannot eat or use any topical product that has salicylates in it because, according to Dr. St. Amand, salicylates block the effectiveness of the guaifenesin.  Since salicylates are found in many foods and most skin care products like lotions, shampoos, mouthwash, topical pain relievers, etc., it takes extraordinary vigilance to avoid them entirely.

In 1995, Dr. Robert Bennett, a world-renowned fibromyalgia researcher and clinician, conducted a year-long study on guaifenesin for FM.  Dr. St. Amand was the technical advisor for the study.  The results of the study showed no significant FM symptom improvement nor was there a difference between those taking guaifenesin and those taking a placebo.

Dr. St. Amand now claims that the participants must have inadvertently used products with salicylates, which would make the study invalid.  Of course, Dr. Bennet disagrees.  And the controversy goes on.

Why Guaifenesin May Help Fibromyalgia

There are, however, other reasons why guaifenesin may be helpful for some fibromyalgia patients.

I recently came across a very interesting article by Mark London, Systems Programmer/Analyst for the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT.  He has done a very in-depth study of guaifenesin and the guaifenesin protocol.  

While London finds nothing to validate Dr. St. Amand’s phosphate theory, he has discovered that guaifenesin has several properties which could bring about some improvement in FM symptoms.

According to London, guaifenesin:

  • Has muscle relaxant properties.
  • May help reduce anxiety.
  • Can have an analgesic effect.
  • Is know to increases the analgesic effect of other pain relievers including acetaminophen and even opioids.

Guaifenesin Side Effects

Despite Dr. St. Amand’s claim that guaifenesin has “no side effects,” drug guides list common side effects as: Dizziness, Headache, Rash, Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach [the same as most other OTC cold medicines]

There have been no studies on the effects of taking guaifenesin over a long period of time.  That’s probably because it is mostly used as a cough treatment and is intended for short-term use.

In the next post, I will outline more detailed information from Mark London’s article.

4 thoughts on “Guaifenesin for Fibro: Legitimate Treatment or Snake Oil?

  1. Pingback: Guaifenesin may slow buildup of acid in muscles | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

  2. Pingback: Guaifenesin: Herb that Helps Pain, Possibly Fibromyalgia | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

  3. Pingback: How I Found Hope for Fibromyalgia | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

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