CFS, Fibromyalgia, Fascia, HRV, BCAA & Magnesium Threonate

Biotin -> Collagen -> Glycine -> BCAA

This post is an update on my journey healing myself from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. In some ways this post is a continuation of the post I wrote called “My Nutrigenomic Analysis“, 11 years ago. A lot of the methylation support supplements I was taking didn’t pan out as having long lasting beneficial impact as I had hoped. Since that time I had mostly given up, and quit experimenting. I had experimentation and health research burn out. I even quit taking virtually all supplements.  Then a couple of years ago I started experimenting again, and over that time I have had success’s and failures I would like to document and report on, for record purposes and in case it helps anyone else out their suffering form something similar.

A couple years ago, I was kiteboarding in the Turks & Caicos, and I was having real issues with my skin, coming apart in my hands from all the water exposure. A fellow kiteboarder recommended I try supplementing with Biotin. She said she used high doses for her horses to help regenerate their hooves. I said I already take Biotin in my multivitamin, and she insisted I take a significantly higher dose. So this is what I did, not only did my skin dramatically improve in it’s integrity many of the tension headaches I was suffering from on a regular basis diminished in frequency greatly.

It got to the point where if I felt a tension headache coming on I could pop a biotin pill and the oncoming headache would just never arrive. Biotin thus greatly reduced much of the fibromyalgia tension I felt specifically around my spine. It worked most of the time, I started taking it daily but not always.

Great slide deck on Biotin’s biochemical mechanism of action here

After much somatic psychology training I have learned to sense fascia and muscles in my body and be able to differentiate them somewhat. When the fibromyalgia tension was at it’s worst in the past I assumed it was always muscle pain, but now I felt perhaps it was the fascia themselves that were in pain and perhaps nutrient deprived. So I went on a mission to support my fascia.

I started with Biotin, but then also experimented with taking several tablespoons a day of Gelatin and then Collagen as this is what fascia are primarily composed of. In fact taking a large heaping tbsp of collagen, seemed to be as effective as Biotin. Taking this one step further, the primary amino acid in Collagen is glycine, so I began taking mega doses of glycine 5 -10 grams a day. It seemed to have a similar beneficial effect.

It had been said that consuming 10 grams of glycine per day can increase collagen synthesis by up to 200%. So this got me excited.

The problem I then ran into however was that glycine primarily acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, particularly in the spinal cord and brainstem, and so I started feeling very drowsy and groggy taking it. This made the whole CFS thing worse, while my Fibromyalgia got better, so it just did not become worth it going this way.

For some reason I tried switching to taking large doses of BCAA’s instead. 10g -20g a day. This worked very well. Most of the fibromyalgia symptoms greatly diminished, and tensions headaches were very infrequent. To this day I still take my 10-20g of BCAA daily. It has dramatically improved my recovery in the gym and considerably improved my strength gains as well when it comes to weight training.

While I seem to have gotten rid of the majority of my Fibromyalgia, the Chronic Fatigue still remained. I had wrongly assumed my fatigue came from all the pain the fibromyalgia induced but that simply seemed not to be the case. I was mostly pain free, still some residual spine tension, but not oppressing tension headaches on a daily basis which are extremely fatiguing in their own right.

The HRV connection

One day recently at the gym, I was showing my personal trainer all the wonderful metrics my Oura ring tracks. As I was showing him my data, he remarked on how low my HRV was. My HRV averages about 25ms through the night. I thought wrongly, that a low number was a good thing, like heart rate. Turns out I am near the very low end of the scale and that a higher HRV number closer to 70-120ms is considered a sign of good health. He said that when he was tracking his HRV regularly with a whoop band that he would average 70-120, and would only get into the 20ms range when he had a lot of beers the night before and subsequent terrible sleep.

I checked my data going back 4 years, since this is how long I have had my Oura ring (gen 2 and Gen 3), and my HRV was a consistent ~25ms average over those 4 years. Then I cross referenced it with my Eight Sleep pod cover, and it also confirmed in the 6 months that I had been using it my HRV was averaging about 25ms through the night. I checked my partner, and she had averaged 50ms, basically double me in a similar time frame! I remarked to my personal trainer, waking up not feeling rested, like a bad hangover is how I wake up every morning and have for decades….this is my CFS.

This is the first time in all of my CFS journey I felt like I had a solid measurable data point that showed there was something wrong with me, as every other medical test I had ever done showed me to be in apparent excellent health.

So this started me down a journey of trying to figure out what I could do about my HRV. Fortunately this is a pretty well developed field, and there are many biofeedback devices and breathing exercises that can help you train to improve your HRV.

The frustrating thing is when trying to research “HRV training” or apps there are two types:

  1. Planning your physical training exercise around your HRV. Athletes do this to optimize their body’s need for rest and recovery, and use HRV to determine when to train and not to train. Good video run on this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozcZSnjbPoE
  2. Training your HRV using biofeedback and/or breathing exercises. This is about using the breath to help tune your autonomic nervous system to improve Heart Rate Variability

I was purely interested in the 2nd option.

One of the oldest and longest methods is HeartMath. Over the last couple of decades they have come out with numerous devices that can help you train your HRV by practicing deep breathing.

From what I gather the goal here isn’t HRV number increase focused per se, it’s more about improving coherence. Coherence being a nice sinusoid looking waveform of your HRV.

The whole HeartMath approach is more emotion, transform the world through the love of your heart oriented. Having bought their most recent device the “Inner Balance Coherence Plus” and done their program via their app, I found it to be very spiritual bypass like. I’m not the biggest fan of their approach. Contrary to the breath guidance around focusing on the heart, I personally found that focusing on feeling my emotions in my abdominal muscles would give me a higher coherence score.

What disappointed me about the Heartmath device is that it does not seem to try to synchronize your breath with your heartrate. It appears there is only one device on the market that is capable of doing that, and that is the Lief (https://getlief.com/).

I fully intend to try the Lief so I can compare it to Heart Math.

I would also like to try the Elite HRV to compare.

Other devices that I would like to experiment with are direct Vagus nerve stimulators. The two that caught my eye are the:

My person favorite breath exercise video. I try to do this 1-2x a day.

Magnesium Threonate

When searching for supplements that could improve my HRV, one of the top most recommended ones was Magnesium. I tried Magnesium citrate first, but that gave me diarrhea. Then I tried Magnesium Bisglycinate, and that helped I could feel a marked relaxation in my central nervous system, but it also made me drowsy and groggy from the glycine, so this was a no go. Researching all the various forms I then stumbled across Magnesium Threonate the only form of Magnesium to readily cross the blood brain barrier. And this worked phenomenally well. Tension in my spine I had felt ceaselessly for decades melted away overnight. My spine and neck muscles have improved substantially in their felt sense of flexibility. My overall energy also dramatically improved. It became very obvious I was deficient in Magnesium especially in the grey matter regions of my spine, and it was as if my whole central nervous system had been locked in the on/sympathetic arousal position for the last 2.5 decades. For the first time I felt like I could really relax, and the CFS that plagued me all this time could go away.

The Magnesium Threonate has almost entirely eliminated the brain exhaustion I had felt on a regular basis. It’s a strange phenomenon for me, as I used to fall asleep at night specifically from brain exhaustion. Now my brain is energized and alert, and so drifting off to sleep from relaxation is something very new to me. It feels like my brain and nervous system need to reorient to and entire new way of being. I feel like this might take several weeks. I also used to be able to tell time, through the exhaustion and limited energy I had, now I feel a little bit like I have entered a more timeless state of being. It’s almost like I don’t know what to do with myself, since having very limited energy really forced me to prioritize only the utmost important things.

Another unanticipated benefit for me is I have much better glucose/insulin control. I would periodically get incredibly strong hunger cravings, and would need to carb feed every 3-4 hours. This all went away with the Magnesium supplementation. My appetite has dramatically diminished in a good way. I used to get strong dark chocolate cravings as well, and my hypothesis is that given dark chocolate is one of the foods highest in magnesium, perhaps I was craving the magnesium in the chocolate more than anything else about it.

Both Dr. Peter Attia & Andrew Huberman specifically recommend taking Magnesium Threonate for improving sleep.

Peter Attia has a great synopsis on Magnesium on one of his paid episodes here: https://peterattiamd.com/ama54/

Peter Attia takes a couple forms of Magnesium, and spreads his doses out throughout the day, taking anywhere from 600-800mg elemental a day

  • Slow Mag Mg 2 – 4 tablets a day
  • Magnesium L-threonate (400-500mg which is 144 mg of elemental magnesium) before bed every night

The following video is a great summary of how Magnesium Threonate works:

Other Research Notes:

glucosamine (GlcN) and N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc)….”GlcN inhibits hyaluronan and SGAG synthesis while GlcNAc stimulates hyaluronan synthesis. GlcNAc-accelerated hyaluronan synthesis is associated with upregulation of hyaluronan synthase-2.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2785807/