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Greetings and welcome to my Lyme disease blog, a comfy cozy (and sometimes crazy!) place for cutting-edge information, encouragement and insight into the fastest-growing epidemic disease in the United States. In this blog you will find everything from bug-killing strategies to immune system and hormone help, as well as lifestyle and spiritual suggestions for healing from chronic illness involving Lyme disease. The information contained within this blog is based upon my own healing journey and what I have learned over the past eight years as I have been diligently digging and researching my way back to a better state of health. May you find it to be a source of hope, inspiration and wisdom in your own journey towards wellness.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Risks of D-Ribose?

On December 14th of last year, I wrote about the fabulous benefits of D-ribose, and particularly, how marvelously it can work in some people to improve energy, cardiovascular function and sleep.

Because it is so powerful, and its benefits so amazing, however, it can be easy to overlook the potential risks of D-ribose. I discuss what some of these might be here, so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to take this nutrient.

Most research I have found on this nutrient states that it is completely safe; however, a couple of health care practitioners have cautioned me against overuse, with one stating that it can cause candida, and the other leaving me with the impression that it is just too powerful. Kind of like a steroid for the cells.

Meanwhile, a couple of Lyme sufferers have mentioned that it caused blood sugar lows when they didn't take it with food, and left them with symptoms of hypoglycemia. Indeed, on the label of the product I take, Corvalen, which contains D-ribose, magnesium and malate, it is written that D-ribose should be used with caution in patients who use insulin.

Personally, I also wonder if this super nutrient can mask problems in the body. Its effects upon energy are so powerful, that I have found that fatigue related to sleep deprivation can be adequately masked by sufficiently high doses of D-ribose. Steroid-like? I don't know. You tell me. I also wonder if it can mask the effects of herxheimer reactions. While that may sound like a blessing in disguise, if you are unaware that your body is filled with toxins, you may not take the steps required to adequately remove them.

That D-ribose causes candida seems to be a point of contention amongst health care professionals. The highly-respected proponent of D-ribose, Dr. J. Titelbaum, writes in the latest version of his book, "From Fatigued To Fantastic", that D-ribose does not cause candida. One of my Lyme-literate physician friends disagrees.

True, D-ribose is not a sugar like any other. The body uses it specifically and only for cellular energy, and it is thought to not be toxic in excess, like other sugars.

So if you have personal experience with this nutrient and believe that it has caused or exacerbated your candida, I would love to hear from you. Personally, I have not found this to be a problem, but then again, I only take one-eighth of the recommended dose. I don't need any more than that.

That it causes blood-sugar swings is another matter and I believe that this is true for those who take D-ribose on an empty stomach and are prone to blood-sugar problems. I haven't researched the nutrient enough to know why, but I have personally experienced an increased craving for carbohydrates since starting D-ribose in December. I believe this may be because it is in fact, creating more energy in the body, hence increasing the body's caloric requirements. I tend towards symptoms of hypoglycemia but have found that as long as I take D-ribose with my breakfast, I do just fine. But again, I take a low dose of the stuff. Probably if I took the full dose, I would be cramming poppy seed muffins down my throat every hour!

If you find that D-ribose increases your carbohydrate cravings, this might pose another potential problem for you if you believe, as many Lyme-literate physicians, that Lyme sufferers should be on low-carbohydrate diets. So if you don't eat carbohydrates while taking this stuff, you might need to increase your fats and proteins, which can be hard to do, as you can only eat so many chickens and eggs and nut butters in one day!

For now, I cautiously endorse the use of D-ribose in people with chronic fatigue and Lyme disease, because I believe that the benefits (per my other post) of this marvelous nutrient outweigh its risks. Improved sleep aids the body in healing from Lyme; increased energy improves mood and well-being which in turn strengthens the immune system, and increased cardiovascular function helps the heart and aids in the transport of nutrients and oxygen to the cells. These are just some of its benefits.

But proceed with caution! Start by taking a low dose, with food, and see how you feel. Like all nutrients, it isn't for everyone. And I'm not a doctor, so please don't take any of this as medical advice. I'm just a researcher and Lyme sufferer, with insights to offer which may or may not benefit you.


Clark said...

Hi Connie,
I have not experienced these problems. Not saying that this might not "pop up" but I have been having problems with increased skin infections. I'm forty four and have not had to deal with acne in a quarter century, but in the last month I have been getting some painful outbreaks on my neck, face and chest. Could this be candida? I'm on antibiotics, but also on a pretty heavy Probiotic.
Also, I have been on an anti biotic eye drop because of a nasty infection in my eyes that just kept getting worse. It's clearing up now but I'm freaked by it because it has a localized steroid. Yeessh. But my eyelids had become so infected that I was really getting frightened for my eyes. Could that have been Candida as well? I know that you're not a doctor, but I'm interested in what you think.

bazooka said...

I think candida causes rashes more.

Whereas zitlike or spiderbite-like heads may be caused more by some strain of Staph.

Try dabbing tea tree or coconut oil on them.

Jacob Teitelbaum MD said...

Jacob Teitelbaum MD on Ribose
Dear Connie
Thank you for your excellent blog post on Ribose. I am happy to help clarify some of the issues you have discussed.
I have not seen Ribose worsen Candida, and ribose is metabolized differently from sugar, and in one test the Candida were not able to metabolize the ribose. None the less, if it flares yeast in an individual, I would lower the dose.
The other issues are much more straightforward.
Ribose is clearly NOT a steroid.
It directly and healthfully increases energy production (metabolism). In doing so it can cause a DROP in blood sugar and actually has a negative glycemic index. This occurs because as energy production increases , it increases the need for adrenal “Stress Handler” hormone support, whose job it is to keep sugar from dropping during stress. As many Lyme and CFS patients have decreased adrenal function from the chronic stress (Adrenal fatigue), if this problem is present one will see an increase in low adrenal and low blood sugar problems. This is not a problem caused by ribose, but simply it’s unmasking another problem which needs treatment (and is easily treated and will help overall health to treat).
Adrenal exhaustion can be suspected in those who have low blood sugar (i.e.-get irritable when hungry, crash with stress, or get recurrent frequent infections with poor immune function). Though excess adrenal cortisol suppresses immune function, the same occurs with low function.
If one has these symptoms(on their own or on Ribose), adrenal exhaustion can be treated with:
1-Adrenal support with Vitamin C, B5, Amino Acids and licorice as well as adrenal extract. I do this simply with Adrenal Stress End (by Enzymatic Therapy at www.Vitality101.com or most health food stores). Practitioners may also add low dose cortef or Isocort (safe at very low doses). This will help the overall clinical picture a lot (while also avoiding the “side effect” of adrenal stress occurring from normalizing energy production with Ribose )
2- Taking the ribose with food also can prevent its dropping blood sugar in those with adrenal fatigue, and is a good thing to do—but I would still treat the adrenal fatigue as well, so your body will be healthier overall, and better able to fight hidden infections.
For more on adrenal fatigue, see http://www.endfatigue.com/health_articles_a-b/Adrenal-the_adrenal_gland.html
As Ribose gets to the core issue of infections and other problems causing a drop in energy production, people feeling better on it are not “Masking” problems as may occur with stimulants—but rather healing problems. That this healing then points to other issues that need treating is a good thing—if you know how to determine what needs treating. An easy way is to do this is a free online questionnaire (short form) which will analyze your symptoms, and if available also key labs , to determine the underlying factors contributing to your illness—and then tailor a treatment to each individual’s case! It can be found at http://www.endfatigue.com/treatment_options/Online_program.html
This way, instead of getting better in “bits and pieces” , one can treat the entire process in an integrated manner

I hope this is helpful
Love and Blessings
Jacob Teitelbaum MD
Jacob Teitelbaum MD is Medical Director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers
(www.fibroandfatigue.com ) and author of the new free iPhone application “Natural Cures.”
Senior author of the landmark studies “Effective Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia -- a Placebo-controlled Study” and “Effective Treatment of CFS & Fibromyalgia with D-Ribose.” Author of the best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic! (3rd revised edition, Avery/Penguin Group); Dr. Teitelbaum has done many media appearances including CNN and Fox News Channel and is a frequent guest on Oprah & Friends with Dr. Mehmet Oz. He lives in Kona, Hawaii. Web site: www.Vitality101.com.

Connie Strasheim (aka Killabugger) said...

Dr. Titelbaum,

Thank you for your kind, informative response to my post on D-ribose.

Your contributions to the world of the chronically ill have been wonderful, and thanks to you, I have found this amazing nutrient, among others.

(My physician, BTW, is Dr. La Bair, at the Fibro and Fatigue Center of Denver. She discovered my Lyme disease in 2004). She is a good friend and wonderful lady.

I am encouraged by your thoughts on D-ribose; however, your response has brought up an additional concern. You write...
"...This occurs because as energy production increases , it increases the need for adrenal “Stress Handler” hormone support, whose job it is to keep sugar from dropping during stress. As many Lyme and CFS patients have decreased adrenal function from the chronic stress (Adrenal fatigue), if this problem is present one will see an increase in low adrenal and low blood sugar problems."

So if a person is taking D-ribose, does this place additional demands on the adrenal glands to produce cortisol?

I have pretty severe adrenal insufficiency and have treated it a multitude of ways, including all those that you mention above. I have actually found it to be the single most difficult dysfunction for me to treat, because my body rejects supplemental cortisol and the other adjuncts only seem to minimally help. While I continue to support my adrenals, I don't want to compromise them any further. Could D-ribose do that, or would it actually strengthen them somehow over the long run? I thank you for any input you may be able to offer in this area.

I am also encouraged by the fact that D-ribose not only improves symptoms, but that it can heal! Indeed that is good news for those of us with multiple infections and damage from Lyme disease.

Thank you again for your valuable contributions and for stopping by!
I have really enjoyed your books.

Love and blessings to you, too!

Connie Strasheim

PS..Oh and, please forgive me the analogy of D-ribose to steroids. I am a bit of a smarty pants--I don't really think that it is anything like a steroid. Its power simply feels comparable (and that's not a bad thing), hence my crude comparison

mhjacobs said...

Hi Connie,

Do you find that D-Ribose helps with muscle recovery after exercise? I have to go a few days between lifting weights or my muscles are in a chronic inflammed state.

Thanks, Mark

Connie Strasheim (aka Killabugger) said...

Hi Mark,

Yes, absolutely, D-ribose helps with muscle fatigue. You might want to give it a try! :)


Anonymous said...

This doctor doesn't know what he is talking about. the way to treat adrenal glands is not to overwhelm them with licorice, or anything, you have to rest them so they can regenerate themselves. This doctor doesn't trust the human body. You definitly don't start a good car that has broken down by giving it a push you do that to old cars that are already broken. That's what his plan is to give the adrenals a push, wrong, totally. And about ribose-it is too powerful, I believe Germanium or ginsing in very small quanities is better to live longer. Ribose speeds up the system-remeber speed kills. Marc

Connie Strasheim (aka Killabugger) said...

Hi Marc,

Thanks for your comment.
I agree that D-ribose could be pushing the adrenals. I don't think, however, that licorice and some of the other supports do the same. They can actually aid in resting the adrenals--licorice causes the body to retain cortisol so that it doesn't have to work as hard to pump out cortisol, and nutrients help to rebuild them.
Thanks for your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hi Connie- I just wanted to give my personal experience with D-Ribose. I have read all the pros and cons on its use and all I can say is it makes the difference for me between sleeping soundly and waking 3-5 times every single night. I went 12 years not sleeping until I discovered it. I have Lyme as well as fibro and I have never experienced any relief from any supplements (and I have tried them all) until I began to take it. I take 2 scoops before bed (5 grams) by pouring the powder right into my mouth...tastes like sugar. Then I sleep like a rock. I don't take it, I don't sleep- it's as simple as that. I have stopped and started multiple times to see if it was really the ribose....and it is! Recently my husband decided to try it as he wakes during the night with back and muscle pain and it makes him sleep too! I don't know why it works on different problems, but it does and I will never be without it again. I usually take another dose during the day, but even if I only take it at bedtime I get the sleep effect. I have had NO side effects of ANY kind! No increase in candida and I test my blood sugar and it has no effect. It sure beats pain relivers and sleeping pills, I don't care what anyone says! And I would certainly trust Dr. Teitelbaum...he is amazing :)
I wish he could be my personal doctor- I read everything he writes!

Connie Strasheim (aka Killabugger) said...

Hi Anonymous!

Thanks for sharing. That is great that D-ribose has been such a lifesaver for you. It has been for my energy. Interestingly enough, however, it actually keeps me awake at night if I take more than 1/2 scoop in the morning! But I do think that in general, it makes everything work better in the body.



Susan said...

Hello, I am new to all of this but after this morning and taking one sip of my shake that I added d ribose to for the 1st time in 2 months, it certainly does cause all sorts of candida problems. I've been detoxing for 8 months on my own, and due to food allergies, and trying to figure this out my body is very sensitive. It also made my sinus hurt, my body shake, and i got suddenly stupid. All after one sip. That is when I did an interne search. It just took me an hour to sign into google and write this post. Can it be that when I get through the candida thing I can get my brain back? Seriously, does anyone know this? I can't do this much longer.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just to add to the anecdotal experience of D-ribose supplementation. My family suffers from 1 or more muscular genetic disorders. I started the preliminary workup with a neurologist, muscle biopsy coming up. We suffer from leg cramps, muscular pains and severe stiffness, and exercise intolerance (low VO2 max, high heart rates just walking.) Although it's not a complete cure, taking D-Ribose has helped tremendously. A majority of the stiffness disappears and exercise is vastly improved. I take approx. 3 g before exercise and 3g after (we're talking a medium speed walk, 30 minutes.) And I feel great afterwards, for the first time in my life. If I'm not exercising it's 1 or 2 g, twice a day, just really helps my general muscle state. I've noticed that D-ribose has the side effect of improving overall energy levels and concentration. I take doses in the morning or afternoon, I do NOT take towards the evening as it will keep me up all night, and I'm not the least bit an insomnic. I take D-ribose in a little bit of milk, and really like the slightly sweet, smoky taste. I notice on the D-ribose that food, especially carbs, is not as interesting, and caffeine absolutely unwanted and unnecessary. I do not develop anything I would identify as candida while taking D-ribose.
We all have different systems, but in my case I feel very fortunate that something is freely available which tremendously helps whatever my muscular disorders are. My only caution would be that I see people taking large doses (my experience is pointing to my muscles are missing the steps to create a necessary amount of ribose on their own)that perhaps pushes the system too much, I would be more concerned over possible purine overload (gout.) I have also noticed that over 3g of ribose I have urinary frequency, don't know the origin, diuretic?, purine overload? I just can't go beyond that.
Hope this is useful!

Anonymous said...

I've been taking ribose for approximately 2 weeks. I've been taking ~30-45 g/day and have made tremendous progress in terms of eradicating brain fog, decreasing muscle pain, energy, helping my hypoglycemia (ribose lowers blood sugar but I've found while on it I've eaten less and craved sugary foods less), and helps me with consipation. It also improves the soundness of my sleep. As one who previously had candida I can tell you it hasn't caused me problems here.

I've been diagnosed CFS/fibro and had it for 10 years. Here are the things that have helped me:

1)AHCC; only needed to buy it once as it is very expensive. But it immediately got rid of the virus I think I had (I tested negative for Epstein-Barr) After I took it I could exercise whenever without having the need to sit/lay down.

2) Rhodiola rosea; I still take this. It helps with adrenal health and most importantly for me it fills in the gaps with neurotransmitters that were 'off'. Particularly with serotonin. I noticed after taking it for a couple weeks I fell normally after previously laying in bed

3) Natural Calm; I take this before I go to bed. It's a form of magnesium that mainly helps with falling asleep.

4) Pregnenolone

5) Adrenal Cortex by Nutricology

A couple years back I had extremely low testosterone and hypothyroidism. My doctor helped out here.

With what I have I surmise the major culprit is I have something inside my muscles/brain that blocks energy. Dr Amand says it's phosphates (see net for info on his fibro protocol, etc). I don't know. I do know that ribose is getting rid of my brain fog and seems to be getting rid of whatever is blocking things.

One other area that may be worthy of investigation is potassium deficiency. Near the beginning of my illness the only thing doctors could find was that I was potassium deficient. On the net you can find articles on arthritis and low potassium and they explain things in detail. Eating potassium rich foods has been making a difference.

(sorry for the book). Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add that with the 'adrenal supplements' I take (rhodiola rosea, pregnenolone, adrenal extract) ... I don't take them after 6PM. In fact my adrenal is at it's lowest function upon waking up and this is the only time I take pregnenolone.

It took me ~9 years and 3 months to get rid of the virus I think I had (with AHCC). After that it's been ~ 9 months and my adrenal feels like it's almost functioning normal thanks to the adrenal supps. and muscle pain/brain fog is almost gone because of d-ribose (I take Doctor's Best powder which is considerably cheaper than other types at iherb.com)

Annette said...


I have taken Ribose on and off, and it caused increase in candida and I had trouble with low blood sugar. I'm not sure whether it increased my energy because I couldn't take it long enough.

I wish it worked for me, but I finally gave up.


d2341 said...

This needs a lot more research, but I found a research paper on the net called" Rapid Glycation with D-Ribose induces globular amyloid-like aggregations of
BSA with high cytotoxicity to SH-SY5Y cells" at www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2121/10/10/abstract

If this is a possibliity, then I would be cautious about taking ribose,especially in high amounts


Anonymous said...

I have been treated for lyme disease with heavy duty antibiotics for about 3 1/2 years. I had stopped taking antibiotics for about a month and started one scoop of the D-Ribose for about a month and half. I had been getting severe headaches and just thought this was lyme. I developed a yeast infection and took diflucan which got rid of my headches. I had to take multiple doses of diflucan to get rid of the yeast. I don't know if I was just more suceptable to the yeast growing because of all the anitbiotics but the D-Ribose definately had something to do with it, which sucks because it was helping with my energy.

Anonymous said...

My 18 year-old daughter was prescribed Corvalen Ribose by a new naturopathic doctor earlier this week. Yesterday I had to take her to the ER with tachycardia. Her pulse was 140. Today I had to take her again and the doctors were puzzled as her EKGs were normal, labs were normal. A slight UTI that they're treating with antibiotics. And she was dehydrated. I have no idea if this supplement could have caused the rapid heart beat. She says she hasn't felt anxious -- was just watching an online show when her heart started racing and her breathing became rapid. Has anyone else had this as a side effect of D-Ribose? Thanks.

Bill said...

Nothing you ingest "causes" Candida!
Candida is a living organism (yeast/fungus) that resides in our "guts" in a harmless form until it manages to get into the blood stream.
Once there, it starts to do what it is designed to do, which is tear down the tissues and disintegrate the body.
The problem is, it's not supposed to do that until you're dead.
If you're not dead yet then the problem is Candida overgrowth.
You could eliminate all sugars and even stop eating altogether and you would not stop Candida's progress.
Candida will "eat" the tissues that you are made of!
That's its job!
Candida wears "armor"!!!
It's called "chitin" and is the same stuff that insects are covered with. That's why the immune system can't get it.
Check out a substance called "LUFENURON"!!!
It's prevents the Candida from making its chitin "armor" and allows the immune system to kill it.
When you eliminate Candida overgrowth, all sorts of "ailments" will begin to disappear.
Get it now... before they make it illegal.

Jan said...

While D-Ribose does seem to help my energy levels, I have been concerned about the abnormal amyloid formation that Don mentioned. I found another article that mentions it. Be sure to read the conclusion. Since my mother had Alzheimer's I don't think I will risk using it except in very small amounts.

D-Ribose Induces Cellular Protein Glycation and Impairs Mouse Spatial Cognition

I have not seen Dr. Teitelbaum address this issue.

Anonymous said...

I Have active Lyme Disease. I was encouraged to take Max One from a prominent Functional Doctor in Florida. While I have only been on it for 2 months, my energy has decreased, fungus on toenails and fingernails, falling asleep during the day, not sleeping at night, ribs hurting calves hurting, headaches, depression, anxiety. I suppose you would need to be methylating before taking this product. I believe it also becomes addictive to your body. My Lyme was pretty much under control until I started taking this product and increasing my Candida.