Fibromyalgia: Diet Does Matter!

Food has the power to help heal the body.  If you have fibromyalgia it is absolutely essential to eat a healthy balanced diet. In addition many people with fibromyalgia have food sensitivities.  Your diet does matter!

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome, which includes chronic widespread muscle pain.  It is often associated with one or more other symptoms including fatigue, stiffness, insomnia, and irritable bowel.

 A Balanced Approach to Better Fibromyalgia Treatment

Fibromyalgia affects over 2% of the population.  There is no single cause and thus no single treatment that works for everyone.  The best treatment plan uses an integrative approach. combining Western Medicine, Lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications and complementary therapies.

To effectively treat fibromyalgia, one needs to focus on health and develop healthy lifestyle choices.  Finding a balance by developing good eating habits, exercising regularly, thinking positive thoughts and practicing relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

The most important foundation for health is to eat foods that are nutrient rich and provide your body with the fuel to perform optimally.

Diet plays a major role in our body’s ability to heal and in the prevention of disease. Food is medicine, it tells our genes how to express themselves.  Research studies do not support one single eating plan that works for everyone with fibromyalgia.  This is because fibromyalgia is a syndrome and not a specific disease.

Foods to Fight Against Fibromyalgia

Although there is not a single proven diet plan, here are some good guidelines to follow.

Eat a whole food based diet.  This consists of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, and healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids (found in flax seeds, fish, avocados and walnuts.  It is also equally important to minimize overly processed foods like white bread, cookies, cakes and crackers.  Remove these items from your house, if you don’t have them around you can’t eat them. Remember your body needs the right fuel to function optimally.

Several studies with fibromyalgia patients have shown improvement in symptoms, less pain and stiffness when eating diets containing lots of in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients.  Antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties and are important nutrients for maintaining health.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that can cause damage to your body. Free radicals are formed when the body converts food to energy and also formed when the body processes chemicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules, which can damage DNA. Having enough antioxidants in your diet is essential to help prevent disease.

Phytonutrients, which essentially means plant nutrients, are the active substances in plants responsible for their color, flavor and resistance to disease.  Scientist have found that these phytonutrients are important for humans to help the body function optimally. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and teas are the richest sources of phytonutrients.

Additional studies have shown that some fibromyalgia patients benefit from a whole food vegetarian diet. These diets are even richer in phytonutrients and antioxidants.

The bottom line, eat whole foods, lots of fruits and vegetables ( 5-9 servings per day) Lean proteins (mainly plant based), legumes, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats. Juicing is a good way to increase fruits and vegetables in to your diet.

Food Sensitivities

Some people with Fibromyalgia have food sensitivities; many symptoms of fibromyalgia such as fatigue, pain, stiffness, insomnia and headaches can be worsened by food.

It is important to listen to your body and pay attention to your fibromyalgia symptoms so that you will know what foods make you feel worse. The most common cause of food sensitivity includes the following:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Corn

Additional Possible foods that can cause sensitivities:

  • Coffee
  • Meat
  • Fish/shellfish
  • Chocolate
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruit
  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Food additives
  • Peanuts

*Nightshade vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes peppers and eggplant. Some people find a reduction in symptoms when these vegetables are eliminated from their diet. However since these are also filled with a lot of nutrients if they do not cause a flare keep them in your diet.

Find Out What to Eliminate

The only way to really know if you are sensitive to one of these foods is to eliminate one at a time.  If your symptoms are reduced, reintroduce the food and see if the symptoms increase again.  It is best to try eliminating only one food at a time. An alternative is to eliminate several foods at once then slowly reintroduce one food at a time adding a new food back every few days.  Keeping a food diary may be helpful, allowing you to track your symptoms along with what you are eating. This may help you identify which foods you may be sensitive to.

It is also important to have variety in your diet. Eating the same things too frequently may cause you to develop sensitivity to that food. Variety is a good way to provide your body with the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally. You may find that certain food only increase symptoms if eaten too frequently but are tolerated on occasion.

What You Should Avoid

Although there is not a single dietary plan that works for everyone certain food additives when eliminated reduce symptoms in a significant number of people.

Aspartame.  (NutraSweet)

Aspartame considered an excitotoxin and may stimulate certain neurons. It is felt that aspartame may cause amplification of pain signals. People with fibromyalgia may have overactive pain receptors and are even more susceptible to aspartame stimulation.  The bottom line is many people with fibromyalgia find reduction in symptoms when they avoid aspartame.

MSG

MSG is a food additive also thought to be an excitotoxin, which could cause amplification of pain signals.

Nitrates

Nitrates found in bacon, lunchmeats like ham and bologna may also cause pain signal amplification.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulate that can make fatigue worse when it wears off and can also increase anxiety and cause or worsen insomnia. If you cannot completely eliminate caffeine then try and limit your daily intake.

 

Trouble Sleeping? Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene

Many people have poor sleep habits.  We stay up too late and get up to early.  We interrupt our sleep with drugs, chemicals and work, and we over stimulate ourselves with late-night activities such as television.

It is important to have good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to measures you can take to ensure good quality nighttime sleep. One of the most important things you can do is to maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern.

Good Sleep Hygiene Practices

Good sleep hygiene practices include:

  1. Avoid napping during the day if you can.  If you must take a nap, try to keep it short, (20 minutes or less).
  2. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime.  This includes caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
  3. Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime.  Initially alcohol has a sedation effect but a few hours later it can have a stimulant effect.
  4. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime.
  5. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.  Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep.  Strenuous exercise within the 2 hours before bedtime, however, can decrease your ability to fall asleep.
  6. Maintain a regular sleep and wake pattern.  The body functions best on a regular schedule.  You need a minimum of 7 hours per night for your body to function at its best.
  7. Associate your bed with sleep. It is not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV or use other electronics. Turn off all electronics and hour before bed. Use of these devises stimulate your brain and make it difficult to sleep.
  8. Make sure your sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing.
  9. Use comfortable bedding.
  10. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.  If your bedroom is too cold or too hot, it can keep you awake.  A cool (not cold) bedroom is often the most conducive to sleep.
  11. Block out all distracting noise, and eliminate as much light as possible.
  12. Make sure your bedroom is dark. Remove all computers; cell phones, and turn bright light alarm clocks away from you.

Establish a Regular Relaxing Bedtime Routine

  1. Establish a pre-sleep ritual.  Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep.
  2. If you have trouble sleeping you can try a light snack before bed.  Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep.
  3. Avoid emotionally upsetting conversations before bed.
  4. Don’t make to do lists in your head. Write down what you need to accomplish the next day, and then forget about it once you go to bed. Tell yourself “its on your list, you do not need to worry about it.”
  5. Practice relaxation techniques before bed.  Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension.

Getting Up in the Middle of the Night?

Most people wake up one or two times a night for various reasons.  If you find that you get up in the middle of night and cannot get back to sleep try meditation, visualizing or progression relaxing. Do not perform challenging or engaging activity such as office work, housework, etc.  Do not watch television. Try one of these relaxation techniques:

Relaxation Techniques

  1. Try to concentrate on your breathing. Count 1 on the inhale and 1 exhale, 2 inhale and 2 exhale, 3 inhale and 3 exhale, 4 inhale and 4 exhale then go back to 1 inhale and 1 exhale. Keep repeating until you fall asleep.
  2. You can try visualizing, imagining you are in a calm relaxing environment like walking on the beach or sitting in a garden.

Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes and progressing up towards your head. Relax each muscle group while concentrating on your breathing

Soup for Optimal Wellness

Soup is a great way to add more vegetables and plant based protein to your diet.

Vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties and are important nutrients for maintaining health. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that can cause damage to your tissues. Free radicals are formed when the body coverts food to energy and also formed when the body processes chemicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules, which can damage DNA. Having enough antioxidants in your diet is essential to help prevent disease.

Phytonutrients, which essentially means plant nutrients, are the active substances in plants responsible for their color, flavor and resistance to disease. Scientist have found that these phytonutrients are important for humans to help the body function optimally. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and teas are the richest sources of phytonutrients.

Not only is this soup delicious and full of health promoting antioxidants and phytonutrients because it is high in fiber. It is a great way to maintain or even lose weight. Foods high in fiber keep you full longer.

Dr. Keller’s Optimal Wellness Soup Recipes

Lentil and Kale Soup

Kale isn’t just frilly – it’s a versatile green leafy vegetable recognized for incredible benefits to health since ancient Greek and Roman times.

Full of antioxidants, protein, and fiber.
4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4-5 carrots, finally chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 15oz cans brown lentils, rinsed and drained, or pre-steamed from Trader Joes
1 petit cut canned tomatoes
1½ to 2 quarts of vegetable or chicken broth
1 (½ pound) bunch kale, tough stems removed and leaves roughly chopped (5 to 6 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Procedure

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic in oil. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook 5 minutes while stirring occasionally (do not brown). Add kale to coat in oil.
  2.  Add lentils and broth. Stir, combine, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Escarole Bean and Garlic Soup

People often overlook the incredible power of good food to promote health.

That’s why I offer this recipe to my Optimal Wellness Center patients — and anyone wanting to improve health the delicious way.

This soup is full of antioxidants, protein, and fiber
6-7 servings

Ingredients

2 heads escarole (1 lb)
¼ cups olive oil
1½ cups diced Spanish onion (1 onion)
1 tbsp minced garlic (3cloves chopped)
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups cooked white cannellini beans or 2 16oz cans, drained and rinsed
(you can add 3rd can of beans for more fiber and protein)
2-3 qts chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
1 16oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 large carrots, chopped
4-5 celery sticks, chopped
Salt to taste

Procedure

  1. Core and wash escarole thoroughly, discarding any bruised or wilted leaves. Cut escarole into ½ inch ribbons, set aside.
  2. Heat soup pot (one with a well fitted lid) add olive oil, garlic, onions, carrots, celery, red pepper flakes and sauté 3-4 minutes into escarole well to coat with oil. Add chicken broth and reduce flame to low, cover and let escarole cook until tender (10-12 minutes).
  3. Add chicken broth and cooked beans. Bring soup to a boil; reduce to a simmer and let cook 12-15 minutes or longer stirring from occasionally. Remove soup from heat and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.