Pain is the most distinctive characteristic of fibromyalgia. How to stop the pain? This is the most pressing question I hear from those suffering from fibromyalgia in my practice in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.
One of the biggest challenges in coping with fibromyalgia is dealing the many possible triggers of flare-ups. Unfortunately, many triggers are a common part of the lifestyle we have in this area. Pain flare-ups can happen because of
- sudden exposure to heat
- sudden exposure to cold
- excessive physical activity
- lack of sleep
So, to start, it helps to keep an open mind about what may be causing you to experience bouts of more severe pain. You may already have a sense that being tired or stressed makes your symptoms worse. But there may be other triggers that can take some more time and careful observation to recognize.
Your Diet Matters
Many doctors and patients are finding that what you eat plays a big role in controlling symptoms. You may already suspect that eating or drinking certain things makes you feel worse. Following what’s often called an anti-inflammatory diet, or wellness diet, can bring real relief.
Foods in an anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Whole foods: unprocessed, fruits, and vegetables, and grains and nuts
- Lean proteins: white meat chicken, eggs, soy and yogurt
- Foods with healthy fats: omega3 fatty acids, which are high in flaxseed oil, salmon, caviar and walnuts
- Antioxidants: These are compounds that prevent damage from unstable molecules called free radicles.
Antioxidants are found in Vitamin A-rich vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach. They’re also found in high vitamin C foods such as oranges, watermelon, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and blueberries. Vitamin E-rich foods also provide antioxidants, in such foods as wheat germ oil, peanuts, almonds and sunflower seeds.
These foods are just a few among many choices you have as you look for natural ways to reduce pain.
It’s also important to avoid foods that can make symptoms worse. You may already know that caffeine makes it harder to fall asleep – which fibromyalgia pain already makes quite difficult.
Many people with fibromyalgia have noticed sensitivities to particular foods or ingredients. While this varies from person to person, you may find you feel better when you avoid processed sugar, MSG, nitrates or artificial sweeteners
If you’re not sure, a food journal – written notes about what you eat and how you feel — can help you recognize food sensitivities you may not otherwise know you have.
An anti-inflammatory diet does seem to help people with fibromyalgia feel better – by a lot. This may seem surprising, given that inflammation isn’t a major characteristic of fibromyalgia. Even if the pain isn’t caused by tissue swelling or damage to muscles and joints, you may find that a well-chosen food plan helps lower your fibromyalgia pain significantly.
Here are a few recipes I share with my patients at the Optimal Wellness Center, to help you explore these health-promoting foods.
Diet is one tool among others to cope with fibromyalgia. We’ll also explore, in other articles, what else you can do to ease the pain of fibromyalgia naturally.
With so many possible triggers, it’s unlikely that a pill or medication can make it all simply go away. Your best defense may be to find a combination of approaches — including natural ones — to keep your flare-ups to a minimum.