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.