Fibromyalgia affects approximately 3-6% of the world population and is one of the most common chronic pain conditions.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
The symptoms of fibromyalgia range from mild to severe and appear to change a person’s pain pathways.
The changes in the pain pathways cause a person suffering from fibromyalgia to experience pain stronger sensations of the pain than normal.
Specific symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness in muscles, back or neck
- Types of pain may include:
- Chronic (aching)
- Pins and needles
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
- Can occur anytime, typically worse at night
- General feelings of:
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to concentrate
Currently, there is no known cause for fibromyalgia and no known cure. There are successful treatments that include:
- Medications that reduce symptoms
- Complementary therapies, such as:
- Diet changes
- Talk therapy
How Does Diet Affect Fibromyalgia?
There is no standard “fibromyalgia diet”. There are sensible recommendations that can be made based on a person’s current diet and foods or ingredients that might be making fibromyalgia symptoms worse for someone.
Most people, not just those suffering from fibromyalgia might benefit from re-evaluating the nutritional content of their overall diets.
Most doctors recommend incorporating food choices that promote anti-inflammation for FM patients.
Consuming natural sugars from 7 to 8 servings of fruit per day and avoiding refined sugars that have been proven to cause inflammation. Eating more fruit can also help relieve abdominal symptoms caused by FM as well.
Eating truly nutrient-packed vegetables like broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, etc.
Choosing whole grains and avoiding processed flours and simple carbohydrates that can also have inflammatory effects. Whole grains include rolled oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice.
Although milk is a great source of calcium, dairy can also be a source of inflammation. Consider limiting dairy and if needed supplementing calcium if needed.
Reduce consumption of red meat is being consumed more than twice a week. Consider other protein options such as turkey, chicken, and fish. Perhaps consider getting additional protein from plant-based products.
Although an anti-inflammatory diet is not a weight loss diet, oftentimes combined with increased activity it can result in weight loss.
Weight loss is also a possible way to reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia if a person is overweight.
What Foods Would Be Beneficial to Eat If You Have Fibromyalgia?
There has been some discussion on Fibromyalgia chat boards about considering and testing for vitamin D levels.
It appears that people have been indicating some pain relief from discovering and treating deficiencies in vitamin D.
Sources of vitamin D include:
- Vitamin D fortified orange juice
- Water canned tuna
- Whole grain cereals and bread fortified with vitamin D
- Egg yolks
- Vitamin D fortified yogurt
Vitamin D may not be the answer for everyone; however, a diet strong in vitamin D also promotes bone health.
What Should You Avoid Eating If You Have Fibromyalgia?
Some doctors advise that certain food additives and preservatives can aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms.
Specifically, additives called excitotoxins that include; glutamate and aspartate, typically an ingredient in sugar substitutes. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) has also been added to this list.
Although there are no conclusive studies that food additives aggravate FM, a number of fibromyalgia patients have found some relief after removing these ingredients from their diets.
There is also some emerging evidence from patients that gluten sensitivities may also play a role in fibromyalgia pain symptoms.
Ultimately there is no evidence that avoiding any particular food will relieve all of a person’s fibromyalgia-related pain.
The best way to determine if there is a particular food or foods in your diet causing your symptoms to be worse is to keep a food journal and document your symptoms and level of pain after consuming certain foods.
If you believe you have found a link, consider removing that food from your diet.
What About Supplements?
No matter what the supplement is, a person with fibromyalgia that is taking any other medication should consult with their physician prior to beginning to take any supplements.
Even supplements that are considered or labeled “natural” can interfere with prescription medication and cause further complications for a sufferer of fibromyalgia.
This doesn’t mean that there are no supplements that might be helpful for an individual; it just means that they should talk with their doctor to ensure there will be no conflicting interactions between medications and supplements.
What Else Can I Do?
There are some lifestyle changes or measures that can be taken in addition to dietary considerations that may help relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
One example of a very successful lifestyle habit that can reduce the pain of fibromyalgia is increased aerobic activity.
Engaging in at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity 2 to 3 times a week has been widely reported as a successful method of reducing not only pain but also fatigue.
The following types of exercise might be beneficial to reducing your FM symptoms:
- Tai Chi
Sleep is extremely important to the overall health of a fibromyalgia patient, as this is when your body has time to heal. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is very helpful.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is no cure for fibromyalgia… However, a person can be actively involved in their own treatment and achieve results.
A person diagnosed with fibromyalgia should be in the care of a physician for pain management and other FM symptoms as changes in lifestyle (end of a relationship, loss of a job, injury, etc.) can exacerbate pain levels for FM sufferers.
If you are experiencing a sudden increase in your symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider.