Fibromyalgia Diet: Is there a specific diet?
Diets are all the rage nowadays, but what about diets for people living with chronic pain from a disease with an unknown cause? How much is known about fibromyalgia diets? While there is still much research to be done on this topic, there are fibromyalgia patients who report that there are foods out there that help them reduce fibromyalgia flare-ups, fatigue, and general symptoms. There are also studies that show some foods may worsen symptoms, while other studies have not found that any particular diet worsens symptoms or treats them for all fibromyalgia patients. In this article, you will find out about the fibromyalgia diet and what tips might be helpful for this chronic pain disease.
Fibromyalgia Diet: What is it?
Fibromyalgia is a long-term, chronic condition that causes soft tissue or myofascial pain and can lead to both mental and emotional distress. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia experience widespread pain throughout the muscles and bones, fatigue, and areas of tenderness which can become debilitating to your everyday life. Unfortunately, there are many people who go through life undiagnosed because many symptoms of fibromyalgia are difficult to measure. Approximately five million adults in the United States are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, most of which are women (75-90 percent according to most data), typically middle-aged or older. Although fibromyalgia is most often diagnosed in adults, children and adolescents may suffer from it as well. Adults living with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are also more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Despite knowing many associated disorders and risk factors, the causes of fibromyalgia are still largely unknown. Some risk factors of fibromyalgia include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Autoimmune disorders
- Genetic factors
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but with a proper treatment plan, it is possible to increase the overall quality of life. Treatments such as acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and exercise may help reduce the painful and exhausting symptoms of fibromyalgia. But what about diet? Is there a fibromyalgia diet? Are there foods that can treat or worsen your fibromyalgia? Diet and nutrition is definitely a hot topic when it comes to health and natural remedies, but when it comes to diet and fibromyalgia, is there anything we know for sure?
Fibromyalgia diet: Unique to each person
When it comes to a healthy diet, what is recommended for some people may differ from what is recommended for others. The same goes for those who suffer from fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, there is no particular diet that is considered a true treatment for fibromyalgia, however certain foods have been shown to worsen symptoms in some patients while others may have beneficial effects. Because everyone is different, certain diet changes may affect some more than others – this goes for those living with and without fibromyalgia, so it is always recommended to visit a nutritionist. Something you can try to do to figure out what may be worsening your fibromyalgia symptoms is an elimination diet. An elimination diet starts off with a few simple foods. Eventually, you slowly begin to add other foods back into your diet to see if any ones in particular may be contributing to your fibromyalgia symptoms. This way you may begin to customize your fibromyalgia diet and see what helps you or hurts you the most.
General fibromyaglia diet tips
Despite the fact that every person is different when it comes to dietary needs, there are foods out there that are often associated with worsening fibromyalgia symptoms. This can be due to their inflammatory nature, the chemicals that are found in them, or the fact that they may include gluten. Studies have shown that even a non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying factor in worsening fibromyalgia symptoms. So what foods should you look to avoid when planning your fibromyalgia diet?
Fibromyalgia Diet: What to avoid
- Food additives such as aspartame and MSG (monosodium glutamate) – Some studies have shown that these additives may worsen inflammation and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, like IBS.
- Processed foods – This includes cereals, frozen meals, sodas, sugary snacks, breads and foods that contain refined carbohydrates like white flour, pasta and white rice.
- Cured meats – Bacon, sausage, lunch meats, hot dogs, and anything with added salts or preservatives
- Gluten – Non-celiac patients with fibromyalgia have shown improvement when following a gluten free diet. Gluten is normally found in pastas, breads, beer, and any derivative of wheat.
This list may sound daunting, but keep in mind there are a lot of foods that may be beneficial to add to your diet as well. There is not much research that shows a definite relationship between a particular diet and improved fibromyalgia symptoms, but these dietary additions promote a well-balanced diet for anyone, including those who suffer from fibromyalgia. A balanced diet can lead to increased energy, reduced inflammation, lower risk of other diseases like diabetes, which may worsen symptoms, and an overall stronger, healthier body which is important for anyone, but especially when you are fighting chronic pain.
Fibromyalgia Diet: What to eat
- Magnesium – foods rich in magnesium include, nuts, leafy greens, avocados, beans, and some types of fish
- Omega 3 fatty acids – typically found in fish, like salmon or bass, spinach, flaxseed and walnuts. Omega-3s are strong anti-inflammatories so they may help reduce pain. However it is important to monitor omega-3 levels, and aim to eat foods containing omega-3s rather than consuming capsules. Omega 3 can also help avoid fibro fog, which can affect your cognitive skills.
- Energy boosting foods – increasing energy levels is important especially since fibromyalgia causes fatigue. Some energy boosting foods to consider adding are almonds, dark leafy greens, broccoli, or tofu. Make sure to avoid added sugars.
- Mediterranean diet- see more below
Fibromyalgia Diet: Mediterranean diet and fibromyalgia symptoms
The Mediterranean diet includes mainly plant based foods such as fruits, veggies, and legumes, all of which are often considered beneficial foods to include in a fibromyalgia diet. The other core foods typically found in the Mediterranean diet include fish, poultry, and healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil. There are other elements to this diet, like red wine and low fat dairy, but the main aspects of this diet in the case of improving fibromyalgia symptoms are:
- Healthy fats
- Fish containing omega-3s
- Avoidance of red meat and cured meats
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Lean protein for energy
- Whole grains instead of refined carbs
Fibromyalgia: Diet & weight loss
Since fibromyalgia causes pain and fatigue, exercise may seem like the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, may help reduce tenderness and other symptoms of fibromyalgia in some patients. Not only that, but it’s also important to keep a healthy weight and exercise along with a proper diet. Studies have shown that weight loss in overweight patients with fibromyalgia can increase their quality of life. Unfortunately, there is not much concrete evidence showing that exercise, like diet, truly has an effect on symptoms of fibromyalgia, however, exercise and other alternative treatments can help relieve stress for some patients, which is a large part of living with chronic pain. With that in mind, what are some overall healthy habits you can keep if you’re living with fibromyalgia?
- Keep a food diary. Keeping track of what you eat and what makes you feel better or worse can be as simple as writing down what you’ve eaten and how you’ve been feeling which can lead you to determine what things might be best to remove from your diet.
- Try and exercise. Fibromyalgia makes this difficult, but it’s important to keep your body strong and healthy. Any amount of exercise you can do may help relieve stress. Exercise is also important to maintain a healthy weight which may also help reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- Communicate with others. Speaking with people who are also living through similar experiences may help relieve stress and remind you that you are not alone. You can share ideas and tips while also having the benefit of engaging with someone who knows what you are going through, and just how difficult it can be to live with fibromyalgia.
There is no single fibromyalgia diet
Fibromyalgia is not necessarily something you can control, but your diet is. Although there is not much research out there that definitely proves a connection between a certain diet and fibromyalgia, it is still important to take whatever measures you can to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, if not to try and ease the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia, at least to keep your body and mind as healthy as possible. Keeping track of what you’re eating, maintaining a well-balanced diet, exercising when you are able, and remembering that there is a community to reach out to for support are just a few things you can do to try and improve your quality of life.
Marisa is a recent Binghamton University graduate with a degree in both English and psychology. She is particularly interested in discussing matters of the brain, human behavior, and literature. Marisa enjoys creating informative content to share with others who may be interested in learning more about psychology.