Fibromyalgia affects an estimated five million people in the U.S. This is a chronic pain condition that is usually diagnosed by figuring out what it is not through lab tests and taking a thorough family history. Although there are prescription medications that can be taken for pain, one of the best ways to combat this condition is through food. Here are our best ten diet tips for managing fibromyalgia.
- Eating paleo may help ease fibromyalgia pain: The paleo diet is one that focuses on foods that were presumably eaten during the days of cavemen and food cooked over open fires. The focus is on meat, berries, nuts, and seeds. Each of these components is as “clean” as possible. That means that there is minimal processing and all meats are grass-fed or pastured and raised without hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. The benefit of this diet lies in its focus on anti-inflammatory foods.
- Not feeling like our carnivorous ancestors? A vegetarian diet may help, too. Turns out that plant-based foods including fruit, vegetables, and legumes are high in micronutrients and other anti-inflammatory compounds that help ease fibromyalgia symptoms. In addition to easing pain and stiffness in joints, a vegetarian diet may also help with sleep.
- A raw vegan diet takes it one step further: Some studies suggest that a vegan diet with a focus on whole foods may work even better to alleviate all major fibromyalgia symptoms. The benefits are myriad, but sticking with such a challenging diet can be difficult.
- Locavore, carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, omnivore – names don’t matter if you focus on whole, fresh food: You may choose to avoid meat as a personal preference, or you may prefer your protein on the hoof. Either way, if you focus your diet on whole foods and avoid what comes out of a box or a bag you are way ahead of the game.
- Artificial foods make things worse: It’s important to understand what to eat, but it’s also key to know what to avoid. Artificial sweeteners, added preservatives, and high levels of sodium can exacerbate symptoms and increase inflammation in the body.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful fighters of inflammation: Fibromyalgia pain is associated with excess inflammation in the body, and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon and sardines are proven to reduce inflammation. If your fibromyalgia is accompanied by rheumatoid arthritis, depression, or heart disease, there is strong evidence that adding more omega-3s can help with those conditions, too.
- Write it down: One of the best ways to fight fibromyalgia symptoms is by keeping a daily journal of the foods you eat, weather conditions, amount and quality of sleep, and activity and pain levels. Over time, this may give you and your doctor a more complete picture of the factors that help cause pain and the foods and activities that help relieve it. And a bonus: add a few thoughts of gratitude each day, even on the worst pain days, to boost happiness and overall feelings of well-being.
- Avoid caffeine: You may reach for that extra cup of coffee in the morning after a particularly restless night, but try not to. Caffeine can exacerbate fatigue after it wears off, increasing feelings of listlessness and tiredness. Although coffee does have health benefits, keeping daily consumption to less than two cups is best for fibromyalgia patients. This includes caffeine from all sources, including coffee, soda, and caffeinated teas.
- Back away from the bread: This is a highly controversial topic in foodie circles these days, but there is some evidence that fibromyalgia can be partially attributed to gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is not the same thing as celiac disease, a disease that can be tested for and diagnosed. At the same time, fibromyalgia and celiac disease share some similar symptoms, including joint pain and swelling, intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel disease, and pain and muscle soreness.
- Go with your gut: An increasing number of studies have indicated that there is a gastrointestinal component to fibromyalgia that has long been overlooked in traditional studies of this condition. Our gut is host to trillions of bacteria that help to balance and regulate the body’s health. Researchers have only recently begun to delve deeper into this complex environment and its relation to the body’s health overall.
In the course of this research, some doctors are advocating the FODMAPS diet to help with conditions from fibromyalgia to bowel disease. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates (oligosaccharides), disaccharides, monosaccharides, and related alcohols that the body is not able to digest well, and their presence in the gut is disruptive and inflammatory. A low FODMAPS diet may help fibromyalgia sufferers who also suffer from intestinal symptoms.
These ten diet tips go best when paired with a large glass of water and a good night’s rest. Staying hydrated keeps the joints and organs lubricated and lowers the chance of muscle cramps and tension related to dehydration. A rested person is better able to deal with the everyday challenges they face with chronic pain. Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder, as different as each person who has it. It is important to approach any changes to diet carefully. Talk to your doctor before making any significant changes.
Have you made dietary modifications due to fibromyalgia?
Image by Lyle Vincent via Flickr