Eating with fibromyalgia or another pain condition can be challenging at times, especially on a budget. In this edition of Eat This, Not That, we focus on swaps that are easy to make and easy on the paycheck.
Instead of: Buying gluten-free bread
Many doctors suggest eliminating gluten from the diet as a way to relieve inflammation and ease fibromyalgia symptoms. One glance at the freezer section (where most gluten-free bread is kept) lets you know that spending upwards of $7 for a small loaf of bread just won’t work. But you love bread and want to find a way to make it work.
Try: Making your own gluten free all-purpose flour
Deciphering homemade gluten free baked goods can be challenging, but a good cup-for-cup substitute for regular all-purpose flour can be easy to make and use. Even if you only need flour for things like pancakes, muffins, or making sauces, this can help you go gluten free affordably. It can take some experimenting to find a bread recipe that meets your needs and satisfies your tastes, but once you settle on a great recipe, then gluten free bread can be affordable and delicious. The bonus is that fresh-baked goods are better for you than foods that are stabilized with artificial preservatives and flavors.
Instead of: Heading to the dairy case
Some people who suffer from fibromyalgia find that milk can exacerbate pain symptoms. The protein in dairy is called casein, and for those with fibromyalgia it can cause an inflammatory reaction in the body. But soy milk also has its issues, and those little cardboard boxes of the different non-dairy milks are filled with sugar and can cost a pretty penny.
Try: Making your own almond milk
Unsweetened almond milk is a great substitute for dairy, and it is easy to make. Try this: Soak one cup of raw almonds in two cups of water for up to two days (the longer your soak, the creamier the milk). Drain and rinse the almonds, then combine in a blender with two cups of water. Pulse a few times to break up the almonds a bit, then blend continuously for two minutes (you can use a food processor, too; process for four minutes). Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain the almond milk through the cheesecloth. Squeeze to strain out all liquid. At this point, you can chill in the refrigerator and drink as normal, or you can sweeten a bit with honey or agave. Each batch lasts in a sealed container for approximately two days in the refrigerator. Buy your almonds in bulk and store them in the freezer in a sealed container until you are ready to make milk.
Think your days of ice cream are over? Try dairy-free ice cream with your homemade almond milk. Enjoy yogurt with your morning granola? You can make your own almond milk yogurt without special tools.
Instead of: Gulping down antacids or taking prescription medication for gut and bowel disorders
It’s hard to talk about, but maybe fibromyalgia sends you to the restroom more often (and more quickly!) than you’d like. It’s a hard truth that one of fibromyalgia’s potentially embarrassing and disruptive symptoms is irritable bowel disease and other digestive upset. It can be difficult to predict and even harder to control.
Try: Healing your gut with fermented foods
You gut is filled with trillions of bacteria that help your body with everything from digestion to immune response. In fermented foods, the sugars and carbohydrates have interacted in such a way that the chemistry of the food is actually changed. Grain turns into bread, fruit turns into wine, and plain cucumbers turn into pickles.
Think of this change as the food being partially digested by the compounds in the vinegars, yeasts, or healthy bacteria that are working the process of fermentation. Fermented foods also support beneficial bacteria. This beneficial bacteria is crucial for digestion, but we eliminate it constantly with our anti-bacterial soaps and our foods loaded with antibiotics (which don’t know how to distinguish good bacteria from bad).
Fermented foods like kefir and kombucha contain probiotics that support and rebuild that healthy bacteria in the gut. You can make your own sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir, all of which can promote healing in your gut and potential relief from gut disorders and other fibro symptoms. Sauerkraut made with just cabbage, water, and salt is probably the most affordable of all of the options and can provide just as many benefits as fermented foods purchased at a natural food store.
Instead of: Going vegetarian for your fibromyalgia
Many proponents of holistic medicine tout the benefits of being a vegetarian for remarkable stories of renewed health and vigorous healing as a direct result of switching to a plant-based diet. Maybe you like vegetables, but you just aren’t ready to give them up entirely. Plus, you realize that going 100% organic is not in your budget. And let’s be honest: you like a burger every now and again.
Try: Meatless Mondays or trying “vegan before 6”
In 2013, Mark Bittman, author of How To Cook Everything and noted omnivore, published the book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6: To Lose Weight And Restore Your Health…For Good. The premise is simple: no calorie counting, no restrictions except for one. Only plant-based foods before six p.m. You can have salads, fruits, legumes, tofu, or anything vegan you want in the quantity you want before 6 p.m.
And as for the burger? Try a grass-fed, pastured beef burger every now and then for more healthy omega-3s, less unhealthy cholesterol, and no added steroids and hormones. Keep your veggies and fruits healthy by following the clean 15 and dirty dozen lists for even more affordable organic eating where it counts. You may find that because you are eating so many filling whole foods during the day that your fibromyalgia symptoms lessen and your cravings for sugar and fat diminish over time.
With a few simple swaps you may find eating for fibromyalgia is easier and more affordable than you think. What are your favorite recipes that help with chronic pain?
Image by HealthAliciousNess via Flickr