What Is A Fibromyalgia Diet?
(Foods To Combat Your Symptoms)
Never Underestimate The Importance Of Diet On Pain...
The Short Answer –
It is widely accepted that ‘you are what you eat’ and that can apply to medicines too. Pain is created in your body and, if you eat foods that trigger the right levels of hormonal production, then foods can fight pain too.
In this article we ask what is a fibromyalgia diet and look at your options when choosing which one to try…
What Is A Fibromyalgia Diet?
As we covered in our recent article, fibromyalgia is a syndrome (a collective number of symptoms without a defined diagnosis) characterised by chronic pain from head to toe, an over-sensitivity to other pain stimuli and extreme fatigue.
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, so the focus of treatment is on controlling and reducing the many symptoms that it can present so that you can live the fullest life possible.
It is now well accepted that your diet can have a substantial effect on both your overall health and the ability of your body to heal itself. In rheumatoid arthritis patients, an anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to be successful in reducing the bodies inflammatory response and therefore reducing the extreme pain it causes.
In the case of fibromyalgia, a whole range of problems and deficiencies have been noted in patients suffering with the syndrome. Whether this is a reason for them developing fibromyalgia or a response to the fibromyalgia though is much less clear.
Serotonin levels for example are known to be very low in fibro patients as is often vitamin D. Similarly, it is not unusual for fibromyalgia sufferers to develop food intolerances and mild to severe allergies. As a result, gluten-free diets have been shown to help with symptoms even when you are not a defined celiac.
Part of the reason for this may also lie in gluten’s relationship with inflammation, although again most doctor’s would advocate trying one at a time (in consultation with them) and seeing the results as the bodies’ response will be different for everyone.
What Is The Best Diet For Fibromyalgia?
It is almost impossible to say what will work best for you, because your bodies’ response will be a very individual one. That is true however, with all fibromyalgia treatments – the best advice is always to try one at a time. If it works, keep it and maybe add others, discontinuing every option that doesn’t improve your symptoms.
We’ll look now at the main types of diet available and the principles behind choosing each one….
A) The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Fibromyalgia is NOT an inflammatory condition, meaning that unlike a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation is not the main cause. However, with chronic pain you will frequently find inflammation present as well. This is also true for fibromyalgia patients according to ‘The Journal Of Pain’
It therefore follows that if you can treat the inflammation, you can reduce the chronic pain. We have already covered how to follow an anti inflammatory diet plan in much greater detail with information on why it might work as well, but in short the foods that you could consume include –
Fresh Protein –
- Bone Broth
- Dark Chocolate
- Dark Red Grapes
- Coconut Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Chinese Cabbage (BokChoy)
- Leafy Greens
- Chilli Pepper
- Bean and Lentils
- Sweet Potatoes
- Red Wine
- Green Tea
Herbs/ Spices –
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
B) A Vitamin D Diet
We mentioned previously that fibromyalgia patients have often been found to be low in Vitamin D and so Vitamin D supplements may be of help.
While one option may be to take a supplement pill, there are also a number of foods very high in vitamin D that can give your system a natural boost.
These include –
- Orange Juice (fortified with vitamin D)
- Whole Grain Cereals (fortified with vitamin D)
- Low-fat yogurt (fortified with vitamin D)
- Egg Yolks
- Tuna (fresh or canned in water not tomato sauce)
- Beef Liver
C) A Gluten Free Diet
A study in ‘Rheumatology International’ (2014) looked at gluten sensitivity in fibromyalgia sufferers that were not defined as also having celiac disease.
Possibly due to the inflammation-enhancing impact of gluten, the gluten-free diet was found to have benefits in relieving the pain to some extent.
If you want more information on what type of foods you can eat (and should avoid) with a gluten diet, we would recommend Coeliac UK as a good resource.
D) A High Energy Diet
This isn’t a full diet as such, it’s more of a natural addition to your current diet, but there are certain foods known to be high in energy, but low in sugar.
These foods include –
The idea is that adding these high-energy foods will help to counter the over-whelming fatigue that is a common symptom of fibromyalgia.
One thing that has been proved in the treatment of fibromyalgia is the danger of being obese. In a number of trials including one in ‘Clinical Rheumatology’ (2012), there is a clear link between being overweight and suffering with worse fibromyalgia symptoms.
Thankfully the reverse is also true – so whatever diet you choose, just losing a little extra weight will help with your symptoms considerably.
At helprelievepain, we never underestimate the benefit of having a team of doctors/ support at hand (hopefully we can be one) that can help you with your fibromyalgia.
When it comes to changing diets and especially taking supplements, talking to your team is absolutely essential. Some supplements may have direct implications on the drugs you may have been prescribed by your doctor(s).
This could work one of two ways – either the supplement may alter the drugs deposition and therefore weaken it’s anticipated effect or it may actually enhance it’s toxicity and risk poisoning you (or leave you addicted).
The exact outcome depends on your own unique combination of drugs. However, there are some very well used drugs in Fibromyaliga such as the antidepressant class ‘SSRIs’ (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) that include Prozac, Lexapro and Zoloft that have well established interactions with St John’s Wort among other supplements.
Indeed, because so many people have turned to supplements without knowing the benefits or the risks, congress in the US were effectively forced to form the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Their job is to create safe guidelines for choosing supplements and they currently advise extreme caution as much of the evidence behind the benefits of using supplements is not that hopeful.
However, if you do decide to engage in trying various supplements and have checked with what your doctor has prescribed first, then there are 3 main supplements you might want to consider –
1. 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytrytophan).
In our article on ‘foods to avoid with fibromyalgia’ we discussed the role of tryptophan as a major contributor to your levels of serotonin. Given that low serotonin levels are linked with fibromyalgia pain as well as potentially with depression, boosting a major contributor to serotonin makes logical sense.
If 5-HTP supplements can then help to increase your serotonin levels, then is should reduce your fibromyalgia pain. It does have to be pointed out that there has been a serious health scare with 5-HTP in supplement form actually being associated with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, but that is thought to be mostly to do with another contaminant in the particular tablet.
Probiotics are meant to help with your digestive system by introducing healthy bacteria and yeast. They can be used for fibromyalgia to help treat IBS or diarrheoa.
Probiotics can also be effective in treating infections around the genital tract in women.
There is little or no clinical data around probiotics in use with fibromyalgia, but they are safe to try, with the main side effects generally involving nothing more serious than gas or slight bloating.
Melatonin is normally found as a natural hormone that helps with sleeping and therefore reducing your fatigue.
Melatonin is generally considered fairly safe even in supplement form and is normally available for purchase over the counter. Ironically, the only noticed side effect with melatonin is drowsiness!
4. St John’s Wort.
This is designed for treating depression, which is part of the reason that is should never be taken in combination with an anti depressant.
It has been proven on its own to help with treating depression. Indeed, it is quite common for sufferers to try st johns wort before going on to anti depressants if this alternative does not provide the required lift.
General side effects revolve around upset stomachs and fatigue.
L-Carnitine has been linked several times to reducing fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia, although actual studies in to it’s effectiveness are very limited.
6. SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine).
SAM-e is made naturally in the body, but is also available in supplement form in the US. In much of Europe it’s actually used as a prescription drug. SAM-e is very commonly used with great success for osteoarthritis pain, where it is considered almost as effective as many NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
The theory behind SAM-e is that is can increase natural levels of dopamine and serotonin, both essential for reducing pain and getting good sleep.
Unfortunately studies so far have shown limited value when SAM-e is used for fibromyalgia, but in fairness further studies are needed to make any definitive judgement.
The Final Word –
There is no doubt in today’s world that diet does have a significant impact on your overall health.
Unfortunately, the relative lack of research in to potential treatments of fibromyalgia, makes it very difficult to conclusively decide the single best diet for fibromyalgia.
The best anyone can offer is the rationale behind different diets and why they should work. From there, it is up to you to adjust your overall diet to what you feel you can achieve and then see what impact it makes.
It is also worth noting that altering your diet to reduce your fibromyalgia symptoms isn’t a ‘yes or no’ commitment. If you are vegan on principle, then you are 100% vegan.
However, with fibromyalgia it is always best to find a combination of treatments that works best for you. You could mostly follow an anti-inflammatory diet and stop eating quite a few of the foods that we suggest to avoid. In doing so, you might achieve 70% of the result – which could still be a significant improvement in your symptoms.
Alternatively, you may decide to stick rigidly to a diet to test for certain if it works for you – and add in foods high in vitamin D to give it an extra boost. Ultimately the decision needs to be one you can reasonably stick to and get more (not less) enjoyment out of life because of the change. After all, that is the end goal of all fibromyalgia treatment.
Hopefully, we have helped in explaining what is a fibromyalgia diet – if you have a view on what is the best diet for fibromyalgia – please let us know below!
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References Used –
1. Emmanuel Bäckryd, Lars Tanum, Anne-Li Lind, Anders Larsson, Torsten Gordh, (2017). Evidence of both systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia patients, as assessed by a multiplex protein panel applied to the cerebrospinal fluid and to plasma. Dovepress.
2. Mohammed Kamal, SennaRehab Abd-El Raouf Sallam, Hala Salah Ashour, Mohammed Elarman (2012) Effect of weight reduction on the quality of life in obese patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rheumatology.
3. The National Centre For Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/fibromyalgia.htm
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