Finding foods that can help your fibromyalgia may just be a matter of trial and error. There are very few research studies on the effect of diet on this chronic disease, leaving those with fibromyalgia to see which foods tend to make them feel better and those foods that make their symptoms worse. There are some general trends, however, in foods that are felt to impact fibromyalgia in positive or negative ways.
Let’s look at what we do know about your diet and fibromyalgia to give you some idea of where to start in using diet to regulate your symptoms.
- Try foods high in vitamin D. Foods with vitamin D include fortified dairy products that also contain calcium for good bone health. Many people are deficient in vitamin D because they use sunscreen or live in higher latitudes where vitamin D can’t be gotten from sunshine. Deficiencies of vitamin D have been known to cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia, you should be checked for vitamin D deficiency and load up on foods high in vitamin D if the levels return as low. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to having an insensitivity to the taking of pain relieving medication. If you don’t think you can get enough vitamin D in your diet alone, try taking vitamin D supplements, especially during the winter when vitamin D from the sun is harder to come by.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Eating foods that prevent inflammation in the body helps to lessen pain. Two good anti-inflammatory diets are the Mediterranean diet and the Zone diet. In general, an anti-inflammatory diet includes the following:
- Avoiding trans and saturated fats that come from processed foods and fatty meats
- Eating lots of different whole fruits and vegetables
- High intake of omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish, and walnuts
- Reducing the intake of pasta, white rice, and refined carbohydrates
- Eating lean protein sources, such as chicken and turkey
- Reducing the intake of red meat and high fat dairy products
- Eliminating processed foods and junk food
- Adding spices such as ginger, garlic and curry for their anti-inflammatory benefits
- Stay away from food additives. Many foods contain additives like aspartame and MSG (monosodium glutamate) that activate your brain’s neurons, making them more sensitive to pain. Small studies have been done on people with fibromyalgia who eliminated these food additives from their diet and experienced a reduction in their fibromyalgia symptoms. Avoiding these additives cannot hurt you in the slightest and may make your symptoms much less noticeable.
- Eat more fish. Fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, have been found to reduce the body’s level of inflammation and are known to be preventative against heart disease. One recent study also indicated that a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids reduced the symptoms of painful joints and morning stiffness in patients who did not have fibromyalgia. While fibromyalgia patients were not included in the study, it did include patients who had irritable bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, which are found along with patients who have fibromyalgia. It makes sense that omega 3 fatty acids may help fibromyalgia patients as well. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in more foods other than fish. You can find these healthful fatty acids in flaxseeds and walnuts as well.
- Stay away from caffeine. Caffeine is known to cause you to be jittery and can interfere with sleep, something that fibromyalgia patients struggle with and get too little of. While it may be tempting to use caffeine to combat daytime fatigue seen in fibromyalgia, this may backfire on you so that you lose sleep at night when you really need it. The “high” of caffeine also comes with a “crash” so you may be setting yourself up for more fatigue than you bargained for. Try drinking green tea instead, which has less caffeine in it and is high in anti-oxidants.
- Eat more vegetables. Vegetables are high in anti-oxidants, which combat oxidative stress. Some research experts believe that high amounts of oxygen free radicals contribute to many of the symptoms seen in fibromyalgia. By eating fruits and vegetables, you can get the anti-oxidant power to fight of oxygen free radicals along with high amounts of healthful vitamins. A raw, vegan diet would be ideal but if you can’t tolerate such a strict diet, just incorporate as many colorful vegetables in your diet as you can.