I know the last thing on your mind, when you aren’t feeling well is your diet- or worrying about the foods you eat. But read on, and find out how by just eliminating a few key foods from your diet may help (yes, this means you must read labels~)
Fibromyalgia affects up to 4% of the population — mostly women. And there is still no known cause or recognized treatment that works for everyone. That’s one reason, say experts, that so many people have turned to diet as a way to relieve some of the symptoms.
The fact is there’s little scientific evidence to support any single eating plan as a way to deal with fibromyalgia. Nevertheless, a trip around the Internet will show that dietary approaches to fibromyalgia abound. The variety is so diverse it’s hard to imagine they are all aimed at treating the same disease….”Eat more whole grains. Don’t eat any whole grains. All fruit is good. Some fruit is bad. Tomatoes are healthy. Tomatoes are harmful. Sugar is bad. Sugar has no impact. Avoid meat….” You can go crazy trying to figure out what works for you.
But find out what experts say really matters about the foods you eat — and why staying away from certain foods might help your fibromyalgia symptoms.
There are a number of co-existing health conditions that have a tendency to occur in people with fibromyalgia. Many of these have overlapping symptoms. These include gluten intolerance, gout (a form of arthritis), and restless legs syndrome. Some doctors believe food sensitivity itself could sometimes be responsible for some of the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia: Seven foods to avoid
While there may not be a single set of dietary guidelines that are right for all fibromyalgia
patients, there are certain foods, or food groups, that appear to make a difference for a significant number of people. But remember, avoiding these foods is not a guarantee that your symptoms will change. Also, avoiding one group may offer benefit while another may make no difference at all. Nevertheless, eliminating at least some of these foods is worth a try.
Cutting these ingredients out of the diet usually helps:
1. Aspartame (NutraSweet). For a large majority of people with fibromyalgia, foods sweetened with aspartame could exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms.
There is a pain receptor in the nervous system known as NMDA, when pain turns from acute to chronic, it involves opening the NMDA pain receptor. Aspartame, which is classified as an excitotoxin, helps to stimulate this event.
People with fibromyalgia appear to already have overly active NMDA pain receptors, making them more susceptible to the stimulation. Although, other artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, saccharin, and stevia do not appear to have the same effect as aspartame.
2. Food additives including MSG (monosodium glutamine) and nitrates. MSG is an additive or flavor enhancer that’s found in many processed and frozen foods and in some Asian cuisines. Experts say it can intensify pain symptoms in many individuals. Like aspartame, MSG is classified as an excitotoxin and has the same potential for affecting NMDA receptors.
The same is true, for foods containing preservatives such as nitrates, commonly found in lunchmeats like ham or bologna or in bacon. A lot of people who don’t have fibromyalgia can’t tolerate nitrates or MSG very well. But one of the hallmarks of this condition is that it amplifies unpleasant reactions. So a stimulus that some people would find mildly unpleasant becomes very unpleasant in those who have fibromyalgia.
3. Sugar, fructose, and simple carbohydrates. There is no clear evidence that cutting out simple carbohydrates — like sugar, cake, or white bread — will have an impact on fibromyalgia. What it can do, though, is reduce symptoms of chronic yeast infection — a fungus that thrives on sugars and may be a secondary condition contributing to the pain of fibromyalgia. This theory, however, is still being debated by experts.
Some say that cutting out sugary foods, particularly high fructose corn syrup, can make a difference in some patients, and that’s independent of any weight loss that might occur when they stop eating these foods.
Another doctor adds that cutting out carbonated beverages sweetened with fructose may yield even more noticeable results. That’s because the carbonation, he says, causes a metabolic reaction. This reaction results in much more sugar pouring into the blood much more quickly.
It’s this quick rise in blood sugar followed by the subsequent fall that exacerbates the fatigue element of fibromyalgia. That, in turn, creates more cravings for sugar, followed by still more fatigue — allowing a vicious cycle to develop. Cutting out the sugar, particularly soda, can result in better, more even control of blood sugar. Better control will help reduce fatigue and at least some of the related pain.
4.Caffeine — including coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate. Because it is considered a stimulant, many fibromyalgia patients turn to caffeine-rich beverages as a source of energy. But the boost you get is false — and can quickly exacerbate fatigue.
The problem with caffeine is that the ‘up’ is relatively brief and transient, and it’s followed by substantially longer and deeper sedative effect. Because people with fibromyalgia are already tired, those sedative effects can be much more powerful. You are starting off from a point of fatigue, so the sedative qualities are amplified — leading to a much deeper and long lasting sense of fatigue.
The good news is that cutting out caffeine can make a difference within less than a week. Most patients begin to see a difference in their fatigue level almost right away.
5. Yeast and gluten. Although these are two separate food substances, they frequently appear together — particularly in baked goods like cake, donuts, and bread. For this reason, cutting out one, usually means you are cutting out both. That can actually yield two separate benefits for people with fibromyalgia. In the case of yeast, some doctors say it fosters the overgrowth of the yeast fungus in the body. This overgrowth may cause or exacerbate much of the joint and muscle pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia. Research, though, has yet to confirm this link.
Gluten can exacerbate a condition known as gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance, frequently results in a variety of stomach ailments and other digestive problems. It also is associated with fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia.
6. Dairy. Be they low fat or high fat, some experts say, dairy products — particularly, milk — have been known to drive the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Avoiding these products may help some people turn their health around. On the other hand, if you feel as if milk is doing your body some good, keep chugging a glass or two of skim milk a day. It’s got calcium to build bones and protein to build muscle, and it’s fat free.
As an alternative to milk and other dairy products- my doctor suggested chewing on a few Tums a couple times a day (talk to your doctor for a recommended dose)
7. Nightshade Plants: Tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. There are over 2,000 species of plants that that can be listed under the category of “nightshade.” Those which are edible comprise a group that some say can trigger flares of various types of arthritis, including fibromyalgia. Doctors have seen patients who do much better when they cut these foods out of their diet. They are not sure why, but it seems to work in a significant percentage of fibromyalgia patients. At the same time, these vegetables are among the most nutritious. So if they don’t trigger your fibro pain, don’t ban them from your fridge.
A final word –
Experts suggest trial and error with the foods above- eliminating one at a time, for a week or two. If you don’t notice a difference, it is probably not effecting you. (note: sometimes I don’t notice a difference until I add it back into my diet)
While any of these foods won’t necessarily reduce your fibromyalgia symptoms, it can help to reduce the risk of other ailments that can only compound your health issues. When your body is healthier overall, you may be better able to cope with any disease, and better able to respond to even small changes you make.
What can also help, is a high potency vitamin supplement as well as supplements containing omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids — which are also found in foods such as fish oil, flax seed, walnuts, some fortified cereals, and eggs — are the “good fats” that have been shown to have an impact on inflammation.
For some fibromyalgia patients, they work extremely well. If it will potentially make your life a even a little better, It is definitely worth a try.