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The Fibromyalgia Diet: Eating for a Better Quality of Life

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The Fibromyalgia DietThere has been little information available from the scientific community on nutrition and diet for Fibromyalgia patients. Research has not yet proven that any specific foods affect Fibromyalgia, positively or negatively. But we do know that eating a good balanced diet helps everyone’s body function at its best. Good nutrition can help in your health and healing. Eating healthful foods including those low in fat and high in immunity boosting antioxidants and phytochemicals may work together to help maximize energy and alertness and minimize constant fatigue and lethargy.

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Many people have overcome their Fibromyalgia symptoms by changing their lifestyle and diet. Mary Moeller, author and spokeswoman on Fibromyalgia, now enjoys a state of remission from her Fibromyalgia symptoms by making a few changes in her lifestyle. To reach this ideal she advocates eliminating 4 foods completely from your diet (Mary Moeller’s Fibromyalgia Cookbook.)

  1. Chocolate
  2. Carbonated beverages
  3. Coffee
  4. Alcohol

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Along with changes in nutrition she encourages stretching, exercising and drinking 8+ glasses of water a day. Also, in Mary Moeller and Joe Elrod’s book, The Fibromyalgia Nutrition Guide, they advocate a more complete list in order to overcome fatigue and feel your best. The 12 items to avoid are:

  1. High fat dairy foods
  2. White sugar and white flour
  3. Fried foods
  4. Preservatives, junk food, and salt
  5. Red meat (especially salt cured, cured bacon, smoked, or nitrate cured)
  6. Coffee and caffeinated teas
  7. Colas, soda pop, and carbonated beverages
  8. Liquid with your meals
  9. Alcoholic beverages
  10. All forms of tobacco
  11. Prolonged periods of direct sun exposure
  12. Nutrasweet and saccharine

Along with Mary Moeller and others, I also have enjoyed the benefits of better health after quitting carbonated beverages and coffee. Before, I would have my diet coke and coffee in order to get me out of bed in the morning. As a result I was very hyper and then about 2 hours later or so I would crash and be very tired and fatigued. So I would pump more caffeine and diet coke down to get me moving again. As a result I would spike, crash, spike, crash.

My energy level was on a continual roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Since quitting I have been enjoying a nice steady stream of constant energy all day long. When I first heard of eliminating sodas I was mortified. I thought I was doing extremely well to only allow myself 1-2 cokes a day, and to give them up, why I thought, “never”! But little by little I finally weaned myself off, and boy am I glad I did. I have so much more energy.

Some unsubstantiated studies claim that carbonated beverages leak phosphorus from your bones, and the aspartame (Nutrasweet) in sodas cause memory loss. Others have claimed the sugar in carbonated beverages (some as many as 12-14 teaspoons) may contribute to yeast problems.

Caffeine in soda and other beverages is a diuretic, which means you need to drink additional water to replace the lost water. Scientists at Washington State University found that caffeine makes people lose calcium in their urine faster than they usually do. Caffeine can also put added stress on the adrenal glands and the liver. Since most Fibromyalgia sufferers may have adrenal malfunction due to chronic stress and inadequate nutrition it is probably wise to avoid the caffeine and carbonated drinks.

I know that at times I eat more food or sugar as a way of dealing with stress or handling challenging problems that arise. When I do this it puts added stress on my adrenal glands. Adrenalin released from the adrenal gland penalizes the body and can cause acute symptoms. By burning too much sugar your body may deplete its vitamins and minerals especially the B vitamins. Adrenalin has even been known to be responsible for some panic attacks.

If you subject your body to highly refined, over-processed foods, sugar, caffeine, pork, junk food, highly processed starches, additives and preservatives, and highly acid foods, it is possible that your body will suffer because of an already compromised immune system that may be found in many Fibromyalgia sufferers.

Most processed foods are often adulterated by heating, and are full of additives, preservatives, colorings, salt and sugar. Fried foods and salt have been found to aggravate pain or swelling in some Fibromyalgia patients. By the way, most drinks purchased at a store have been processed including soda, bottled juices, coffee, alcohol and others. Since many Fibromyalgia patients are sensitive to food, drugs, chemicals and pollutants in the environment anyway it is important we do not subject our bodies to more than what’s necessary.

Even many non-processed foods or “natural” foods can be hazardous to the health of Fibromyalgia patients. Many Fibromyalgia patients are chocoholics. Chocolate is high in fat and caffeine. According to Mark Pellegrino in his book, Fibro Survivor, reducing fatty intake could increase energy. Don’t be fooled when buying dietary chocolate, which has no added sugar. Although they may have replaced the sugar with manitol or nutrasweet the fat caloric content still remains high. Therefore a low fat diet is recommended. This means chocolate should not be ingested or should be eaten in moderation.

Certain foods have been found to cause fatigue. Doctors concluded in Annals of Rheumatic Disease that in certain individuals some foods aggravate arthritis. Often, foods that are acidic are the culprit. Therefore an arthritic diet is one that remains alkaline. Some Fibromyalgia patients find that highly acidic foods such as citric, foods in the nightshade family like tomato, potato, eggplant, and peppers, red meat, cow milk products, brown and white wheat flour products, sugar containing foods, coffee, chocolate all seem to trigger more muscle pain.

Different foods affect each individual Fibromyalgia patient differently. For instance some Fibromyalgia patients have severe food allergies for dairy, wheat, corn, nightshade family plants, etc. whereas others do not. You can discover your own food sensitivity by eliminating foods that trigger pain. Keeping a food diary can help. In your diary write down everything that goes into your mouth and at the same time track your Fibromyalgia pain. By comparing the two you may discover that certain foods may trigger allergies or pain. It has been found that food allergies may undermine your nutrient uptake.

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In a 1992 study as reported in the book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia, by Paul St. Amand M.D. and Claudia Marek, it states that:

60% of Fibromyalgia patients of normal weight crave carbohydrates, and 75% of obese Fibromyalgia patients crave carbohydrates.

However, cravings for carbohydrates are not limited to Fibromyalgia sufferers and therefore, can’t be considered a unique characteristic of individuals suffering from Fibromyalgia.

Some Fibromyalgia patients have a low carbohydrate intolerance or reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that occurs after eating carbohydrates. This can cause problems metabolizing carbohydrates, inability to lose weight, fatigue, carbohydrate craving and worsening symptoms. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin production. Excess insulin can cause an increased uptake of sugar into muscle and liver, which can be stored as fatty acids in fat cells, and prevent carbs from being used.

There are nutritional strategies to help Fibromyalgia patients. Dr. Mark Pellegrino says that because of the biochemical changes in Fibromyalgia patients it makes good medical sense to try a low carb, high protein diet. Protein diets can decrease cravings, increase energy, lose weight and help with hypoglycemia. Pellegrino suggests watching carb’s like bread, potatoes and refined sugars. There are many fad protein diets like Sugar busters, Zone, Adkins and other low carb diets. However, Pellegrino says that some Fibromyalgia patients do not tolerate a protein diet as well as others, so experiment and find what dietary plan works for you.

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Dr. August believes that a 30/30/40 ratio of carbohydrate, fat and protein enables Fibromyalgia patients to reach their optimum weight with maximum health. Hypoglycemia and low carb intolerance can be controlled by diet. Dr. August advocates the Zone diet (Sears and Lawren 1995).

However, there is strong evidence that the Zone diet “works” mainly because of the reduction in total caloric intake with little or nothing to do with the release of insulin. The reader is referred to some excellent websites that present pro and con arguments over the Zone and other low carb/high protein/high fat diets:

  • watchingweight.com/lowcarb.htm
  • cyberiron.com/nutrition/notzone.html
  • getzoned.com.au/In_the_Media_text_only.htm
  • nutrition.ucdavis.edu/perspectives/SeptOct99.htm

Your cells must receive nourishment and eliminate wastes. When you start to eat healthful foods you may find that you crave sugar, fat, starch and processed foods. This is a normal occurrence due to a physiological change in your body’s chemistry. During the transition time try not to indulge in sugar, fat and processed foods. These cravings will become fewer and further between as time goes on. Of course, people who do not suffer from Fibromyalgia also have the same cravings; therefore, we are not unique.

People with Fibromyalgia need to take extra care to eat well. Try to incorporate raw foods into your diet. I try to eat a piece of raw fruit or vegetable for breakfast and a raw vegetable or salad for lunch. Raw foods contain enzymes that can assist in the digestion of foods. Raw foods are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help boost the immune system.

If have a juicer, fresh carrot juice is a wonderful addition to incorporate into your lifestyle. Many people have claimed to heal cancer along with an array of diseases by eating raw foods and drinking carrot juice. Of course, most of these claims are testimonials with little scientific research to back the use of raw foods to prevent chronic disease.

Along with vegetables, and fruits, omega 3 fish oil contains anti-inflammatory properties. Eating well does not mean you have to starve yourself or totally eliminate all the foods you love. Rather make small gradual changes and focus on the foods you enjoy.

Eating well may help reduce the fatigue and maximize energy. Incorporate variety, balance and moderation. Improve your health by reevaluating your overall eating habits and try making your diet more nutritious. Your body has been wonderfully and marvelously designed. Do you allow it to run as efficiently as possible?

The photochemicals present in vegetables and fruits have been shown to have a protective effect against many chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer the second most prevalent killers in the U.S. These same phytochemicals may help reduce the pain response among Fibromyalgia patients. Although definitive solutions to the Fibromyalgia dilemma await research verification it is my thought that we begin to incorporate more “raw foods or slightly cooked” vegetables and fruits into our diet in order to live a quality life.

Look for healthy recipes on our website (www.fibrofog.com) that use the principles of good eating discussed in this article. The bonus (as testified to by my husband) is that you will be considered a “gourmet cook” as your health improves.

This information was developed and written by Colleen Black-Brown. If you wish to use this information please contact me – send an email to: bbrown@uark.edu

(c) Colleen Black-Brown. All rights reserved. Website: www.fibrofog.com

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10 thoughts on “The Fibromyalgia Diet: Eating for a Better Quality of Life”

  1. hdarling says:

    Is it possible that maybe, the way society has decided to put prosseced foods and just plan junk in their bodies , might be the cause of Fibromyalgia. That is way we have Diabeaties and probably just about every other “disease” out there. We as a culture are killing ourselves off. I haven’t always ate right but now that I understand what your “food” is made of , it’s hard to eat it and not wonder why I feel like crap. America has gotten us hooked on salt, sugar and fat. No wonder the doctors don’t know what is wrong. What we put in is what we put out. We take better care of our cars then we do ourselves. I think America needs to get a brain and a little common sense. If you have a “disease” take a long hard look at what you ate today and I bet that you are your own problem.

  2. sharondodge says:

    It seems to me that society’s idea was to get the wives working and then make everything easier on the working wife. Now we have 30 second microwave meals that are killing us. It looks like we are going to have to go back to the way our great grandparents did it or just start living miserable short life spans.

  3. sthibault says:

    Recently, I have read several articles relating food to fibromyalgia. While I know there is a link, it is not the same for everyone. I have been fortunate enough to get my fibro under control early and quickly. I had the Sage Food test done, and know exactly what foods I need to avoid. Turns out bananas, oats and eggs are my no-no foods. Diet and antivirals have armed me with the tools to control my disease.

  4. noraanne says:

    I am trying to eat better for my fm. Can you tell me what the Sage Foods Test is? Thanks

  5. Jb40wn says:

    Hopefully, these suggestions improve the quality of life for me. I have been searching high and low for information about this “illness” and this site seems to have plenty of it, along with seemingly sound advice. Thanks a million!

  6. SEIowaGirl says:

    Though I agree that everyone needs to control the amount of junk food they eat in their diet, I do not agree that junk food is the cause of fibromyalgia and haven’t even noticed that any junk that I have eaten makes my symptoms worse. I eat fairly healthy & do need to improve my diet but I believe stress & many other factors control how fibro affects us. Exercise is a definite plus, along with diet. From my experience, the only “diet” that helps is just watching what you eat just as anyone should.

  7. Charzie says:

    When I found out I was diabetic and started taking the medications, I promptly gained another 20 lbs and felt worse than ever. It finally spurred me on a quest to find a better way. The popular literature was no help, it was just contradictory and confusing, so I did some serious research, and compiled the results. I decided to follow what I learned for one full month and see what happened. To my delight, in less than a month not only was I able to stop the diabetes meds, but also the cholesterol and BP meds, diuretics, and eventually 10 total, and my arthritis and fibromyalgia improved so dramatically I was even able to get off the narcotics I had to rely on for years! I also lost 150+ lbs all total over five years ago now, and have kept it off just about effortlessly. Yes, I did have to totally change my diet, but it was soooo worth it! It is a wonderfully natural whole foods plant based diet. It was going to be a trial but it worked so well, I kept it! Whenever I strayed from the original I would pay, so I just stay with it! I started totally vegan to simplify things and eliminate the big offenders, but decided to continue as I realized how much better I felt and how easy it became when I learned how to cook without it! I eliminated anything processed including any fats, unless it was part of a natural food, such as nuts, olive or avocados, but not olive oil, or coconut oil, etc. Only WHOLE foods, very simple! About 60% of my diet was complex carbohydrates, 10% fat in food and the rest fruit and veggies, as much raw as possible, but I didn’t go crazy. I eat a lot of sprouts and alternate salads, green smoothies and soups to make sure I pack in the veggies, and love the way I eat now. I eat more and more variety than I ever did, but the most important thing is the fibro I used to suffer from so much is now a thing of the past. Unless I push my luck and try to “sneak” in some junk, my body will always remind me of my mistake by the following day! I don’t know that my answer applies to everyone, but what have you got to lose by trying? Just give it a fair shot and see, and then try adding back a little at a time.

  8. tt58r says:

    I did really well on the atkins but found it difficult to maintain longterm. Recently I’ve been trying the whole30 diet. It definitely helps. It is lower in fat than the atkins and there is more emphasis on eating lots of nonstarchy vegetables. It is basically an elimination diet and a great way to discover which foods hurt.

  9. liznakazawa@gmail.com says:

    I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1999. My pain had been incredibly bad: stabbing, knife-like pains, pains like a sewing needle stabbing me, flu-like aches and electric shock like pains. Now my pains are 90% less and I believe fibro. is on its way out totally for me. What I did was eliminate gluten containing foods as well as dairy products and at the same time upped my intake of fruits and vegetables. I also upped meat and seafoods because they contain Vitamin B-12 which some researchers say fibro. folks are deficient in. I also added extra exercise(even though I had exercised a lot already) and massages that were inexpensive at our local massage school. When I first changed my diet I was hungry all the time, for the first month. Then, that hunger disappeared and I felt great. Way, way less pain and each week gets better and better. I also have less energy. For folks out there that might not be aware of it there is new research beginning this year in March 2015 that shows fibro. is a problem with the mitochondria, the powerhouse cells of our bodies, and not a central nervous system problem. Thank you for reading this and good luck!

  10. Vahi0 says:

    I found that B complex vitamins helped me as well. Mega doses of B vitamins and up to 800 mg of magnesium were the final step in ridding me of the pain from fibromyalgia. I do not take these supplements on a daily basis because I don’t need to. Dietary changes were necessary including drastically reducing grains and packaged foods that contain ingredients I struggle pronounce.

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