Step One To Improving Fibromyalgia Symptoms With Diet
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition where people experience a wide variety of symptoms often including ongoing muscle pain and chronic exhaustion.
For most people with fibromyalgia, their symptoms come and go with varying degrees of severity. The changing nature of the condition and the wide variety of symptoms may be the reason that no one diet has been found that works to help everyone with fibromyalgia.
However, many people have found that certain dietary changes have improved their symptoms considerably. It’s important to determine which foods or additives make your symptoms worse before making any changes to your diet.
Here is a simple and effective approach to discovering which foods may be making your fibromyalgia symptoms worse.
Keep a daily food diary for at least 2 weeks
Many fibromyalgia sufferers report that certain foods trigger more severe symptoms than others.
In fact, one study found that 42% of fibromyalgia patients reported their symptoms worsened after eating certain foods (21). Discovering your own food sensitivities, and then cutting down or abstaining completely from those trigger foods, may be the most important thing you can do.
In order to do this, you must keep a daily food diary of what you eat and when, as well as if you had any bad reactions or symptoms. Doing this consistently for several weeks allows you to visually identify trends between what you eat and the symptoms.
Food sensitivities that can cause symptoms will vary greatly between individuals, but the most common are dairy, gluten and FODMAPs. This brings us to the next step…
Try an elimination challenge diet
Once you have kept a food diary for at least 2 weeks, you can begin what is known as an elimination challenge diet.
As the name suggests, you eliminate certain foods for a period of time, usually three or four weeks. Then you slowly reintroduce specific foods and monitor your symptoms for possible reactions. This is the only way to determine what type of food may be causing your symptoms to get worse.
Elimination diets are best done under the supervision of a dietitian and is what I strongly recommend, but to give you an example of what to expect:
- Based on your 2-week food diary, if (for example) you notice that symptoms are worse the day after you eat a large amount of pasta, gluten may be the culprit.
- You would then eliminate all sources of gluten from your diet for at least 3 weeks (another reason why expert supervision is recommended) and observe the results. This allows all gluten to be cleared from your system, so you have a “clean slate” so to speak.
- This is followed by a slow re-introduction of gluten-containing foods. At this point you will be able to see if gluten was causing you any problems or not.
- Alternatively, you can eliminate numerous food groups all at the same time- which takes a lot more work (and supervision) – but has a much greater payoff down the track. Then you would reintroduce food groups one at a time.
Summary: Certain foods and food groups are often reported as triggers for fibromyalgia. By first identifying what foods give you problems, and then eliminating them in a systematic way, you can prevent or greatly minimise symptoms. This can be done with a daily food diary followed by an elimination challenge diet.
– via DIET vs DISEASE
These Foods May Be Triggers
It’s true that different diets work to improve symptoms for different people with fibromyalgia. However, some foods or additives are more often culprits in creating triggers for symptoms than other foods.
Here are two foods that are so often triggers for fibromyalgia symptoms that you may want to try eliminating them from your diet to see if it helps.
1. Aspartame (NutraSweet). All the experts WebMD talked to agree that 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,” says McNett. “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.” He also says people with fibromyalgia appear to already have overly active NMDA pain receptors, making them more susceptible to the stimulation.
In one study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2006, experts found patients with fibromyalgia did have an increased expression of NMDA receptors in their skin. This indicated a general increase in activity of peripheral nerves.
Holtorf says aspartame may play a role in stimulating those nerve pathways. Then he adds that for some people, “cutting it out of their diet can have a dramatic impact on pain.”
That appeared to be the case for patients in one small study published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy in 2001. Researchers found that, when patients with fibromyalgia avoided aspartame as well as the flavor enhancer MSG, they felt better overall.
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 glutamate) 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, says McNett, 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,” McNett says. “So a stimulus that some people would find mildly unpleasant becomes very unpleasant in those who have fibromyalgia.” Cutting these ingredients out of the diet, he adds, usually helps
– via MedicineNet
Have you ever tried eliminating certain foods from your diet to help your fibromyalgia symptoms?