If it seems you're losing the battle with fibromyalgia, take a look at your grocery cart. Some changes in your diet could make a big difference.
A healthy diet can be helpful with any chronic condition, but it's especially important with fibromyalgia, since there's typically no single medication that controls the wide-ranging symptoms. These symptoms may come and go, but usually include widespread pain and stiffness, extreme fatigue, sleep disruptions, and mental fogginess.
Put These in Your Cart
Adding vegetables to the diet often gives people with fibromyalgia a boost. Try working in more cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark green vegetables. Be wary of tomatoes and green peppers, though—these foods can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms.
Some small research studies have pointed to benefits from eating a vegan (no animal products, including milk and eggs), vegetarian (no meat), or Mediterranean diet (emphasizing fruit, vegetables, fish, and poultry, but not red meat).
Whole grain foods, almonds, and healthy oils such as olive oil or flaxseed oil are also good additions.
Scratch These Off Your List
Steering clear of sugar and processed food as much as possible is your healthiest bet. High-sugar diets have been linked to inflammation and fibromyalgia pain.
Get in the habit of checking nutrition labels for sugar and lengthy, preservative-laden ingredient lists. You may be shocked to discover the amount of sugar in your favorite yogurt or granola bar. Sugar has many names in ingredient lists, so beware of fructose, corn syrup, malt, or glucose, for starters.
People with fibromyalgia frequently have sensitivities to a number of different foods. These foods are suspected of triggering symptoms or causing other problems:
- Gluten, a major ingredient in bread, rolls, and pasta
- Milk and other dairy products
- Food additives such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) or the artificial sweetener aspartame
- Caffeine, which can contribute to sleep difficulties common with fibromyalgia
If you suspect a food sensitivity, keep a food log to track when a food was eaten and when symptoms started. Then eliminate the suspect food from your diet for several weeks to gauge the impact.
Also, cookies, pastries, and white rice are types of carbohydrates that should be limited or avoided, since they cause blood sugar to fluctuate, worsening symptoms. Brown rice or whole wheat breads are healthier, because they are digested more slowly, avoiding spikes in blood sugar.
Consider Nutritional Supplements
The lack of a single medication to address fibromyalgia symptoms has led many people to try nutritional supplements, such as:
- Magnesium. Low levels of this naturally occurring mineral are more common with fibromyalgia, so doctors often advise fibromyalgia patients to take this supplement.
- Melatonin. People with and without fibromyalgia take melatonin to deal with sleep problems. Deep sleep can be a challenge with fibromyalgia, causing people to feel exhausted during the day.
- Probiotics. Sometimes called "good bacteria," probiotics can help counter harmful bacteria. Probiotics may help address various problems more likely to develop with fibromyalgia, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), vaginal yeast infections, depression, and anxiety.
Be sure to give your doctor a heads-up before taking a supplement. Some supplements can hinder the effectiveness of a medication or lead to other harmful interactions.