I've never been a fan of diagnoses. (More on that in future blog posts!). From my early days in graduate school when we learned which symptoms combine together to create a diagnosis, the process never quite felt right to me. Two people with the same diagnosis could have very different underlying issues causing their symptoms. Diagnoses are labels. Labels can be helpful in some cases, but they also can have negative ramifications. Labels can limit the belief about the ability to return to health.
According to the most recent statistics, about five million Americans (roughly 1 in 50) suffer from fibromyalgia. It’s the second most common musculoskeletal ailment behind arthritis, and it affects females far more often than males (it is seven times more common in women) (Kresser, 2016). Fibromyalgia is the diagnosis of a variety of symptoms including muscle and joint pain, body fatigue, G.I. issues, tiredness, headaches, etc. Being diagnosed with fibromyalgia doesn't really tell us anything about the underlying cause of the issue or how to fix it. Contributing factors to fibromyalgia include mold toxicity, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, SIBO, metal toxicity...just to name a few. Cymbalta and antidepressants (the most common drugs that I see prescribed for this condition) are not going to fix bacterial overgrowth and are not going to remove gluten from your diet. Those medications are merely going to mask (often ineffectively) many of the symptoms. Taking medication and especially when you aren't seeing any benefits creates physical and emotional stress and inflammation which lead to more pain and depression. I encourage women who have the diagnosis of fibromyalgia to investigate further and to work with a functional doctor or nutritional practitioner who test for underlying issues. During the process of uncovering the root cause of fibromyalgia, following basic nutrition and lifestyle tips will help start the healing process.
Over the past few months, I’ve received several calls from women with fibromyalgia. At a recent health fair, approximately one third of the people who stopped at my table asked me about treatment for fibromyalgia for themselves or someone in their lives. But, it wasn’t until it got personal that I truly heard the message to do more. My cousin contacted me asking for advice following her recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I sent her an overwhelming number of links to various article; however, I know that when you feel like crap, the last thing you want to do is sift through material for answers, so I created a single document that pulled the evidence from research and practice together, all in one place. If you are one of the millions suffering from fibromyalgia, this post is for you! Research shows that there is a connection between diet and fibromyalgia (Bouchez, 2010); however, there is no silver bullet diet for everyone. Test out the following diet and lifestyle tips to see which ones work with your unique biochemistry to help you heal fibromyalgia! Remember, this treatment is a long run, not a sprint, and the lifestyle changes you make are just that…changes for life.
- Fresh, nutrient dense foods - Eating a diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods may ease symptoms by helping to heal the gut. Buy local, organic foods when possible. Deficiencies in magnesium, selenium, and glutathione (all found in nutrient-dense, whole foods) contribute to the development of fibromyalgia.
- Raw foods - Eating living foods (raw or cooked below 118 degrees F) preserves enzymes and increases nutrient uptake and helps improve many functional biomarkers (Koebnick et al., 2005).
- Fermented foods – Kefir, yogurt, sauerkuart, kimchi, etc. provide good bacteria to your gut and help existing good bacteria to flourish (Group, 2015).
- Bone broth – Chicken, beef, and fish bone broth contain nutrients that are great for health and help to heal your gut (Mercola, 2013).
- Good fats - Omega 3 fats are natural anti-inflammatories. They decrease inflammation, joint pain, swelling and stiffness (Maroon & Bost, 2006).
- Coconut and coconut oil - Coconut and coconut oil are found to be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, and chronic fatigue syndrome (Enig & Fallon, 2006).
- Water - Water is our life-line, and most people are chronically dehydrated. Be sure to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water. If you drink caffeinated beverages, you’ll need to increase the amount of water by 1.5 times the oz of caffeinated beverages. Even slight dehydration can cause pain and fatigue (Batmanghelidj, 2008).
- Vitamin D - Sunlight (especially early morning sun) is so helpful for regulating sleep, and Vitamin D from the sun has been shown to be a natural painkiller (Harvard Nutrition Source). Optimal functional levels of Vitamin D range between 50-70 ng/ml and between 70-100 ng/ml to treat disease (Mercola, 2011).
- Treatment for Stress and/or Trauma - Fibromyalgia is connected to stress and trauma (Raymond, 2012). Doing work to repair emotions such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) have both improved pain symptoms. Daily stress management with meditation, breathing or other techniques vital and can be effective in as little as 3 minutes per day.
- Moderate exercise - Cross-fitting 5 days a week is not going to help you feel better, nor is sitting on the couch. Moderate exercise (e.g., weight lifting and walking) can improve muscle strength and endurance and lessen pain, stiffness, fatigue, and depression (Rooks, 2007).
- Assessment of gut health - Fibromyalgia has been tied to IBS, SIBO, mold, fungus, other bacteria, and parasites. Getting tested and then treated for these problems is critical to resuming health (Myers, 2013).
- Detoxification - You can detoxify your body (or add to the toxic load) with each bite of food that you put into your mouth. Obviously, lemon water and kale are going to be more detoxifying than French fries and Twinkies! Additional detoxification therapies include Epsom salt baths, coffee enemas, dry brushing, gentle yoga/exercise, saunas, and more (Edwards, 2012)!
- Sugar - Increased insulin levels can increase pain (Mercola, 2010). Refined sugar does nothing positive for your body. Remove all refined sugar from your diet. Some people find that removing concentrated natural sugar, such as fruit juices, helps them to feel better.
- Pasteurized dairy - Pasteurized milk and dairy products are often difficult to digest, especially for those with compromised digestion (Axe, 2012).
- Caffeine - Fibromyalgia sufferers often complain of poor sleep; however, caffeine is not a long-term solution for staying awake after a fitful night of sleep. Caffeine impairs blood sugar regulation, stresses adrenal function, and interferes with regular sleep (Baron, 2010).
- Nightshade Vegetables - Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant may trigger pain (McFarland, 2013).
- Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners - Artificial sweeteners not only make us feel hungrier, but they also contain chemicals called excitotoxins that can increase your sensitivity to pain (Esposito, 2016; Soffritti, 2006).
- Additives - Food additives designed to enhance flavor such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) may stimulate pain receptors and are not helpful for digestion or overall health (Myers, 2011).
- Bad fats - Trans fats and high levels of omega 6 fats found in fried and refined food directly cause inflammation in the body which contributes to pain (Lopez-Garcia et al., 2005).
- Junk food - Eliminate fast food, candy, and vending-machine products. In addition to contributing to weight gain and the development of unhealthy eating habits, these faux foods may also irritate your muscles, disrupt your sleep, and compromise your immune system. If that weren't bad enough, junk food robs your body of vitamins and minerals, so not only are the foods not good but they are taking away goodness from your own body!
- Soy - Soy can be a gut irritant and can mimic estrogen in the body (Makel et al., 1995). In addition, most soy products are made with GMO-soy beans.
- Toxic chemicals - Chemicals in foods are harmful, but chemicals in personal care products and household goods (e.g., BPA) can irritate the gut and disrupt the endocrine system (Barrett, 2005).
LIMIT OR AVOID
- Grains - Grains turn to sugar in the body and can impair blood sugar regulation and contribute to inflammation (de Punder & Pruimboom, 2013). Even gluten-free grains such as quinoa and oats can cause problems in some people. If you eliminate gluten and still feel bad, try eliminating all grains.
- Yeast - Consuming yeast may also contribute to the growth of yeast and fungus in your body, which can contribute to pain (Bouchez, 2010).
**Note. A colorful, eye-catching, easy to read infographic of this information can be found in the Resources section of this website: Click Here
Axe, J. (2012). Pasteurization & Homogenization 101. Retrieved from: https://Draxe.com.
Baron, J. (2010). The endocrine system: the adrenal glands. Retrieved from: https://Jonbarron.org.
Barrett, J. R. (2005). Chemical exposures: The ugly side of beauty products. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113, A24.
Batmanghelidj, F. (2008). Your body’s many cries for water. USA: Global Health Solutions.
Bouchez, C. (2010). Fibromyalgia: The Diet Connection. Retrieved from: https://WebMD.com.
de Punder, K. & Pruimboom, L. (2013). The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients, 5, 771-787.
Edwards, J. (2012). 7 methods for detoxing and cleansing your body of toxins. Retrieved from: https://www.naturalsociety.com.
Enig, M. & Fallon, S. (2007). Eat fat, lose fat. New York: Penguin.
Esposito, J. (2016). Excititotoxins: A word you need to know. Retrieved from: https://Drjoesposito.com.
Group, E. (2015). The 9 best fermented foods for your gut. Global Healing Center Retrieved from: https://www.globalhealingcenter.com.
Harvard School of Public Health (Retrieved November 15, 2016). Vitamin D and Health.
Koebnick, C., Garcia, A.L., Dagneile, P.C., Strassner, C., Lindemans, J., Katz, N., Leitzmann, C., & Hoffman, I. (2005). Long term consumption of a raw food diet is associated with favorable serum LDL cholesterol and triglycerides but also with elevated plasma homocysteine and low serum HDL cholesterol in humans. Journal of Nutrition, 135, 2372-2378.
Kresser, C. (2016, June). Is fibromyalgia caused by SIBO and leaky gut? Retrieved from: https://www.chriskresser.com
Lopez-Garcia, E. et al. (2005). Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Journal of Nutrition, 135, 562-566.
Makela, S. et al. (1995). Estrogen-Specific 17β-Hydroxysteroid Oxidoreductase Type 1 (E.C. 188.8.131.52) as a Possible Target for the Action of Phytoestrogens. Experimental Biology & Medicine, 208, 40-43.
Maroon, J.C. & Bost, J.W. (2006). Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surgical Neurology, 65, 326-331.
McFarland, E. (2015). The link between nightshades, chronic pain and inflammation. Retrieved from: https://www.greenmedinfo.com.
Mercola, J. (2010). Foods that chronic pain sufferers need to avoid. Retrieved from: https://www.mercola.com.
Mercola, J. (2011). How to get your vitamin D to healthy ranges. https://www.mercola.com.
Mercola, J. (2013). Bone broth-One of your most healing diet staples. https://www.mercola.com.
Myers, A. (2013). 10 causes of fibromyalgia your doctor doesn’t know about. Retrieved from: https://www.mindbodygreen.com.
Myers, W. (2011). 6 food additives to subtract from your diet. Retrieved from: https://www.everydayhealth.com.
Rawlings D. Proper Foods to Eat for Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia Cures.
Raymond, J. (2012). Fibromyalgia is linked to childhood stress and unprocessed negative emotions. Retrieved from: https://www.drjeanetteraymond.com.
Rooks, D.S., et al. (2007). Group exercise, education, and combination self-management in women with fibromyalgia. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167, 2192-2200.
Soffritti, M. et al. (2006). First experimental demonstrations of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to Spraue-Dawley rats. Environmental Health Perspective, 114, 379-385.