Fibromyalgia pain is still a medical mystery. In spite of increasing diagnoses, especially among women, doctors and researchers don’t entirely understand what causes the intense, debilitating pain. What we do know is that it is a chronic condition that causes pain and stiffness throughout the body. Pain and tenderness is concentrated around the muscles, tendons, and joints. Patients often have trouble sleeping, feel tired throughout the day, and experience anxiety and depression. They may also have trouble with their digestive system and bowel function.
Because researchers still don’t understand the underlying cause of the condition, most medical science is only able to treat the fibromyalgia pain symptoms. This can lead to a disconnect between the body wellness and mental well-being of individuals suffering from this kind of pain. Depression and anxiety can exacerbate the pain and make living with fibromyalgia even harder than it already is. Treating the whole patient and their mind, body, and spirit can help someone better cope with the effects of fibromyalgia pain.
A holistic approach to treating fibromyalgia pain may involve a number of therapies and treatments. It may be used in conjunction with medical treatments to help relieve the day-to-day pain symptoms of the chronic condition. Adding mindfulness, exercise, and nutrition to the daily routine can also help restore mental balance and reduce pain.
Making the right choices when it comes to food may be an excellent way to help combat the symptoms common with fibromyalgia pain. Foods can appear on both ends of the spectrum: those that help, and those that harm. There may not be a lot of hard science behind the choices for foods, but even doctors recognize that anecdotal evidence from patients who have experienced various levels of relief is a move in the right direction.
Here is a quick guide to help you plan your meals and reduce fibromyalgia pain. Start by recognizing how you feel after you eat something. You can design a trial by error test to develop a menu that makes you feel better and still hits all the important nutrition points. Keep a journal to record how you feel physically and mentally after each meal. If you begin to notice patterns when you eat certain foods, you may wish to eliminate that food from your diet.
Foods that hurt
Some foods cause inflammation and can increase the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia. They include:
- Aspartame: There has long been controversy about artificial sweeteners and whether they help or hurt. Artificial sweeteners have a different effect on the brain and may open pain receptors that are already overactive due to fibromyalgia pain.
- MSG: Like aspartame, the use of MSGs in foods has been the subject of many health debates. MSG stands for monosodium glutamate which is a “flavor enhancer” used in a number of frozen foods. MSGs exacerbate many of the common fibromyalgia symptoms. The same is true for nitrates, an additive in many prepackaged deli meats.
- Caffeine: While caffeine is a common ingredient in many pain medications, including over-the-counter NSAIDs, it can also magnify the fatigue common for patients living with fibromyalgia pain. The short-term boost of energy provided by caffeine drinks is short-lived and the crash is hard.
- Gluten: Sensitivity to gluten, such as in Celiac’s disease, causes major problems with digestion. Since fibromyalgia is associated with similar symptoms it may be a smart idea to limit or eliminate gluten from the diet.
- Nightshade plants: Hearing the word “nightshade” conjures up images of poisoned potions and Halloween witches. Not all nightshade is deadly, however. Did you know that potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants are all part of the nightshade family? It isn’t understood exactly why but many fibromyalgia pain patients who cut out these foods saw an improvement in their condition.
While these are foods that have been known to exacerbate fibromyalgia pain it is also important to note that changing your diet is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia but do not notice increased pain or other symptoms when consuming these foods, you may be fine to continue eating them.
Foods that help
On the flipside, there are many foods that can be quite helpful in alleviating the pain caused by fibromyalgia. These include:
- Vitamin D: A deficiency in this vitamin can actually mimic the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many adults already don’t get enough vitamin D so taking a supplement or eating foods rich in this nutrient is an added bonus for someone with fibromyalgia pain.
- Fish: Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in the muscles and tissues affected by fibromyalgia pain. Adding these fish to your diet is a great way to add this nutrient. You may also take a supplement.
- Fruits and vegetables: The most important component when it comes to the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables is to restore the body’s antioxidants which control the free radicals in the system. Some professionals suggest that a vegan diet may be the best solution for someone with fibromyalgia pain but if it is too difficult to stick to a restricted diet like that, simply adding in more fruits and vegetables will still be beneficial.
- Lean protein: Protein is the building block of our muscles and it is a necessary nutrient for maintaining a healthy body. By adding in the right proteins like lean meats, legumes, and other protein rich foods it can help boost your health overall.
Changing your diet too drastically and too quickly can also have adverse effects. It can be difficult to stay on track when making big changes as well. Instead, consult a doctor or holistic health counselor to see the best ways to make changes for your overall health profile. Also, keep a journal to track the way certain foods make you feel. This can help you stay informed and also provide detailed information for a nutrition expert to help you plan better meals to help fight the effects of fibromyalgia pain.
What foods have you eaten that seem to increase or decrease your symptoms of fibromyalgia pain?
Image by stu_spivak via Flickr