Fibromyalgia Diet: Eating to Ease Symptoms
The Pain of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain, fatigue, and tender points around the body. An estimated 5 million adults—most of them women—have fibromyalgia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fibromyalgia can be hard to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. It can also be hard to treat. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor who has experience treating fibromyalgia.
Only three drugs are approved to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is a medicine that normally treats depression. Milnacipran (Savella) helps reduce your brain’s response to pain. And Pregabalin (Lyrica) relieves pain from damaged nerves. In addition, you can try pain relievers such as NSAIDs to help you feel more comfortable. Many people with fibromyalgia also try lifestyle changes—such as diet and exercise.
Diet for Fibromyalgia?
There is no such thing as a “fibromyalgia diet.” No food, or combination of foods, has been proven to relieve symptoms. Yet some people do claim that they feel better when they eat—or avoid—certain types of foods. You may need to keep a food diary to find out which foods seem to trigger or improve your symptoms.
A Well-Rounded Diet
Eating a balanced diet is a good idea for anyone—whether or not you have fibromyalgia. That diet should include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein such as chicken or fish. Avoid unhealthy foods, including anything processed, fried, and high in saturated fats. Also, try to limit the amount of salt and sugar in your diet.
Reasons to Lose Weight
Another benefit of eating a healthy diet is that it can help keep your weight under control. One study in the journal Clinical Rheumatology found that obese people with fibromyalgia enjoyed a better quality of life once they lost weight. They had less pain and depression, fewer tender points, and they slept better after taking off a few pounds. This study suggests that weight loss can be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment.
A few studies have looked at how eating certain diets affect fibromyalgia. There is evidence that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, which is high in plant antioxidants, might offer some symptom relief. A study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that people who ate a mostly raw vegetarian diet had less pain. However, this type of diet is very restrictive, and it’s not for everyone.
Fibromyalgia can make you feel tired and worn out. Eating certain foods can give you more energy. Avoid sweets, which will only give you a quick sugar boost. Your body will burn right through them, and then you’ll crash. Instead, eat foods such as almonds, broccoli, beans, tofu, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread. These foods will give you more energy to get through your day.
Herbal Remedies for Fibromyalgia
Some people try herbal remedies and dietary supplements to improve their fibromyalgia symptoms. There isn’t much research to show whether these supplements work. The few studies that have been done didn’t find much improvement in symptoms from natural supplements. Researchers are looking at a possible connection between low magnesium and fibromyalgia symptoms. Future studies will try to find out whether taking magnesium supplements helps with symptoms.
- Donaldson, M.S., Speight, N., & Loomis, S. (2001). Fibromyalgia syndrome improved using a mostly raw vegetarian diet: an observational study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1, 7.
- Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia. (August 2012). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Fibromyalgia/.
- Fibromyalgia and Complementary Health Approaches. (2012). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/fibromyalgia.htm.
- Senna, M.K., Sallam, R.A., Ashour, H.S., & Elarman, M. (2012). Effect of weight reduction on the quality of life in obese patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rheumatology, 31, 1591-1597.