Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain, fatigue, and tender points around the body.
It 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.
An estimated 5 million American adults — most of them women — have the condition, according to the
Lifestyle changes, including dietary changes, may help some people manage their symptoms.
Eating a balanced diet is a good idea for anyone, regardless of whether they have fibromyalgia.
However, getting the right mix of nutrients is particularly important to people with fibromyalgia, according to a 2018 literature review.
Diets that are rich in antioxidants and provide adequate amounts of nutrients such as vitamin B12 can help lead to reduced symptoms.
A balanced diet should include:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- healthy fats
- low fat dairy
- lean protein, such as chicken or fish
Try to avoid foods that are low in nutritional value, which are more likely to negatively affect your health, including excessive amounts of saturated fats and anything processed or fried.
Fibromyalgia can make you feel tired and worn out. Eating certain foods can give you more energy to get through your day.
To slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, combine them with protein or fats. Choose fresh, whole foods high in fiber and low in added sugars, such as:
Avoid sweets, which only give you a quick sugar boost. Your body will burn right through them, and then you’ll crash, or immediately lose that high-energy feeling.
A few older studies have looked at how eating certain diets affects fibromyalgia.
A small 2000 study concluded that eating a raw and vegan diet might offer some relief from symptoms such as stiff joints and poor sleep.
Their diets included items such as salads, carrot juice, nuts, and fruits.
More recent research has also touted the benefits of a raw and vegetarian diet.
According to a 2019 literature review, people who adopted this type of diet for a few months reported improvements in parameters such as:
- sleep quality
- morning stiffness
- emotional health
While meat-free diets are typically healthy and high in plant antioxidants, raw food diets are very restrictive and aren’t for everyone.
Consider speaking with a healthcare professional or a nutrition expert before adopting a mostly or completely raw diet.
While there’s no single “fibromyalgia diet,” research does indicate that certain ingredients or types of food may cause problems for some people with fibromyalgia.
- fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols (FODMAPs)
- foods containing gluten
- excitotoxins, a category of food additives
Some people 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.
Fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols (FODMAPs)
FODMAPs are certain carbohydrates that are fermented by gut bacteria in the digestive tract. They may promote symptoms in some people.
Foods high in FODMAPs include:
- dairy products
- barley and rye
- cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
- fruits such as apples, peaches, and pears
A 2014 study reported that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying cause of fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia who tested negative for celiac disease still saw significant improvements in pain or quality-of-life indicators when following a gluten-free diet.
Excitotoxins are substances that stimulate the tongue’s taste receptors. Examples include monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, and altered proteins — like those found in protein isolates and hydrolyzed protein.
In a 2012 study, people with both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reported significantly improved pain symptoms after eliminating excitoxins for 1 month. When the study participants added MSG back into their diets, their symptoms returned or worsened.
On the other hand, a 2013 study concluded that eliminating MSG and aspartame from the diet for a few months had no effect on fibromyalgia symptoms.
Larger studies are still needed.
Avoiding excitotoxins might not benefit everyone. However, you can try eliminating these compounds from your diet and seeing whether that helps relieve your individual symptoms.
Another benefit of eating a healthy diet is that it can help you manage your weight.
One 2012 study published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology found that people with fibromyalgia who also have obesity enjoyed a better quality of life once they lost weight.
They experienced less pain and depression, had fewer tender points, and slept better after taking off a few pounds. This study suggests that weight loss can be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment.
A 2019 literature review also suggests that weight loss and eating a low calorie diet can contribute to less pain and inflammation and an improved quality of life.
Some people try to improve their fibromyalgia symptoms with herbal remedies and dietary supplements. There isn’t much research to show that these supplements work. The few studies that have been done
Nevertheless, researchers are still looking at a possible connection between certain nutritional deficiencies and fibromyalgia symptoms.
More studies are needed, but eating magnesium-rich foods (like nuts) has been shown to help improve your magnesium levels. Enjoying a warm Epsom salt bath a few times a week can help relieve symptoms such as pain.
Many foods that are naturally high in calcium or vitamin D are animal products, such as salmon and yogurt.
People following vegan or vegetarian diets will have to plan carefully to get these nutrients into their diets.
If you’re meat-free, reach for almonds, mushrooms, tofu, and fortified foods to help ensure you’re not missing out on either of these nutrients.
There’s no cure for fibromyalgia, and there’s limited research on the impact that diet has on the disease. However, making changes to your diet may help relieve some of your symptoms.
Aim for a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and be mindful of which foods seem to aggravate your symptoms.