Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood disturbances. Fibromyalgia is a very misunderstood condition and often misdiagnosed. Doctors believe that the way the brain processes pain signals is altered in a body with fibromyalgia. The condition may begin as a result of illness, injury or even an infection; however, it has been known to appear without warning or cause and in people with otherwise perfect health. Women are three times more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. Other health issues or symptoms that have been known to accompany fibromyalgia include: headaches, joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, mood swings, and even isolation. There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but a variety of options for treatment. Simple home measures such as exercise, stress-reduction, and maintaining a well-balanced diet can help alleviate some discomfort. How can your diet impact your symptoms and are their different diet programs or dietary changes that work the best?
Plant-based diets encompass the change to a completely vegan or vegetarian diet. Nearly 20 years of research has been done regarding changing to a strictly plant-based diet. In each study, those participants involved with either a vegan or vegetarian diet should significant improvements in their fibromyalgia related symptoms and pain. One study found that a raw vegan diet was the best of all vegan options, and doctors believe this is because nothing was cooked, added or altered to the fruits and vegetables leaving them completely pure and full of their natural healing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some researchers believe that people following an omnivorous diet are more likely to need pain medication, because there are inflammatory compounds found in animal products, such as endotoxins and animal proteins that may aggravate or intensify inflammation and lead to worse irritation and pain. While making the switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet is a huge lifestyle switch, there is plenty of research to show that it will benefit fibromyalgia discomfort. Making a slow transition to this type of diet may make the move easier, instead of trying to change “cold turkey.” Set a goal and slowly move toward those changes.
Another dietary change for fibromyalgia patients is moving to an aspartame free diet. Aspartame is constantly in the news or health magazines, as being bad for your health but it is the sweetener used in most diet or low-calorie foods and drinks. For people suffering with fibromyalgia, there are several research-based reasons for removing aspartame from your diet, due to its potentially detrimental effects on the body.
- May activate pain receptors in the body, specifically the spinal cord.
- Lowers dopamine levels, which are already low in fibromyalgia patients
- May contribute to allergy issues.
- Could result in some mental and emotional function delays or disturbances.
Aspertame can be hard to avoid, as it is found in a lot of “light,” “reduced-calorie” or “sugar free” products that are often utilized when monitoring your diet. Be an educated consumer and read the labels, as it is easily identified on the food labels. Even simply limiting your consumption of aspartame could make a visible difference in your symptoms.
No Plan – No Problem
If you are not interested in following a set dietary plan, no problem! Here are a few simple changes that you could consider making to your eating habits. First of all, load up on vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can actually mimic symptoms or fibromyalgia or intensify current symptoms. Many adults suffer from this deficiency, but it is easy to avoid. Soak up some vitamin D outdoors or add a supplement to your diet to maintain an appropriate level in your body. Next, kick the caffeine habit. Caffeine is a stimulant, so in a condition where sleep and fatigue are already issues, you don’t need to compound the situation by over stimulating your exhausted body with caffeine. Lastly, load up on fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon are natural anti-inflammatory agents. A reduction in inflammation will alleviate soreness and reduce intensity of other symptoms. If you can’t stomach fish, consider adding walnuts or flaxseed to your salad or cereal to get your Omega-3s without the need of an over-the—counter supplement.