Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disorder that affects everyone a little differently. Therefore, promoting a one diet approach for every FM patient doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, according to Ginevra Liptan, MD, medical director of the Frida Center for FM in Portland, OR, it is clear that what is included in a diet vs. what is eliminated makes a big difference for many FM patients. It has been reported that 42% of FM patients surveyed indicated their symptoms worsened after eating certain foods. Here are some recommendations about diet to consider:
- Pay attention to how food makes YOU feel. Many FM patients have sensitivities to particular foods, but this is highly variable from person to person. Sensitivity to MSG, certain preservatives, eggs, gluten, and dairy are quite common. Keep a daily food journal for at least 2 weeks and write down the foods eaten and any associated symptoms like headaches, indigestion (irritable bowel syndrome irritation – IBS), or fatigue.
- Try Eliminating Certain Foods. Many FM patients have irritable bowel symptoms, and using an elimination diet can help determine which foods to cut out. Try it out for no less than 6-8 weeks in order to get the best results. Then, add it back into your diet and pay attention to how it makes you feel. The most commonly eliminated foods are dairy and gluten and the most common improvement is in fatigue reduction and reduced IBS symptoms like bloating and constipation.
- If you think you might have food sensitivities or allergies, talk with us. Sometimes it is best to obtain an evaluation from an allergist for food allergy testing. Dietitians can also assist in assuring that you don’t eliminate essential nutrients when foods are eliminated from the diet.
- Make it easier to Eat Healthy. Everyone, including the FM sufferer, should try to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains (if not gluten sensitive), and lean meats or protein. A well balanced diet will give you more energy, which in turn, can improve your overall health. When pain and exhaustion are present, choose healthy foods that do not require a lot of preparation such as buying pre-washed vegetables, or purchase pre-prepared foods like beet salad and quinoa.
- Use Food to Help Fight Fatigue. Consume foods in a way that increases energy levels and prevent fatigue. Anecdotally, FM patients have reported that eating small meals frequently vs. restricting themselves to 3 meals a day can keep blood sugar levels more even and prevent the “hypoglycemic lows.” A snack high in protein around 3pm can prevent mid-day fatigue. Make sure your breakfast includes some protein and whole grains (again, assuming there is no gluten sensitivity). Focus on getting enough sleep and staying active during the day as these can also prevent fatigue during the day.
- Check on Your Supplements. Some supplements have significant side effects and can interact with medications. Talk to the prescribing doctor or pharmacist about this. For example, antidepressants and certain supplements can interact.
- Focus on Your Overall Well-Being. A multiple approach to managing FM symptoms works better than a single approach. Things like yoga, massage, and deep breathing exercises, as well as routine chiropractic treatments can improve the overall quality of life. Increasing the quality of life is the ultimate goal for managing the FM patient. Going to bed at a consistent time, not eating too late, and exercising regularly are key components.