Food & Diet for Fibromyalgia Care
There’s so much debate over food and diet these days that it’s so easy to feel guilty and uncertain whenever meal time rolls around. In this post, we’ll try to sort through the noise and give a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t for those with fibromyalgia.
Because of my fibro, I’ve tried anything and everything over the years when it comes to food. Sometimes I would go pretty extreme on not eating carbs or sugar or meat, and then work my way back to the middle. Eventually I found a sort of balance that made me feel healthier and stronger, though what that is has changed over time.
It was definitely easier to be lax when I was younger. Nowadays, I start to feel the consequences pretty much immediately after eating that bowl of pasta or drinking that beer. I was completely unaware that gluten in particular was having such a strong effect on me for half of my life at least.
There are so many things to consider that extend far beyond the chemistry and nutrients of the food itself. Do I want or need to lose weight? What kind of toxins are in the food I regularly buy, and is it possible to get organic versions? Where did this food come from, and was it harvested ethically? Are there any foods that are particularly good or bad for people with fibro? Can I even afford to eat as healthy as I should?
There’s so much to think about, it can make your head spin. And of course, a lot of these are things you already know you should be doing, it’s just actually doing them that’s the hard part. Old habits die hard.
Fibro Diet Recommendations
Let’s talk first about some generally accepted diet recommendations specifically for people with fibromyalgia. In The Fibro Manual by Dr. Liptan, she states that many fibro people do well on a paleo-type diet: emphasizing meat, vegetables, and healthy fats and avoiding grains and dairy.
Inflammation is an especially difficult problem for fibro folks, and certain foods exacerbate it. Food sensitivities can trigger inflammation that can manifest in the form of body aches, fatigue, headaches, and flu-like feelings. And the most common sensitivities are to gluten, dairy, and sugar. If you really want to check food sensitivities for yourself and have a lot of self-discipline, the best practice is to completely eliminate all the suspected problem foods from your diet for at least six weeks, then re-introduce them one at a time and observe your response. This is really hard to do though, so let us know if you’ve successfully pulled it off…you deserve a medal or something!
Dr. Liptan also released a new book in Spring 2018 called The Fibro Food Formula, so check that out if you want more in-depth information on diet recommendations.
We also recently did an informal survey with our Instagram community where we asked which diet changes have been most helpful for their fibromyalgia. We got a lot of really great responses. Not surprisingly, most of these were framed as foods to take out of your current diet. It’s the most obvious way to approach the problem. Here are the results in terms of stuff you might benefit from removing from your diet:
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Gluten (close second)
- Dairy/Carbs (tie)
- Meat/Alcohol (tie)
- The Rest: Nuts, MSG, Caffeine, Soy, and Lectins
This is such a huge list, it can feel very much like…what the heck am I even supposed to eat?
Another way to re-frame the diet issue is to ask which foods I should take in to my body. Other people on Instagram mentioned looking for whole foods – in other words, natural foods that aren’t processed with fillers & additives. Another trick that was mentioned and that I’ve also used myself is to eat a plant-based diet. I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat a plant-based diet, meaning I don’t think about every meal as being centered around meat. When I’m cooking at home, I sometimes incorporate a little bit of meat alongside the primary item which is most often a vegetable.
At the end of the day, the most sustainable approach to food is moderation. As Angela W. mentioned on Instagram, it’s OK to allow yourself occasional treats like dark chocolate or cupcakes because life is short and food should be pleasurable!
And really, don’t just take my word for any of these things. I know I’m distrustful of people who claim to have the answer when it comes to diet. Try out different things for yourself. A lot of people say cutting out gluten is good, but you can only really know for sure if you make the effort and observe the results for your own body.
Do you have any amazing, under-the-radar diet tips for fibromyalgia? Any conventional diet wisdom you’ve tried that turned out to be a total flop? Any treat you miss dearly but the pain it causes just isn’t worth it? Please share with the community in the comments section below.
• The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan (2016) http://www.drliptan.com/book/