For those living with fibromyalgia managing your pain and symptoms is just a part of life. However with a few dietary changes, many fibro suffers are alleviating some of the worst of their pains by avoiding foods they may not have realized they were allergic too.
While there is no “one size fits alls” dietary plan for fibromyalgia treatment, avoiding certain foods can have a huge effect on your quality of life. First though we need to understand the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity.
Everyone is aware of what a food allergy is. It is an immediate reaction to a food allergen such as nuts or shellfish that manifests in the form of either skin reactions or hay fever-like symptoms. Food allergies can be potentially deadly, and even the slightest of exposure can cause an extreme reaction.
Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are much less severe than food allergies. Food sensitivities have a much slower reaction than a full-blown food allergy, and their effects are not generally as extreme. While there can be many different causes behind a food sensitivity such as a protein imbalance, difficulty for your body to digest, or over-exposure to harmful chemicals contained in certain foods, in general a food sensitivity can be defined as any food that throws our complex system off balance.
Most people live with these minor imbalances every day and take little note of them. Feeling bloated, constipated, sore, or fatigued is something they can live with without worrying about changes to their diet. However for those with fibromyalgia, it is these little imbalances that can shift the scales from bearable pain to being trapped in bed all day.
What to Avoid
If food sensitivities can exacerbate your fibromyalgia symptoms, then the next step is to limit or remove those foods from your diet. But what foods should you avoid?
The question can be difficult to answer as much like fibromyalgia affects each person in slightly different ways, so too does each person have their own unique food sensitivities. In order to narrow down which types of foods affects your body, we recommend keeping a food journal. Track what you eat and how you feel afterward, and eventually you’ll be able to create a diet plan tailored to your specific needs.
Having said that there are several common food sensitivities that most people share, and reducing the amount of these in your diet is a good place to start when addressing your food sensitivities.
While it may be tempting to use caffeine-heavy drinks like coffee or soft drinks to fight off the fatigue that comes with fibromyalgia, caffeine can interfere with your body’s need to get a full night sleep, something which anyone with fibro will attest to being important in managing fibromyalgia symptoms. If you can’t quit cold turkey, try limiting yourself to only consuming caffeine in the first half of the day to reduce sleep problems.
Much like caffeine, sugar can provide a much-needed energy boost to combat fatigue. Unfortunately, as well all well know, too much sugar leads to obesity. Those with fibromyalgia who are also overweight are known to suffer more severe symptoms. Avoid sugar when possible, and when you have the craving try to find something with natural sugars like a piece of fruit.
Many people, with and without fibromyalgia, have trouble processing dairy and find themselves feeling unwell after drinking milk or eating other dairy products. Try removing milk-based products from your diet for a couple of weeks and see if you notice a difference in your symptoms. If you start feeling better, try alternatives such as soy milk and start eating more calcium-rich foods such as salmon or tuna.
While the gluten-free health fad isn’t as widespread as it once was, reducing in your intake of wheat, barley, and rye can do wonders for your digestion. Like everything else on this list, we recommend reducing your intake of breads, pastas, and grains and seeing if you notice a difference in your symptoms. If there is an improvement, look for gluten-free alternatives where possible.
Avoiding processed foods is good advice whether or not you have fibromyalgia, but fibro sufferers in particular may notice a big difference in their symptoms if they can remove processed food from their diet. Preservatives, additives, MSG, and artificial sweeteners all contain chemicals that can exacerbate your fibromyalgia symptoms.