There’s no particular food, or group of foods that may help heal fibromyalgia or relieve its symptoms. Nevertheless, your diet can impact your well-being at some level, and some people claim that eating certain foods — and avoiding others — makes them feel better.
However, you must remember that foods that can help reduce someone else’s symptoms may have no effects on another person. Dr. Michael McNett, says this is because fibromyalgia is not a specific illness.
"Fibromyalgia is more like a symptom complex, and different people appear to have different reasons why they get this symptom complex. So what works for one person very frequently does not work for another," he explains.1
Diet Tips for Fibromyalgia Patients
The best thing to do is to keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, and take note of when your symptoms disappear and when they flare up. This will help you differentiate foods that help alleviate your pain from those that exacerbate it. Here are some general tips to help you get started:
• Consume a well-balanced diet. This is an effective health strategy, whether or not you’re suffering from fibromyalgia. Ideally, include fresh organic fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (like coconut and coconut oil, avocado and raw nuts), dairy from grass fed cows and moderate amounts of lean protein in your meals. Avoid processed foods that are loaded with sugar, trans fats and other synthetic additives that may wreak havoc on your health.
• Load up on omega-3s. These healthy fats, found abundantly in wild Alaskan salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts, may help reduce inflammation and is good for heart health. According to a 2007 study, patients who are diagnosed with pain-related conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) had reduced soreness and morning stiffness, as well as less painful joints, after supplementing with omega-3s.2 Even though the study did not specifically involve fibromyalgia patients, the results show promise for this illness, too.
• Avoid artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame. These could exacerbate your symptoms, as they can stimulate the NMDA pain receptor in your nervous system, making you feel more pain. Having increased NMDA pain receptor is a hallmark characteristic among fibromyalgia patients, according to a 2006 study.3
• Steer clear of processed foods, as they contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). This is an excitotoxin that may trigger or worsen your pain symptoms. It works in the same way as aspartame. Aside from chips and other processed snacks, MSG is also used in frozen foods and Asian cuisines (abundantly).4
• Minimize your yeast and gluten intake. These two substances often appear together, especially in bread and other baked goods. However, be careful as yeast can foster the overgrowth of yeast fungus in your body, and may exacerbate joint and muscle pain. Meanwhile, gluten can lead to gluten intolerance, leading to stomach ailments and digestive problems.
• Be wary of nightshade plants. These include eggplants, tomatoes, chili and bell peppers. They may trigger flare-ups of fibromyalgia and other types of arthritis. However, these are nutritious foods, so if you can consume them without triggering any symptom, then keep them in your diet.
• Avoid caffeine. Many fibromyalgia patients make the mistake of combating fatigue with caffeine, but this may only exacerbate the problem. Caffeine can trigger headaches, interfere with sleep, and cause further fatigue.5
A Healthy Diet Can Also Help You Manage Your Weight
A well-balanced and healthy diet is essential not only for treating fibromyalgia — it’s useful for helping keep your weight under control as well. Excessive body fat can strain and put added pressure on your joints, which may worsen the symptoms. A study published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology confirms this, and states that obese fibromyalgia patients actually felt better after they lost weight, experiencing less pain, fewer tender points and better sleep. They were also less prone to depression.6