Diet for Fibromyalgia and 5 Other Natural Tips
National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is just around the corner on May 12, so it’s a perfect time to discuss the latest findings on diet and other natural ways to tackle this syndrome. If you have fibromyalgia, here are some tips for you to consider.
Although there is little research on the effects of diet on fibromyalgia, the results of studies that are available as well as anecdotal accounts can be enlightening. Forty-two percent of fibromyalgia patients, for example, reported that eating certain foods exacerbated their symptoms.
Which foods might they be? One new study in particular could change how you eat if you have fibromyalgia.
The authors of the report, which appears in Rheumatology International, pointed out that individuals with a sensitivity to gluten sometimes experience symptoms typical of fibromyalgia, such as chronic musculoskeletal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and weakness. At the same time, these people do not meet the diagnostic criteria for celiac disease.
Therefore, the researchers selected 20 patients with fibromyalgia who did not have celiac disease (verified) and put them on a gluten-free diet. Clinical response was defined as achieving at least one of the following goals: return to work, elimination of the use of opioids, return to normal lifestyle, and/or remission of fibromyalgia pain criteria.
The follow-up period ranged from 5 to 31 months, and the results were positive. The authors concluded that their findings support the hypothesis that “non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying cause of FM syndrome.”
Now may be the time to make some dietary changes to see if they have a positive impact on your fibromyalgia symptoms. You could work with a nutritionist or dietician or simply follow a gluten-free diet on your own for several weeks and keep a diary of what you eat and how it makes you feel.
Another dietary option is a plant-based diet. A Scandinavian team looked at the effects of a low-salt, uncooked vegan diet on 18 patients with fibromyalgia. A group of 15 patients who continued their normal omnivore diet served as controls during the three-month study.
At the end of the study period, the participants in the vegan group experienced a significant improvement on the pain scale, joint stiffness, cholesterol, weight (patients were overweight at the beginning of the study), and sleep quality. The authors concluded that a “vegan diet had beneficial effects on fibromyalgia symptoms at least in the short run.”
It is also possible you may be sensitive to other foods that can aggravate your symptoms. Possible candidates include dairy, products that contain MSG, eggs, and certain preservatives. If you keep a daily diary for about two weeks of everything you eat and your symptoms, you may be able to identify foods that make your symptoms worse.
5 more natural tips for fibromyalgia
Have you considered any complementary or alternative remedies for fibromyalgia symptom relief? A number of studies have been done on this topic, and here are a few tips based on those results.
- Yoga. Several studies have looked at the benefits of yoga for fibromyalgia patients. In one study, the women reported that hatha yoga reduced their chronic pain, associated symptoms, and anxiety, while in another benefits included improvement in pain, coping strategies, fatigue, mood, and acceptance.
- Qigong. Also known as chi kung and chi gung, this ancient health practice has been shown to reduce fibromyalgia pain and improve the quality of sleep. You can learn qigong from a practitioner, videos, or books and it can be practiced at home or in groups.
- Vibration therapy. You may experience relief from chronic pain using vibration therapy, based on the results of research in fibromyalgia patients. Discuss this option with a knowledgeable healthcare provider.
- 5-HTP. The natural supplement known as 5-hydroxytryptophan can raise your levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which plays a major role in pain, depression, anxiety, and sleep. Discuss the optimal dose with your healthcare provider.
- Vitamin D. Many people have low levels of vitamin D, and that includes individuals who have fibromyalgia. Research indicates that raising one’s blood level of this vitamin can help alleviate pain as well as improve fatigue and physical functioning in women with fibromyalgia. Be sure to have your vitamin D levels checked before starting supplementation.
If you have fibromyalgia, every day is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Celebrate by making some changes in your diet or trying other natural tips to improve your quality of life.
Haugen M et al. Diet and disease symptoms in rheumatic diseases-results of a questionnaire based survey. Clinical Rheumatology 1991 Dec; 10(4): 401-7
Isasi C et al. Fibromyalgia and non-celiac gluten sensitivity: a description with remission of fibromyalgia. Rheumatology International 2014 Apr 12
Kaartinen K et al. Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 2000; 29(5): 308-13
Mist SD et al. Complementary and alternative exercise for fibromyalgia: a meta-analysis. Journal of Pain Research 2013; 6:247-60