Guide To Diet Treatment Of Fibromyalgia
Can Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia Like Rheumatic Muscle Pain Be Reduced By Dietary Treatment?
Diet And Weight Loss Information

Dietary Advice For Fibromyalgia

No Specific Foods Improve Fibromyalgia

Although some patients report that the symptoms of fibromyalgia (FM) - like several other musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis - can be alleviated by dietary measures, there is no specific diet plan to treat fibromyalgia. Comparatively few diet studies have been undertaken to assess the impact of food on fibromyalgia, and there is no clear evidence indicating that any specific foods improve this complex syndrome. Also, there is no clear medical evidence that dietary supplements improve symptoms. Indeed, blood and hair tests have revealed no pattern of mineral deficiency in fibromyalgia patients. Thus it is misleading to say there is an effective diet to reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Truth is, most dietary recommendations for this musculoskeletal disorder are based on incomplete evidence from patients who experience benefits when following certain eating plans. As a result, most dietary guidelines for fibromyalgia are based on general principles of healthy eating, and avoiding foods known to cause problems like high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), food allergies, headaches, digestive disorders and fatigue. Later in this short guide we will outline the consensus as to the healthiest eating habits and best foods for fibromyalgia patients. Meanwhile here are some basic facts about the causes, symptoms, prevalence and risk factors of FM.

Fibromyalgia: Causes And Symptoms

Fibromyalgia - the term derives from the Latin word "fibro" (fibrous tissue) and the Greek words "myo" (muscle) and "algia" (pain) - is a musculoskeletal disorder that leads to widespread muscle pain and tenderness. As yet, there is no known cause of fibromyalgia, although research is ongoing. Symptoms of fibromyalgia tend to vary in type and severity, but include: muscular pain, tenderness in response to pressure at multiple points on the body - including the shoulders, neck, back, hips, and upper and lower extremities - headaches, difficulty sleeping, stiffness in the early morning, irritable bowel syndrome, numbness or tingling in the extremities, temperature sensitivity, as well as cognitive and memory problems (aka "fibro fog").

Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Although fibromyalgia (FM) shares some similarities in symptoms with arthritis, it is not a form of arthritis because it causes no inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or other tissues. Indeed, patients with fibromyalgia exhibit no visible abnormality in the muscle tissue. As a result, musculoskeletal experts characterize fibromyalgia as a syndrome (meaning, a cluster of symptoms and medical problems that tend to occur together without deriving from a specific, identifiable cause) rather than a disease (meaning, a medical condition with a specific cause(s) and specific identifiable symptoms).

Fibromyalgia: Prevalence And Risk Factors

Fibromyalgia is believed to affect 3 to 6 million Americans. Diagnosis of the condition - typically a lengthy process - usually occurs during mid-life, although symptoms may be present earlier in life. Gender is a major risk factor, as 80-90 percent of patients are women. Other apparent risk factors for fibromyalgia include stress (the disorder commonly develops during periods of stress), physical trauma, illness or repetitive injuries, the presence of certain rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), or ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis). There seems to be a genetic predisposition to developing fibromyalgia. Women whose families include a member with fibromyalgia are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.

Dietary Advice For Fibromyalgia Patients

Despite the fact that there is no accepted "diet for fibromyalgia", patients continue to report that certain foods are better than others when it comes to alleviating symptoms. Besides, we cannot ignore the importance of nutrition in helping the body to fight disease and biochemical problems. For example, fatigue, inflammation, immunity and our capacity for healing are all influenced by the nutritional content of our daily diet. Also, it is possible that people with fibromyalgia syndrome may require extra nutritious food for reasons which are as yet unclear.

Fibromyalgia: Food Cravings And Food Allergies

Some patients with fibromyalgia also experience food cravings, or are allergic to certain foods. A reduction in these secondary symptoms - which can definitely be achieved through dietary methods - can sometimes alleviate the fibromyalgia itself. In fact, certain rheumatic symptoms may even be caused by an allergic reaction to certain problem foods.

If Necessary Customize Our Diet Advice

Our dietary guidelines for fibromyalgia patients may not suit all fibromyalgia sufferers. This is because symptoms of FM can vary considerably from one patient to another. For example, while some fibromyalgia patients benefit from a healthy low carbohydrate eating plan, (which is typically high in protein), others cannot tolerate increased amounts of protein. As a result, we recommend that you try out our guidelines and see how you go.

Problem Foods To Avoid

A significant part of the consensus on the "best eating habits for fibromyalgia syndrome" consists of avoiding certain foods linked to headaches, inflammation, gastrointestinal problems and other symptoms associated with the disorder. If you suffer from these symptoms, you should notice an immediate improvement by improving your diet accordingly.

Possible Dietary Methods To Improve Fibromyalgia

Some experts advocate various elimination diets to identify and avoid certain foods which may aggravate an individual's fibromyalgic condition. Other medical experts believe that central sensitization is a key factor and recommend a fibromyalgia diet without monosodium glutamate and aspartame, as they overstimulate the central nervous system's pain transmission function. We also examine the best type of diet for rheumatism. Meantime, here is a selection of various other approaches to relieving pain, fatigue, headaches and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Low Refined-Carb Diet

Many fibromyalgia sufferers claim to feel better when heavily refined sugar foods and drinks are eliminated from the diet. This is because heavily processed or refined carbs - which are typically high in white flour or sugar - aggravate food cravings and fatigue by causing "spikes" or sudden surges in blood glucose levels. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) leads to high levels of insulin in the bloodstream and can, over a period of years, lead to prediabetes, insulin resistance and full-blown type 2 diabetes. The best way to control cravings and fatigue in this way is to follow a low GI diet. These low GI diets recommend eating wholegrain carbohydrates with a low GI value.

Vegetarian Diet

Research into vegan diets has demonstrated benefits for fibromyalgia patients, although as usual the evidence is not conclusive. For example, one study (Kaartinen et al) revealed greater improvements in pain, sleeping habits and general heath assessment for subjects following a low salt vegan diet, compared to a regular diet. However, another study into dietary treatment of fibromyalgia (Azad et al) revealed less pain reduction when eating a vegetarian diet, compared to other subjects who took amitriptyline (a tricyclic pain medication/antidepressant). Also, at least one study (Donaldson et al) shows that improvements in fibromyalgia when following a raw pure vegetarian diet are only temporary.

Diet To Reduce Headaches

Patients with fibromyalgia who experience headache or migraine attacks can alleviate symptoms by following these dietary guidelines. First, avoid the main "trigger foods" for headaches, including: chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits and caffeine. Other migraine inducing foods include: red wine, port, aspartame and ice cream. Second, do not go without food for more than 3-4 hours. This tends to lead to low blood sugar levels, which can cause headaches. Eating small, regular meals is a good preventative measure. Third, avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of liquids.

Fibromyalgia And Hormones: Can Extra Soy In The Diet Help?

Because symptoms occur mainly in women, some experts consider it a possibility that fibromyalgia may have a hormonal link. At present, there is little evidence that hormones are responsible, although a new study is being prepared using subjects taken from the group of fibromyalgia patients who participate in a 1.5 day multidisciplinary fibromyalgia outpatient program at Mayo Clinic/Rochester. The main aim of the study is to gather preliminary data on whether dietary supplements of soy can improve the quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia as assessed by the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CCES-D). The study proposes to test the hypothesis that soy supplementation (the soy supplement is Revival Soy) helps to reduce pain and raise quality of life in sufferers of fibromyalgia. The study will be conducted as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.


Useful Contacts

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
1 AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD 20892-3675
Phone: 877-22-NIAMS (226-4267)

American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals
1800 Century Place, Suite 250
Atlanta, GA 30345-4300
Phone: 404-633-3777

Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding, Treatment, Education, and Research
P.O. Box 768
Libertyville, IL 60048-0766
Phone: 847-362-7807

Fibromyalgia Network
P.O. Box 31750
Tucson, AZ 85751-1750
Phone: 800-853-2929

National Fibromyalgia Association
2200 N. Glassell Street, Suite A
Orange, CA 92865
Phone: 714-921-0150

National Fibromyalgia Partnership
P.O. Box 160
Linden, VA 22642-0160
Phone: 866-725-4404

Arthritis Foundation
1330 West Peachtree Street, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: 404-872-7100 or 800-568-4045


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