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Foods fibromyalgia patients should avoid
Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 50 people in the U.S., or 3 to 6 million people, according to the American College of Rheumatology (2004). It is a baffling condition and scientists are still not certain of the cause of fibromyalgia, although several theories have been put forth. Theories of causation include a viral cause, prior trauma, heredity and nervous system dysfunction, among others. Symptoms of fibromyalgia may include pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, depression, gastrointestinal dysfunction, headache and many others. Because symptoms of fibromyalgia can mimic symptoms of many other conditions, diagnosis can be difficult.
Is there a special diet for fibromyalgia?
The short answer is no. There is no diet recommended for people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Because symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary from person to person, no one diet can meet the needs or allay all the symptoms of those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. That being said, diet can be very important in fibromyalgia. A diet rich in nutrients can help relieve some of the symptoms most commonly associated with fibromyalgia. As well, there are some foods to avoid that may help to prevent triggering of some common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Fatigue is a common component of fatigue, and many people with fibromyalgia will attempt to bolster low energy levels with caffeine, which backfires on them when the caffeine wears off, leaving them more exhausted than they were initially. Cutting out caffeine can actually boost your energy. Cutting out caffeine includes cutting out chocolate, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks. Too much caffeine can also cause headaches, a common symptom in fibromyalgia.
Many experts believe that Aspartame increases fibromyalgia pain by triggering pain receptors in the brain known as NMDA receptors. Experts have found that people with fibromyalgia are more susceptible (have heightened sensitivity) to these receptors and that Aspartame causes NMDA receptor excitability, which may cause increased pain when people with fibromyalgia eat products containing aspartame. In fact, a small study on Aspartame and fibromyalgia revealed that when fibromyalgia patients avoided Aspartame, their pain decreased. (Other artificial sweeteners did not appear to worsen pain, but MSG has been implicated as an agent that worsens fibromyalgia pain).
Although dairy products contain calcium which can improve muscle pain and build healthy bones, some people with fibromyalgia find that dairy products exacerbate gastrointestinal symptoms. It may be enough to cut down on dairy products and try the skim variety (this may promote weight loss as well).
Nitrates are food additives found commonly in bacon and processed luncheon meats such as bologna. Many people have unpleasant side effects when they consume nitrates; however, one of the common findings in fibromyalgia is an enhanced reaction to foods that others don’t tolerate well, therefore people with fibromyalgia may have an even worse physical reaction to nitrates.
Sugars and Simple Carbohydrates
Yeast has been implicated in fibromyalgia, although the jury is still out on this issue. Eliminating simple carbohydrates from your diet, such as white sugar, white bread, cakes and others may help if, in fact, there is any truth to the theory that systemic yeast infection plays a role in fibromyalgia. Avoiding sugars and simple carbs may also help to reduce weight, which can add to stress on the joints and consequent pain. In addition, eating foods high in sugar can quickly increase blood glucose levels, which can lead to a “crash” in a short period of time, exacerbating fatigue. This leads to cravings for sugar and results in a vicious cycle of sugar highs and lows.
Not all plants in the nightshade category are edible- those that are include potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and chili. These foods have been implicated as causing arthritis flares, and because arthritis and fibromyalgia are related disorders, avoiding these plants may help with fibromyalgia symptoms as well.
Many people with fibromyalgia are also gluten intolerant and may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort when they eat products containing gluten. Gluten intolerance can also add to fatigue. Cutting out gluten also eliminates much of the yeast in people’s diets, thus eliminating a substance that has been implicated in fibromyalgia.