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Healthy Foods for Fibromyalgia Syndrome

How Diet Impacts Fibromyalgia Syndrome

If you suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome, you most likely experience extreme fatigue and digestive problems in addition to pain. While it is important to have a diet that fights inflammation, it is also important to eat foods will not exacerbate your digestion and make you feel worse. If your digestion is problematic, it is more difficult for you to adequately absorb nutrients from food.

An optimal diet plan for someone with fibromyalgia syndrome is based on whole foods and is high in consumption of fruits and vegetables. Though you don’t have to be a vegetarian, it is beneficial to include a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

But that’s not saying anything new.

When it comes to an anti-inflammatory diet, there are many different opinions on what works. Many thrive on 100% raw vegan diet and others feel that they need to consume meat in order to be healthy. Depending on you and your personal beliefs, a sensible middle ground can almost always be reached.

However, there are certain foods that help fight pain.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These polyunsaturated fatty acids must be consumed in foods because they are not made by our bodies. Omega-3’s are important for a healthy circulation, nerve conduction, and are beneficial to the integrity of cell membranes. Not only do omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, they also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. They are found in foods such as fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and dark green, leafy vegetables.

Proteins

Proteins are essential for the building and repair of tissues in the body and are easy to obtain in the diet. Proteins are found in meats, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. Fish is a great source for protein because unlike red meat, it does not create as much inflammation. However, game meats such as venison and bison don’t seem to cause as many problems as beef. Consume in moderation and see how you feel.

Can you get enough protein from vegetables? Yep! Don’t go by me… Go by the American Dietetic Association (1) and the American Heart Association (2). And for those with sensitivities to soy, protein can be found in other plant-based sources such as beans and legumes. Lentils, peas, chick peas, black beans, and kidney beans all have high amounts of protein. Adzuki beans are not only high in protein, but are particularly beneficial for inflammation. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, contain a high amount of protein as well as other nutrients that fight inflammation. Watch the salt in some of these products.

Whole Grains

Though certain grains may cause problems in people with sensitivities, consuming whole grains provides many important B vitamins and beneficial nutrients. Oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and barely provide energy and help to neutralize inflammation. 

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables contain necessary vitamins and minerals that our bodies require to function. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K help to fight pain. Vitamins B and C both work to stimulate neurotransmitters which help to regulate the body, making it stronger and more resilient. Important minerals that can relieve inflammation are zinc, magnesium, and potassium. Some vegetables that may benefit those with fibromyalgia include kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’s sprouts, and cabbage contain nutrients that can keep our bodies healthy.

Certain fruits are powerful for pain relief. Dried fruits can actually increase inflammation at times, but this may have more to do with them containing sugars or other preservatives. Fresh fruit is best, but frozen can work just as well. Juices are okay… But they are often highly processed and lack fiber. Check to see that they are from 100% juice. Fruits that will benefit pain include papayas, pineapples, cherries, apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lemons and limes, and avocados.

                                                  Nightshades and Pain                                                  

Though vegetables in the nightshade category contain many nutrients that help to relieve pain and inflammation, some may find that these foods may exacerbate certain symptoms. If you find yourself experiencing pain and discomfort when eating foods such as tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and white potatoes, you may be sensitive to a chemical called alkaloids which exist in nightshades. For people with sensitivities to alkaloids, they can contribute to inflammation in joints and interfere with nerve function and digestion.

To help manage your symptoms, it may be beneficial to either reduce them or eliminate them completely from your diet. If these foods don’t bother you, by all means, eat up!

Foods for Good Digestion

Ensuring proper digestion is critical in managing fibromyalgia syndrome. Heartburn and acid reflux not only cause pain and discomfort, but they can also erode the esophagus and digestive tract. Irritable bowel syndrome, often experienced by people with fibromyalgia, wreaks havoc on the body with its alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Constipation prevents proper elimination and can cause a buildup of waste, feelings of sluggishness, and fluid retention. Diarrhea can dehydrate the body, adversely affecting the balance of electrolytes.

It can be challenging to find foods that react well with your constitution because each person is affected differently. Some of the foods listed above, while wonderful for fighting inflammation can seriously aggravate digestion. Fruits and vegetables are great. However, some cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli can create gas and bloating.

A great way to enjoy vegetables and reap the maximum benefits and reduce digestive discomfort is to steam them slightly. It breaks them down so your body can better absorb them. True… some of the nutrients will be destroyed, but your body will be better able to absorb the foods that it consumes.

There are certain foods which are a little "safer" for most people, such as oatmeal - not the pre-packaged instant type. Healthy oatmeal may require a little more time and effort to prepare, but the health benefits are worth it. Oats have a lower glycemic index and act as a good overall tonifier. Water with lemon is usually pretty mild, though drinking water at room temperature is better if you have a delicate digestive system.

Consume with Caution

There are certain foods in every diet which should be reduced or eliminated entirely. With fibromyalgia syndrome, the negative effects of these foods can be experienced with greater intensity. Though these foods may not need to be removed completely, there are certain foods you may want to limit. Alcohol, caffeine, red meats, dairy, and pre-packaged foods are inflammatory. White flour and white sugar may also create excess inflammation. Sugar-substitutes, such as aspartame and saccharin can be more harmful to our bodies than regular sugar.

Fried and greasy foods are known to make you sick, but the over-use of "healthy" oils can also contribute to pain and inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil and flax seed oil are usually beneficial, but should be consumed in moderation and not be exposed to high temperatures.

So what works for you?

Its trial and error when finding a diet that works for you. If you find a health care provider who can work with you, please take advantage. There is no "one-size fits all." But look out for practitioners who are striving to make a profit or are pushing extreme diet plans. Also be careful of practitioners who will not work with your dietary beliefs. Look for plans that are sensible and well-rounded.

Understanding how foods affect our bodies is important for everyone. By paying attention to how our bodies react to different foods, we can become empowered in taking control of our health and wellness.

If you found this information helpful, please share! If you would like to learn more about how I could help you, please shoot me a message or call at 412-860-0246!

References

"Vegetarian Diets." American Heart Association., 28 11 2011. 16 Mar 2012.http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp.

"Vegetarian diets." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109. (2009): 1266-1282.