People who suffer from fibromyalgia are plagued by persistent pain and chronic fatigue. These symptoms can make it difficult to shop for, prepare, and eat wholesome and nutritious meals. Nevertheless, a healthy diet is very important in helping people with fibromyalgia counteract stress, detoxify the body, and restore nutrients to the areas that need them the most.
If your medical doctor has given you the diagnosis of having fibromyalgia, what you may not know is that all fibromyalgia patients also suffer from:
* Nutritional deficiencies
* Food sensitivities
* Blood sugar imbalances
* Infections: yeast, viral and bacterial
* Severe hormone imbalances
When you address all of these “X” factors at the same time and provide the body with the right balance of nutrition and nutrient-dense foods (as opposed to nutrient-deficient ones), you create an internal environment conducive to restoring the natural rhythm within and enable transformation and healing to occur.
What we take into our body-be it healthy food, drink, drugs, pesticides or junk food-can dramatically affect our ability to stay healthy. Because many fibromyalgia sufferers are sensitive to food, drugs, chemicals and pollutants in the environment already, it’s important not to subject yourself to them and to avoid as many as you possibly can. Researchers from the University of Florida concluded that food intolerance and certain added chemicals in foods led to significant exacerbation of symptoms in fibromyalgia patients including pain, swelling, and joint stiffness.
Your nutritional status determines, to a substantial extent, your capacity to maintain health, energy levels, and your ability to adapt to your environment. Your genes express themselves in your environment – the food you eat, water you drink, air, and so on. If your environment is too hostile for them (too many junk foods, contaminated air and water, etc) you cannot adapt and disease results. If your environment is nourishing, you have a greater resistance to disease and are more likely to experience health and vitality. Of equal importance is reduction or removal of the intake of toxic substances in the body such as anti-nutrients and environmental chemicals and pollutants, which have become a major problem in our “modern” diets.
We are all biochemically unique in our needs since they depend on a whole host of factors, from the strengths and weaknesses you were born with right up to the effects that your current environment has on you. No one way of eating or diet is perfect for everyone, and it is only through direct monitoring and control of your own nutrition that you will discover your own right balance. However, our goal in the pursuit of higher energy levels is to understand that our body is fueled from the foods we eat and to understand which foods supply us with the necessary and proper ingredients to create energy, healing, and optimum health. Here are some of the attributes of nutrition and food as it contributes to your health.
Whole Foods: Organic, Raw & Live Produce
The most important foundation for health is to eat foods that provide exactly the amount of energy and nutrients required to keep the body in perfect balance. A good deal of energy is consumed and wasted in trying to disarm or rid the body of toxic chemicals from our food sources. The toxins that cannot be eliminated accumulate in body tissue and contribute to conditions like FM. It is now virtually impossible to avoid all these substances completely, as there is nowhere on our planet that is not contaminated in some way from the by-products of our modern chemical age. Therefore, we must be diligent in choosing as wisely as we possibly can.
Choosing organic foods whenever possible is the nearest we can get to eating a pure diet today. The most healthful fruits and vegetables are those that have been grown organically-without the use of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, or growth-stimulating chemicals, which are potentially toxic to our bodies. Raw, organic food is the most natural and beneficial way to take food into the body. Raw (also called live) foods also contain enzymes and these help to digest food more completely, which increases absorption and assimilation of vital nutrients within the food. This leads to an increase in energy and vitality. Cooking food above 118 degrees F. destroys enzymes and reduces the uptake of nutrients. Try to eat at least 50% of your fresh produce in its raw state in salads and other tasty dishes. If raw produce does not agree with you because of weak digestion capabilities, steam your vegetables lightly in a steamer, cooking pan, or wok just until slightly tender.
For people suffering with fibromyalgia (and rheumatic disorders), studies have shown that a diet consisting of whole foods brings the body back to a state of health and helps improve symptoms dramatically. In addition to the fact that whole foods happen to be antioxidant laden, and antioxidant foods possess anti-inflammatory properties, there are other factors, such as fiber and essential fatty acids found in whole unadulterated foods that function together to increase immunity and improve overall health.
Remember, most fruits and vegetables are best eaten in their entirety, as all of the parts, including the skin, contain valuable nutrients. Eat at least eight to ten servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day. That may sound like a lot but we are talking about one serving is half a cup full and this food source is vital in helping to win the battle against FM. These plant foods are the basic source of the vitamins, minerals; antioxidants and phytonutrients (more on what these are next) that help create and preserve health. Nobody can argue with eating fruits and vegetables. It is the one thing that scientists all agree on to create longevity, energy, and health.
It is a good idea for people suffering with fibromyalgia to limit their intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, because these substances can be very stressful and acid for the body.
Fibromyalgia Diet & Food: What to Eat
o Water: Water is a vital element for the overall health of the body. Drinking at least eight glasses of purified water each day helps to improve the circulation, and move nutrients and waste through the system. A plentiful intake of liquids is also important for flushing out toxins.
o Fiber: A high-fiber diet helps to move nutrients and waste through the system more efficiently. This reduces strain on the digestive system and can help promote regular bowel movements. Fresh vegetables, especially greens, are excellent sources of fiber. Fruits are loaded with antioxidants, minerals and nutrients and are a good substitute when needing a sweet treat.
o Protein: Add Lean protein, such as that found in fish, poultry, and fresh raw nuts and seeds into your diet.
o Fish: Fatty fish such as trout, cod, halibut, mackerel and salmon also contain oils that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. As with flax, these nutrients work as natural anti-inflammatory agents to alleviate the pain and swelling of fibromyalgia.
o Alfalfa: Alfalfa contains saponins, sterols, flavonoids, coumarins, alkaloids, vitamins, amino acids, minerals and trace elements. These nutrients help to control pain and alleviate stiffness.
o Flax seed: Flax seed and flax seed oil are great sources of the omega-3 essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. When consumed, this nutrient converts in the body to hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are natural anti-inflammatory agents that help to reduce the swelling and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia.
The Fibromyalgia Diet & Food: What Not To Eat
o Processed Foods: Foods that are highly processed, such as canned foods, foods that contain large amounts of saturated or hydrogenated fats, such as dairy products, meat, and margarine may be stressful for the body. Saturated fats, in particular, interfere with circulation, and may be responsible for increasing inflammation and pain.
o Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sugar: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugar as these substances can cause fatigue, increase muscle pain, and interfere with normal sleep patterns.
o Many fibromyalgia sufferers have food allergies and sensitivities especially to gluten. The best way to find out if you do too is to eliminate it completely for 1 to 3 months and notice how you feel and your health improves.
Preparing and Eating Meals
o Eat Small Meals: Fibromyalgia can make it difficult to shop for, prepare, and cook large nutritious meals. Try to eat four to five small meals daily rather than three larger ones, so that you will have a good supply of nutrients without the struggle of large meals.
o Take Breaks: Plan to take plenty of breaks while you are preparing and eating your meals. It will be easier and less stressful to put together a nutritious meal, if you start preparation about a half hour earlier, and allow two fifteen-minute breaks in the process.
Fibromyalgia Nutritional Supplements
Several nutritional supplements may be useful in alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Always discuss the benefits of nutritional supplements with your health care provider before adding a new supplement to your diet.
o Antioxidants: Antioxidants help to neutralize free-radical damage and reduce inflammation. Vitamins A, E, and C are good sources of antioxidants
o Evening Primrose Oil: Evening primrose oil is a good source of essential fatty acids. These nutrients act as a natural anti-inflammatory in the body, thereby reducing the pain of fibromyalgia.
o Vitamin B: If emotional or physical stress is a problem, taking extra B vitamins will help the nerves and improve energy.
o Royal Jelly: Bee products such as bee pollen or royal jelly supplements are a safe and effective way to fight the fatigue of fibromyalgia.
o Magnesium: magnesium contributes to more than 300 functions within the body including heart regulation and blood pressure. Magnesium is a natural relaxant and stool softener so it works to help you sleep well and helps with constipation.
o Calcium: A calcium supplement is great for strengthening the bones and improving muscle and nerve function. Calcium orotate is the best form.
o DHEA: DHEA has been used successfully in the treatment of other autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis and lupus. DHEA helps to restore balance to the immune system and helps to maintain the integrity of the nervous system.
o Grape Seed Extract: Grape seed extract is a powerful antioxidant. It also helps to support the functioning of the thymus gland.
o Co-enzyme Q10: this nutrient is another potent antioxidant that helps to deliver oxygen to cells.
o Lipoic Acid: This supplemental nutrient helps to enhance the metabolism of carbohydrates. It also helps to boost energy levels.
o Corvalen D-ribose: d-ribose helps to naturally overcome fatigue, reduce the pain and soreness of tired muscles, and helps your body make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “energy currency” of the cell. It has been proven highly successful in helping people with fibromyalgia.
For fibromyalgia, there is no magic pill; the treatment is not a prescription medication or a drug. While some medications may offer short-term symptom relief, fibromyalgia does seem to be mostly associated in one way or another with poor diet and nutritional deficiencies. What is mostly needed is changing the way you live and living in harmony with your genes. It is not using foods and chemicals that are working against you genetically. It is a matter of eating foods and nutrients, which are nourishing and building and that help to build inner and outer balance.
By Deirdre Rawlings, ND, PhD, MH, CNC.
Deirdre Rawlings is a board certified naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist, master herbalist, and author of the book: Foods that Help Win the Battle against Fibromyalgia. Deirdre holds a PhD in holistic nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is a certified health and wellness coach. She lectures to corporations, colleges, and groups about the medicinal & healing powers of food and nutrition to help people to empower, energize and transform their lives.
Deirdre conducts monthly fibromyalgia group coaching programs called Eat to Beat Fibromyalgia where she educates people about underlying health conditions that often accompany fibromyalgia and how to address or heal those first plus provides proven strategies that help to restore balance and optimal health. She has worked with hundreds of fibromyalgia sufferers and helped them to reduce pain, eliminate their brain fog, dramatically increase their energy levels, and eliminate their dependence on prescription medications after using her protocols and system.