If you are one of the 12 million people in the US estimated to suffer from fibromyalgia then you have probably spent more time in the doctor’s office, and online, searching for ways to relieve the symptoms.
One of the areas of study that has revealed a surprising contributing factor to the severity of the episodes has been diet. There is more and more evidence that some foods may trigger fibromyalgia episodes than others.
While clinical evidence for foods related to flare-ups is slowly building, there is much that you and your doctor can do now to identify foods in your diet that may be contributing to your pain.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disorder that is also commonly classified as an autoimmune disorder although it is not quite understood how it works.
The common symptoms for it include joint and muscle pain, painful menstrual periods, broad pain and localized points of tenderness, fatigue and depression.
It can also cause swelling and mood/sleep disturbances, which is why it is also classified as an autoimmune disorder. It is uncertain whether the depression is a result of the fibromyalgia or if the fibromyalgia is a condition caused by depression in some.
In many instances, the pain and fatigue are not chronic at first, but it can then develop into a debilitating chronic syndrome.
Who is at risk for it?
Women are far more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. The most common age range for onset is between 25 and 60.
There is no other real classification for increased risk factors however women with lupus, depression or rheumatoid arthritis are considered to be more likely to develop the condition. The condition may develop as a result of a genetic predisposition, traumatic event, illness or the presence of another related inflammatory disorder.
How is it treated?
Fibromyalgia is usually treated with a course of medications that try to target relieving inflammation, anxiety, depression and physical therapies to promote circulation and flexibility. Unfortunately, nutrition is the one area of treatment that doesn’t have a great focus in the current methods of treatment.
As more and more is understood about how fibromyalgia and diet interact, it is becoming more common for a nutritionist to become involved in the treatment.
The issue with medications is they can often relieve certain symptoms of the fibromyalgia but then cause side effects that can be just as difficult to deal with.
There is heavy emphasis on pain management and life management skills for those suffering from this condition.
What is the relationship between fibromyalgia and diet?
There is significant anecdotal evidence that certain foods such as dairy, gluten, caffeine and sugar can bring about a fibromyalgia flare-up.
Dairy and gluten have a long and proven history of being related to autoimmune problems because there is a higher degree of allergic reaction among the general populace than first suspected.
What many people don’t understand about being lactose intolerant or having gluten sensitivity is that it is common to increase in sensitivity as you get older and hormone levels change.
It is thought that a potential allergy to these foods can trigger the autoimmune system to over-react to an inflammation and make the inflammation worse – causing the fibromyalgia flare-up.
The role of caffeine and sugar is also being studied as both substances work on the adrenal and endocrine system in the body, which is at the core of almost all autoimmune disorders.
The connection between chronic pain and diet
More and more scientists are discovering that diet and chronic pain levels go hand in hand. The more a person eats foods that cause inflammation, the less able they are to control their chronic pain episodes. With fibromyalgia and diet there is the additional card of anxiety and depression to consider.
Many foods, or the lack of consumption of certain foods, can aggravate the chemical balances in the body that are related to depression and anxiety. Maintaining proper levels of calcium and Vitamin B are known to help manage depression, now it is suspected that the same is true for managing chronic pain.
The important thing is to learn how to get enough in your daily diet that doesn’t include eating them from gluten or dairy sources that have additional elements known to increase inflammation and allergic reactions.
Consulting a nutritionist
Your best bet is to consult with a nutritionist about how to change your diet. Fibromyalgia and diet are something that you can actively work to manage on your own and avoid unnecessary medication.
A nutritionist can help you identify what is missing in your diet, and how to replace certain foods that may be aggravating your condition with better choices.
Fibromyalgia and obesity
Another important reason to talk to a nutritionist is that obesity is one of the major factors that will aggravate fibromyalgia. Getting your diet under control and changing your lifestyle habits so you can maintain a healthy body weight can reduce the pressure on your joints.
A daily regimen of exercise can also help to reduce inflammation and flare-ups because it increases circulation of both blood and lymph to clean the body of toxins.
Keeping a food and symptom diary
To start examining the relationship between fibromyalgia and diet in your life you need to start to keep a food and symptom diary. Write down what you ate, when and how it made you feel. Make sure that you also include notes about anything else that can be affecting you such as stressful events, illness or activity.
Once you have kept this diary for about a month, you can show it to your doctor or nutritionist and they may be able to detect patterns between how your diet may have affected your flare-ups.
It can also be helpful to use the diary when you are working to eliminate certain types of foods so you can track whether or not it makes a difference. There is a lot you can do to reduce your suffering from fibromyalgia, get started by paying attention to what you eat and how you react.