Diet And Allergy Tests

The role of diet and the presence of allergies, including food allergies, are not clearly understood in the management or potential treatment of fibromyalgia. There have been a variety of possible diets and food allergies proposed and some people respond to these types of treatment or modifications in lifestyle with positive results while others, particularly when allergies are concerned, are found to have limited positive response to the change.

Many people that obtain a diagnosis of fibromyalgia change their lifestyle and eating habits based on the advice of a doctor and on independent research.1 In a study of 101 women with diagnosed fibromyalgia, 30% had changed their diet for healthier eating, and 7% were diagnosed with food allergies or food intolerances, which may have been linked to an increasing intake of a variety of different supplements that were marketed to help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Understanding what supplements and foods, including specific diets, may trigger food allergies in different individuals is all part of planning a comprehensive management program. Before starting a specific diet or lifestyle change, it is therefore recommended that allergy tests be completed to ensure that supplements or food choices do not include those that provoke allergies or intolerances.

ELISA/ACT Tests

In a long term follow up test of 3136 women between 1976 and 2002 it was found that there were 136 that obtained a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Within this group it was found that women with one, two or more reported allergies were more likely to be in this group of diagnosed fibromyalgia patients than women without any diagnosed allergies. In addition, women that smoked where more likely to be in the group that was diagnosed than women that were never smokers. 2

While being a smoker or having allergies does not mean that you will develop fibromyalgia, they are positively associated with the syndrome. This information could help doctors develop a tool to identify higher risk groups within the general population. Additionally, food allergies can contribute to the same types of symptoms as fibromyalgia and should be ruled out to avoid any possible misdiagnosis or delay in the best possible treatment plan.

Tests for allergies, particularly food allergies, can be simple or very complex. Tests such as the ELISA/ACT test can be used with patients with fibromyalgia or with suspected fibromyalgia to determine if they have a condition known as delayed food allergies. It is a blood test that will analyze how the lymphocytes in the blood respond to different substances, which include foods and environmental substances. This test is typically not covered by insurance, but patients can order the kit online and have their blood drawn after following the kit instructions.

The results are based on the responses of the individual’s lymphocytes to the different materials, which can include gluten, corn, different fruits and vegetables, processed foods, soaps, detergents, cleaning solutions and even products such as toothpaste. This information is provided to the patient in a written report that is comprehensive yet also simple to decipher.

The medical community is often not responsive to the results of an ELISA/ACT Test but, with the information you obtain, you may be able to request a standardized allergy test that uses either a skin or blood test. The skin prick test allows immediate testing of the reaction of the body to a very small amount of the a substance. Intradermal testing is used when there is a mixed or slight response to a skin prick test to verify if the substance is an allergen.

There are blood tests that check for the presence of antibodies, known as immunoglobulin E or IgE, which is not the same response that is tested for in the ELISA/ACT test. The immunoglobulin blood tests focus on the lymphocytes or white blood cells. To further confuse things, the medical IgE test used by doctors is also known an ELISA or EIA test but not in combination with the ACT addition.

Diet Changes

Removing specific foods that may trigger intolerances or allergic reactions is seen by doctors and patients as an effective way to lessen the pain and discomfort associated with fibromyalgia. Some research tends to indicate that a vegan diet is effective in minimizing and alleviating the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Although most studies have been small, in one Scandinavian study patients reported improvements on the pain scale and in decreasing joint stiffness, increased quality of sleep and overall health assessment questionnaire when they remained on a vegan diet.

In addition these patients also lost weight and decreased their BMI (body mass index), which may have also contributed to increased overall health and decreased joint problems and pain. Better total serum cholesterol and urine sodium also decreased and was maintained in those that ate following the vegan plan as opposed to the standard diet. 2

Some fibromyalgia patients find that limiting or avoiding any gluten containing products can be helpful. Eating a raw food diet that includes fruits and vegetables, specific whole grains, nuts and seeds and using only flax seed or extra virgin olive oil is also an option for people with fibromyalgia to consider.

This type of highly restrictive diet can be difficult to follow. Many individuals with fibromyalgia start with a purely vegan or raw foods diet and begin adding in specific foods to determine if they result in an increase in pain, discomfort or symptoms. Often people can self-determine foods that they can tolerate and foods that need to be completely eliminated from the diet. Adding very small portions of lean poultry, fish or small amounts of low fat dairy products may be possible. Generally avoiding all types of refined and processed foods is recommended since these tend to cause the greatest complications.

References

1 Arranz, L., Canela, M., & Rafecas, M. (2011). Dietary aspects in fibromyalgia patients: results of a survey on food awareness, allergies, and nutritional supplementation. Rheumatology International .

2 Choi, C.-J., Knutsen, R., Oda, K., et al. (2010). The Association Between Incident Self-reported Fibromyalgia and Nonpsychiatric Factors: 25-years Follow-up of the Adventist Health Study. Journal of Pain , 994-1003.

3 Kaartinen, K., Lammi, K., Hypen, M., et al. (2000). Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology , 308-313