Fibromyalgia: Avoiding Suspected Trigger Foods

Have you been diagnosed with fibromyalgia? Is avoiding inflammatory and suspected trigger foods on your list of ‘possible’ treatments? Many fibromyalgia patients fail to identify the close connection their diet has with the pain, fatigue, and other symptoms of the disease they experience every day. If this sounds like you, take the time now to learn more about foods that cause inflammation and that can trigger reactions in your body that cause fibromyalgia symptoms.

Fibromyalgia Basics (What You May Have Missed)

For many years fibromyalgia went undiagnosed. Why was this missed for so long? There is no simple answer to this question, however, studies show that the disease effects approximately four percent of all Americans, most of them women.[1]

There is no recognized cause for fibromyalgia and no one treatment that is successful for every patient. For this reason, the connection between fibromyalgia and the avoidance of trigger foods and inflammatory foods may be essential.

Fibromyalgia patients present with a wide range of symptoms. These can range from joint pain and muscle pain to fatigue and memory loss. It is a very multifaceted disease. For this reason, even the same diet plan will not work for every person. So, even though it is medically acknowledged that diet does play a role in the treatment of fibromyalgia, it is up to you, the patient, to take a major part in your treatment plan and be proactive in discovering the best diet for your health.

Trigger Foods

At this time a ‘cure-all’ diet for all fibromyalgia patients does not exist. However, certain trigger foods have been identified that appear to affect the majority of fibromyalgia patients in a negative way. Keep in mind, avoiding these foods does not guarantee that your pain and suffering will be immediately eliminated. But, removing these foods and food groups from your diet is worth a try to see if it makes a difference. Countless fibromyalgia patients have successfully found some form of relief when eliminating a number of these foods from their diet:[2]

  • Artificial Sweeteners, Aspartame, NutraSweet: Across the board, artificial sweeteners get a big zero from doctors and health experts who follow people with fibromyalgia. Why? Let’s look at Aspartame. It is an excitotoxin. Excitotoxins aid in the stimulation of certain pain receptors in the nervous system called NMDA. If you suffer from fibromyalgia you may already be predisposed to excessively active NMDA pain receptors.[3] When you consume an artificial sweetener such as Aspartame you only increase your pain sensitivity.
  • Monosodium Glutamate, (MSG), Nitrates, Food Additives: Monosodium Glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, is often found in Asian food. For many years it was thought to be the cause of headaches people experienced after eating out at Chinese restaurants. As such, MSG is now optional in many restaurants.

MSG and many other nitrates and food additives such as aspartame are excitotoxins. They are popular in processed foods and in frozen foods. Food manufacturers add them to give the processed food flavor. But, if you suffer from fibromyalgia, these food additives, including nitrates and MSG, can increase your pain level and increase the other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

  • Sugar, Fructose: Eliminating sugar and fructose from your diet can help with your fibro symptoms, say experts, in addition to helping with weight loss. One interesting example is cutting down on or cutting out sodas. Sodas are carbonated drinks that are full of sweetened fructose and eliminating them from your diet can cause clear positive results.

The carbonation in sugary pop drinks such as colas results in a metabolic reaction inside your body. This means more sugar emptying into the bloodstream faster than ever. This ‘sugar rush’ is really a fast rise in blood sugar that is observably followed by a fall. The fall of blood sugar in fibromyalgia patients heightens fatigue and other symptoms. When a fibro patient has this fall in blood sugar and feels the supplementary symptoms he or she may hunger after more sugar – creating their own catch -22 situation.

So how do you avoid this nasty cycle? Cut out the sugary pop drinks! It may be hard, especially for long time soda drinkers. But, once you remove these drinks from your diet you may see a significant improvement in fatigue and other pain symptoms.

  • Caffeine: Yes, sugary pop often includes caffeine, but there are other reasons to eliminate caffeine from your diet. Coffee, tea, sodas, and even chocolate that contains caffeine can stimulate your system. While you may hope to get a burst of energy from these products, as a patient with fibromyalgia they will bring on fatigue. You may feel a brief rush of stimulation, but it is followed by a longer period of fatigue.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you already suffer from fatigue. The result of consuming caffeine can send you into a deep fatigue. In fact, many fibro patients will feel fatigue soon after consuming the caffeine.

  • Yeast and Gluten: Doctors and health professionals urge fibromyalgia patients to cut yeast out of their diet. Consuming yeast contributes to the plethora of yeast fungus growth in the body. This can lead to muscle and joint pain for fibro patients.

Patients are also encouraged to cut out simple carbs – sugars, white flours – to keep chronic yeast infections at a minimum. Chronic yeast infections flourish on sugars and have been identified as a secondary factor of pain connected to fibromyalgia.

Gluten is associated with many digestive problems. People with Celiac Disease must avoid all gluten in their diet. Patients with fibromyalgia can also experience problems in their digestive tract due to gluten. It can also add to the fatigue felt by fibro patients.

  • Dairy: Countless fibromyalgia patients have seen amazing results by eliminating dairy from their diet. As with all of the trigger foods, some patients may find dairy products work well with their diet. Will avoiding milk and cheese and other dairy change your life? You will have to eliminate the products and see if you experience any health related changes. Trial and error will help you determine what works for you.
  • Nightshade Plants: A large group of plants, including tomatoes, chilies, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplants, are in the nightshade family. For some fibromyalgia patients the elimination of these foods from your diet can result in big health changes. As a word of caution, these foods are highly nutritious – if you see elimination of fibromyalgia symptoms when you take them out of your diet you must speak with your doctor about vitamin and mineral supplements that will not aggravate your condition.

As you learn to live with fibromyalgia, you will continually find new tips and tricks that work to help ease your fibro symptoms. Keep in mind that each fibromyalgia patient is different and what works for one patient will not necessarily work for another. With that in mind, it is always helpful to share your knowledge – your successes and your failures. As you embark on your journey of avoiding inflammatory and other suspected trigger foods keep a journal. Highlight what works, what doesn’t, how you feel, and any suggestions you have that might help others.

References

[1]  Arthritis Related Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_stats.htm

[2]  Rawlings, D. N. (2008). Food that Helps Win the Battle Against Fibromyalgia. Minneapolis: Fair Winds Press.

[3]  Smith, J. T. (2001). Relief of Fibromyalgia Following Discontinuation of dietary Excitotoxins. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy , 702-706.

[4]  Nick, G. (2004). Whole Foods that Significantly Reduce Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthtitis Symptoms. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients , 173.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015