Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread pain in conjunction with fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Currently, there is not a specific recommended diet for people with fibromyalgia. However, poor food choices can indirectly impact symptoms.
“Fibromyalgia sufferers seem to have too much of a dependence on comfort foods, especially if they are finding it hard to exercise regularly,” said Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist in San Francisco. “This can lead to weight gain, and being overweight or obese can make your symptoms worse.”
Eating a healthy diet can indirectly help to reduce fibromyalgia symptom flare-ups. Set yourself up for success by learning more about these 5 foods to avoid with fibromyalgia.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, known by the brand names Equal or NutraSweet. Aspartame is commonly found in “diet foods,” and is used as a calorie-free sweetener. It can be found in beverages and foods such as sodas, yogurts, sugar-free ice cream, jams and jellies and more.
There have been several people with fibromyalgia who reported feelings of pain waning or disappearing after eliminating aspartame from their diets. One 50-year-old woman noticed that her painful symptoms improved when she traveled to a foreign country that does not have aspartame, but returned when she came back home. Another 45-year-old man noticed a reduction in forearm, wrist, hand and cervical spine pain after completely removing aspartame from his diet.
While studies are still inconclusive, if you have fibromyalgia, it’s worth eliminating aspartame from your diet to see if you, too, experience improvement.
Try this: Use a natural sweetener, such as honey, to sweeten plain yogurt, and add some chopped up fruit. This way you are in control of what type of sweetener – and how much – you consume. You might also try sucralose, known by the brand name Splenda, which is another calorie-free sweetener that is derived from sugar.
Generally speaking, sugar is not good for your health. It feeds disease-promoting bacteria that lives in your gut, which can lead to more health problems. Not only that, eating sugar can pack on the pounds, putting more strain on your body. Finally, while sugar may initially give you a quick energy boost, it can leave you feeling even more fatigued once the energy rush wears off.
Try this: If you’re craving something sweet, eat a sweet fruit such as a strawberry, mango and banana. As you cut sugar out of your diet, your taste buds change, and natural fruits will taste even sweeter and more satisfying.
Many people suffer from lactose intolerance, regardless of whether they also have fibromyalgia. People who suffer from this condition feel bloated and gassy after ingesting dairy. To see if you have some type of dairy intolerance, try cutting dairy out of your diet for two weeks. If you feel better, and experience gas and bloating when you try dairy again, that’s a good indicator you might have a sensitivity to dairy products.
Try this: When you cut dairy from your diet, replace cow’s milk with coconut or almond milk, and cheese with vegan cheese that is derived from nuts, which can typically be found at your local health foods grocery store, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. It’s easier to cut something out when you have something to replace it.
Some people with fibromyalgia also suffer from Celiac Disease, a condition in which a person is intolerant of gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye products. Check with your physician before eliminating gluten from your diet. There is no reason to do so unless you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
If you’d like to try to see if you have an intolerance, try eliminating pasta, breads and grains from your diet for a few weeks. If you start to feel better, you may want to speak with your physician, who will be able to take a deeper look into the issue. If you are going to try eliminating gluten, be mindful that it can be hiding in unexpected places, such as marinara sauce, alcohol or candy.
Try this: If you’re going to eliminate gluten from your diet, there are several delicious alternatives. Many grocery stores now even have a gluten free section. Try pastas made from rice, or noodles made from mushrooms (found in the produce section). There are also gluten free cookies, crackers, breads and more available.
Some research has actually found that moderate alcohol use can ease fibromyalgia symptoms; however, others report that drinking alcohol makes symptoms worse. Additionally, drinking alcohol may interfere with certain medications that are frequently prescribed for fibromyalgia, such as anti-convulsants, antidepressents and acetaminophen (an ingredient found in many medications).
Try this: If you’re craving a cocktail or are socializing with people who are drinking, try having soda water and a lime or a mocktail that does not contain alcohol. Discuss your medications with your doctor and ask if it’s OK to have a glass of wine every so often. The more you know, the better you’ll be set up for success.
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