Food sensitivities that can cause symptoms will vary greatly between individuals, but the most common are dairy, gluten and FODMAPs. This brings us to the next step…
Do you experience long-term muscle tenderness or joint pain that affects your everyday life?
Are you worried it will only get worse?
Fibromyalgia is an unusual medical condition thought to affect up to 6% of the population, particularly middle-aged women (1).
While it cannot be completely cured, it can be treated… and what you eat appears to be a fundamental piece of the puzzle.
This is a beginner’s guide on fibromyalgia and diet.
Definition and causes of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a health condition characterised by long-term and widespread pain (not specific to one particular area).
Other symptoms can include a heightened pain-response to physical pressure, abnormal pain or function in the bowel or bladder, excessive tiredness, stiff joints, poor sleep, and even neurological problems to do with memory and anxiety (2, 3, 4, 5).
For a long time there was some debate about the validity of the condition, but it is now a recognized disorder by the US National Institutes of Health and the American College of Rheumatology.
So what causes fibromyalgia?
The cause has not yet been proven, but there are probably numerous factors involved.
One theory is that it fibromyalgia is the consequence of early life stress or prolonged or severe stress. In genetically susceptible individuals, this could alter how neurons in the brain fire and function, influencing how we interpret pain and emotion (6).
These biological abnormalities may not only affect the nervous system, but cause physical differences in the brain. Studies of brain anatomy show structural differences between the brains of fibromyalgia patients and healthy individuals, which could also be the underlying cause for the physical and psychological symptoms (6).
The only widely acknowledged forms of treatment are pharmaceutical drugs – particularly antidepressant medications – and physical exercise, including things like physical therapy and yoga (7). Diet, food intolerances and nutrition supplements are still being investigated for their role either in prevention or treatment.
Summary: Fibromyalgia is a recognised health condition characterised by widespread, non-specific pain and sensitivity that remains long-term. It is thought to be triggered by prolonged stress and likely has a strong genetic component. The link between fibromyalgia and diet is emerging but remains a new area of research.
Are there natural remedies or diets for fibromyalgia?
Unless we consider nutrition supplements as “natural”, there are currently no proven natural remedies or treatments for fibromyalgia, from a dietary aspect.
However, there are a few steps you can take yourself that may help prevent symptoms from escalating in the first place, so that they are much more tolerable.
Keep a daily food diary for at least 2 weeks
Many fibromyalgia sufferers report that certain foods trigger more severe symptoms than others.
In fact, one study found that 42% of fibromyalgia patients reported their symptoms worsened after eating certain foods (21). Discovering your own food sensitivities, and then cutting down or abstaining completely from those trigger foods, may be the most important thing you can do.
In order to do this, you must keep a daily food diary of what you eat and when, as well as if you had any bad reactions or symptoms. Doing this consistently for several weeks allows you to visually identify trends between what you eat and the symptoms.