Diet and Fibromyalgia and Foods to Avoid with Fibromyalgia

Diet and fibromyalgia

Diet and fibromyalgia is the topic of many blogs here on the internet, but does diet work for relieving symptoms in these patients? Fibromyalgia (FM) is a perplexing and often debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties, FM can severely impact the quality of life. Despite its prevalence, the medical community has yet to reach a consensus on its exact causes and optimal treatment strategies. As scientists continue to probe the mysteries of FM, both patients and healthcare providers are exploring various approaches, including dietary modifications, to mitigate the symptoms that define this challenging condition.

The Quest for a Diet for Fibromyalgia

In recent years, a series of clinical trials have delved into the potential benefits of specific dietary regimens for managing FM. These studies have examined the effects of gluten-free, raw vegetarian, low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols), hypocaloric, and monosodium glutamate- and aspartame-free diets on FM symptoms. While not all findings have been conclusive, many have provided a glimmer of hope, reporting improvements in patient-reported outcomes such as pain and functional impairment. Additionally, some trials noted positive changes in fatigue, sleep quality, depression, anxiety, quality of life, gastrointestinal symptoms, and inflammatory biomarkers.

Diet and fibromyalgia

The Best Fibromyalgia Diet Plan

Given the multifaceted nature of FM, it’s unlikely that a single dietary recommendation will suit all patients. However, emerging evidence suggests that certain dietary interventions may alleviate some symptoms and enhance the quality of life for those with FM. Here’s a closer look at the findings from some of the most recent and relevant studies:

  1. Gluten-Free Diet: One intervention study compared the effects of a gluten-free diet with a hypocaloric diet and found no significant differences in FM-related pain or gastrointestinal symptoms between the two groups.
  2. Low FODMAP Diet: A four-week intervention with a low FODMAP diet resulted in a substantial reduction in gastric pain and intestinal symptoms, with a 50% reduction in overall symptoms.
  3. Vegetarian Diet: Two studies investigated the impact of a vegetarian diet on FM. One study reported a significant decrease in the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire Revised (FIQR) score after seven months, while the other noted improved autonomy and reduced morning stiffness compared to a control group.
  4. Raw Vegetarian Diet: Participants following a raw vegetarian diet experienced improvements in FIQR scores, vitality, mobility, emotional health, mental health, and overall quality of life after seven months.
  5. Hypocaloric Diet: A hypocaloric diet intervention led to significant enhancements in quality of life, sleep quality, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, reductions in inflammatory markers were observed after six months, suggesting potential anti-inflammatory effects of weight reduction.

Foods to Avoid with Fibromyalgia

When managing fibromyalgia, certain foods may exacerbate symptoms and should be avoided to help reduce pain, fatigue, and digestive issues. Processed foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can trigger inflammation and energy crashes, worsening fatigue and pain. Artificial additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame have been linked to increased pain sensitivity in some FM patients, making them important to exclude from the diet.

Gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, might contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort and inflammation for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Additionally, high-FODMAP foods, which include certain fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and legumes, can lead to digestive distress such as bloating and gas. By avoiding these potentially aggravating foods, individuals with fibromyalgia may find some relief from their symptoms, leading to an improved quality of life.

Fibromyalgia Diet Plan

Exercising Caution

While these findings are promising, it is important to acknowledge the limitations inherent in the studies, including issues with scientific rigor, such as poor statistical analyses, high risk of bias, and low to very low certainty of evidence. Consequently, the results should be interpreted with caution, and definitive conclusions cannot yet be drawn. The observed benefits might largely be attributed to weight reduction and the adoption of healthier eating patterns rather than the specific dietary interventions themselves.

The Way Forward with Diet and Fibromyalgia

There is a pressing need for well-designed, high-quality studies to further explore the effects of dietary interventions on FM symptoms and underlying mechanisms. Collaborative efforts among researchers, healthcare professionals, and patients are crucial to uncovering the potential advantages of dietary modifications in managing this complex condition.
For FM patients considering dietary changes, it is essential to consult with healthcare providers to ensure a comprehensive and personalized approach. A tailored dietary plan, aligned with medical advice, can help navigate the intricate landscape of FM management.

Practical Tips for Fibromyalgia Patients Considering Dietary Changes

While research continues to evolve, here are some practical tips for FM patients who are curious about exploring dietary changes:

  1. Consult a Professional: Before making any significant dietary changes, seek guidance from a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian who can tailor recommendations to your specific needs and medical history.
  2. Track Your Symptoms: Keeping a detailed food and symptom diary can help identify potential dietary triggers and track the impact of dietary changes on your symptoms.
  3. Focus on Balanced Nutrition: Ensure that your diet is balanced and nutrient-rich, emphasizing whole foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  4. Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for overall health and can help manage some FM symptoms, such as fatigue and cognitive difficulties.
  5. Monitor Portion Sizes: If weight reduction is a goal, be mindful of portion sizes and overall caloric intake to achieve a healthy weight.
  6. Be Patient and Persistent: Dietary changes may take time to show effects. Be patient and give your body time to adjust while continuously monitoring your symptoms.
    Conclusion

Fibromyalgia remains a complex and multifactorial condition, but the exploration of dietary interventions offers a beacon of hope for many patients. While current research provides encouraging insights, it also underscores the need for further investigation to establish definitive dietary guidelines. By fostering collaborative research efforts and adopting a personalized approach to dietary changes, there is potential to improve the quality of life for those affected by FM. As we continue to unravel the complexities of FM, dietary modifications may play a crucial role in managing this debilitating syndrome, bringing much-needed relief to those who suffer from its wide-ranging symptoms.

Diet and fibromyalgia

Some Recipes for Your Fibromyalgia Diet Plan

While we anticipate more quality research to emerge, here are also some recipes that align well with the message of this article:

Low FODMAP Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Ingredients:
• 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
• 2 cups water
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 cup spinach leaves
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Spread the diced bell pepper and zucchini on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, cherry tomatoes, and spinach leaves.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to combine.
  6. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients:
• 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp chili powder
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 avocado, diced
• 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
• Corn tortillas (ensure they are gluten-free)
• Lime wedges for serving

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  2. On a baking sheet, toss the sweet potato cubes with olive oil, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the black beans, diced avocado, red onion, and cilantro.
  4. Warm the corn tortillas in a dry skillet over medium heat or in the microwave.
  5. Assemble the tacos by placing a generous spoonful of roasted sweet potatoes onto each tortilla, followed by the black bean and avocado mixture.
  6. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Raw Vegetarian Zoodle Salad with Avocado Pesto
Ingredients:
• 3 medium zucchinis, spiralized into noodles (zoodles)
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1/4 cup pine nuts
• 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
• 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 clove garlic
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the zoodles and cherry tomatoes.
  2. In a food processor, combine the avocado, basil leaves, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth to make the avocado pesto.
  3. Pour the avocado pesto over the zoodle and cherry tomato mixture. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Sprinkle with pine nuts before serving.
  5. Serve immediately for a fresh, raw meal.
    These recipes are designed to support individuals with fibromyalgia by incorporating ingredients that may help reduce symptoms while providing delicious and nutritious meal options.

References

Slim M, Calandre EP, Garcia-Leiva JM, et al. The effects of a gluten-free diet versus a hypocaloric diet among patients with fibromyalgia experiencing gluten sensitivity-like symptoms: a pilot, open-label randomized clinical trial. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2017;51:500–507.

Marum AP, Moreira C, Saraiva F, et al. A low ferment- able oligo-di-mono saccharides and polyols (FODMAP) diet reduced pain and improved daily life in fibromyalgia patients. Scand J Pain. 2016;13: 166–172.

Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, et al. Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms. Scand J Rheumatol. 2000;29:308–313.

Donaldson MS, Speight N, Loomis S. Fibromyalgia syndrome improved using a mostly raw vegetarian diet: an observational study. BMC Complem Altern Med. 2001;1:7.

Senna MK, Sallam RA, Ashour HS, et al. Effect of weight reduction on the quality of life in obese patients with fibromyalgia syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rheumatol. 2012;31:1591–1597.

Shapiro JR, Anderson DA, Danoff-Burg S. A pilot study of the effects of behavioral weight loss treatment on fibromyalgia symptoms. J Psychosom Res. 2005;59: 275–282.

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Gianluca Tognon

Gianluca Tognon is an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. He started his career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden. He has been involved in several EU research projects and has extensively worked and published on the association between diet, longevity and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, also studying potential interactions between diet and genes. His work about the Mediterranean diet in Sweden has been cited by many newspapers worldwide including the Washington Post and The Telegraph among others. As a speaker, he has been invited by Harvard University and the Italian multi-national food company Barilla.

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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