10 Food Rules for Pain Patients
The fibro-food connection
Fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to treat. Medication tends to reduce muscle pain, fatigue, and other symptoms of the chronic condition by just 30% to 50%. As a result, many patients turn to diet and lifestyle changes for added relief.
Learning which foods to avoid is a good place to start, since fibro patients often have food sensitivities that may not show up in food allergy tests. In one survey, 42% reported that certain foods made their pain and stiffness worse.
How does food affect pain?
Although the research on diet and fibromyalgia is limited, experts suggest that the following 10 healthy eating rules can’t hurt, and may help people dealing with chronic pain.
Eat more fresh foods
Whenever possible, it’s also a good idea to buy organic food. “Some patients do better avoiding pesticides and chemicals,” says Dr. Arkfeld.
Don't OD on caffeine
“Caffeine is a loan shark for energy. We recommend not using a lot,” says Kent Holtorf, MD, founding medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, which are located across the country.
Steer clear of some veggies
"The thought is that they have components that are neurotoxins," says Dr. Holtorf. "For a small percentage of patients, cutting them out makes a dramatic difference."
Get plenty of omega-3s
A 2006 survey of arthritis patients found that daily fish oil supplements reduced pain symptoms in 60% of the patients. Omega-3s have not, however, been tested on fibromyalgia patients specifically.
Easy on the yeast
Fibromyalgia patients may also be more prone to gluten sensitivities. "Celiac disease is seen in a subset of patients. Avoiding [yeast and gluten] can help some patients improve," says Dr. Arkfeld.
Don't eat too much dairy
In a 1998 study, researchers tested whether blood samples taken from 40 fibromyalgia patients reacted to substances found in various foods; the blood of 25% of the subjects demonstrated an immune response to cow dairy products.
Fibro patients on vegan diets have also seen their symptoms improve.
Cut back on carbs
"About 90% of fibromyalgia patients have low adrenal functioning," he adds, which affects the metabolism of carbohydrates and may lead to hypoglycemia. These people crave sugar, but they also experience the crash that follows the initial energy high. "If you're hypoglycemic, you want to keep that sugar level as stable as possible. Try carbs with a mix of protein and fat," says Dr. Arkfeld.
Ease up on aspartame
Some artificial sweeteners, most notably sorbitol and xylitol, can trigger IBS as well.
A 1995 report commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that MSG may cause short-term reactions such as headaches, and a 2007 animal study in the journal Pain suggested that increases in glutamate in muscles may contribute to pain sensitivity.
Say no to junk food
Experimenting with an elimination diet and cutting the foods in this slideshow out completely for several weekseither one at a time or all at oncemay help you decide whether they affect your fibromyalgia symptoms.