Fibromyalgia isn’t the most talked about disease, but it’s truly a difficult condition to live with. This is especially true since the illness is hard to diagnose: not every medical practitioner is familiar with the condition, and you may have to consult different specialists in order to get a proper diagnosis. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you’re not alone.
According to Web MD, fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis (1). In fact, “more than 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia. Most of them are women between ages 25 and 60. Women are 10 times more likely to get this disease than men.” Sticking to a personalized fibromyalgia diet is one of the ways you can manage the pain and get more out of life.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes musculoskeletal pain as well as dysfunctions in sleep, memory, and mood. Modern medicine believes that it affects the way your brain processes pain signals, amplifying painful sensations (2).
Fibromyalgia can be triggered by physical trauma, such as surgery, injury, or infection; or intense psychological stress. However, in some cases, it can begin to occur with no known trigger.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia typically occur together, and include (3):
- Pain (deep muscle pain, painful tender points)
- Concentration and memory problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Morning stiffness
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Sleep problems
- Numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Urinary problems
The most obvious symptom of the condition is the muscle pain that can occur all over the body, including the joints and ligaments. This pain is often described as tender, aching, throbbing, sore, burning, and gnawing.
Although stiffness varies from person to person, people suffering from fibromyalgia typically experience arthritis-like stiffness in the morning, upon waking. This pain can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, or even all-day long.
What’s more, the pain and stiffness make sleep light and interrupted. This creates a cycle of extreme fatigue, impaired body regeneration, and more pain (4).
Managing Fibromyalgia Naturally
When it comes to pain, most people visit the nearest pharmacy and buy whatever pill that can help them cope.
But these short-term solutions are terrible for your liver, and only mask your symptoms instead of truly treating your condition.
However, there are a few drug-free ways to treat your body right and manage your condition (5).
Get more sleep: Make sure to improve your sleep routine by taking a nice bath or drinking soothing tea to help you relax and unwind before bed. The better your sleep quality, the more your body will regenerate and heal.
Exercise: Although you may feel tired, exercise is the best remedy for fibromyalgia because it works your body and gets it used to healthy muscle response.
Adapt your work: If you work a very stressful job or spend most of the day on your feet, it may be time to find a more low-impact option to minimize the stress your body goes through every day.
Eat well: Most sufferers find that certain foods trigger fibromyalgia flare-ups. While they vary from person to person, processed foods, which are pro-inflammatory, aren’t part of the solution. Avoiding these foods and following a tailored fibromyalgia diet is the best way to get lasting relief.
The Fibromyalgia Diet
In addition to cutting out processed foods, manage your fibromyalgia by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (7). If possible, remove dairy and meat products from your diet too and get playful with your spice choice (8). Each person if different, so experiment with your fibromyalgia diet and see what works for you.
These fun fruits are packed with malic acid, a key nutrient for fibromyalgia. It reduces inflammation, pain, and tenderness. Figs also contain other beneficial nutrients such as magnesium and manganese (9). Plus, the fruit contains ficin, an enzyme that improves digestion.
Fresh and dried figs work really well with salty foods such as goat cheese and cured meats, but they can also be used to make jam and pie filling. For best results, eat plenty of malic acid daily for at least 2 months (10).
This gluten-free grain is another great source of malic acid, which helps soothe tired and sore muscles (11). Replace regular flour with buckwheat flour for homemade pancakes and serve them with malic acid-rich granny smith apples. You can also use buckwheat groats to replace rice.
Researchers are well aware that there’s a connection between low magnesium levels and fibromyalgia symptoms.
In fact, the digestive and urinary issues linked to the condition can cause magnesium deficiency. In turn, getting too little magnesium leads to muscle spasm and weakness, agitation and anxiety, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, and menstrual pain: all fibromyalgia symptoms (12).
Spinach, kale, swiss chard and other leafy greens are a great source of magnesium.
Other sources include:
- Whole grains
- Wheat bran
- Brazil nuts
- Soybean flour
- Blackstrap molasses
- Pumpkin and squash seeds
- Pine nuts
- Black walnuts
Chili peppers, like cayenne and other peppers, contains capsaicin. This compound improves muscle pain temporarily in people with fibromyalgia as well as arthritis (13). To use, apply a homemade cayenne ointment to sore joints and muscles 3-4 times a day and incorporate peppers into your diet a few times a day. If you have stomach acid issues such as heartburn or gastric ulcers, you may want to skip this one.
This fruit is an amazing food for people with fibromyalgia mainly thanks to its bromelain content. This enzyme works just as well as NSAIDs in reducing joint pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (14).
Pineapple also contains manganese, which boosts collagen production and reduces menstrual cramps.
Bromelain can interact with antibiotics, blood thinners, and sedatives, so make sure to avoid pineapple if you take any of these medications. Bromelain may also negatively impact pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Mushrooms are a great dietary source of vitamin D, which can improve pain in people with fibromyalgia. In fact, a study of women with fibromyalgia who had low vitamin D levels found that 20 weeks of vitamin D supplementation greatly reduced sensations of pain (15).
This medicinal herb has long been used by people with fibromyalgia, even long before its legalization.
Actually, the National Pain Foundations issued a survey in 2014 which found that “cannabis was considered the most effective pain medication by fibromyalgia patients who were willing to experiment with the herb.”(16)
“Sixty-two percent who have tried cannabis said it was very effective at treating their fibromyalgia symptoms. Another 33% said it helped a little and only 5% said it did not help at all.”(17)
Other great foods to try include chia seeds, apricots, cauliflower, alma berries, cherries, strawberries, ginger, and much more!
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, so there’s no quick fix. Add the foods above to your fibromyalgia diet, stay active, and most of all, get plenty of sleep. Over time, your pain should diminish, your energy levels will stabilize, and your quality of life will improve.