A fibromyalgia diet is constructed not only by including certain foods, but also by avoiding others. Additives like MSG and aspartame are particularly troublesome for many people.
Creating a fibromyalgia diet is difficult because no two individuals respond in exactly the same manner to the same foods. While general guidelines can be provided, it is important that individuals keep track of the foods they eat in a journal. Because it can take up to 48 hours for a particular food to have an effect on the symptoms of fibromyalgia, keeping track in a journal to allow for correlation between specific foods and flare ups of the disease.
These foods help to reduce symptoms and should be incorporated into most or all fibromyalgia diets:
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in most seafood, fish and nuts. Multiple clinical trials as well as long-term case studies have found that diets supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the symptoms of many chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia. A 2010 study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that consuming 2400 to 7200 mg/day of omega-3 fish oil reduced pain in fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, burn injury, and cervical radiculopathy. Omega-3 f fatty acids can be obtained through diet or through supplements.
Protein is essential for muscle health and rebuilding. Since muscle pain plays such a large role in the fibromyalgia, it seems obvious that maintaining a healthy protein intake would be a key part to any fibromyalgia diet. Most experts recommend that individuals consume 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of lean body weight. A rough estimate is that the average American male should consume approximately 70 grams of protein per day and the average American female slightly less. Recommended sources of protein include soy, chicken, and eggs.
Obtaining magnesium through supplementation or by eating foods that have high magnesium content is touted by some as an essential component of any fibromyalgia diet. Despite anecdotal reports, several clinical studies have found no correlation between magnesium and the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Nevertheless, supplementing any diet with magnesium or eating foods high in this mineral has not been found to have any negative consequences. As a result, most people are willing to trying supplementation with magnesium to see if it has an effect on symptoms. It is recommended that dosing be based on the food pyramid if eating vegetables high in magnesium or by following the directions on the package for magnesium supplementation.
These foods can have a negative impact on the symptoms of fibromyalgia and should be avoided in well constructed fibromyalgia diets:
Even moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with increases in fibromyalgia symptoms. While the mechanism of action is not completely known, many speculate that alcohol’s dehydrating effects are the cause. For those who choose to continue to consume alcohol, is recommended that equal amounts of other liquids be consumed at the same time to help avoid dehydration.
Aspartame, Artificial Sweeteners, and other Food Additives
A 2010 study published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology reported two cases of aspartame induced fibromyalgia. In both cases the effects of aspartame were accidentally discovered when the patients traveled to locations where they were unable to consume diet soft drinks containing this artificial sweetener. In both cases the symptoms returned as soon as the patients were reintroduced to aspartame. Based on this correlation, aspartame was completely excluded from their diets and both experienced complete resolution of their fibromyalgia symptoms.
A similar study published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy in 2001 identified four patients with fibromyalgia who experienced complete resolution of their symptoms when MSG was eliminated from their diets. MSG is a common additive for the preservation and flavoring of food. It is particularly common in Asian cuisine. MSG has long been known to have excitatory effects on neurons and to be related to chronic pain syndromes.
In both of the above cases it is suggested by the authors that the individuals in the study may represent a subset of fibromyalgia patients. In other words, not everyone may derive benefit from eliminating these additives from their diet. Nevertheless, because none of these additives are essential to nutrition, it is recommended that they be avoided in any fibromyalgia diet.
The key to a successful fibromyalgia diet is to keep careful track of the foods that are eaten over long periods of time so that correlations can be made between symptoms as they may not occur for as long as 48 hours after consumption of an offending food. While each individual is unique in the requirements of their personal fibromyalgia diet, there are certain foods that should always be included or avoided as listed above.