What Are the Worst Foods for Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition which causes a wide range of physical and mental symptoms. Fibromyalgia affects everyone differently, but some of the most common symptoms include:
- Widespread pain
- Tender spots on the body
- Sleep disorders
- Daytime fatigue
- Impaired cognitive function, sometimes known as “fibro fog”
It is unclear exactly what causes fibromyalgia, but it is thought to be due to an imbalance in neurotransmitters and a chemical called substance P, which leads to an increased sensitivity to pain. There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, and treatments are geared toward managing symptoms.
In this article, we will take a look at how diet could influence your fibromyalgia symptoms, and which foods you should avoid.
The Worst Foods for Fibromyalgia
Foods to avoid eating with fibromyalgia may include foods high in sugar, MSG and processed foods, caffeine, and more. Keep on reading to learn more about some of the worst foods for fibromyalgia.
Sugar and Sweeteners
Sugar is probably one of the biggest enemies of fibromyalgia for two reasons. Firstly, sugar is pro-inflammatory, meaning that it could increase inflammation and problems such as stiffness and pain.
Secondly, sugar causes a sharp rise in blood glucose levels. This means that you get a temporary energy boost, but it will be short-lived, and after it wears off, you will feel even more fatigued.
Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners are no better. These chemicals may help to keep the calories down, but they could aggravate your fibromyalgia symptoms and cause more problems in the long-run.
If you have fibromyalgia, avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin, and sucralose which could make your symptoms worse. If you must sweeten your food, use a small amount of honey or natural sugar. Always combine these with some protein or fiber to slow down the rate at which they are metabolized, and give you a more steady supply of energy through the day.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a naturally occurring compound which is used as a flavor enhancer in many different foods. It is most commonly associated with Chinese food, but MSG can also be found in flavored chips and snack foods, processed meat, and canned soup and vegetables, among other things. It may be listed in the ingredients as E621.
The problem with MSG for people with fibromyalgia is that this chemical is a dietary source of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter which is necessary for normal brain function, but increased levels of glutamate can overstimulate your nervous system. This is especially bad news if you have fibromyalgia and are already experiencing high levels of pain.
Processed foods are more likely to contain additives such as sugar, artificial sweeteners, MSG, and other harmful chemicals such as sodium nitrate.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, it is best to cook all of your meals from scratch so that you know exactly what is going into them. If this is not possible, always read the label of your food carefully and avoid ingredients that are known to aggravate fibromyalgia. You should also steer clear of long lists of ingredients, and ingredients with complex names that you cannot identify easily.
Cured or processed meats are especially bad for fibromyalgia as they are often loaded with salt and preservatives. Meats to avoid include ham, deli meat, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, canned meat, corned beef, and jerky.
Caffeine is among the worst foods for fibromyalgia because it is a stimulant and can have a negative effect on sleeping patterns.
Since many people with fibromyalgia also suffer from poor sleep, it is a good idea to avoid caffeine as much as possible. If you really cannot do without, then be sure to avoid drinking tea, coffee, cola, or energy drinks after around 2 P.M. This will give your body a chance to excrete most of the caffeine before bedtime and allow you to get a good night’s rest.
FODMAPs, or fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols, to give them their full name, are a type of carbohydrate which is fermented by your gut bacteria. They can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
High FODMAP foods are particularly bad for people who suffer from IBS, a condition which has frequently been linked with fibromyalgia.
Foods which are high in FODMAPs and should be avoided include wheat, dairy products, and certain fruits and vegetables such as onions, pulses, and stone fruits.
Gluten and Dairy Products
Although there is limited evidence that gluten and dairy products influence fibromyalgia directly, these are two of the most common food intolerances out there. Some people with fibromyalgia find that eating these foods causes a temporary worsening of symptoms while avoiding them can help.
Luckily, it is now easy to find gluten-free alternatives to bread and cereals, and dairy products can be replaced by plant-based versions such as soy or almond. Just check out the specialist section of your local store.
Managing Fibromyalgia With Diet
By eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, you may be able to keep some of your fibromyalgia symptoms under control. As well as avoiding the worst foods for fibromyalgia listed above, you should try to increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats such as olive oil or oily fish.
Many people find that an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet helps them to stay on top of their symptoms and maintain a healthy weight.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for fibromyalgia, and you may need to experiment to find out what works for you. Consider keeping a diary to see how certain foods impact your symptoms or try an elimination diet to identify possible trigger foods.
It is also highly recommended that you visit a dietician for professional advice about how to eat well and manage your fibromyalgia symptoms through diet.