Fibromyalgia | What To Eat To Support Your Body
As a Dr of Psychology, Chartered Psychologist, Nutritional Therapist and Functional Medicine Expert I am passionate about helping you alleviate your mood and energy problems by working with your body.
Not only have I successfully helped clients living with Fibromyalgia to take back control of their health I have also successfully overcome chronic illness myself. So if you are struggling with Fibromyalgia and want guidance on how you can support your body more holistically, then you are in the right place.
First though, let’s take a look at what fibromylagia is and the impact that this condition can have on your health.
So let’s dive in.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
If you’re living with this fibromyalgia, you probably know all too well that it is a musculoskeletal condition characterised by pain, fatigue and a wide variety of symptoms that reduce your quality of life.
Fibromyalgia is a very complex disease that is often misdiagnosed by medical professionals since it mimics the manifestation of other disorders like Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis.
Although not a life-threatening disease, the pain associated with Fibromyalgia can be debilitating and can change your life.
Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia
According to studies, the symptoms of fibromyalgia begin after an infection, surgery, trauma or severe psychological stress and develop over time until the individual suffers from them continuously, without having to experience a single trigger.
There are many symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. These include
- Pain in the different parts of the body at the back of the head, shoulder blades, neck, upper portion of the neck, elbows, hips, and knees,
- Fibrofog characterised by difficulty concentrating and memory loss
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Sleeping problems
- Tingling sensations in the arms, hands, and legs
- Urinary frequency
The Cause of Fibromyalgia
To date, the cause of fibromyalgia remains unclear, but it is said to run in families and affects more women than men. One thing many people don’t know about fibromyalgia is that it is often believed it is a brain condition. It affects how a person perceives pain, their symptoms, and even recovery.
Whether this is true or not is yet to be established. One thing that we know for certain is that there is a whole lot you can do for this condition through nutrition, and supplementation to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms.
In this vlog, I am going to focus on what to eat if you have fibromyalgia but I will also show you how you can access additional resources around supplementation and testing if you want to dive deeper.
In particular, I am going to walk you through the food groups which could help you rebalance your system.
Functional Medicine Approach to Fibromyalgia
Before you can begin making changes to your diet, you need to understand what is exacerbating your fibromyalgia in the first place – more specifically you need to identify the underlying imbalances causing your symptoms.
This is a vital step because balancing your body depends on treating underlying causes, not suppressing or masking symptoms.
Let me explain that in a little more detail.
For example, if the oil light goes out in your car, it is a sign you need to take action and refill your oil tank. The light is the signal that something is wrong and you need to address the underlying problem.
Makes sense right?
It’s similar to our bodies. Symptoms are merely signs that something is out of balance within our system. However, conventional approaches to ill health typically focus on suppressing or masking those symptoms, so we no longer have to feel the pain or see the problem. So we take the painkiller to dull the discomfort, the antacid to hide the burning and the laxative to get things moving.
But it doesn’t correct the underlying imbalance.
It ignores what is causing the problem and offers us a quick temporary fix. Over time the issue manifests as a deeper problem. We are effectively smashing the oil light, so we don’t need to see the flashing any longer, but we are not addressing the underlying issue.
To do that, we need to get to the cause. To pinpoint and identify what biochemical imbalances you are facing.
The causes, triggers or factors behind your symptoms. Then we can create a customised protocol tailored to rebalance those underlying factors. It’s not a one-size fits all or cookie cutter approach. This is true integrative and personalised treatment, and it all begins with getting to the root cause.
Now, of course, there can be a multitude of factors which could lead to the symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, what I have discovered after years of training and healing not only my chronic health issues but helping others support their body while living with fibromyalgia there are many underlying imbalances typically associated with this condition.
After you pinpoint what imbalances are causing your symptoms, you can then tailor your dietary strategy and of course overall treatment approach based on your personal biochemical needs.
So how do you figure out what underlying imbalances you are facing?
The good news is that through functional medicine testing you can investigate your condition at a biochemical level and identify what is going wrong with your system. Then based on your findings you can tailor your diet and treatment strategy to support and rebalance your body.
As I explained a moment ago once you know what you are facing you can then create a customised dietary approach. However, I want to help you take action now and make changes so you can get started.
So what I am going to do is talk you through some of the most common underlying factors which are associated with fibromyalgia and give suggestions around dietary changes you may want to consider if you suspect this imbalance is affecting you. To successfully balance your body, you must recruit your kitchen to your team!
What To Eat For Fibromylagia
Good Quality Protein
The first focus when considering what to eat for fibromyalgia is to include plenty of good quality protein in your daily diet.
Protein-rich foods include fish, chicken, seafood, and other meat products. The key is to make sure you go for quality. Free range, organic meat products which have not been overly processed are best. Of course, there are also lots of lovely plant-based protein out there such as quinoa, legumes, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds along with vegan based protein powders such as my Nourish Blends Pea Protein Powder.
What is important is that you provide your body with a good selection of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Once in our system, they are used to make our feel-good brain chemicals aka our neurotransmitters.
The reason you need a healthy supply of these is that neurotransmitter imbalances are believed to play an active role in the pain levels associated with fibromyalgia.
If you are facing fibromyalgia, you may find you have a lower pain threshold. This could be due to imbalances in your feel-good neurotransmitters. People living with Fibromyalgia are thought to have higher levels of glutamate and reduced levels of norepinephrine and are therefore more susceptible to pain.
Balancing your brain chemistry is, therefore, vital for alleviating the pain and mood problem of fibromyalgia. It is essential you give your body the building blocks it needs to address any deficiencies in your feel-good neurotransmitters.
Since neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, eating adequate levels of good quality protein and supplementing with amino acids is vital.
Next, you want to focus on gut-loving foods. If you are struggling with fibromyalgia, then you need to make sure bowel town is healthy. Often your energy levels are a reflection of your gut health. One of the critical factors, which could be exacerbating your symptoms, is something dysbiosis.
This refers to an imbalance in your good and bad gut bacteria. It’s challenging to find freedom from fibromyalgia if your gut is overrun with harmful bacteria, pesky pathogens, parasites and yucky yeasts.
A healthy gut should consist of around 75% beneficial bacteria if these levels drop below this, then pathogens and yeasts can begin to take control. There are a number of factors that can disrupt the delicate balance of your microflora.
The good news is there are lots of lovely probiotic foods such as kefir, yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, tempeh, miso, natto (a fermented soybean), raw honey which will help to replenish your beneficial bacteria and prebiotic foods such as fructo-oligosaccharides to feed your beneficial bacteria and help them survive. Focusing on following a diet which is gut-friendly is therefore vital.
If you are wondering whether imbalances in your gut could be exacerbating your symptoms and therefore something you need to focus on then you may want to consider the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis.
Nutrient Dense Foods
If your gut is out of whack, then you may be more susceptive to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The symptoms of which could be closely related to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Deficiencies in vitamins B, C and D, sodium, magnesium and zinc, are common in this condition. Low levels of iron, for example, can impede the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain and cause fatigue.
A study of women with fibromyalgia in 2010 by the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association convincingly showed that 80% of the women had a Vitamin D deficiency while the rest showed at least a Vitamin D insufficiency (Lynch, 2011).
Earlier I talked about the importance of neurotransmitters and including good quality protein in your diet to give your body the building blocks for making these feel-good neurotransmitters. But if your body is deficient in critical vitamins and mineral, it won’t be able to convert these amino acids over.
This is why it is so important that you follow a nutrient-rich diet packed with good quality, whole foods. You could also introduce a daily high quality multi-nutrient such as the Nourish Blends Superfood Multi Daily. This also goes hand in hand with eating gut healthy foods since you need your magical root system in great working order for it to be able to absorb and assimilate all those sexy nutrients.
If you suspect that you may be struggling with nutrient deficiencies you can investigate these using the Optimum Nutrition Evaluation. If you would like more help in following a nutrient rich diet then check out my 7-Day Nourish Kickstart.
Raw Plant Fats & Oily Fish
When it comes to nourishing your body to address any deficiencies you also need to consider the importance of including good quality plant fats in your diet. Essential fatty acids are a vital component in the cell membranes which your neurotransmitters lock into. So you need to ensure you provide your body with a healthy supply of essential fats.
If you are living with fibromyalgia, chances are you will also be suffering from some form of essential fatty acid deficiency. Essential fats are those that cannot be manufactured by the human body itself, so they must regularly be consumed through either your diet or supplementation. Even if you have a diet rich in essential fats, you may not be adequately absorbing these if you have increased gut imbalances such as intestinal permeability.
This is why it is vital that you work on healing your gut. Alongside healing from a leaky gut, you also need to make sure you are consuming the correct balance of essential fats. But it’s vital that you balance your level of Omega-3 to Omega-6. Since the modern-day diet is high in Omega-6, most people are now facing inflammatory conditions.
When we consume too much Omega-6, we are susceptible to inflammation. As a result, most of us would benefit from adding more Omega-3s to our daily diet. Foods rich in omega three fatty acids include
Including more omega, three rich foods in your diet and reducing your intake of processed and packaged foods high in omega-6 could help tip the balance in your favour. You could also consider supplementing with a high-quality omega 3 supplement such as my Nourish Blends Omega 3-6-9 supplement.
If you are wondering whether deficiencies in essential fatty acids could be exacerbating your symptoms you could investigate this further using the Essential Fatty Acid Analysis.
WHAT FOODS TO AVOID
So now I covered what to eat for fibromyalgia let’s move on to what not to eat which is also important. Before you can find freedom from your symptoms, you must eliminate health-harming foods. It’s time to get honest about what is keeping you stuck.
Knowing which foods to avoid has become a nutritional minefield. However, when you begin to understand what is exacerbating your fibromyalgia, you will be able to consider which foods you need to avoid.
Food intolerances have been shown to act as a significant factor in the worsening of fibromyalgia. If you have increased intestinal permeability aka leaky gut, you will also be more likely to react to foods. When you have leaky gut, your small intestine becomes overly permeable and allows larger undigested food particles to cross over into your bloodstream.
This means that foods, which would typically not cause you any problem, will start triggering your immune system. If larger undigested food molecules can pass through into your bloodstream, they will exacerbate your system, and your body will react to them. As a result, you may find that you have become overly sensitive to many different foods.
This is why healing your gut and supporting your digestive function is so important when you are living with this condition. You may also benefit from removing certain foods from your diet while you are healing your gut. One of the best ways to pinpoint what foods are problematic is to follow an elimination diet and removing the most common culprits –sugar, dairy and gluten and then monitoring your symptoms. You could also consider Food Intolerance Testing.
What Is Exacerbating Your Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
So there you have it what to eat for fibromyalgia to help address common underlying imbalances associated with this condition.
I wanted to give you a starting point for taking action by introducing you to some of the most common factors which can play a role in this condition and give you dietary recommendations to become addressing these. You may be wondering, however, which of these factors could be playing a position for you.
To figure this out, you need to begin by considering your symptoms and whether they are suggestive of any of these imbalances. For example
Low levels of your feel-good brain chemicals could be leaving you not only more susceptible to pain but also more likely to suffer from low moods.
Low levels of beneficial bacteria could be affecting your digestive function leaving you with bloating, constipation and other digestive problems.
Increased intestinal permeability aka leaky gut could be leaving you with vitamin and mineral deficiencies causing a myriad of symptoms.
Essential Fatty Acid deficiencies could be leaving you susceptible to dry flaky skin, dandruff and mood problems.
Of course, many of the factors are interlinked, and chances are you could be facing several of these imbalances. This can make it tricky to pinpoint the extent these are affecting you based on your symptoms alone.
That is why I often recommend functional medicine testing.
As discussed throughout there are a number of tests, which could be beneficial for investigating the underlying factors triggering your symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Once you have pinpointed the underlying imbalances triggering your symptoms, you can then make targeting changes to your diet and lifestyle to rebalance and support your body.
Customised Dietary Approach
The dietary approach could then be tailored to help support your body. So, for example, it could focus on:
Prebiotic and probiotic foods to address imbalances in your gut and replenish your beneficial bacteria
Eliminating refined sugars to starve any candida
Increasing your intake of plant fats to rebalance your essential fats.
Increasing your consumption of protein-rich foods for healthy brain balance.
Once you have identified the cause of your fibromyalgia and fully understand the necessary changes to your diet, the next step is to ensure that your body has adequate nutrients. It’s time for a supplement supercharge! The supplements you introduce should be tailored to help your system rebalance.
So for example:
- If you suspect you are suffering from dysbiosis, then you may benefit from introducing a probiotic supplement.
- If you have an essential fatty acid deficiency, you could consider a vital fatty acid supplement.
- If you have a vitamin and mineral deficiencies, you could consider a multi-nutrient.
- If you have amino acid deficiencies, you could consider an amino acid supplement such as protein powder.
Grab Your Toolkit
Now you know what to eat for fibromyalgia I want to help you take action and start addressing these.
As you can see to create a customised treatment strategy, it is essential that you get to the cause of your symptoms and support your system to address these underlying imbalances not only through your diet but also through supplementation and lifestyle changes.
This will not only help you figure the best diet, supplement and lifestyle changes to introduce as mentioned previously, in this toolkit I also give you my top testing recommendations to help you investigate which underlying imbalance could be affecting you so you can take the guesswork out of your treatment strategy.
Now it’s your turn to tell me….
So now it’s your turn to tell me – Do you think it is more important to focus on adding in those foods to support your body or to concentrate on eliminating problematic foods?
Leave your answer in the comment section below.
Make sure you grab your free toolkit and if you want more expert health guidance, free recipes, toolkits and wellness training to help you overcome your hormone, digestive, skin, mood and energy problems on your terms so you can become your healthiest, happiest self then become a Food Psychologist Insider here.
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I’ll see you in the next one and until then remember, your body never works against you so put it on speaker phone and let it guide you to health and happiness.