When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, one of the first questions I asked was about whether there were foods I should eat or avoid that would improve my symptoms.
The initial response from my doctor was not really, then that there were a few things that could help (avoiding sugar, caffeine, nightshades).
However, it was years of research on my own before I found that there are definitely foods that can make fibromyalgia worse (and foods that can help).
Food to Avoid with fibromyalgia
1. Gluten – I think that gluten is probably the primary cause for a lot of our health issues from the aches & pains to a lot of IBS symptoms.
Most doctors seem to be of the belief that as long as you don’t test positive for Celiac or Chron’s that you don’t need to worry about changing your diet or removing gluten. However, you don’t have an actual disease to be negatively affected by gluten.
It may not even show up on a food sensitivity panel, if you have it done (or, as was the case for me, it might show up but at such a low level that even the pharmacy or Dr who tested you says it’s nothing). The only sure way to know if gluten is affecting you negatively is to remove it completely from your diet for several weeks. If you reintroduce it and your symptoms worsen then it’s best to leave it out.
For me the test barely registered a sensitivity to gluten but it was enough. When I get “gluten-ed”, I know it and I usually can feel it hit my stomach within minutes, but I really feel the effects the next day, when I feel like I’ve gotten hit with a full-on Fibro flare.
2. MSG – If it’s processed it most likely has MSG in it. It probably has gluten, too…
MSG is on every list of foods to avoid with fibromyalgia and is known to be linked to a whole host of potential negative side effects – not the least of which is that it is designed to make you want to eat more (and you wondered why you were gaining weight!).
MSG (as well as many other food additives) is known to increase pain and inflammation. (note: MSG is rarely listed as MSG, it is most often listed as “spices” or “natural flavorings”).
3. Aspartame – Found in diet drinks and “sugar-free foods”.
Known to cause tremors, inflammation and pain. It stimulates your nerves (increasing the tingling). Also, the way our body processes it can make you want more sweet foods.
4. Processed Sugars – Avoid high fructose corn syrup and white processed sugars (may be listed as fructose, sucrose, or glucose.
Not only do they mess with your blood sugar, but processed sugar is known to increase pain. Instead opt for “raw sugar” or “coconut sugar”. If you need an alternative Stevia is the best option.
5. Yeast – If you have IBS issues it may be due to an over-growth of yeast in your gut. Yeast feeds on sugars (another reason to avoid sugar). Avoid yeast as much as possible (cutting out breads and cakes is the fastest way to avoid).
6. NightShades – some people with Fibro have found that a group of plants known as nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) increase inflammation and their pain.
7. Dairy – Many people are lactose intolerant and dairy can be a major source of IBS-related issues. The best thing to do is to remove it entirely. Replace butter with coconut oil based spreads and replace milk with almond or coconut milk.
Foods to Eat if you have fibromyalgia!
1. Stick to the basics! – Consider the Whole 30 as an entry way to eating better and to determining which foods affect you negatively.
The Whole 30 plan is a Paleo-based 30-day elimination diet that allows you to cut out all foods that might be harmful to your system and re-introduce them slowly, to find which ones are affecting you and how.
2. Protein – protein is our energy source, and it provides a basis for creating muscles.
3. Leafy Greens & Veggies – Veggies in general are an excellent source for your calorie needs but more importantly they provide many of the vitamin & minerals that we need to keep your body healthy.
Leafy greens, & broccoli are excellent sources of Vitamin C (to help boost immunity) as well as Magnesium and Calcium. Veggies in general are more filling (per calorie) than other items allowing you to feel full without eating too much. A good meal will consist of a small serving of protein and 2 larger servings of veggies (about twice as much veggies as meat).
4. Fruits – fruits are a great source of feeding your sweet tooth, but also full of great nutrients.
Note: Most folks know that I juice. When juicing it’s better to juice veggies and eat fruit. The fiber in fruit helps balance the high amount of sugar and keeps your body from absorbing too much sugar too fast (upsetting your blood sugar levels).
Related: 8 Tips for beginning juicers
5. Good Fats – Avoid trans fats & fried foods. However, fat is not a bad thing.
You want to increase good fats as found in nuts, coconut oil, olive oil and even meat. Increase Omega 3, which can be found in Wild Caught Salmon, & walnuts,a s well as in Fish Oil supplements.
6. Boost Immunity: As mentioned leafy greens are full of Vitamin C, as are citrus fruit and pineapple.
When I feel like I’m coming down with something I increase these foods and head it off with what I call the “Get Well Juice” (1 Orange, 1/4 Pineapple, 1 chunk Ginger, 6 strawberries & 1 banana – juice everything but the banana, then put the juice and the banana in the blender, blend & drink. You can also hold out the strawberries and just add them at the blend stage).
7. Natural Anti-Inflammatories – Ginger, Tumeric & the core of the pineapple are all excellent natural anti-inflammatories.
Curcumin is found in Tumeric and can be purchased as a supplement for inflammation.
The core of the pineapple contains bromelaine, a natural anti-inflammatory. It’s not easy to eat, but I always include it in my juice. Prickly Pears are also an excellent natural anti-inflammatory. They are hard to eat, so I stick to juicing them. How to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
8. Heal the Gut – Ginger is excellent for all things gut related, whether it’s nausea, indigestion or heartburn. Long-term use can cut down or eliminate acid reflux issues.
Aloe Juice works the same way: what it does for healing your body externally it can do internally. Mix with apple juice to make it easier to palate (I use a 1 part aloe, 3 part apple juice ratio).
Red cabbage is also excellent for helping to heal not only the gut but for liver detox (to help remove the toxins all those pharmaceuticals build up).
9. Probiotics also help us not only heal the gut but keep our entire system balanced. Probiotics are good bacteria found in supplements, fermented foods (kim chi, sour kraut), drinks (kombucha, kefir), and yogurt. It is believed that many of the gut issues we deal with are due to an overgrowth of yeast (which is caused by not having enough good bacteria in our system). Building up the colonies of good bacteria will eventually reverse this issue.What foods have you found positively or negatively impact your #Fibro symptoms? Click To Tweet
Any increase in the good foods and decrease in the bad foods is a move in the right direction, and not all of us will be affected the same way by the same foods. The best way to determine which foods have a negative effect on you is to do an elimination diet.
I did my own version of an elimination diet which included a 1 week juice fast followed by 3 more weeks of slowly re-introducing foods back into my system in a methodical way. It doesn’t have to be that intense.
The Whole 30 is an excellent elimination diet that is fairly easy to follow. It’s already mapped out and detailed in such a way that you can step through it and know that someone else has already figured it out for you. It’s only 30 days so there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Once the 30 days are up you slowly introduce potentially bad foods to see what your body’s reaction is.
Related Links and suggested reading:
Whole 30 Intro
It Starts With Food (the book that details the science behind and the how-to of the Whole 30).
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (documentary about one man’s experience with juicing and how it reversed his auto-immune disease).
Thank you finally someone who u understands that foods effect you when you have fibro. I can also add more foods to avoid like summer fruits,watermelon, peach,nectarines etc.
Ive not been tested for any food allergies but from elimination and trial I’ve learnt what i can and cant eat. Onions and garlic are really bad too.
Thank you for such a great article
Sue Walling says
It’s so nice to find someone who has come up with many of the same answers for Fibromyalgia as I have !!!
I am 83, and I guess I’ve had it for probably 70 + yrs. ! I was not diagnosed until 1999. I spent so many years wondering why I worked so hard to accomplish what other people did so easily!! I guess the Fibro fog, urinary problems, pain and ANXIETY caused me the most problems early on ! I spent 13 yrs. studying dance/ballet which I blamed my muscles pain on, but actually I became used to fighting through pain. I’ve had muscle pain all my life. My Pop used to massage my calves at bedtime each night when I was little. He called them “growing pains” ! I was a VERY active child with lots of accidents, injuries, etc. I sort of survived from one injury til the next ! 🙂 My diet has helped tremendously – especially with the knowledge about nightshade veges !! I found that on a site for arthritis years ago and it helped so much I I noticed long ago that if my “gut” was good, I was better ! Before being diagnosed I spent years using massage therapy for my muscle “knots”, and hot tubs twice a day !! I was married for 33 yrs., and had 4 children – 3 sons between age 21 and 23. I had a daughter 8 yrs. later. My husband was a Navy/pilot -officer for 20 yrs. and then involved in Aero Space. I had a lot of being alone, moving with kids, supporting my husband’s Navy and Aero space career. My children have all grown up nicely, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. My husband ran off with his secretary just before he retired. (I guess he’d had enough of my Fibro and actually looking back I realize what a lot of both physical and emotional pain I was in.) I never thought I “had” anything !! I lso take Systemic Enzymes – Zymessence – that my endo suggested. I’ve taken them about 5-6 yrs. and they really help ! I also taken probiotics, Magnesium Citrate, Zinc, D3, COQ, B12 and probably a few others ! :)So glad to find your site
Glenda Creel says
I have been diagnosed with both Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome with C and D. I need help that apparently my doctors cannot provide. Please give me Information about your support group and how to find your articles. No one has ever given my dietary restrictions. Apparently all foods that you’ve written about here I would have to delete from my diet. I am 72 years old and I need some of the Golden Years others have. Thank you for this article.
Unfortunately, our local support group has since disbanded. As far as fibro (or even IBS) and diet. It’s very controversial. So many doctors don’t think diet plays a role in either. The foods mentioned here are the ones that I have found via research that can affect fibromyalgia symptoms. There are probably even more that might affect your IBS. The best thing I can suggest is to try an elimination diet to determine what foods are affecting you personally. I really like the Whole 30 diet. It takes you down to the basics of food for 30 days, eating nothing but whole, clean, unprocessed foods (also no grains, beans, etc). I’d suggest doing the AIP (anti-inflammatory protocol) version of the diet which also restricts things like tomatoes and peppers that can cause inflammation. After the 30 days you slowly reintroduce foods that might be causing you issues so that you can learn which ones actually are. You can learn more about it at whole9life.com
I’ve just read “it starts with food” and am considering the 30 day challenge. In order to do everything I can to avoid a major slump while I am already struggling (getting used to working part time while being a mum to Mr 1) I am going to work on releasing my reliance on added sugar and grains. Any advice for ensuring energy levels while I do this? 🙂
Those no way of assuring. Removing sugars/ grains/ or anything from your diet that your body has developed an addiction to is hard and it will leave you hurting and unhappy for several days. If you can time things so that your first few days on the detox are days off that is your best bet. Otherwise at least try to time it so that maybe not your first couple of days but day 3-4 you are off work. Those two days are probably the worst to get through. You will be a very unhappy camper and likely to make those around you unhappy – much the same as someone trying to quite smoking.
Tracy Lee Karner says
I’ve found many of the same you found, (as you know, I’ve been at this practically forever), by keeping a detailed health journal when doctors couldn’t help me. Gluten isn’t my problem (but I can’t handle refined white flour) and I get immediately sick from all of the additives that most bread-factories and bakeries put into their dough. We bake from scratch a multi-grain bread and a whole-wheat bread that I can eat without problem.
I’ve also found that blood sugar swings are horrible for me. A bio-chemist friend explained to me that blood-sugar swings are stressful for every body. Of course they amplify fibro pain. So I eat a diet of whole foods, low in added sugar with a balance of protein– and 85-90% of everything we eat, we make ourselves.
I’m interested in how you found your support group. I’ve never been in an area that has a viable one.
I was lucky that I was already friends with the girl who runs our local group before I was diagnosed. However, they do advertise in the paper and have an active Facebook group. I know I’m lucky to have them, as your experience seems to be the norm. It’s hard to find someone willing and able to show up regularly and put the energy into running a group like this.
I am so glad I found you post! I am starting the gluten free or wheat free diet and din’t realize I should do the elimination diet again I did one years ago but I do know already the gluten is making me miserable…I have not been tested but I can tell right away!
Julie Ryan says
With Fibro our sensitivities can often change, so it’s worth it to try it again. I need to do it again myself, as I’m starting to believe that nuts/seeds might be directly affecting my IBS.