Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain for at least 3 months accompanied by fatigue. Victims of fibromyalgia experience chronic aches and pains as well as heightened painful sensations on certain tender points of the body. Some also complain of memory loss, brain fog, sleeping problems, anxiety, depression and digestive ailments. Women are 10 times more likely to get fibromyalgia than men.
Though pain-relief medication and anti-depressants are offered to manage this condition, they don’t work for everyone and a growing number of patients prefer not to rely on drugs for the rest of their lives. So if this is you, what else can you do?
1) Consider this: a study followed fibromyalgia patients who adopted a vegan diet for 3 months. After 3 months, patients reported a 50% in pain, 30% reduction in tender point numbers and almost complete elimination of the need for painkillers. Reasons for these results include increased antioxidant status; bioflavonoids and anthocyanidins found in fruits and vegetables are able to inhibit inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers) in the body, thus decreasing inflammation and pain. Arachidonic acid, which comes from meat, eggs and dairy, leads to increased inflammation, so switching to a vegan diet naturally decreases arachidonic acid intake which in turn decreases inflammation and pain.
2) Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame act as excitatory neurotransmitters and can cause neurotoxicity in certain fibromyalgia patients. Studies show marked improvement in these patients after removing MSG and aspartame from their diet. Since there are over 17,000 chemicals used in the food industry that are questionable and potentially harmful to our health, I advise fibromyalgia patients (and people in general!) to avoid consuming synthetic chemicals, period. Click here to read more on synthetic food chemicals.
3) Add ginger, turmeric, green tea and other high-antioxidant foods to your diet. These decrease inflammatory processes in the body, which help to decrease pain.
4) Fibromyalgia symptoms may begin after a physical trauma, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually increase over time with no single triggering event. Regardless, it is important to manage stress appropriately so it doesn’t have a negative impact on your health. Deep breathing exercises, making time for yourself every day, talking through issues and problems with a trusted person and sessions of massage or acupuncture help many fibromyalgia patients cope better with stress. Light exercise such as walking also helps, but if you’re in too much pain to exercise, try yoga. A 2010 study found that a 2-hour yoga class once a week reduced pain, fatigue and stiffness by 30% in more than half of the fibromyalgia patients who took it.
5) Nutraceuticals such as 5-HTP, chlorella, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids and Co Q 10 have been found to improve quality of life in fibromyalgia patients. Poor gut (digestive) health fuels inflammation and fatigue, so it’s important to restore healthy digestive function if it is compromised. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about natural medicines, dietary changes and treatments appropriate for your condition. There are natural ways to cope with fibromyalgia.
1) Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, et al. Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms. Scand J Rheumatol 2000;29:308–13
2) Smith et al. Aspartame and MSG cause to painful fibromyalgia symptoms. Ann Pharmacother 2001 Jun; 35(6): 702-6
3) Smith et al. Relief of fibromyalgia symptoms following discontinuation of dietary excitotoxins. Affairs Medical Center, Gainesville, FL, USA.
4) Pain, 2010; 151 (2): 530