Fibromyalgia (FM) management must include dietary considerations, just ask ANY FM sufferer! Last month, we concentrated on the types of foods that reduce inflammation, but the question remains, what foods should we go out of our way to avoid? In other words, what should we NOT eat (and why)? Let’s take a look!
As we all know, it’s MUCH EASIER to simply grab a cookie, a chocolate bar, or go through the a fast food drive-through and eat on the fly. This has become “the rule” for many of us as we trim down our meal times to fit in other tasks. We seem to have our priorities mixed up and have become preoccupied in our busy lives using the excuse that “…eating simply takes too long.”
The “avoid” list starts with stop eating junk food. It’s like pollution to the body as it clogs and clutters up the digestive system and the absorbed by-products include “bad” fat like trans-fats & saturated fats that can damage the heart. These fats are found in highly processed foods, red meats, and high-fat processed meats like bacon and sausage. Many of these meats are also high in salt, another “no-no” for heart health reasons, particularly for those with high blood pressure. Other sources of saturated fat include lamb, pork, lard, butter, cream, whole milk, and high-fat cheese. Some plant sources of saturated fat include coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. The United States Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get 20-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, we need at least 10% of our calories from fat.
Other foods to avoid are white flour-based foods such as bread and pasta. This is primarily because white flour is derived from grains which are gluten-rich (wheat, oats, barley, rye) and as we discussed last month, very inflammatory to the body! Simply avoiding gluten can be the nucleus of a great diet with benefits like increased energy, less mental fog, and weight loss without really trying! Sugar is also found in many products that we like eating. It’s found in juices, soda, pastries, candy, most desserts, as well as pre-sweetened cereals. Even ketchup has sugar in it! Another “bad guy” comes from the nightshade family of plants that includes tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes (but NOT sweet potatoes), sweet and hot peppers, ground cherries (a small orange fruit similar to a tomato), and Goji berries. These plants contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine that triggers pain in some people.
Weight reduction is another way to reduce pain and inflammation. If your Body Mass Index is over 25, (“Google” a BMI calculator and check yours) then you may need to lose weight! There are MANY diets one can follow, but to keep it simple embrace one approach first and see what kind of results you get. Try the “Paleo diet” as it is a gluten-free approach. The Mediterranean diet is similar and then there is the Aitkin’s Diet, the Zone Diet, etc., etc. Try eliminating the three most abused unhealthy foods in your diet (like soda, ice cream, chocolate, etc.) as that too can yield great results. Make sure your thyroid is working properly if you can’t lose weight with these approaches. Simply put, foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and white flour cause overactivity in the immune system which can lead to joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and damage to blood vessels.
Eliminating these foods and eating the foods discussed last month is good for all of us, not JUST those suffering from fibromyalgia!