Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic condition that affects multiple body systems and is not limited to any one aspect of health. Because of this, there is no ONE diet that works the same for all FM patients. Since most dietary guidelines that address FM are based on general healthy eating principles utilized for many conditions such as hypoglycemia, diabetes, food allergies, headaches, digestive disorders, and fatigue, let’s review some of the most popular and successful dietary approaches that have been reported regarding FM.
- Carbohydrates: AVOID all refined carbs (white flour products). Eat whole grain bread, oatmeal, granola, and nuts. Avoid artificial sweeteners and limit sugar intake to a maximum of 40g/2000 calories. Eat roughly 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. Your total carb intake from all sources should be between 30-55% of your total calories.
- Fats: AVOID saturated fats (these clog up circulation and lead to inflammation and pain). That means <10% of total calories consumed, so limit or eliminate foods such as cheese, beef, milk, oils, ice cream, cakes, cookies, mayonnaise, margarine, chips, and chicken skin. Eat mono- and poly-unsaturated fats and include regular amounts of omega 3-fats. Eat < 300mg/day of cholesterol. Try to avoid ALL trans fats such as cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, margarine, fried potatoes, chips, and shortening. Take omega 3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as these help make other omega 3 fats like EPA and DHA, and are very helpful for the brain. ALA is found in flaxseed, linseed oil, or cod liver oil. Limit total fat intake to 20-35% of calories consumed.
- Protein: Go easy on red meat as they are high in saturated fat. Instead, eat more fish and vegetable protein (legumes and soybeans are great). When eating meat or poultry, remove all visible fat and skin before eating. Maintain protein at 20-40% of total caloric intake. AVOID: processed meats, especially salt-cured, smoked, or nitrate-cured.
- Fruits & Vegetables: Whole fruits are superior to juices. Include blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwis, peaches, mango, cantaloupe, melon, and apples. Some FM sufferers cannot tolerate citrus fruits but if you can, fruits like oranges and grapefruits are great. Vegetables are crucial. Good choices include carrots, squash, sweet potato, spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These foods reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers).
- Dairy Products: Choose reduced or fat-free varieties of cow or soy milk. This also applies to yogurt and cheese.
- Healthy drinks: Drink 8 glasses of water a day or diluted fruit juices, or herbal teas. Drinking water helps flush out toxins. Avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol as these increase fatigue, increase muscle pain, and interfere with normal sleeping patterns. Limit or eliminate alcohol.
- Healthy Snacks: Chopped vegetables, unsalted nuts, and/or seeds. AVOID ALL commercial snack foods (except salt-free air-popped popcorn) as these are high in trans fats & salt. Avoid chocolate and candy.
- Junk Food: Regular consumption of this is BAD for FM patients due to the high levels of fat, sodium, calories, and general lack of nutrition.
- Artificial Sweeteners: AVOID them! Examples: aspartame, NutraSweet, and saccharine.
- MSG: (monosodium glutamate (MSG) and Sodium (Salt) can aggravate FM!
- QUANTITY: Eat smaller light meals, especially in the evenings.