Fibromyalgia causes ongoing pain and fatigue. There is currently no cure, but some medications and lifestyle remedies can help relieve the symptoms. Dietary choices may also make a difference.
Some experts suggest using a multimodal approach to manage symptoms. This can involve medication, exercise, complementary therapies, and appropriate dietary choices.
In this article, learn more about how making certain dietary changes can affect fibromyalgia.
Dietary changes are not part of the standard treatment for fibromyalgia.
However, favoring some foods over others may help manage the symptoms.
For example, there is evidence to suggest that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can help people with chronic pain. An anti-inflammatory diet is not a specific eating plan, but its guidelines can help people make suitable choices.
A plant based diet may also be helpful for reducing fibromyalgia symptoms. This is because many plant based foods contain antioxidants, which help the body dispose of "free radicals." These are waste products that the body produces naturally.
High levels of free radicals in the body can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation.
In this article, learn more about foods that are rich in antioxidants.
Many people with fibromyalgia also have obesity. Excess weight may increase the risk of inflammation and oxidative stress. If fibromyalgia does involve inflammation, adopting a diet that encourages a person to reach or maintain a healthy weight may help.
The DASH diet can help control blood sugar, but it also has overall health benefits. Learn more here.
The following guidelines can help a person make anti-inflammatory diet choices.
Eat eight to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day: Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can ensure the greatest range of nutrients. Foods that are particularly rich in nutrients include broccoli and berries.
Choose healthful oils: Olive oil is a good choice.
Incorporate herbs and spices: Many herbs and spices contain antioxidants, which may help reduce inflammation. Turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon, and many others can offer benefits.
Some good dietary sources of vitamin D include:
- egg yolks
- low fat yogurt fortified with vitamin D
- orange juice fortified with vitamin D
- swordfish and salmon
- tuna, canned in water
- whole-grain cereals fortified with vitamin D
Foods containing vitamin D may not reduce symptoms in everyone with fibromyalgia, but they have overall benefits, such as building healthier bones.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory foods. Learn more about this diet here.
A number of additives and ingredients may worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia. We cover these in more detail in the sections below.
Meat and dairy products
For people with fibromyalgia, it may help to limit excess dairy intake. This is because many dairy products contain saturated fat. People should try to opt for low fat versions or dairy alternatives such as soy milk.
It may also help to limit the consumption of red meat. Instead of eating red meat every day, opt for turkey, fish, and vegetable based substitutes.
Why is it best to limit red meat? Find out here.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, food additives called excitotoxins may worsen some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Examples of these include monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavor enhancer, and aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener.
Research from 2012 found that people with fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who stopped using MSG and aspartame saw a 30% reduction in symptoms. However, the symptoms returned when they started consuming these additives again.
People with celiac disease must avoid gluten, or they may become very sick.
However, recent research suggests that gluten might also affect the outlook for various inflammatory conditions.
A 2014 study looked at what happened when 20 people with fibromyalgia avoided gluten for between 5 and 31 months. Fifteen people stopped having widespread, chronic pain, and three were able to stop using opioids altogether.
None of the participants had celiac disease, but some had other conditions, such as IBS.
Also, research from 2017 revealed that people with signs of both fibromyalgia and gluten sensitivity responded well to a gluten free diet.
In 2018, scientists proposed that there may be a link between fibromyalgia and nonceliac gluten sensitivity.
People should always speak to their doctor before eliminating a major food type, such as gluten, from their diet. Cutting out gluten, for example, can lead to a low intake of whole grains. This can result in a low intake of fiber and other nutrients.
What are the possible benefits and risks of adopting a gluten free diet? Learn more here.
Other ingredients that may trigger inflammation include:
- saturated fats and trans fats
- refined starches
- foods with added sugar
It may help to keep a food journal and record any symptoms that occur after eating particular food items. If any patterns emerge, it may be worth considering avoiding those foods for a while to see how this affects symptoms.
It is important to remember that avoiding any or all of these foods is unlikely to eliminate all fibromyalgia symptoms.
Also, when cutting out foods, people should ensure that they are getting the nutrients that those items provide from other foods or supplements.
Some researchers have looked at whether the following may help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia:
There is not yet enough evidence to confirm that these will help with fibromyalgia, however.
It is important to talk to a doctor before starting to take any supplements, even the "natural" ones. Some supplements can have adverse effects, while others can interact with medications the person may be taking.
For example, some people with fibromyalgia use antidepressants, such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac). St. John's wort can interact with these types of drug.
Which supplements have an anti-inflammatory effect? Find out here.
There is some evidence to suggest that other complementary methods help with fibromyalgia. These include:
Other physical activities that may help include:
- tai chi
People with fibromyalgia may also wish to speak to a yoga instructor about adapting poses to suit their physical needs and abilities. This may include the use of a cushion to support the body in some activities.
Learn more here about yoga for fibromyalgia.
Getting regular, quality sleep can also help people manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Tips for good sleep include:
- waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day
- building a relaxing activity into the bedtime routine, such as reading a book, listening to music, or meditating
- maintaining a cool, dark, and comfortable sleep environment
- leaving cell phones and other devices outside the bedroom
Other stress relieving activities that may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms include:
- massage therapy
- relaxation training
- magnetic therapies
- counseling or therapy
Most of these are safe to try, even if scientific evidence to support them is currently lacking. For treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture, people should check that the provider they choose has approved qualifications.
Can essential oils help relieve fibromyalgia? Find out here.
No single treatment can relieve or cure fibromyalgia, but making healthful dietary choices may help.
Ensuring that the diet contains a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables may be a good place to start.