A sensitivity to pain is a well-known common symptom of fibromyalgia. Many symptoms can be made worse with a poor diet. Following an anti-inflammatory diet and being aware of food sensitivities can help people with fibromyalgia get the most out of their food while avoiding symptom flare-ups.
Foods Likely to Make Fibromyalgia Symptoms Worse:
According to Arthritis-Health.com, the following foods may make symptoms worse by increasing inflammation.
Processed foods. Sugar and unhealthy fats, which increase inflammation, are a large part of many processed foods. Flavorings and preservatives commonly used in processed foods also may trigger food sensitivities.
Unhealthy fats. Vegetable oils, such as corn oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil, have an inflammatory effect, especially when used to fry food. The medical literature has linked fried foods to worsening of fibromyalgia symptoms. Unhealthy oils are a common ingredient in many processed foods, such as cookies, doughnuts, and crackers. Pizza and cheese are also major sources of unhealthy fats.
Alcohol. While some research has found moderate alcohol use can ease symptoms,4 some people with fibromyalgia report alcohol causes symptoms to flare. Drinking alcohol while taking certain medications prescribed for fibromyalgia—such as anti-convulsants, antidepressants, and acetaminophen (an ingredient in many medications) could cause harmful interactions.
Sugar. Reducing or eliminating sugar can have a significant impact on health for two reasons. First, the medical literature has shown that eating foods high in sugar is linked to increased fibromyalgia pain.1Second, limiting sugar helps control weight. Being overweight puts extra stress on the body, contributing to fatigue, and stored fat may lead to inflammation in some cases. Sugar is a well-known ingredient in candy and soft drinks, but is also in foods considered to be healthy—such as yogurt. When checking nutrition labels, it is helpful to know that glucose, fructose, and sucrose are other names for sugar.
Carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates such as cookies, many breads, pastries, and white rice are digested quickly, causing blood sugar levels to spike. The effect does not last, however, and blood sugar soon drops, making the individual hungry again. These fluctuations can make the fatigue and pain of fibromyalgia worse and contribute to overeating.2When eating carbohydrates, whole wheat sources should be chosen. Whole wheat foods digest more slowly, avoiding the highs and lows that occur with other carbohydrates.
One small research study focused on women diagnosed with fibromyalgia who also had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and a food intolerance. (Many people with fibromyalgia also have irritable bowel syndrome.)When the women cut back on eating a specific group of carbohydrates, they reported a 50% reduction in irritable bowel symptoms and a 22% decrease in other symptoms, including pain. The restricted carbohydrates were a type not well absorbed in the small intestine. Such carbohydrates include lactose (an ingredient in milk and other dairy foods), fructose (in some fruits and vegetables, honey, and other sweeteners), and grains.
At our Pain Management Clinic in Chandler, AZ, APEX can offer several procedures to help treat the pain symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Trigger Point Injections are most commonly used for those who experience muscle pain. We may also recommend physical therapy and or other procedures depending on your unique profile of symptoms.
Curcuma longa, Curcuma domestica
Origin: A yellow-colored powder ground from the root of the turmeric plant. The turmeric plant grows in India and Indonesia and is related to the ginger family (it is a common ingredient in curries). Curcumin is a key chemical in turmeric.
Claims: Reduces pain, inflammation and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA); treats bursitis. Known as a cleansing agent, turmeric often is used as a digestive aid in India.
What we know: Traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis turmeric/curcumin blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the target of celecoxib (Celebrex).
Studies: Several recent studies show that turmeric/curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and modifies immune system responses. A 2006 study showed turmeric was more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation.
A 2010 clinical trial found that a turmeric supplement called Meriva (standardized to 75 percent curcumin combined with phosphatidylcholine) provided long-term improvement in pain and function in 100 patients with knee OA.
In a small 2012 pilot study, a curcumin product called BCM-95 reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active RA better than diclofenac, an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
Dosage: Capsules, extract (more likely to be free of contaminants) or spice. For OA: Capsule, typically 400 mg to 600 mg, three times per day; or 0.5 g to 1 g of powdered root up to 3 g per day. For RA: 500 mg twice daily.
“Curcumin makes up only about 2 to 6 percent of turmeric, so be sure to check the standardized amount of curcumin,” advises Randy Horowitz, MD, medical director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
Foods that cause inflammation
Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
- French fries and other fried foods
- soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
- margarine, shortening, and lard
The health risks of inflammatory foods
Not surprisingly, the same foods on an inflammation diet are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats. Inflammation can cause pain or make chronic pain worse which is why it is important to maintain a healthy diet while participating in a pain management program.
Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn’t the sole driver. “Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake,” Dr. Hu says.
An anti-inflammatory diet should include these foods:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- nuts like almonds and walnuts
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods
On the flip side are beverages and foods that reduce inflammation, and with it, chronic disease, says Dr. Hu. He notes in particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.
Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.
To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life,” Dr. Hu says.
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When you’re looking for the best pain doctor, Chandler is home to two of Arizona’s premier pain specialists – Dr. Maziar Massrour and Dr. Naveen Reddy. These two highly sought after Arizona pain specialists are double-board-certified and have been recognized as Phoenix Magazine’s Top Pain Management Doctors.