What Foods Trigger Fibromyalgia Pain?

Reviewed on 5/6/2021
fibromyalgia diet
Foods that trigger fibromyalgia pain may include processed foods and refined carbohydrates

Foods that trigger fibromyalgia pain vary from one person to the next, and what may worsen your symptoms may not have the same effect on someone else. To figure out what foods to avoid, you may want to try an elimination diet and keep a detailed food diary to track your symptoms. 

In general, foods that are low in nutritional value are likely to have a negative impact on your health. Below is a list of common foods to avoid if you suffer from fibromyalgia.

Processed foods

Many processed foods contain preservatives and large amounts of salt, sugar and fat which can trigger food sensitivities and inflammation.

Processed foods often have a lot of additives (excitotoxins) that can worsen some symptoms of fibromyalgia. Excitotoxins include:

Research has shown that fibromyalgia patients who stopped consuming MSG and aspartame experienced great reduction in painful symptoms. The symptoms returned when substances were reintroduced in their diets.

Gluten

Studies have shown that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying cause of fibromyalgia. Patients who followed a gluten-free diet reported improvements such as pain reduction and quality of life.

Refined carbohydrates

While there is little evidence linking sugar to fibromyalgia pain, reducing intake of refined carbohydrates such as white rice and bread can help reduce symptoms. 

Refined carbohydrates can aggravate pain because these foods are digested very quickly, causing blood sugar levels to spike and then drop. The body converts refined white flour into sugars, which promote fatigue, disrupt sleep patterns and increase pain. Eating foods made of refined flour can also contribute to weight gain, placing additional stress on the joints and muscles. Whole wheat or almond flour are great alternatives to white flour.

Oily, fried foods

Because corn oil, sunflower oil and other vegetable oils often have inflammatory effects on the body, foods fried in these oils may worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. It’s important to avoid foods containing unhealthy oils and fats, including pizza, cheese, cookies, doughnuts and other junk foods. 

Alcohol

In some research studies, low to moderate alcohol use helped to ease symptoms in some patients, while causing flare-ups in others.

Excessive alcohol use can lead to depression and anxiety. It can also interact adversely with medications prescribed for fibromyalgia.

Caffeine

Because caffeine can increase the heart rate and blood pressure, placing additional strain on muscle tissue, fibromyalgia patients should avoid caffeinated foods and beverages.

Red meat

Saturated fats in red meat interfere with proper circulation and increase pain sensitivity. They also contribute to fatigue, making it difficult for patients with fibromyalgia to get the exercise they need to promote muscle flexibility and range of motion.

Nightshade fruits and vegetables

Studies have shown that 74%-90% of people with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia experienced increased inflammation and pain after eating nightshade family fruits or vegetables. These include tomatoes, bell peppers, white potatoes, eggplant, chilies and paprika.

Dairy products

Many people with and without fibromyalgia are lactose-intolerant and experience bloating and gas after consuming milk or other dairy products. Eating a dairy-free diet may help reduce some of these symptoms.

What are treatment options for fibromyalgia?

Lyrica (pregabalin) is an FDA-approved drug that can be used to treat fibromyalgia. Other drugs include:

Painkillers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Antidepressants

  • These drugs help elevate levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the central nervous system and can help with depression, in addition to pain and fatigue.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants taken at bedtime in doses lower than those required to treat depression can help promote restorative sleep, relax painful muscles and heighten the effects of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers). 
  • Other antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can reduce fatigue and some other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia if taken in low doses.
  • A combination of the tricyclic and the SSRI fluoxetine may relieve symptoms more effectively than either drug alone.

Benzodiazepines

  • Valium may be prescribed to help relax tense, painful muscles and stabilize erratic brain waves that can interfere with deep sleep.
  • These drugs can also relieve symptoms of restless leg syndrome, which is common in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Because of the potential for addiction, doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepines only when other drugs have not worked.

SLIDESHOW

Fibromyalgia Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment See Slideshow

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References
Nutritional medicine treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome: http://nutritionmedicine.org/what-is/what-is-fibromyalgia/natural-treatments-for-fibromyalgia/

Fibromyalgia and Nutrition: http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/fibromyalgia-diet/

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