Forbidden Foods for Fibromyalgia

fruit salad February was a tumultuous month. March wasn’t much better as end of the year accounting, contract deadlines and tax calculations were on the menu.  I became stressed out, failed to get enough sleep, and didn’t monitor my diet as well as I should have. The result was a fibromyalgia flare-up from which I am now recovering.

We do know that eating a balanced diet of whole foods helps everyone’s body function at its best but there’s little scientific evidence to support any single diet for all of those with fibromyalgia.  There are many dietary approaches and that’s not surprising given the fibromylagia syndrome manifests in a wide variety of associated conditions and symptoms.

People with fibromyalgia need to take extra care to eat well.  It’s important to eat more raw fruits and vegetables because they contain enzymes that assist digestion, and are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help boost the immune system.
Calcium is key for strong bones, but Japanese researchers have identified that Vitamin K, found in broccoli, spinach, and other dark leafy greens, helps calcium deposit in the bones, making them denser. The stronger your bones, the stronger your whole body becomes.

legumes Foods affect the body’s inflammation response and different foods affect each individual differently.  Some  people with fibromylagia have severe food allergies to certain foods or food groups like dairy, wheat, corn, nightshade family plants, etc. whereas others do not.  For example, legumes trigger Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in me.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is characterized by stomach cramping, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation, is a common symptom of fibromyalgia.  IBS can be triggered by stress, hormonal changes, certain foods, or even antibiotics, and it can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes.

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is an inflammation of the bladder, and people with any autoimmune disease such as fibromyalgia, scleroderma, lupus, or Sjögren’s Syndrome are more susceptible to interstitial cystitis.  Cranberry juice helps prevent urinary tract infections.

There are no specific food rules for people with fibromyalgia but there are seven food groups to consider avoiding to improve your life.

1. Aspartame (NutraSweet) can exacerbate pain. Other artificial sweeteners such as splenda, saccharin, and stevia do not appear to have the same effect as aspartame.

2.  Food additives including MSG (monosodium glutamate) and nitrates can intensify pain.

3.  Sugar, fructose, and simple carbohydrates. There is no clear evidence that cutting out simple carbohydrates like sugar, cake, or white bread will have an impact on fibromyalgia. What it can do is reduce symptoms of chronic yeast infection, help reduce fatigue and some of the related pain.

4. Caffeine including coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate are false sources  of energy that quickly exacerbate fatigue.  It’s recommended that coffee, chocolate, soda and alcohol be completely eliminated from the diet.

5.  Yeast and gluten. Yeast is suspected of fostering overgrowth of the yeast fungus which may cause or exacerbate joint and muscle pain.  Gluten intolerance results in a variety of stomach ailments and other digestive problems and is also associated with fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia.

6.  Dairy products do contain calcium to build bones and protein to build muscle but some people with fibromyalgia may experience and increase in symptoms from consuming dairy products.

7.  Nightshade Plants: Tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant are nutritious plants that some believe trigger flares of various types of arthritis, including fibromyalgia.

potatoes, tomatoes, peppersTaking charge of your diet

You can discover your own food sensitivity by experimenting with an elimination diet. Keep a food diary, track your pain and symptoms and  eliminate foods that trigger pain.  By comparing your diary to what’s known or suspected you may discover that certain foods may trigger allergies or pain.

The Elimination diet. This diet involves not eating foods that you think may be causing you to have an allergic reaction or symptom. You replace the food with another source of the same nutrients. For example, if you think corn is causing you a problem, you replace corn with another carbohydrate, such as rice. If allergy symptoms go away after the food is taken out of your diet, and then they come back when the food is eaten again, a diagnosis may be made. This diet is generally done with the guidance of a doctor or a dietitian.

The Rotation Diet.This diet is useful for you if you have allergies to a variety of foods. Ideally, you eat foods you are not allergic to on a 4-day rotation basis. This allows your body a recovery period before the same food is eaten again. It also reduces the likelihood of you developing an allergy to more foods. This diet can be quite restrictive, and it is generally done with the guidance of a doctor or dietitians.

Educating yourself about how your body reacts to different foods so you can  practice good nutrition and create a diet that works for you is the best thing you can do yourself  to treat fibromyalgia.   Sticking to the diet that’s best for you is the hard part. But if first you don’t succeed — try — try again.

Related posts found in this blog:

Coping with Arthritis
Eat Healthy and Enjoy Life
Fibromyalgia Featured Posts

33 thoughts on “Forbidden Foods for Fibromyalgia

  1. Pingback: Farewell 2013 – Welcome 2014 | this time - this space

  2. Very informative and will help others to cope with this disorder. It is hard to imagine you have Fibromyalgia in that you always seem soooo refreshed and full of energy as reflected on your blog sites or when helping others to become webmasters in the forums. Glad you are recovering and wish you the best.
    Enjoy

    • Hi there,
      Your feedback is appreciated. I think I’m on I’m on the right track when it comes to coping with my condition by reducing triggering of symptoms rather than seeking cures for this as yet incurable syndrome.

  3. Hi:) Great list (and thank heavens I’m not affected by everything on it. . . could not LIVE without capsaicin therapy!) Just a heads up, I’m also sensitive to soy (and I know a couple other fms sufferers who are as well.) I Also wanted to point out that stevia is not an artificial sweetener. . .it’s natural, and I’m also sensitive to Splenda (no pain but it does evil things to my gut. . .) High Fructose Corn Syrup destroys me. All I can do if I accidentally ingest it is sit in a corner and shake and cry. If I avoid everything on my list (HFCS, MSG, Aspertame, Ace-K, Splenda, Gluten, Soy) I can operate at a continuous pain level of 1-2 (fine by me) with very infrequent flares. Elimination trials/challenges are invaluable for figuring out which things to avoid, and what things one is “allowed” to consume.

    • Like you I’m not sensitive to everything on the list and like you I’m also sensitive to soy and corn products as well. I don’t think most people know that corn and soy beans are genetically modified. When it comes to sensitivities I wonder if that is a factor or not.

      GE varieties of corn, soya, sugar beets and canola have become common local crops in Canada. In addition to locally produced crops, GE varieties of cottonseed oil, papaya, squash and milk products are imported from the USA into Canada. In a mere 20 years, GMO ingredients have made their way into most of the processed foods available on Canadian grocery shelves.http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/understanding-gmo/?gclid=CIzg7pf517kCFbCDQgodVlMAyg

  4. I’m 16 and have recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I believe I had it for about a year before I was diagnosed. My energy level is always about zero and the pain level may vary but never really goes away, it never goes below five on a scale of 1-10. I will definitely try to eliminate these foods.

  5. Hi there!
    This paper has been sent to me quite by accident. I have just read through the one part about diet etc as relalted to Fibromylagia. I am recently diagnosed and have felt strongly that diet has a lot to do with exacerbating pain and symptoms. Have done much research and to no avail.
    This is, by far, the best and most complete informative writing for exactly what I have been searching for.
    Thanks so much for all of the sharing, suggestions and advice. I will look forward to more articles from time to time to help me through this unfortunate ailment.
    Thank you very much to all!
    Rita G. Jonas

  6. I really like your approach, sensible and informative. I have eliminated most of these ingredients over the years without a fibro diagnosis as I realised how terrible they made me feel. The best thing I can do for my self each morning is have about 1 litre of green smoothie, has really helped with my immune system, energy levels and digestion.

    • Hello there,
      By the time I was diagnosed like you I had already noted which foods caused my symptoms to increase and which didn’t. I went through on elimination diet, kept a food diary and tracked my pain and symptoms and gradually eliminated the ones that caused inflammation. For awhile I drank green smoothies for breakfast. These days I drink them as snacks instead. I drink lots of water and green tea every day. http://thistimethisspace.com/2010/03/02/you-are-what-you-drink/

  7. I have fibromyalgia plus I.B.S and through trial and error have eliminated most of the 7 foods on your list. I say “most” because I can’t do without coffee. I guess the sleeping problems means I’m tired when I wake up so have to have a cuppa coffee in the morning.
    I was so interested to see the nightshade vegetables on the list. I stopped eating them years ago and don’t miss them but every now and then I’ll have a little bit of tomato.

  8. Wow – It’s amazing how food affects everyone! I have a friend with fibromyalgia and I will be recommending this blog to her….knowledge is power! Have a great day and this blog is as lovely as your other one!

  9. Very helpful article. I suffer from arthritis and have intense nerve pain, especially at night. I know you’re spot on about what foods to avoid; I’ve tried it! I used to get migrane headaches from aspartame. I still can’t give up my coffee and caffeine, though.

    • Hello Carol,
      Your artwork is fabulous. I’m so sorry for hear about your nerve pain. I drink the occasional cup of coffee but I don’t go near any food products with additives at all. I know from years ago that they will make me sick and I have quite enough to cope with without self-inflicting misery. Best wishes. :)

  10. Interesting article and responses. I wonder if you could address osteoarthritus and foods that may help to alleviate the pain to some extent as well as foods that may bring on the pain. Thanks.
    My best.

    • Dear Count,
      I’m not up on diets for those with osteoarthritis but after I complete my current contracted research and writing work I will do some researching and see what I can find.

      May you and your wife enjoy a wonderful long weekend. :)

  11. Hello Timethief
    The question of diet has been of particular interest to me for the last four years and as you so rightly say, each case is different and we need to tailor our own particular diet to suit our individual needs and requirements.

    In my particular case, because of other radical health issues, as well as fibromyalgia, diet has played a large part in the recovery process and has mostly been on a trial and error basis. Because I no longer have a stomach as this was stretched to form a new oesophagus, food now passes quickly into the large intestine, which can lead to dumping syndrome, causing heavy sweating, nausea, palpitations, stomach cramps and fatigue. Certain foods from your list can trigger this, mostly sweet things and especially chocolate. Fortunately, ice cream seems to be the exception and has a soothing effect, so this forms quite a portion of my diet.

    Related to the same issue is acid reflux where all fruit, with the exception of bananas and watermelon, trigger such bad acid attacks that it can cause severe vomiting and blisters in my mouth. Also, my body can no longer assimilate the essential vitamin B12 from food or supplements, necessitating a twelve weekly B12 injection.

    But all is not lost! I might sound like a wreck, but I’m not. I’ve found that a Mediterranean diet works fantastically well for my own requirements, and instead of eating three large meals a day, I tend to eat four or five much smaller ones, about a tea plate size, as I get full very suddenly and very quickly, with no prior warning. The Mediterranean diet is based upon olive oil, used for cooking and salad dressings, fish, chicken, fresh vegetables, salads, rice and pulses, cereal and a little dairy. Very rarely do I eat red meat and processed food, which may or may not trigger any of those symptoms above, whilst all barbequed food is simply not a good idea and completely off the menu.

    Thank you for highlighting the specific categories, I can certainly identify the triggers there in my own case and the ones that actually help, and I’m sure that this topic will be very helpful to others who suffer from fibromyalgia. It’s my firm belief that most things, if not all, can be remedied by diet and good nutrition.
    Best wishes to you timethief and a Happy Easter to All.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your health issues. But I’m also encouraged to hear that you are taking care of yourself. I’m very much aware of the Mediterranean diet. It pretty well sums up what my husband and I eat.

      Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterranean-diet/CL00011

      Have a lovely long weekend.

      P.S. All barbequed food has been off our menu for years now.

  12. Aspartame can cause poisoning, so it should be avoided, better avoid diet coke and diet * drinks. Some information: http://www.sweetpoison.com/aspartame-information.html

    Also I have read that US airforce do not let their pilots to consume aspartame drinks before any flight. Aspartame has caused a lot of problems. Some info: http://www.thenhf.com/article.php?id=2627
    monosodium glutamate has toxic effect, regular intake rises the probability of cancer. Also MSG has a very negative effect on the brain. Google would come up with some good information. Search link

    So these should be avoided, because in other words these are poisons which acts slow but permanent on human body, and a group of business men without letting us know the toxic effects are making money because they taste sweet.

    I prefer natural diet. Like here in eastern India we have various kinds of Rice, Dal, Curry, cottage cheese, chicken, mutton, breads, fish etc for everyday lunch and dinner. In snacks people have toast, with butter, cheese, different types of bread etc. But the down side is the fast food centers on the streets in the city. These food are making a very bad effect on the general people. They even could not feel that they are breaking down from the inside by repetitively consuming these fast foods. The worst part is that, one day you start to have problem and which a lot of times ends in serious diseases.

    Keep closer to the nature and you would be fine, and remember not to over do anything (like eat 20 of sausages etc.)

    Note: Probably there is a typo in point 4 where the string “sources source” appear.

    • @Phoxis
      Thanks so much for commenting here and for supplying the links re: Aspartame, MSG, etc. My husband and I do not drink soft drinks like Coke, etc. We drink a lot of decaffeinated green tea and water. We ars suspicious of any foods that aren’t whole foods and especially of any that are not locally grown. I’m so glad we had that attitude because is meant we didn’t consume the se awful food additives.

      Thanks for sharing what you eat in eastern India. somehow it does not surprise me that fast food is not good for us not matter which country we encounter it in. Lastly, thanks for telling me about the typos. I fixed it. :) As you know I’m visually challenged. I’m working on a keyboard that has no lettering on the keys and I did not learn how to touch type before I had a vision problem so I miss seeing these things.

      Best wishes to you. :)

  13. TT, I am so sorry to hear that you have not been well. Hope you feel better soon.

    I absolutely agree that diet is the most important thing for CFS or Fibromyalgia, or any other chronic illness. It is almost the only thing that make progress for my health improvement for these half year. However, for many Chinese people, or other oriental people, raw vegs is very hard for our weak stomach. I tried during 2009 for several months and it finally brought huge problem and take another half year to recover. Now every time I tried raw vegs my stomach malfunction would occur. But I am sure, it is extreme healthy, when my stomach completely recovered I would still be able to have some salads once a while.

    Thanks for your valuable information!

    • Dear Yun Yi,
      Please accept my apology for waiting so long for me to reply to you. I have been growing sprouts and greens for many years. These last few years I have been growing them in containers on my deck. I’m sorry that raw vegetables are hard on your stomach. I eat very small meals and I eat frequently. My husband refers to me as a grazer … lol :D. Over the years I have been able to eat more raw vegetables and fruits but I do so in very small amounts. I wonder if small portions would be workable for you.

      Thanks so much for your well wishes. I was so happy to read elsewhere that your health is improving. I’m not surprised if the 7 food groups are also problematic for anyone who has an autoimmune disease.

      Best wishes. :)

  14. I’m so glad you wrote this article. A family member of mine was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and any information I can pass along to her helps. Thank you so much!!

  15. time-thief,

    I’m so glad you are addressing food and fibromyalgia. I personally believe that specific foods often – but not always – trigger pain in susceptible people. But the trigger foods can vary enormously. You’ve recommended the best approach – an elimination diet – to try to suss out which foods may be contraindicated for you. The 4 day rotation diet can also be extremely helpful in reducing problems and highlighting foods you are sensitive too.

    The sad thing is that most people never make the connection between food and pain. And it’s not something that doctors talk about. So some live with pain unnecessarily. But it’s also not always easy to sort out which foods are the problem. It really takes focus and determination, but the end result can be so positive.

    I came across a book called Foods that Fight Pain early in the course of my pain symptoms. This helped me make the connection and find foods that are triggers for me, which include gluten and dairy among others.

    Thanks for the informative article. I’m sure it will encourage others to explore new avenues for healing.

    • Hello Sandra,
      I also share your belief that certain foods can and do trigger pain in susceptible people. They certainly do in me and it doesn’t take much to throw my whole system out of whack. I have such a sensitive constitution that the very small deviations from my diet, combined with low- grade stress, and sleepless nights I referred to in my introductory paragraph threw me right out of balance. One would think after 20 years of self-management of my health that I would have noticed I was off-track much earlier than I did but I didn’t.

      Years ago in consultation with a Nutritionist and Dietician I sussed out which food were triggers for me, used both the Elimination and 4 day Rotation Diets and found out what I needed to know. I’m not triggered by either dairy products or gluten. I’m sorry that you are but it’s good knowing that you know, if you know what I mean. ;) I’m triggered by legumes and by nightshades. If I am so ill-advised as to eat the latter frequently or to eat multiple nightshades in the same day or even week I suffer miserably. I never touch a morsel of food containing MSG, aspartame or the zillions of unnecessary additives that are found in the dubious items labeled as “foods” these days.

      P.S. Thanks so much for drawing my attention to that book which I will order through interlibrary loan.

    • Hello Theresa,
      I’m glad you found this post to be helpful. Although we are all different and different foods have different effects on different people these 7 food groups are problematic for many people who have arthritis, fibromylagia or other autoimmune diseases. There are even people who have Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) who are incorrectly diagnosed. This is why I believe that we ought to take the initiative to use the Elimination Diet and determine which foods are triggering and/or contributing to our inflammation and pain.

      Thanks for your visit.

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