Fibromyalgia has gotten more awareness over the last few years…if you were trying to get a diagnosis over 10 years ago many doctors would have likely told you that all of your symptoms were in your head. Fortunately today more doctors are aware of the condition, how to diagnose it properly or where to refer you for help.
For those that are newly diagnosed and for those that have known about their condition for years, there are a few things that you can do to help your symptoms….
a. Remove nightshades from your diet… what are nightshades? Nightshades are vegetables that contain higher levels of solanine. Solonine interferes with enzymatic processes in the muscles resulting in increased muscle cramping and pain. Nightshade vegetables include: tomatoes, white potatoes (sweet potatoes are fine…and most tolerate red skin and yellow skin fine; so just avoid white potatoes like Idaho Russet Potatoes), peppers, eggplant, paprika and tobacco. To understand how these foods are reacting in the body, the easiest way I know how to equate this to people is when someone walks past you that is smoking and you catch a whiff, most people note that they almost instantly get a headache, feel slightly nauseated, and feel generally achy…that can be attributed to that enzymatic reaction occurring when those enzymes are being blocked in the muscles. The foods listed above have the ability to do the same thing, it just takes longer for that reaction to occur with foods. Your sense of smell quickly triggers all kinds of reactions through the body, where as when you consume foods it takes time for the body to process and break down those foods before reactions are going to start occurring that the enzymatic level.
So, for most people suffering with fibromyalgia (or any rheumatic condition for that matter) it is best to avoid these foods. However, you can experiment with them some…after you’ve eliminated them from your diet for 3 days you can start to play with cooked tomatoes vs raw tomatoes; red tomatoes vs yellow tomatoes…some people notice they are much more sensitive to cooked tomatoes over raw, because of the higher acid content. Same goes for yellow and red tomatoes, many people notice they tolerate yellow tomatoes much better than red, again for the lower acid content. Peppers have some variation too, some people notice they tolerate red and yellow peppers better than green peppers…it’s all about listening to your body. If you start to hurt or notice brain fog 30 minutes to an hour after you ate, you probably ate something that you’re body didn’t care for. Keeping a food diary can help to narrow down those patterns.
b. Increase Intake of Sulfur containing foods… High sulfur foods help to increase absorption of calcium and also have been shown in some studies to help with pain. High sulfur foods are: eggs, asparagus, onions, and garlic.
c. WATER… water is crucial for health! Staying adequately hydrated allows for better bowel function, healthier muscles, better hydrated skin & organs (including your brain!), and can help with dry skin and eyes. 64 oz of water is the standard that you hear most…if you’re not used to drinking that much, start working toward it by tracking your daily water intake and slowly increase it every day. I’ve been tracking my water intake for years and I regularly get in about 90 oz of water per day.
a. Fish Oil…fish oil is anti-inflammatory. Because it is a fatty acid it also lubricates the joints, helps to moisturize the skin, helps with dry eyes, and can help with digestive function. In addition to those benefits, fish oil is also known to help to lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, help with heart health, help with brain function (including hyperactivity and attention), and some research even shows that fish oil can help with depression.
There are lots of fish oils out on the market, but not all are equal. When you are shopping for fish oil, you should be aware that there are two types…ethyl ester based and triglyceride based. Ethyl ester based fish oils are made through chemical synthesis…aka they’re man made. Triglyceride based fish oils are derived from the natural oils occurring in fish.
Ethyl ester based fish oils are cheaper, so these are the forms that you will find readily available in big box stores. This form of fish oil is know to be highly unstable, which means in can become rancid quite easily (and it’s nearly impossible for you to tell if its rancid or not without running tests in a lab) and once they have turned they actually become inflammatory…which is the opposite of what we want.
Triglyceride fish oils are much more stable than their man-made counterparts…so, that means that they will remain anti-inflammatory and retain all of the other benefits listed much longer than the man-made version. And, there is a test you can do at home to see if your fish oil is ethyl ester or triglyceride based. If you take your fish oil capsule and cut it open and squirt it onto styrofoam, ethyl ester will dissolve the syrofoam where the triglyceride based will not. Now, there is a catch to this test, and that is that the FDA doesn’t actually regulate what is in supplements…meaning they can claim to have 1,000mg of fish oil per capsule when in fact it may only contain a 100mg and be diluted down with another oil…if this is the case, it may not dissolve the styrofoam.
So, your best bet is to buy fish oil from a trusted company that you can see third party test results from. My favorite fish oil is from Barlean’s, and the flavor I prefer is Orange Cream. They have other flavors, but that one is my favorite and it tastes like an orange dreamsicle with no fishy taste or smell…if you don’t believe me you can look it up on Amazon and other retailers and read the reviews. (The link embedded on Orange Cream will take you to a website you can purchase the product from…it’s the cheapest I’ve found it online, at 20% below retail).
b. Magnesium… Magnesium deficiency is one of the more common vitamin deficiencies. It can be caused from consumption of excess caffeine, some blood pressure medications, and antacids. Signs of deficiency include: muscle cramping, muscle pain, constipation, heart palpitations, anxiety, depression, headaches, migraines, and/or blood sugar imbalance. Another sign that your magnesium might be low is if you’re having trouble getting your potassium levels up. Magnesium can help you to sleep through the night better as well. My favorite is Natural CALM.
c. Sublingual B-12…if you’re suffering from Fibromyalgia, then unfortunately you also have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) as well…with chronic fatigue it can make it difficult to get through the day. B-12 can give you a nice energy boost without any adverse side effects. Sublingual B-12, whether liquid or dissolving tablet, is the best way to go over just a pill. You can take as much as you need, as it is water soluble so you don’t have to worry about getting too much in your system at once. I recommend most people actually start around 5,000 mcg and work your way up to a dose that feels right to you. Most sublingual B-12s work fine, but you have to watch the additives they put in there. If you are sensitive to food chemicals like Splenda, Aspartame, or sugar alcohols you will want to read the labels carefully as you’re shopping for B-12. The brand that I like is by a company called Natural Factors, theirs is free of artificial colors and sweeteners.
d. Vitamin D… Vitamin D deficiency can actually mimic fibromyalgia symptoms. Vitamin D deficiency is also primarily responsible for SAD (seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression) and prolonged deficiency has been linked to cancer in adults and breast cancer in women.
e. Melatonin… Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces to help you get a good night’s sleep…for some reason people with fibro either don’t produce enough or have a hard time assimilating it. So, I normally recommend supplementing it. In our office we actually carry a prolonged release melatonin that has been extremely effective in helping with achieving a better night’s sleep. Instead of releasing for just a couple of hours, ours releases for 6 hours. If you’re in our area you can stop by and pick some up. If not, you can try some others on the market but there aren’t many time released melatonins available…and I can’t speak for the quality of the others out there.
- Self Care
a. Epsom Salt Baths…Epsom salt baths can help to lower inflammation and also help with pain. Epsom salts are actually a type of magnesium, called magnesium sulfate, so it can actually help to raise your magnesium levels some, through soaking it in.
b. Exercise through stretching… when going through a fibro flare, your muscles tend to tighten up, so regular stretching can help to keep you a little more loose. Regular exercising and stretching has also been proven to help fibro patients with pain. Just take it easy, and increase your activity gradually.
c. Think Positive Thoughts… maintaining a positive attitude is everything…it effects the way you carry yourself and the way you feel.
If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me. If you’re in the area you can schedule an appointment with our Nurse Practitioner that specializes in fibromyalgia, no referral needed.