Fibromyalgia diet: Does diet affect fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia diet: Does diet affect fibromyalgia?
  • PublishedDecember 7, 2020

In this article, we shall be looking at the fibromyalgia diet, how the diet works, the food to eat and that to avoid while on this particular diet. But before all that, let us have a simple overview of the fibromyalgia condition, the causes of fibromyalgia, and how it is diagnosed.

What is fibromyalgia, causes, and how it is tested?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by general muscle and joint pain. It comes along with fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. According to scholars, fibromyalgia distorts the way our brain and spinal interpret painful and non-pain signals, leading to increased pain.

The National Institute of Health estimates 5 million American adults and most of which are women to have fibromyalgia. Researchers don’t know the cause and instead give theories that are believed to cause this condition. These among others include genetic factors, infection, trauma, and stress.

There is no lab test or imaging scan to detect this condition. The doctors look at symptoms like musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, and more which they can attach to fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia has no cure. The effort is put into minimizing symptoms and improving health in general. Among the efforts are medication, exercise, and the fibromyalgia diet. Let us now cross to the fibromyalgia diet, which is the main focus of this article.

What is a fibromyalgia diet?

The fibromyalgia diet is not a standard treatment for fibromyalgia. However, it is that diet that focuses on lifestyle and dietary changes that can help to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Eating or avoiding specific foods has a major impact on the symptoms of this condition.

How does the fibromyalgia diet work/how does it affect fibromyalgia?

Although no diet works for everyone, it is common knowledge that healthy eating has a positive impact on overall health. In the same manner, what you eat has a role to play in how different people experience fibromyalgia. Diet can either trigger flare-ups or provide relief.

The main symptoms of fibromyalgia are widespread pain, cognitive problems (fibro fog), energy loss (fatigue), headaches, stiffness, poor sleep, and IBS. So the diet works by managing these and several other symptoms.

Below are some of the lifestyle and dietary changes to make on fibromyalgia eating.

1. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet

Research shows that an anti-inflammatory diet can help chronic pain. The diet gives you guidelines to make suitable food choices. The diet can help inflammation of the joints, joint degeneration, and pain it causes.

2. Focus on a plant-based diet (vegan diet, dash diet, Mediterranean, etc.)

These top the list of the best diets. Plant-based diets are heart-healthy and emphasize foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil.

These diets have low fat and protein, and rich in fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, and antioxidants which help to fight free radicals. Free radicals lead to oxidative stress and inflammation.

3. Maintaining a healthy weight

Fibromyalgia sufferers are also faced with obesity, which increases the risk of inflammation and oxidative stress. A healthy diet will keep your weight under control.

According to the study published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology, it was indicated that fibromyalgia sufferers who were obese had a better life after weight loss. They also experienced less pain, depression, fewer tender points, and slept better after weight loss.

We have a detailed article on how to maintain a healthy weight. You can get it here.

4. Eat for energy

Fibromyalgia makes people feel extremely tired (fatigued) Eating energy giving foods throughout the day can help in this situation

5. Exercise

The American Academy of Family Physicians indicates that 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day twice or thrice a week may help fatigue and other fibromyalgia symptoms. Other exercises may include; weightlifting, yoga, evening walks, and jogging.

Always talk to a yoga instructor about adapting poses to suit your health condition.

6. Work on your sleep patterns

Regular and quality sleep can help to manage fibromyalgia symptoms. Sleep can help stress, overweight, and pain. All you need is a comfortable sleeping environment, avoid cell phones and related devices during bedtime, plus waking up and going to bed at the same time every day.

Did you know that sleep can help weight loss? Here is all you need to know about sleep and weight loss.

The food to eat on the fibromyalgia diet

Here, the focus is put on foods that can offer relief from fibromyalgia symptoms and avoiding those foods that may worsen the symptoms.

The foods to eat on a fibromyalgia diet include;

1. Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables have a range of important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These include;

  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Spinach

2. Whole grains

Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, and protein.

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Wheat

3. Healthful oils

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Canola
  • Safflower oil
  • peanut oil
  • sesame oil

4. Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices contain antioxidants which are good at reducing inflammation.

  • Turmeric
  • Bay leaves
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger

5. Vitamin D

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicated that there is a relationship between fibromyalgia symptoms and vitamin D deficiency.

Foods high in vitamin D include;

  • Fortified foods like fat spreads and breakfast cereals
  • Egg yolks
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Orange juice
  • Tuna
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Liver
  • Oily fish like salmon, sardines, herrings, and mackerel

Although vitamin D food sources may not help every fibromyalgia sufferer, they help to build strong bones and teeth.

The foods to avoid

Some ingredients or types of food may trigger or worsen fibromyalgia. These include;

1. Meat and dairy products

Limit the intake of meat and dairy products because many contain saturated fat. You can try low-fat dairy alternatives like soy milk. Likewise, go slow on red meat. Instead, opt for turkey, and fish. Eating red meat regularly can lead to a higher risk of heart disease.

2. Additives

Food additives called excitotoxins like monosodium glutamate and aspartame can trigger or worsen fibromyalgia symptoms.

A 2012 research found that fibromyalgia sufferers with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) cut back on MSG and aspartame had a 30% reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms and the symptoms resurfaced when they consumed the additives again.

3. Gluten

A 2014 study indicated that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may be an underlying cause of fibromyalgia. According to the study, out of the 20 fibromyalgia sufferers who avoided glute, Fifteen people stopped having widespread, chronic pain, and three were able to stop using opioids altogether.

Another 2017 research revealed that fibromyalgia sufferers who had gluten sensitivity responded well to a gluten-free diet.

However, people should know that cutting out major food groups like gluten can lead to a low intake of fiber and other nutrients.


This stands for fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols. These are carbohydrates fermented by gut bacteria in the digestive tract. According to research, it was found that fibromyalgia sufferers had improved symptoms and lost weight on a low-FODMAP diet.

Fibromyalgia and weight loss: Why is it hard to lose weight with fibromyalgia?

Research shows that most fibromyalgia sufferers are overweight or obese. Much as losing weight is necessary to improve the symptoms and manage the illness, losing weight with fibromyalgia is hard due to the aspects of the conditions, which include;

Difficult sticking to a diet

Because of the pain and fatigue, going to a grocery store to get healthy foods of your choice or cooking a healthy meal becomes difficult. Fibromyalgia sufferers end up making poor food choices, thereby making weight loss difficult.

Fluctuating symptoms

Fibromyalgia is full of flares and remissions. This means that in the morning, someone can be better but gets very ill in the evening. With this kind of ups and downs, getting into an exercise routine is technically hard. This definitely affects your level of fitness and hinders weight loss.

Activity intolerance

With fibromyalgia, when you stress the body during any form of activity for example walking, cleaning the house, having sex, shopping, and more, it can trigger a flare. That push-crush-push cycle makes exercise and weight loss practically impossible

What happens if fibromyalgia is left untreated?

Fibromyalgia affects all organs of the body including the heart, lungs, eyes, skin, muscles and joints, urinary and reproductive systems. If left untreated, you may descent into a spiral and increase your risk of paralysis.

Therefore, the earlier fibromyalgia pain is treated, the greater the chances of responding to some medical interventions.

Other non-dietary treatments for fibromyalgia

Like we saw above, fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic pain, fatigue, stress, depression, and related symptoms. Other interventions that may help to relieve or manage these symptoms include;

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation training
  • Homeopathy
  • Magnetic therapies
  • Counseling
Bottom line

The fibromyalgia diet is not a treatment but rather helps to relieve or manage the symptoms of this condition. Like we all know, healthy eating has a positive impact on overall health. The diet, therefore, concentrates on eating foods that manage the symptoms while avoiding food triggers.

People leaving with Fibromyalgia should eat a diet that’s high in lean protein and fiber, and lower in carbohydrates. Foods that help fibromyalgia include fruits with a low glycaemic index, vegetables, and whole grains. These improve energy levels and overall health.


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