As the sun caresses the morning horizon, millions of Americans wake to the stark reality of chronic pain.
While many start their day with a rested mind and rejuvenated body, those with fibromyalgia (FM) face yet another day of pain and fatigue.
The Brazilian Journal of Rheumatology reports that 6.4 percent of the American population suffers from this incurable disease.
Globally, the crippling pain and debilitating fatigue affect up to 11.4 percent of the population.
Although anyone can develop fibromyalgia, the National Institutes of Health says females, especially middle-aged women, are prone to developing this disorder.
Unlike other chronic diseases, fibromyalgia isn’t a disease within itself. As the Arthritis Foundation puts it, FM is actually a collection of multiple symptoms, such as bodily pain, mood disturbances, neurological issues, and problems with memory and focus.
Want to learn more about fibromyalgia? Watch this informative video of Dr. Sean Mackey of the Stanford University Medical Center unveils the mysteries of this puzzling disease:
Okay, now that we’ve covered the harsh reality of fibromyalgia, it’s time to address the elephant in the room.
Can foods trigger flare-ups?
Before you pop a can of Pringles, because let’s be real, once you pop you can’t stop, let’s explore the connection between food and fibromyalgia triggers.
The Enigma of Pain – What’s the Role of Nutrition for Fibromyalgia Flare-Ups?
What we put in our body affects how it works. This simple truth is essential for everyone, but when diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it’s paramount for symptom management.
Because of its mysterious nature, identifying universal nutrition guidelines is complicated.
What we do know, according to Academic Press, is obesity directly influences flare-up severity and frequency.
This suggests lifestyle choices, such as remaining sedentary and consuming an unhealthy diet, may stimulate flare-ups. Interestingly, obese fibro patients who shed body fat simultaneously shed flare-up frequency and severity.
Without further ado, let’s explore what science says about foods and fibromyalgia.
The Forbidden Pantry – Exploring Fibromyalgia Food Triggers
Because fibro manifests differently from person to person, flare-up triggers also vary.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t similarities among patients. While the following list has been curated from the latest scientific reports, keep in mind your body may respond differently.
The Mirage of Sweetness – Aspartame
Who doesn’t have a sweet tooth? Sugar cravings are real, but if you’re watching your weight or have certain medical conditions, this deliciously sweet ingredient is trouble.
During the 1980s, the prayers of sugarholic were seemingly answered with aspartame.
Packaged in colorful wrapping, this artificial sweetener became a staple in homes, restaurants, and recipe books throughout the nation. With a sweetness level 200 times greater than sugar, the diet world rejoiced.
But, as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. As the medical community uncovered, the supposed harmless sweetener has a sour side.
To say aspartame is a controversial topic is an understatement. However, it’s impossible to ignore the findings of countless studies.
Also known as Acesulfame potassium, famed alternative medicine guru, Dr. Axe, cites studies linking aspartame to an increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even obesity.
However, those living in the realm of fibromyalgia are especially vulnerable. Like other side effects of aspartame, its connection to fibro symptoms isn’t considered conclusive. Even so, investigations into its potential are disturbing.
The information outlined in the journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology suggests its consumption can, for some patients, be the primary symptom trigger.
In the study, a woman who suffered from severe fibro pain and fatigue for a decade experienced a complete removal of symptoms once she stopped consuming aspartame.
Final Thoughts: Is aspartame a serious food trigger? While we can’t say for certain, evidence strongly suggests yes. If you consume aspartame, eliminate it from your diet and take note of your results.
The Loafing Truth – Gluten
Oh, there’s something magical about the smell of freshly baked bread. Its rich, comforting scent and delicious variations make it a staple in most diets. As difficult as this may be to hear, it may be the source of your fibro triggers.
Throughout the past several years, a bread war has broken out in the United States.
Gluten-free products have moved out of the incense-soaked shelves of natural stores, and into the fluorescent glow of national retailers.
What’s so bad about bread? For most people, except those with celiac disease, there’s very little harm in eating a dinner roll. However, fibro patients aren’t like most people. The culprit? Gluten.
In brief, gluten is a generalized term for a variety of wheat proteins. Without going into much detail, the Celiac Disease Foundation states gluten acts as structural support to help foods keep their shape.
That’s why bread isn’t the only problematic food. Gluten is used in everything from sauces, salad dressings, and pasta to food coloring, beer, and seasonings. Now that we got that out of the way, what’s the risk for fibro patients?
As research into fibromyalgia continues, certain trends regarding gluten and FM symptoms have manifested.
While patients with celiac disease are obviously triggered by this compound, data outlined in Rheumatology International offers a strong case against gluten.
Patients who consumed a gluten-free diet experienced “remarkable” improvements. In some cases, fibro symptoms were almost fully eliminated.
To demonstrate the potential risk of gluten, eight patients started eating gluten after abstaining. The result? Their fibro symptoms immediately returned.
Final Thoughts: Out of almost all foods, gluten appears to be the riskiest for fibromyalgia patients.
Even in those without celiac disease, gluten proteins seem to be the root cause of flare-ups.
Avoid gluten for several months and see how your body responds. You may be surprised to discover your morning toast could be causing.
The Shades of Pain – Nightshade Vegetables
Did you know over 2,500 vegetables are classified as nightshades? Some of the world’s most popular veggies, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers, belong to this sprawling family.
While they offer a host of beneficial compounds, they can also trigger serious FM flare-ups.
Does the thought of never eating french fries again fill you with terror? Before you rush out for one last binge, read what researchers have to say.
For years, researchers have warned arthritis patients about nightshades. But how can a vegetable, which should help the body, possibly trigger such painful flare-ups? The answer, according to Arthritis Today boils down to inflammation.
While susceptibility to nightshade triggers varies, preliminary evidence suggests a compound known as glycoalkaloid solanine is the culprit.
Classified as an alkaloid, it’s shown to have pro-inflammatory qualities. Essentially, it encourages inflammation in certain people.
When dealing with an inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, any substance that encourages inflammation should be avoided.
But this raises the question, is this threat common enough to avoid tomatoes on your salad?
Unfortunately, we don’t know. What is known doesn’t suggest this food is a monumental trigger. However, as stated above, fibro sufferers must avoid anything that promotes inflammation.
As Kent Holorf, M.D. of the Holtorf Medical Group Center states, some may experience significant pain relief while others may not.
Final Thoughts: Talk to your doctor about the potential triggers of nightshades. Like any other food on this list, the only way to know is to abstain and observe.
It’s possible for only one member of the nightshade family to trigger inflammation. For example, tomatoes may cause a serious response while potatoes may be harmless.
Dietary Restrictions for an Unrestricted Life – Conclusion
The food you eat plays an invaluable role in more than just your waistline. From boosting overall health to destroying it, we really are what we eat.
In the realm of fibromyalgia management, food isn’t just nourishment or pleasure. It’s the difference between actually living or blandly existing.
As science continues its investigation into the intricacies of this chronic condition, be prepared for a slew of recommendations.
For example, the Nutritional and Functional Foods for Healthy Aging journal suggests micronutrient deficiencies can lead to increased flare-ups.
But in almost the same breath, the authors suggest there isn’t enough evidence to support this claim.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and your doctor to determine what foods trigger your unique situation.
While conflicting and consistently changing information is an unending reality, all’s not lost.
Taking care of your body, losing excess body fat, and remaining positive play an undeniable role in fibromyalgia control.
Remember, we may not choose the cards we’re dealt. But we do control how they’re played.