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What to Eat if You Have Fibromyalgia

Can the foods you eat improve or worsen your fibromyalgia symptoms?

Medically reviewed in September 2020

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Can the foods you eat help your fibromyalgia symptoms? Possibly. The scientific evidence for nutrition-as-pain-therapy isn't quite there yet, and there is no single diet specifically prescribed to treat the condition. Still, studies suggest many people with fibromyalgia could benefit somewhat by changing what they’re eating. Here’s the evidence on foods and nutrients that may help tame pain, fatigue and other symptoms of fibro.

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ENJOY FRESH PRODUCE

Oxidative stress occurs when helpful antioxidants and harmful free radicals become imbalanced within your body. It happens more often in people with fibromyalgia, and is thought to play a role in the development of the condition, as well as many others. This suggests that eating lots of fruits and vegetables could be a smart move for people with fibro. Produce is full of antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress.

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CONSIDER CAFFEINE SENSITIVITY

There's no evidence that caffeine aggravates fibromyalgia. But too much of the stuff can cause dips and spikes in energy throughout the day. It can also give you the jitters, exacerbate stomach troubles and make it hard to sleep. So, you might want to nix the java or keep it to a morning ritual if you have caffeine sensitivity. If you think caffeine could be causing you trouble, try weaning yourself over a few days and track your symptoms in a journal.

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SKIP THE SUGARY TREATS

Cutting back on sugary desserts, candy, fructose-sweetened beverages and simple carbs, such as refined pasta and bread, may not affect your fibro. But it may help you sidestep hypoglycemia. This is the fatigue-inducing dip in blood sugar that can happen when people overindulge in foods with a high glycemic index (like sugar-filled snacks).

Some studies suggest that people with fibromyalgia may have an impaired ability to produce the hormones necessary to keep blood sugar stable. So, avoiding hypoglycemia is extra important for fibro patients.

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AVOID SWEETENERS AND ADDITIVES

There is little to no evidence that artificial sweeteners used in sugar-free beverages and packaged foods actually worsen fibromyalgia. But in a handful of case studies, nixing aspartame improved or eliminated fibro pain and fatigue. And some experts suggest that certain food additives, such as the flavor-enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), might make living with fibromyalgia more difficult by triggering unpleasant symptoms or side effects. More research is needed, but you can talk to your healthcare provider (HCP) about an elimination diet if you'd like to see if food additives may be affecting your symptoms.

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WATCH FOR FOODS THAT UPSET YOUR GUT

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sometimes accompanies fibromyalgia. If you have frequent gastric upset—such as constipation, diarrhea, painful gas or abdominal bloating—ask your HCP whether you could have IBS. If so, learn to avoid foods and habits that trigger your symptoms. High-fat foods, caffeine and alcohol are frequent culprits. You may also want to ask your HCP about a low-FODMAP diet, which some studies have found to benefit people with IBS. FODMAPs are a kind of carbohydrate that can be tough to digest; high-FODMAP foods include wheat and beans.

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USE YOUR SYMPTOMS JOURNAL

Tracking your diet in a daily symptoms journal can help you and your HCP better discern what foods may be causing your fibro issues, and what foods seem to help. Devise a tracking system that feels easy and works best for you. You might consider using an app, a spreadsheet, a journal or a daily planner. Track all of your activities, feelings, stress levels and fibromyalgia treatments there, as well.

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