By Lynne Matallana
Excerpt is from “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fibromyalgia” - Chapter 16, “Healthy Lifestyle Changes: Exercise and Diet”
Many people with fibromyalgia have overlapping conditions that require special diets. If you have been diagnosed with any of the following, take note of the dietary restrictions and suggestions.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If is estimated that between 50 and 75 percent of people who have fibromyalgia also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS occurs in the large intestine and causes a group of symptoms including cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. The nerves and muscles in the bowel are extra-sensitive and even eating a large meal can initiate symptoms and cause pain. People suffering with this syndrome may benefit by avoiding the following foods: fats, fructose (the simple sugar found in honey and fruits), milk products, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated soft drinks. A high-fiber diet may improve symptoms of diarrhea and constipation.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the principal sugar of milk. This intolerance is caused by a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells that line the small intestine. When there is not enough lactase to digest the amount of lactose consumed, a person may suffer from nausea, cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Individuals with lactose intolerance need to limit their intake of milk and dairy products or take lactase enzymes that are available without a prescription.
It appears that small populations of people with fibromyalgia also have a digestive disorder called celiac disease (CD). CD is genetically predisposed and causes damage to the mucosal surface of the small intestine. This damage is the result of an immunologically toxic reaction to the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is a protein that is in all forms of wheat and related grains, rye, barley, triticale, and oats. CD can be diagnosed through a blood screening and a follow-up biopsy of the small intestine. People with CD must avoid eating all types of wheat and other noted grains.
People with fibromyalgia should pay attention to general nutritional needs, because they often have absorption problems caused by digestive tract illnesses, such as bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Certain medications can also interfere with absorption, so adding nutritional supplements to your diet may be helpful. You do need to remember, though, that supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet, and you must be cautious not to take too much of one nutrient because this can cause serious health problems.
The best way to make these decisions [what supplements to add to your diet] is by talking to your health-care professional, a nutrition specialist, and the manufacturer of the product; by using your own common sense; and by doing some in-depth research.
Some of the more common vitamins and minerals suggested for people with fibromyalgia include the following:
B vitamins – Maintain healthy nerves, liver, help with energy production, and may reduce anxiety. Vitamin B1 may support proper oxygen metabolism. The B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well being.
Calcium – Protects against bone loss. Low levels of calcium cause nervousness, apprehension, irritability and numbness.
Iron – low iron levels can cause general weakness, exhaustion, and headaches.
Magnesium – Provides for a healthy immune system and healthy nerves and helps with blood sugar regulation. Deficiency can cause confusion, apathy, and insomnia. Magnesium works well in conjunction with B complex vitamins.
Potassium – Depletion is frequently associated with depression, fearfulness, weakness, and fatigue.
Vitamin D – In recent studies, 93 percent of people with musculoskeletal pain were found to be deficient in vitamin D.
Amino acids can also be helpful in promoting the healing process, and include the following: Cystine, Glycine, Leucine, Lysine, Valine, Isoleucine, Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which helps to synthesize serotonin and melatonin.
The FDA has posted safety warning about the following:
Dietary supplements that contain the herbal ingredient comfrey, which is a source of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. There is evidence that implicates these substances as carcinogens and that they may cause chronic liver disease.
There have been reports of hepatic (liver) toxicity associated with products containing kava.
Products containing aristolochic acid, including botanical products marketed as traditional Chinese medicines, have been associated with nephropathy – a kidney disorder.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed a significant drug interaction between St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) and Indinavir and other antiretroviral agents.
Dietary supplements that contain tiratricol, also known as triiodothyroacetic acid or TRIAC, a potent thyroid hormone, may cause serious health consequences including heart attacks and strokes.
Overall, take the proper precautions and discuss and inform your health-care team about the supplements you are taking to help ensure safety and a positive outcome.
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