Fibromyalgia is a condition that is associated with widespread chronic pain and tender points all over the body. The pain can be in a specific area or move to different areas throughout the body. It also occurs in people of all ages, including children. Pain can range from mild to severe to debilitating, in addition stress and physical exercise seem to worsen symptoms. (1)
Symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary greatly and can include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Sleep apnea
- Tension headaches
- Pelvic pain
- Cognitive difficulties
- Irritable or overactive bladder
Due to the wide range of symptoms, fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose. Recent findings suggest that neuro-inflammation may play a role in this illness. Researchers are finally making the connection between chronic inflammation and its impact on health and disease and fibromyalgia is no exception. (2, 3, 4)
Related: What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like?
Fibromyalgia Findings: New Research
A study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers in a collaborative effort with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden yielded some interesting results. After taking PET scans, yhe researchers documented widespread inflammation in the brains of patients with fibromyalgia. Their findings were published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. (5)
Previous Research Revisited
The study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden was based on a previous animal study which showed that microglia and astrocytes in the central nervous system, as well as neuro-glial interactions, play a critical role in the establishment and maintenance of persistent pain. (6)
Normally, glial activation is an adaptive defense mechanism that can contribute to handling acute stress, limiting tissue damage, and restoring balance. However, if the problem is not resolved in the early stages of the injury glial activation can have long term damaging effects.
Research Implications & Current Treatment
If you suspect you may have fibromyalgia, your doctor may want to eliminate any potential conditions by running some blood work. In general the treatment for fibromyalgia includes self-care to manage and minimize symptoms as well as traditional treatments that can include over the counter or prescription pain relievers, anti-depressants and anti-seizure medication such as Lyrica, as these can ease the pain and fatigue associated with this condition. (7)
While many anti-depressants and anti –seizure medications like Lyrica can offer some people relief, they also carry a health risk. Some of the side effects of Lyrica can include; loss of balance or coordination, constipation, edema, tremors, blurred vision, weight gain and problems with your memory and concentration. Be sure you understand the risks of any medication before you start them. (8)
Physical therapy can help to improve your overall strength, flexibility and stamina. Occupational therapy may also be beneficial to help you make ergonomic adjustments to your work space, to cause less physical stress on your body.
The Importance of an Anti-inflammatory diet
Dr. Kathleen Holton, a nutritional neuroscientist researches the impact of food and nutrients on the brain. She has developed very specific guidelines to help individuals with fibromyalgia to manage their symptoms, through dietary changes. Dr. Holt states, “We can’t be optimally healthy without giving our bodies the nutrients they need, and that applies to anyone with fibromyalgia”. (9, 10)
Natural Help for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
- Avoid glutamate -Is added to foods as a flavor enhancer, it commonly known as MSG, but is also hidden in terms such as autolyzed, hydrolyzed, protein concentrate or protein isolate. This small study followed individuals for four weeks while they followed a diet free of MSG and aspartame, participants noted a 30 percent decrease in their pain symptoms. (11)
- Avoid processed foods – Processed foods have colors, flavors, preservatives and chemical additives, which offer little nutritional value.
- Try a Mediterranean or DASH Diet – While these diets are slightly different, they both focus on fresh, whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, no dairy, nuts, seeds and legumes. Many of these foods can help to reduce inflammation in the body, a keep component of fibromyalgia.
- Avoid cured meats – Highly processed meats such as jerky, sausages, bacon etc, are high in nitrates, colors, preservatives, flavors and glutamate.
- Eat foods high in D – Eating foods high in vitamin D such as swordfish, salmon and eggs may help to reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia. (12)
- Eat magnesium rich foods – Magnesium can help to reduce the effects of glutamate. Magnesium is found in foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish, beans, lentils and dark chocolate.
- Consume omega 3’s – Omega 3’s help to lower inflammation, boost immunity and reduce levels of oxidative stress. Omega 3’s are found in foods such as walnuts, fish, chia and flaxseeds.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar – Sugar, including artificial sweeteners are no friend to the body. Sugar raises insulin levels, suppresses the immune system, creates mineral imbalances and a host of other problems. Artificial sweeteners are also linked to numerous health issues such as IBS, IBD, blood cancers and more. (13, 14)
Fibromyalgia is a common disorder that affects individuals of all ages, although women have higher incidence rates than men.
Pain ranges from mild to severe or debilitating and can affect specific areas of the body or be more widespread.
Studies have linked fibromyalgia to inflammation. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may help to reduce pain levels.
(1) What is Fibromyalgia? (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2018, from https://www.fmcpaware.org/aboutfibromyalgia.html
(2) Theoharides, T., Tsilioni, I., Arbetman, L., Panagiotidou, S., Stewart, J., Gleason, R. and Russell, I. (2018). Fibromyalgia Syndrome in Need of Effective Treatments. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4613957/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(3) Hunter, P. (2018). The inflammation theory of disease. [online] National Library of Medicine. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(4) Bäckryd, E., Tanum, L., Lind, A., Larsson, A., & Gordh, T. (2018). Evidence of both systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia patients, as assessed by a multiplex protein panel applied to the cerebrospinal fluid and to plasma. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5344444/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(5) Research teams find widespread inflammation in the brains of fibromyalgia patients: PET imaging studies reveal elevated glial activation, correlation with fatigue levels. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180927122946.htm [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(6) Loggia, M., Chonde, D., Akeju, O., Arabasz, G., Catana, C., & Edwards, R. et al. (2018). Evidence for brain glial activation in chronic pain patients. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/138/3/604/333527 [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(7) Fibromyalgia – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354785 [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(8) Common Side Effects of Lyrica (Pregabalin) Drug Center – RxList. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/lyrica-side-effects-drug-center.htm [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(9) Faculty Profile: Kathleen Holton. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/holton.cfm [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(10) Fibromyalgia: What to Eat, What to Avoid | Everyday Health. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/fibromyalgia/diet/fibromyalgia-what-eat-what-avoid/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(11) Holton KF. (2018). The effect of dietary glutamate on fibromyalgia and irritable bowel symptoms. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22766026 [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(12) Fibromyalgia: In Depth. (2018). Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/pain/fibromyalgia.htm [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(13) Appleton, N. (2018). 143 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health – My Health Maven. Retrieved from http://myhealthmaven.com/143-reasons-sugar-ruins-health/ [Accessed 13 Nov. 2018].
(14) McFarland, E. (2018). 18 Ways to Replace Cancer-Linked Sweeteners Overnight. Retrieved from https://theheartysoul.com/18-natural-sweeteners/
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