While the holiday season is known for bringing on emotional and physical stress, the fibromyalgia patient has her own particular stresses apart from the usual. Stress is a well-known activator of fibro flareups, and I want to talk about a major cause of stress and the nemesis of the holiday season – food.
I find The Fibromyalgia Cookbook an excellent resource for dietary wisdom as it pertains to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I reviewed it in an earlier blog, but I think it deserves another look in view of this stressful season. The book’s foreward is written by two doctors, both with nutritional expertise. They write about the foods and additives you should avoid and the supplements that you should add, and they tell you why.
According to the authors, “Patients with FM and CFS/ME are in dire need of a diet rich in antioxidants. (These patients) are under increased oxidative stress where free radical generation is enhanced and can damage components of the cells within the body, including those mediating pain and/or fatigue.” They go on to say that dietary antioxidants turn down the body’s inflammation pathways and help reduce overall body pain, fatigue, and improve mental outlook. They point in particular to the importance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, since experimental studies have shown that the levels of these nutrients are low in FM and CFS/ME patients. Although I am not a professional nutritionist, I believe that this season of holidays and cold weather may bring on an even greater deficit of the antioxidants and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, due to the added stresses we experience. Supplementation as well as an increase in the foods rich in these nutrients are vital to keep the body functioning properly. Nuts, seeds, and fatty fish should be included in your diet.
In addition, FM patients are known generally to have an overall sub-par diet, because of their inability to plan and prepare nutritionally superior meals, due to their pain and fatigue. It is a vicious cycle for many, and nutritional guidance is essential to help the patient eliminate inflammatory producing foods and improve the overall diet. A relationship with a nutritionist may be in order if you are finding it difficult to plan and prepare your meals.
Studies have shown that eliminating the food additives MSG and aspartame will lead to dramatic improvements in FM symptoms. They access the brain through a disturbed blood-brain barrier that normally acts as a filter. Once inside the brain, these additives can act as neurotoxins and disrupt transmission between nerve cells. Food additives can also disrupt the normal GI tract, important to note because 70% of FM patients report irritable bowel syndrome.In addition to the food additives, the following are inflammatory foods to avoid: refined sugar white flour wheat green bell peppers eggplant red meat heavy starchy foods
The author, Shelly Ann Smith, has done a superb job in creating recipes that include all the foods you can eat and that are rich in antioxidents. I dare say there are more foods you can eat than those you should eliminate. The recipes are simply prepared and contain ingredients normally found in your home or are easily obtainable. The recipes run the gamut from soup to nuts, fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables, and desserts, including chocolate!
I personally find that “diets” are usually objectionable for many reasons, one being that I cannot stay on them; but this book shows how to eat the foods that are good for you and eliminate all those pesky additives that do so much harm to our bodies. I suggest starting out slowly, rather than trying to completely change the way you eat in one stage. With the changes mentioned here, it is doubtful that you would need to make drastic changes, just one or two at a time.
During this winter season, with so much working against the FM patient, I do advise to take a long look at the foods you consume. Small changes could make a huge difference in the way you feel, with perhaps less pain and fatigue and a better outlook on life, and you may get through the holiday meals and festivities feeling better than usual instead of worse.It is said that the more color in the food, the more phytonutrients it contains.