As a young adult, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Today I am healthy and active again. This is what I did to beat this disease.
I Was a Normal, Healthy 25-Year-Old
I was a normal, healthy 25 year old—until I got hit in the jaw by a horse. Gradually, over a long period of time, I became really tired and sore. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. I went to the doctor, and he said I might have chronic fatigue but that I was probably just depressed. This complete lack of understanding and lack of motivation by the doctor to help me get better was really annoying. I didn’t go to another doctor for about a year, but I continued to feel tired and sore without understanding why. It was a struggle to make it to work each day.
I tried going to a variety of professionals for help. I went to a chiropractor twice weekly for eight weeks; this kept my condition stable but did not improve it. I went to osteopaths, I got massages, and I even tried a course of acupuncture. However, I found very little to no relief. My muscle tension and headaches were very bad throughout this period.
My mother had been to a naturopath who told her she had fibromyalgia. Given this information, my mom suggested to me that I might have fibromyalgia, as well.
I eventually went to a doctor who was prepared to run some tests and look at my diet. The normal glucose tolerance test failed to pick up anything abnormal. He agreed that I had fibromyalgia. He didn’t have any ready answers or suggestions as to how to treat this condition, however.
Under his instruction, I tried an elimination diet to see if a food intolerance was responsible. I failed to get a stable baseline. In fact, I discovered by keeping a food diary that if I had rice bubbles and rice milk for breakfast I would get a headache and the shakes. I'd have to write off the rest of the day. I came to the conclusion that high GI (glycemic index) foods were responsible. My osteopath lent me a book on fibromyalgia that confirmed my reaction to high GI foods.
My doctor sent a blood sample off for food allergy testing. I had a delayed allergic response to dairy, beans, mushrooms, sesame seeds, shellfish, and oranges—with dairy being the worst. Once I cut these foods out of my diet I felt like I lost 5 kg in a week, due to bloating, and my stomach wasn’t sore anymore, I didn’t even realize my stomach was sore until the pain went away. With the change in diet to low GI and excluding food allergens, I lost over 10 kg of weight.
I felt like I had done nothing for the past two years because I had been so chronically sick. My head was always foggy, I couldn’t think straight, and I had a very low sex drive because my muscles ached all the time. Sometimes the pain was so bad I would just curl up in a ball and cry. My muscles were so tight I would wake up with a headache and sometimes end up vomiting.
Today, I no longer suffer from fibromyalgia. I am healthy and active. I play tennis, go for walks, kayak, dance, and have fun with friends. I also enjoy going to work again. Find out how I cured my disease.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is chronic widespread muscular pain and fatigue. The condition is most common in women; 80% of sufferers are women. The condition may affect three to five percent of the population and is diagnosed by your doctor by testing 18 specific tender point sites on your body. If you score at least 11, and you also have a history of widespread pain, normal blood tests, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, and skeletal pain (predominantly in the neck and back), then you receive this diagnosis.
How to Beat Fibromyalgia
Based on my experience, this is my recommended sequence of steps for curing fibromyalgia:
Step 1: Diet
Step 2: Ease Pain
Step 3: Skeletal & Muscular Issues
Step 4: Massage
Step 5: Exercise
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Muscular pain
- Migraine and tension headaches
- Morning stiffness
- Sleeping Disturbances
- Lack of deep sleep
- Waking feeling unrefreshed
- Emotional Disturbances
- Poor concentration
- Mood changes
- Body Disturbances
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Salt craving
- Blurred vision
- Eye irritation
- Nasal congestion
- Abnormal tastes
- Ringing ears/tinnitus
- Restless legs
- Leg cramps
- Pungent urine
- Bladder infections
- Weight gain
- Brittle nails
Step 1: Fibromyalgia Cure Diet
Some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia can be remedied by diet.
Reactive hypoglycemia contributes to Fibromyalgia, particularly muscle tightness, fatigue and brain fog. Reactive hypoglycemia symptoms occur two to three hours after a meal high in carbohydrates. There is a rapid release of carbohydrates into the intestine, followed by rapid absorption of glucose and subsequent production of a high amount of insulin. This results in rapid conversion of glucose to fat causing low blood sugar. Your brain and muscles become starved of energy. This is the main cause of Fibromyalgia although other factors can contribute. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, irritability, chronic fatigue, poor memory and concentration, shakiness, muscle fatigue and craving of carbohydrates. Reactive Hypoglycemia causes your muscles to become tight which in turn causes your posture to be out of alignment, commonly your head will come forward and you will get a “widow’s hump”.
Reactive Hypoglycemia is not typically picked up in the more common fasting hypoglycemia test. Fasting hypoglycemia is low blood sugar when you do not eat. The correct test for Reactive Hypoglycemia is a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). Blood sugar readings are taken every ½ hour for four hours after glucose is consumed on an empty stomach.
What to Do About Reactive Hypoglycemia?
Change your diet to exclude simple sugars (e.g. table sugar, glucose), refined carbohydrates (e.g. white rice, bread, pasta) and starchy foods (e.g. potatoes). Reduce intake of fruit. Caffeine and chocolate can aggravate Fibromyalgia, avoid or limit to occasional treats. Once you have modified your diet and stuck to it for several months your body will be more tolerant to the occasional deviation from the diet below.
What to Eat
(These recommendations are taken from the book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia. I found this book to be very helpful.)
- Meats: ensure sugar is not added, especially to low-fat cold cuts.
- Dairy: as long as it is unsweetened (e.g. unsweetened yogurt)
- Vegetables: most vegetables, except potatoes
- Nuts: all nuts
- Fruit: maximum of one piece every four hours, avoid bananas. one cup of unsweetened orange, grapefruit or tomato juice is allowed as a serving of fruit.
- Grains: wholegrain wheat, corn or rye is acceptable. Rice must be wild rice, only consume a small portion. Bread: sugar-free whole grain wheat, corn or rye. Consume a maximum of one piece per four hours. Eliminate bread temporarily if symptoms persist.
- Desserts: artificially sweetened dairy-based deserts. Cheesecakes may be made with a ground nut base or crust. Avoid chocolate.
- Drinks: Artificially sweetened drinks, soda water. Avoid caffeine. An occasional drink of spirits and dry wine is allowed.
- Herbs, spices, dressings, oil and vinegar: All herbs, spices and imitation flavorings are allowed. Use sugar-free sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar.
- Sweetener: Splenda made using sucralose a natural sugar is a good sweetener to use. It is available in tablets (one tablet is equal to one teaspoon) or in powder form (as an equivalent to sugar). Some chemical sweeteners such as aspartame have negative side effects such as headaches and should be avoided.
- low carbohydrate and sugar-free protein bars, shakes and bake mixes
- All fats
- Carob powder
- Gluten, soy or nut flours (high protein, low carbohydrate).
- Popcorn, maximum one cup of popped popcorn
- Pork rinds
- Xanthan gum (used as a thickener in gravy and baking)
This is basically the caveman or paleolithic diet our ancestors have followed for millions of years and bears no relationship to the modern food pyramid. You may find you also need to eliminate all grains and dairy if symptoms persist. If so please follow the GAPS diet or the autoimmune paleo diet.
Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, Mediterranean and low carbohydrate/glycemic index (GI) diet cookbooks are excellent sources of recipes.
You may crave sugar initially as your body adjusts to the diet; this is normal and will pass after about 10 days.
Once you have been on this fibromyalgia cure diet for at least a month you can have the occasional treat.
It is better if you avoid artificial sweeteners altogether (even though the book says that they are okay).
Some people after following the above diet for a least one month will still have symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Food intolerances may be responsible. Dairy and wheat gluten are common food allergens. Eliminate dairy and wheat from the diet for at least one month; if symptoms improve reintroduce one at a time to determine if one or both are responsible for symptoms. If the elimination of dairy and wheat fails to give an improvement in symptoms it may be necessary to get a food allergy test completed or begin an elimination diet keeping a food diary with symptoms. The food allergy test can be done by US BioTek, Washington, USA or an alternative supplier. A blood sample is tested for an allergic response to all the common foods. The report will contain IgE and IgG antibody results. Positive IgE antibody results show foods that you have an immediate allergic response to. These foods should be avoided. Positive IgG antibody results show foods that you have a delayed response to. These foods are most likely causing Fibromyalgia type symptoms and are commonly referred to as food intolerances. Research has been conducted on proteins, particularly dairy and wheat (gluten), not being fully digested and via “leaky gut” passing into the bloodstream where they shouldn’t be and causing disruption/blocking biochemical and neurological processes. There is a lot of literature on its effect on autistic people. In time if the cause of “leaky gut” is removed and the gut has had time to heal you may be able to tolerate occasional consumption of these foods. You may wish to have a digestive enzyme with meals containing suspect foods to reduce the response.
"Leaky gut" seems to be caused by starchy foods sitting in the stomach changing the natural microorganism balance and allowing excessive yeast to grow. Some suggest the yeast makes holes in the stomach lining and gives rise to leaky gut. If you change your diet to a low starch one you should redress the balance and have a normal microbial flora again. The symptoms of food allergies should go away and you should be able to eat this food again. Please also read the GAPS diet and Practical Paleo books for healing leaky gut.
Often food intolerances cause bloating, weight gain, fluid retention, sore stomach, irritable bowel and malnutrition.
You may have celiac disease; your doctor can test for gluten intolerance. If so, avoid all gluten in your diet.
You may have issues with high histamine foods or high salicylate foods which should be fixed by the leaky gut diet. Histamines cause rashes, hayfever, asthma, hives, tight muscles, and puffy face and red eyes. Salicylates cause red ears, hyperactive behaviour, frequent urination, asthma, and rashes.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
If you have been eating a high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet, commonly called an empty calorie diet and/or have food intolerances and leaky gut you will need a good vitamin and mineral supplement. Your mineral levels will be quite depleted and contribute to some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Choose a vitamin and mineral supplement that includes the trace vitamins and minerals. You can get your major vitamins and minerals from your new nutrient-dense diet.
Sometimes a magnesium and potassium deficiency is present, this will cause tight muscles and will also cause muscle cramps. If you get muscle cramps I suggest you take some magnesium and potassium tablets until the muscle cramps stop.
Yeast Overgrowth/intolerances may be responsible for some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia including digestive issues, brain fog, sugar cravings, headaches, nasal congestion, runny nose, low sex drive, water retention, allergies, yeast infections and sensitivity to chemicals, light or odour. Changing to the low sugar diet will reduce the effects of a yeast infection however it may be necessary to remove yeast and mould containing foods from the diet temporarily (at least one month). I also recommend taking a good probiotic with at least 10 different strains of bacteria. If you display these symptoms remove the following foods from your diet:
- Yeast-containing breads
- Vinegar and other fermented condiments
- Nuts, particularly peanuts, cashews and pistachios, as these can be covered in moulds.
Some of the beneficial side effects of the fibromyalgia cure diet are:
- Weight loss
- Increased energy
- Increased nutrients in the diet and increased nutrient absorption
- Less muscle tension
- Less fatigue
- Clearer thinking
- Less pain
If you still don't feel better!
If you still don't feel better you may have a leaky gut and need to follow either the GAPS diet or the autoimmune paleo diet until your symptoms improve.
Step 2: Ease Fibromyalgia Pain
While you are waiting for the change in diet to take effect and to relax your tight muscles, I suggest taking a mild anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen (e.g., Neurofen) for up to one week.
Step 3: Skeletal & Muscular Issues
If your Fibromyalgia was induced by some muscular/skeletal trauma see an Osteopath. A common injury is incorrect positioning of the jaw. The temporomandibular joint is the joint of the jaw and is frequently referred to as TMJ. Ask the osteopath if they are familiar with the treatment of TMJ (if applicable), Fibromyalgia and posture realignment. It is important that the jaw or other bones are re-aligned and the muscle tension holding the bones out of alignment is released.