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Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects the whole body.
Along with pain, other symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and depression are also common in people with the condition.
Fortunately, diet along with certain dietary supplements may help alleviate some of these symptoms.
This article explains what to eat and avoid with fibromyalgia for symptom relief and provides a 3-day sample fibromyalgia diet menu.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread muscle, bone, and joint pain.
Despite this pain, however, fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory condition.
The cause of fibromyalgia remains largely unknown but its symptoms are triggered or aggravated by physical and emotional stressors, which include emotional and physical trauma.
Beyond widespread pain, other symptoms of fibromyalgia include (1):
- joint stiffness
- sleep disturbances
- fibro fog or brain fog
Fibromyalgia is generally diagnosed based on the presence of widespread pain that lasts for at least three months and pain by touch on at least 11 of 18 specific body sites (2).
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but diet and other lifestyle changes are generally the first-line treatment for symptom management.
A fibromyalgia diet focuses on alleviating symptoms to improve quality of life.
Of the various diets that have been studied for managing fibromyalgia, a vegetarian and low-FODMAP diet have demonstrated the greatest benefits (3).
A vegetarian diet is a plant-based diet that excludes all or some animal products.
Owing to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties of whole-food, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, vegetarian diets are believed to alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms.
In one review, patients with fibromyalgia who followed a vegan diet for three months experienced significant reductions in pain severity and morning joint stiffness, and improvements in sleep quality (3).
However, a strict vegan diet may not be needed to alleviate symptoms as less strict plant-based diets have also been shown to offer benefits.
In another review of six studies, vegetarian diets and other predominantly plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet improved measures of sleep, pain, morning joint stiffness, and mental health (6).
In another study, women with fibromyalgia who followed a lacto-vegetarian diet combined with an exercise program experienced a reduction in pain and improved their body composition (7).
A lacto-vegetarian diet restricts all animal products except dairy.
Based on these findings, it may be best to follow a mostly plant-based diet rather than a strict vegan diet, especially since a vegan diet is difficult to follow and may lead to nutrient deficiencies, which may worsen symptoms.
A predominantly plant-based diet includes mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, seeds, and nuts.
Limit, but still include, products like Greek yogurt, fatty fish, eggs, and lean cuts of beef to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrients.
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polys.
These are types of carbohydrates that may cause digestive symptoms in some people, especially those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Since it’s estimated that 70% of people with fibromyalgia have IBS, following a low-FODMAP diet may help alleviate symptoms, many of which overlap with IBS (8).
Like vegetarian diets, low-FODMAP diets can also be low in calories, which has been shown to improve fibromyalgia symptoms (9).
In one review, patients who followed a low-FODMAP diet experienced for four weeks significant improvements in measures of pain, muscle tension, depression, sleep quality, memory, and digestive symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating (3).
Similarly, another study showed that a low-FODMAP diet significantly decreased pain severity and digestive symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia (10).
The primary sources of FODMAPs include (11):
- Oligosaccharides: artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel, garlic, leeks, okra, onions, peas, shallot, and wheat
- Disaccharides: lactose-containing products, including milk, yogurt, and soft and fresh cheeses
- Monosaccharides: foods high the sugar fructose, including concentrated sweets, fruit juice, honey, regular soda, peaches, mangoes, and watermelon
- Polyols: apples, apricots, avocados, cherries, pears, cauliflower, mushrooms, and sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and sorbitol
It’s unclear whether following a low-FODMAP diet would be beneficial for relieving fibromyalgia symptoms in those without IBS.
In either case, if you wish to try a low-FODMAP diet, you should do so under the guidance of a registered dietitian since the diet can be difficult to follow correctly, it can lead to unnecessary food restrictions, and may negatively impact gut health (12).
3-day sample fibromyalgia diet menu
Because a plant-based and low-FODMAP diet have demonstrated improvements in various fibromyalgia symptoms, it may be optimal to combine components from both diets.
However, remember that a low-FODMAP diet is difficult to follow correctly, so it’s best to consult with a registered dietitian.
Here’s a 3-day sample fibromyalgia diet menu that is predominantly plant-based with low-FODMAPs:
- Breakfast: blueberry almond overnight oats
- Lunch: vegan pasta salad
- Snack: cottage cheese with sliced peaches
- Dinner: spinach mandarin orange salad
- Breakfast: spinach and feta tofu scramble
- Lunch: bacon and avocado salad
- Snack: Greek yogurt and grapes
- Dinner: baked salmon, brown rice, and sauteed green beans
- Breakfast: peanut butter banana oatmeal
- Lunch: tomato and carrot soup
- Snack: boiled eggs
- Dinner: roasted chickpea salad
Helpful supplements for fibromyalgia
Along with diet, some supplements may be beneficial for fibromyalgia.
Vitamin D is a hormone-like vitamin that plays various important bodily roles.
Many people with fibromyalgia are deficient in vitamin D or have inadequate levels, which have been linked with chronic pain, anxiety, and depression, possibly due to vitamin’s D role in immune, muscle, and bone health (13).
As such, supplementing with vitamin D may improve these symptoms in those with inadequate levels.
A review of five studies involving more than 300 people with fibromyalgia found that vitamin D supplementation was effective for improving various measures of physical functioning, depression, anxiety, morning tiredness, pain, stiffness, and fatigue (14).
However, not all studies have shown benefits for pain relief with vitamin D in people with fibromyalgia and some studies have used prescription doses.
Find vitamin D online.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a nutrient that plays an important role in energy production and acts as a powerful antioxidant, inhibiting oxidative stress and preventing cell damage.
Owing to these properties, supplementing with CoQ10 has been suggested to improve energy levels and reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia (15).
In one study, people with fibromyalgia who supplemented with 300 mg of CoQ10 daily for 40 days experienced a 52% reduction in pain, 47% reduction in fatigue, and 44% reduction in morning tiredness compared with baseline (15).
A review found similar results, suggesting that CoQ10 supplementation can alleviate fatigue in people with fibromyalgia (16).
Here is a high absorption CoQ10 product from Doctor’s Best.
Creatine is a compound naturally produced in the body.
It’s also found in animal products, namely seafood, poultry, and beef.
Creatine plays an important role in energy production and has been shown to significantly increase muscle size, strength, and powder when supplemented (17).
Although creatine supplements are most widely used by athletes and bodybuilders, they may be useful for managing fibromyalgia as well.
In one study, people with fibromyalgia who supplemented with creatine for 16 weeks experienced significant improvements in upper- and lower-body muscle functions (18).
Although the participants experienced only minor improvements in symptoms like pain and quality of sleep, these improvements in muscle function may make performing exercise less painful, allowing for more consistency with an exercise routine.
Indeed, exercise is one of the most effective ways to alleviate pain and improve well-being in people with fibromyalgia (19).
The participants in the study took 20 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for five days and then 5 grams for the remaining days.
This strategy is referred to as creatine loading, but supplementing with 3–5 grams daily is just as effective.
Choose a creatine monohydrate product that is third-party tested like this product from Throne.
The bottom line
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition associated with many symptoms like sleep disturbances, brain fog, depression, and anxiety.
The most studied diets for alleviating fibromyalgia symptoms are plant-based and low-FODMAP diets.
As such, it may be optimal to combine components from each diet.
In addition to diet, supplementing with vitamin D, coQ10, and creatine have also been shown to alleviate pain and fatigue and improve sleep quality and muscle function.