Back Pain and Neck Pain Due to Fibromyalgia: Can Diet Make A Difference?

Fibromyalgia can cause pain in the shoulders, neck, low back, hips, or other areas.Fibromyalgia (FM) is a complex condition that includes widespread symptoms of muscle and joint pain, where everything seems to ache and is associated with severe exhaustion and fatigue. It can cause pain in the shoulders, neck, low back, hips, or other areas. Other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, sensitivity to touch, genitourinary symptoms are common as well. It affects up to 4% of the population, woman greater than men, with no known cause or known cure. With these facts, it’s not surprising that many sufferers have turned to diet as a means of trying to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, there are many conflicting dietary recommendations for FM, some completely contradicting the other, leaving the patient and doctor confused as to who or what to believe.

FM can be primary (of unknown cause) or secondary (caused by a different specific condition). Because many conditions can give rise to FM, it’s not surprising that there is no one diet that works universally for all FM patients. However, many FM sufferers respond from eliminating one or more of several types of foods according to experts interviewed by WebMD, and utilizing these recommendations can prove highly effective. They specifically identified 7 foods to avoid in the management of FM, which include the following:

  1. Aspartame (NutraSweet): All of the experts interviewed by WebMD agreed a large majority of FM patients could worsen by eating or drinking foods sweetened by aspartame.
  2. MSG (monosodium glutamine) and nitrates: MSG is a common additive to enhance flavor in many processed and frozen foods as well as in some Asian (eg., Chinese) foods. Hence, lunchmeats like ham, bologna and bacon should be avoided.
  3. Sugar, fructose, and simple carbohydrates: Though no study has clearly identified that these foods directly worsen the symptoms in FM patients, eliminating foods like cake, white bread and sugar in general, will decrease the risk of developing secondary conditions such as yeast infections that can give rise to FM. Eliminating foods with high levels of fructose corn syrup has been reported to help some FM patients.
  4. Caffeine (coffee, tea, colas/soda, chocolate): After a brief stimulating effect (energy boost), there is a longer lasting sedative affect, which is amplified in FM patients. The good news is that most of the caffeine is out of the body within a week of discontinuing use.
  5. Yeast and glutens: These two are not related but are frequently used together in foods like cake, donuts and bread and both contribute to FM symptoms. Yeast gives rise to yeast fungus where an overgrowth may cause or exacerbate FM symptoms resulting in joint and muscle pain. Glutens can cause stomach and other GI problems, which in turn can give rise to fatigue.
  6. Dairy: Regardless if its low or high fat, some reports indicate that dairy products, particularly milk can increase the symptoms of FM and avoiding these can help.
  7. Nightshade plants: Tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes and eggplant can trigger flare-ups of FM and various forms of arthritis.

Some GOOD diet approaches include a heart-healthy diet – that is, one that is low in saturated fat and includes lean meats; poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables. This diet improves one’s overall health, thus reducing the risk of secondary FM and allowing the body to better fight off other disease processes. This diet is also anti-inflammatory, the common link found in many health conditions. A vegetarian diet comprised of mostly whole foods was also reported as helpful. High potency vitamin supplement and specifically Omega 3 fatty acids (main ingredients – EPA & DHA) included in fish oil, flax seed, walnuts, some fortified cereals, and eggs also help reduce inflammation.

Additional Reading Resources

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