Fibromyalgia Syndrome, or FMS, is an illness which is still difficult to classify. Some doctors and medical boards prefer to classify FMS as a somatoform disorder, affecting primarily the body, while others view it as a syndrome which disrupts the functioning of the individual’s Central Nervous System (CNS).
Patients describe their primary symptoms as being characterized by a widespread, chronic sense of pain and sensitivity to pressure. Usually these patients also experienced extreme levels of fatigue and the cognitive disruption, or difficulty concentrating, termed “fibrofog”.
Sometimes FMS is comorbid with psychiatric conditions, that is, occurring in conjunction with other illness like depression or anxiety. While there is no definable cure, there are many treatment options; options which differ greatly in efficacy and popularity. The one treatment that many doctors can agree on, however, is the necessity for an improvement in general health.
While exercise is often prescribed as an important first course of action for an FMS suffer, many find the process difficult due to inflammation of their joints. Water Therapy in a heated pool is a popular remedy for these aches and pains, but no healthy living plan is complete without a proper investment in your health – and this means paying close attention to your nutrition.
Frequently neglected, nutrition is the cornerstone of any healthy body. If your body is a car, then you need to fill its tank to keep it going. But if you’re an FMS sufferer, then simply pumping in any fuel you can find could be tantamount to poisoning yourself. You have a sensitive engine, which is easily upset.
The wrong diet only serves to aggravate an FMS sufferer’s fatigue, cause further swelling of the joints, and does nothing to help your body combat your daily aches and pains. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is also a fairly common symptom of FMS, and this only serves to increase the sensitivity with which your body reacts to what you eat.
Supplements are your friend
Perhaps one of the easiest first steps to take on your path to eating away your aches and pains is to discover your greatest ally: supplements. It’s not always easy to get all of your nutrients from fresh food, which is why supplements and vitamins provide a good means of boosting your daily intake.
Your first stop should be the often praised 5-HTP (Hydroxytryptophan), a natural amino acid which assists in regulating your metabolic rate and melatonin production. The former helps your body break down food, while the melatonin regulates your sleeping pattern, both of which help ease the tension in your muscles and joints.
Many FMS swear that 5-HTP is their top choice in supplement as it not only functions in conjunction with the metabolic system, but also boosts energy levels while assisting with some of the causes of your pain.
Also important for any FMS sufferer is to increase your antioxidant intake. Oxidation is a process whereby free radicals are produced, which in turn can start chain reactions in your body that may lead to cell damage or death. Antioxidants are essential in reversing this process. Your recommended daily allowances are as follows:
– Selenium: 200 micrograms.
– Vitamin A: 5,000 – 10,000 (International Units)
– Vitamin C: 10,000 milligrams
– Vitamin E: 400 to 800 (International Units)
While Vitamins A and C are widely encouraged for numerous health benefits, it must be noted that Vitamin E is lauded for its ability to reduce muscle and joint pain as well as improve general circulation. FMS, of course, is a complicated illness and sufferers tend to experience many different symptoms at vastly different intensities.
For this reason, you’ll need to bolster your nutritional regiment with supplements geared towards your most prevailing ailments. In addition to those mentioned above, the following supplements are known for having particular benefits:
– Bromelain (inflammation)
– Calcium & magnesium (nerve and muscle function)
– Vitamin B (anxiety and fatigue)
– Evening primrose oil (inflammation)
– General pro-biotic (IBS)
Put down those cookies!
Not that you’ve begun to boost your immune system a little, you’re going to have to do some hard work: it’s time to eat healthier. Unfortunately, some of the things you love to eat are only making your FMS symptoms worse. Saturated or hydrogenated fats aggravate muscle and joint pain, increase levels of inflammation and can cause problems with circulation.
This means, if you’re serious about decreasing your pain, you’ll have to cut down on the processed foods. Try avoiding dairy, margarine and processed meats for a few weeks and see if you note any improvement. The same goes for caffeine, alcohol and sugar, all of which can increase muscle pain and cause sleeping problems – which, in turn, lead to worse muscle pain.
Again, everyone is different and you’ll find certain foods will aggravate your symptoms while others will have no effect. I suggest cutting out one of these “bad guys” for a week or so, and seeing what effect, if any, that does have. Perhaps too much sugar is playing havoc with your blood-sugar levels and leaving you feeling exhausted, or maybe eating red meat every night makes your joint inflammation that much worse. Remember, this is all about what works for you.
Will I ever enjoy food again?
The answer is: yes, of course! It’s not about doing without, but rather finding delicious, new ways of trying things. There are several nutritional treatment plans for FMS, but at present, none has been shown to have universally positive effects. There is still plenty that isn’t known about FMS, so it follows that, with such a sensitive illness, there is still a lot to learn about the ideal form of nutrition.
The raw food movement is quite popular, for instance, and while it may seem daunting to go such a route, why not try and incorporate some of their nutritional ideas? Instead of your sugar-laden, processed cereals, spend the next week making fruit smoothies for breakfast. Or just make a conscious attempt to ingest more healthy food and fewer saturated fats or processed meals.
One of the wonderful things about the twenty-first century is our accessibility to information – armed with a few ideas, you can find thousands of delicious recipes online that will leave your body in fighting shape. Instead of serving big, heavy portions of rice with your next meal, prepare some quinoa.
This tasty grain is incredibly high in protein, magnesium, iron and dietary fibre – everything an FMS sufferer should be ingesting daily! A change in starches can work wonders for anyone experiencing IBS. So, now makes a great time to be experimental in the kitchen, and learn a little about all the different kinds of grains you get, to substitute a few legumes for your usual fair, or to avoid processed cheese and give goat’s milk a try.
Where to now?
Remember, like the engine of a fancy sports car, your body functions according to its own specifications and only you will be able to feel the difference. Add a few supplements to your daily regiment to give your body a kick-start, and then try modifying your diet a little bit every couple of weeks. You could discover that one of the foods which is poisoning your body, or you might try something new and realise that it’s exactly what your diet was missing all this time.