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Healthy Foods for Fibromyalgia Syndrome

How Diet Impacts Fibromyalgia Syndrome

If you suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome, you most likely experience extreme fatigue and digestive problems in addition to pain. While it is important to have a diet that fights inflammation, it is also important to eat foods that will not exacerbate your digestion and make you feel worse. If your digestion is problematic, it is more difficult for you to adequately absorb nutrients from food.

An optimal diet plan for someone with fibromyalgia syndrome is based on whole foods and is high in the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Though you don’t have to be a vegetarian, it is beneficial to include a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your diet.

But that’s not saying anything new.

When it comes to an anti-inflammatory diet, there are many different opinions. Many individuals thrive on a raw vegan diet and others feel that they need to consume meat in order to be healthy. Depending on you and your personal beliefs, a sensible middle ground can almost always be reached.

However, there are certain foods that specifically fight pain.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3’s are important for a healthy circulation, nerve conduction, and are beneficial to the integrity of cell membranes. Not only do omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, but they also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3's are polyunsaturated fatty acids and must be consumed in foods because they are not made by our bodies. They are found in foods such as fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and dark green, leafy vegetables.


Proteins are essential for the building and repair of tissues in the body and are easy to obtain in the diet. Proteins are found in meats, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. Make sure your fish is wild-caught and your beef and bison are grass-fed, free-range, and organic. Consume in moderation and see how you feel.

Can you get enough protein from vegetables? Yep! Don’t go by me… Go by the American Dietetic Association (1) and the American Heart Association (2). And for those with sensitivities to soy, protein can be found in other plant-based sources. Lentils, peas, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans all contain high amounts of protein. Adzuki beans are particularly beneficial for inflammation. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts, contain a high amount of protein as well as other nutrients that fight inflammation (i.e. vitamin E, selenium).  

Whole Grains

Though certain grains may cause problems in people with sensitivities, consuming whole grains provides many important B vitamins and beneficial nutrients. Oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and barley provide energy and can help to reduce inflammation.  

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables contain the necessary vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to survive. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K also help to fight pain and inflammation. Vitamins B and C both work to stimulate neurotransmitters, which help regulate the body, making it stronger and more resilient. Minerals that can relieve inflammation include zinc, magnesium, and potassium.  

Beneficial vegetables for those with fibromyalgia include kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’s sprouts, and cabbage contain nutrients that can keep our bodies healthy.

Certain fruits are powerful for pain relief. As an aside, dried fruits can increase inflammation, but this may have more to do with them containing sugars or other preservatives. Fresh fruit is best, but frozen can work just as well. Juices are okay… But they are often highly processed and lack fiber. Check to see that they are from 100% juice. Fruits that reduce pain include papayas, pineapples, cherries, apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lemons and limes, and avocados.                                              

                                                Nightshades and Pain                                                  

Though vegetables in the nightshade category contain many nutrients that relieve pain and inflammation, some may find that these foods may exacerbate certain symptoms. If you find yourself experiencing pain and discomfort when eating foods such as tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and white potatoes, you may be sensitive to nightshades. Nightshade sensitivities are due to a chemical they contain, called alkaloids. Alkaloids cause inflammation in joints and interfere with nerve function and digestion for people who are sensitive.

To help manage your symptoms, it may be beneficial to either reduce nightshades or eliminate them completely. If these foods don’t bother you, by all means, eat up!

Foods for Good Digestion

Healthy digestion is critical in managing fibromyalgia syndrome. Heartburn and acid reflux not only cause pain and discomfort, but they can also erode the esophagus and digestive tract. Irritable bowel syndrome, often experienced by people with fibromyalgia, wreaks havoc on the body with its alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. Constipation prevents proper elimination and causes a buildup of waste, feelings of sluggishness, and fluid retention. Diarrhea dehydrates the body, adversely affecting the balance of electrolytes.

It can be challenging to find foods that react well with your constitution because each person is unique. Some of the foods listed above, while wonderful for fighting inflammation, can seriously aggravate digestion. Fruits and vegetables are great. However, some cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli can create gas and bloating.

A great way to enjoy vegetables and reap the maximum benefits and reduce digestive discomfort is to steam them slightly. It breaks them down so your body can better absorb the nutrients. 

There are certain foods that are a little "safer" for most people, such as oatmeal - not the pre-packaged instant type. Healthy oatmeal may require a little more time and effort to prepare, but the health benefits are worth it. Oats have a lower glycemic index and nourish the body. Water with lemon is usually pretty mild, though drinking water at room temperature is better if you have a delicate digestive system.

Consume with Caution

There are certain foods in every diet that should be reduced or eliminated. With fibromyalgia syndrome, the negative effects of these foods are experienced with greater intensity. Alcohol, caffeine, red meats, dairy, and pre-packaged foods are inflammatory. White flour and white sugar create excess inflammation. Sugar-substitutes, such as aspartame and saccharin are more harmful to our bodies than regular sugar.

Fried and greasy foods are known to make you sick, but even the over-use of "healthy" oils can also contribute to pain and inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil are usually beneficial but should be consumed in moderation and not be exposed to high temperatures.

So what works for you?

It can be “trial and error” when finding a diet that works for you. If you find a health care provider who can work with you, please take advantage. There is no "one-size fits all" approach, so watch out for practitioners who are striving to make a profit or are pushing extreme diet plans. Meal plans should be sensible, well-rounded, and flexible. Also, be careful of practitioners who will not work with your dietary beliefs. For example, if you are a vegetarian, your healthcare provider should respect that and not bully you into going against your beliefs.  

Understanding how foods affect our bodies is important for everyone. By paying attention to how our bodies react to different foods, we are empowered in taking control of our health and wellness.

If you found this information helpful, please share! If you would like to learn more about how I could help you, please shoot me a message or call at 412-860-0246!


"Vegetarian Diets." American Heart Association., 28 11 2011. 16 Mar 2012.

"Vegetarian diets." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109. (2009): 1266-1282.