Success at improving fibromyalgia symptoms

It has taken me a couple of years of blood, sweat and tears to find out what affects my fibromyalgia. We all have similar symptoms and similar causes of flare ups, but we are all different and a symptom you may have I may not and vice versa.

Flare ups are caused by a number of factors:-

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Illness
  • Surgery
  • Certain foods and drinks
  • Doing too much
  • Doing too little

I have introduced a few things to my life that have made a positive difference:-

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Massage
  • Gentle exercise
  • Positive thinking and affirmations
  • Pacing my activities
  • Hot tub/hot baths
  • A healthier organic diet using 90/10 ratio; 10% being not healthy and organic 😂
  • A strict bedtime routine
  • Stretching

I made big changes to my diet which has made a huge difference and affected the following symptoms by either reducing or eradicating them completely:-

  • Removing tingling and numbness
  • Reduction and almost an elimination of anxiety
  • Reduction in insomnia
  • Elimination of diarrhoea and nausea
  • Improved by ability to cope with stressful situations
  • Reduced my negative moods
  • Reduced my fatigue
  • Loss of 25 pounds in weight

In order to find out what food affected me I had to go onto what is called a diagnostic diet for 2 weeks. I basically lived on hunter and gatherer foods and drinks. No caffeine, alcohol, processed food etc and the only meat and fish I could eat is what you’d be able to kill when we were cavemen and women, certain vegetables (green and cauliflower, I added this in as I love it) and berries, kiwi and seeds. The foods I could eat are highlighted in pink on this picture.

then I extended this for another week and could eat as much a liked!!

I got migraines, headaches, cravings and felt awful, the consultant explained it was down to withdrawals. After the 5th day I started to feel much better, in fact I felt great, had more energy and started to sleep more than my usual 3 hours a night!

After 3 weeks I slowly, 1 day at a time, started to introduce one food item a day, I ate it for breakfast along with the diagnostic foods too, then again at lunchtime and kept a diary of any reactions plus any overnight weight gain. If I had a reaction it was very severe and usually was a headache, numbness, tingling, fatigue, diarrhoea, muscle pain or weakness, or a combination of the above. I’d also put weight on overnight which is not actual fat but my body reacting to the food; water retention. I then waited till the flare up passed and continued to reintroduce food one at a time. The list of foods I tried after the initial diagnostic diet are in the picture below. All apart from the ones I crossed out as I had already stopped eating these some years ago.

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ome foods I can eat rarely as these do not cause a major flare up of symptoms but minor ones, are the following:-

  • Diary
  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Low sugar items
  • Caffeine

Foods I cannot eat as they dramatically affect my symptoms the I had reduced or eradicated are the following:-

  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Any processed foods
  • Anything containing E numbers, MSG or anything artificial
  • Eggs (due to the conditions their parents are raised according to my consultant. Poor living conditions, fed a poor diet and given hormones)
  • Chicken (same reason as above)

I don’t eat a lot of red meat but love turkey nom nom. I also don’t eat many ‘other’ white foods like pasta or rice, opting for the occasional wholewheat option or substitutes, occasionally eating white potatoes and switching to non MSG organic gravy. We make all our own sauces now not ones that are pre-made unless free from additives and chemicals.

I can however eat crisps with no additives yummy and very dark chocolate 🤗.

Milk upsets my stomach but I can get away with a little bit so I use a substitute, oat milk is lovely and I can use coconut and almond but not soy due to hormone issues (cysts and Endometriosis). I can drink coffee as long as it’s not Jarred and it’s freshly brewed ☕️.

Alcohol makes me very ill apart from the odd gin but I quit last December as I really cannot see the point, whether this lasts all year who knows 😂. I cannot eat mango or bananas as they cause a mini flare as they contain too many natural sugars.

The worst reactions I get are from MSG and sugar. The fatigue and muscle pain are very extreme.

My consultant explained to me that once you go 3 weeks on a very bland diagnostic diet it’s like a reset to the system, so any foods you reintroduce create a much more severe reaction that I wouldn’t have spotted on my previous diet.

Am I an angel 😇 nope. I do still fall off the wagon but at least I can pinpoint why and this keeps me positive.

The other things I changed was my bedtime routine. I wear uv glasses as move away from the tv at least half an hour before bed to help calm my nervous system, increase my natural melatonin (blue light reduction) and reduce overstimulation of my brain. I meditate for 10-20 minutes before bed using my headspace app and headphones. I have about 5 different subjects on the go at once 👌🙏. This new activity has helped improve my mental health and negative thinking and helped me remove unhelpful thoughts 💭, I just tend to laugh at myself now. I do however allow myself the occasional cry 😭. As I find it helps clear my head and move on from whatever is bothering me at the time, there are no positives in bottling up negative feelings.

Immobility has worsened my morning stiffness and muscle aches and increased my fatigue so much I struggle to walk more than 20 metres or use the stairs in my house! You need to find the right gentle exercise and persevere. I used to be super fit and have muscles pre fibromyalgia, it took me years to accept that I can never train like that anymore. But it doesn’t matter as health has to come first. I find doing gentle interval training on my power plate works wonders for me. Yes I hurt a few days after, but I am going to hurt anyway 😂 might as well be hurting from doing something than doing nothing. Find out what works for you; walking, swimming, yoga, stretching, Pilates, biking, whatever, just don’t make the same mistake I have and stop moving. It’s better to ache from moving than hurting from not!!!!!!!!!

I started slow, just a few mins once a week and now I’m up to 5 mins 3 times a week and I will continue to increase this gradually. Everyone has to exercise to stay healthy, you will hurt so just slow it down.

Learning self hypnosis and NLP techniques is also important too, use positive language, behaviours and thoughts. I used to moan constantly but all it did was make myself feel worse. Now I focus on the positives, even on really bad days like today, I’ve been up all night with back pain but at least I’m still breathing and I have a 90 minute massage today and half day off work yay. Yes I’ll be struggling to walk tomorrow as the massage is painful the day after but it’s great for my stiff tired muscles and exercises them.

I know it’s hard and I know how you feel, you want to give up, but what is the alternative? Life is too precious so grab it by both hands, by the neck if you have to 😂 and start making some changes to how you live; keep a food log, try the diagnostic diet and eat healthier, use a pacing diary so you know how much you can manage before fatigue kicks in (takes me about 48 hours to kick in) get moving, train you mind like you would your body. If you don’t change your life you will never feel any different!

Take care and ask any questions as I am completely open and honest, no one knows how you feel but someone with fibromyalgia. You can improve your symptoms even if it’s not your primary condition like me. If I can do it so can you 👍💖

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Diagnostic diet part 2 and Fibromyalgia 

As promised, I would send you an honest update on how my diagnostic diet is going.  I started before I spoke to the consultant and completely ditched all processed food, so nothing came out of a packet.  I lost 7 lbs in 2 weeks and felt so much better; less fatigue and reduced muscle pain.  

I went into the diagnostic diet for 2 weeks to cut down my diet to a very basic bland hunter gatherer type.  This basically removes all potential foods that could cause a reaction with my nervous system.


You only eat the highlighted foods for the first 2 weeks.  You track your symptoms and at first you feel worse; giving up coffee gave me a migraine.  I lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks!!  

After the first 2 weeks my daily headaches disappeared, my fatigue was reduced, my muscle pain went away and the nerve sensation issues I had like tingling, itching, pain upon touching disappeared.  

I was just coming out of a flare up when I started the diagnostic diet and my sleep was terrible; 7 hours over 3 nights.  I asked for 5 days worth of sleeping tablets and usually they take my sleep from 3/4 hours to 4/5 but this time they worked great.

It took about a week to get over stopping the sleeping tablets (this is why I don’t like to take them)! Now I’m sleeping much better, deeper and longer 5/6.5 hours. 👍

Switching to fresh food only I lost a total of 1 stone and 7lbs in a month and never went hungry.

My moods are better, less extreme and my menstrual cycle was less severe.  I haven’t had digestive issues either.

The next phase of my diet is to slowly start bringing in the rest foods not highlighted on the photo above, one by one and track symptoms.

So far I’ve been able to eat asparagus, grapes, veal, tuna steak and tomatoes.  

I’m still not able to exercise until I’ve finished the next month as this could skew the symptom tracker.

I can’t wait to restart proper exercising as I’m so weak, getting out of breath walking up hill or up or down steps.  I couldn’t even keep up with my 67 year old dad!

It’s not easy as you have to have willpower and you have to track everything; symptoms and weight, which will start to increase if my nervous system reacts to it.

I have a comprehensive stool analysis kit to do and send off but I need to wait till I get paid as it’s £160 for the analysis; 3 collections and I have strict guidelines to follow including mixing with liquids, dealing and posting lol.  I have a list of other tests to do too that I have to pay for as the NHS has refused, simple blood tests.

I am willing to do anything to feel better and the Airedale Allergy Clinic here have done more for me than the NHS have in over 3 years.  The NHS don’t have the funding or support to investigate or locate cures for conditions like Fibromyalgia.  The US are way out front in this area as it’s about making money and a cure or even medications or treatments would rake in millions.  GPs are trained to give us meds and there aren’t any specialists only pain or arthritic specialists available in the UK, we are sent to these for more band aid treatments for our symptoms.  What we need is locating and dealing with the root cause!! 


Feel free to ask me any questions!  Or join my page here for more insights and research sharing.  

Working with Fibromyalgia 

Let’s be honest life does get much more difficult with Fibromyalgia and it’s hard for people to understand how it feels to have this condition.  I’ve had spinal issues for ten years and had chronic intermittent pain for 6 of those and permanently for the rest.  But I never ever imagined that I could feel so ill all of the time.  

It is only since I started mindfulness meditation that I realised that the pain is not constant, it changes and there are brief moments that I don’t feel any pain.  I do also believe that because our brains and bodies have increased pain sensitivity that we are used to feeling it therefore our brains and nervous systems continue to ramp up the pain.  When I meditate I focus on the areas that hurt the most, which is mostly where I have my fusion.  I slow down my breathing and focus on the area of pain and the area around it and I realise it’s not constant but changeable and I focus on what colours it reminds me of and what shape and contour the areas are.   We are often told by our doctors to ignore the pain and try to keep busy, I find this just stresses me out as I end up only focusing on the pain.  I find by using meditation to focus on the area and acknowledge the pain, making friends with it, realising it’s not constant I feel so relaxed, you can read more here.

Anyway let’s discuss working, some days I often wonder why the hell I put myself through the stress but I’d rather have a reason to get up than be at home depressed and worrying about my body hurting.  My job is very stressful, working with extremely challenging stakeholders and trying to manage my time to work within my limits.  I have had to toughen up and learn to pushback and say no, people constantly try to book long meetings, want me to travel to London (5 hour round trip) for something that could be done over the phone/screen share. There’s an expectation to always be online and work long days constantly attached to your desk, work through lunches and attend lots of meetings,which dramatically reduces productive time to do any actual work.  Meetings are also booked back to back so you end up running from one place to the next and always being late.  
Do not be afraid to speak up about changing your work environment and ways of working.  Here are some of the changes I’ve made to my working week:-

  • Don’t work excessive hours, listen to your body, my fatigue generally takes 48 hours to kick in.
  • Block out lunch breaks, what’s your contracted minimum lunch break?
  • Set your calendar so people know what hours you work.
  • Eat lunch away from your desk, unless you go for a walk at lunch!
  • Don’t be afraid to say no, not everyone’s priority is your priority, negotiate on deadlines.
  • Block out time in your diary to do actual work with a no meetings clause.
  • Switch off your phone and email when working on something to reduce distraction.
  • Book out meeting rooms or ask to work from home when you need quiet time to get stuff done.
  • Make action lists so you don’t miss any deadlines.
  • Don’t stress about things you can’t control, speak to a friendly face and share your concerns, you’d be surprised how helpful someone else can be when they look in from the outside.
  • Book meetings for 25 or 55 minutes giving you time to get to the next meeting and grab a drink or nip to the loo.
  • Make sure you take a healthy lunch and water with you as you need to eat to stay focused.
  • Make sure people factor in breaks to long meetings and especially lunch breaks as you need to rest and eat.
  • Keep weekend work to a minimum don’t let it become the norm.
  • Don’t just say yes to travel, always challenge the need for a face to face meeting, can’t it be done by phone/video conference or a screen share?
  • Have a rule of no meetings till X time, to give yourself time to prepare in a morning.
  • Have a rule of no meetings after X time to allow yourself a reasonable finish time.
  • Work from different positions, could you get a hydraulic desk, I have one and it really does help my back.
  • Block out time before and after meetings to prep or write them up to ensure you stay on top of things.

These are just some of the things I have put in place and I always find that if you’re honest with people and explain why you do the things the way you do, most people are reasonable and understanding.  The ones that aren’t you may have to enlist the help of your colleagues or just stick to your guns.

You are no good to anyone if you end up going off sick.  Many times in the past I’ve pushed myself too much and caused a flare up, now I have learnt the warning signs and I’ve even cancelled meetings as I haven’t felt well, explaining that if I don’t I’ll be off work.  

If you feel you aren’t getting the support you need maybe it’s time to have an honest chat with your boss about your condition or maybe look for another job.  I recently moved out of my old role which I loved as I couldn’t do it anymore, the expectation of being out on the road constantly was impossible.

Put yourself first always even if at first it feels uncomfortable, which it probably will as I know I did. 😉.  You can read more about working with Fibromyalgia here 

Pain flare ups with fibromyalgia

I find there are a few reasons our bodies hurt, for me I’ve put them in to 3 categories:-

  • Psychological; for instance when I get stressed or I am under pressure, say from work, my brain then relays this into physical pain into my weak spots – my spine.
  • Not using pacing; doing too many activities and not resting enough, again my brain warns me by creating physical pain, mostly into my weak spots, my spine or all over aches and pains in my muscles or skin pain by touch, allodynia.
  • An injury, say from twisting my body or falling over.  I find that with fibro I hurt a lot by just simple acts I performed before I had fibro which might never have caused any lasting pain.

It’s important to understand which of these we feel during a flare up.  For example when I developed fibromyalgia and I didn’t know I had it and I was sure I had another serious problem with my back.  The pain was actually my heightened sensitivity to pain and the fact I was trying to undertake lots of activities such as before I had back surgery.  But when I learnt I had developed fibro I realised that my back did not need further investigation and that I had to learn to pace myself and I understood that my brain was increasing the pain signals through my nervous system instead of in a non fibro sufferer reducing the pain signals.  

An example would be falling and hurting your ankle with a sprain that Fibromyalgia could increase the pain and symptoms such as touch and to feel more like a break.  It took my sprained ankle 2 years to heal instead of a normal 3-9 months, even for a bad sprain!

Plus when you understand how pacing works, you can begin to understand your limits and reduce activities to a level that flare ups are rare and manageable.  Keeping logs and diaries are a great way to help you learn about your condition, body and reduce the boom or bust scenarios.  Please read here for more information. 


The above shows you how boom or bust works and learning to pace activities will help to reduce or even eliminate these.

Now I’m not an expert, I came home yesterday in tears as I pushed myself too hard this week at work.  I called my new manager and asked to come and see me this week as I needed to talk through my new role, his and my expectations and make it clear I will not risk my health for work.  He agreed and seemed generally caring, which is a start.

I have tried to deal with fibromyalgia by popping pain pills but this treatment does not work.  Eventually our brains get used to them and then you have to keep moving onto stronger medications.  I weaned off 5 tablets and now find that I deal with fibro much better by just taking them during flare ups, as they seem to actually work and the rest of the time I use a holistic approach, I’ll give you a brief run down of done of the things I use:-

  • Regular massage
  • Magnesium flakes in my bath
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Pacing, spreading out activities with regular rest
  • I use a hydraulic desk and spinal chair at work so I can work standing and sitting
  • Heat, I have hot water bottles everywhere
  • I take a varied amount of natural minerals and vitamins
  • I use positive affirmations all the time, by saying out loud positive things such as I love mornings, I am going to have a great day today
  • I use essential oils in a device click here

I am not sure where you are on your journey with fibromyalgia, but if you understand why you get flare ups and increased pain you can learn to reduce or remove these episodes. 

Pacing with fibromyalgia

I have kept diaries in the past to track pain which was hard to determine what caused it as I did not know I had fibromyalgia at that time.  Everything hurt like hell 😂😂

I started to keep a Fibro diary about 3 months ago to see what caused pain and exhaustion to try to help me figure out what I could do and not have a Fibro attack, crash whatever you want to call it.

As part of my mindfulness course I am trying a new one which is a much better plan:-


This lists, activity, time taken, a rating for whatever you are tracking, mine is pain and exhaustion as separate ratings.  1 being minimal and 10 being extreme.  Then I log a physical tension rating and whether I perceive the activity as either an increase ‘+’ or decrease ‘-‘ or no change ‘0’.

The whole purpose of this is to try to see what activities increase pain, exhaustion and tension or whatever your scale is tracking, then to try to reduce the length of time by 20%, to try to reduce the boom, bust cycle, so the overdoing it then becoming ill, making myself incapable of activities until recovered. 
For example if sitting for 10 minutes is ok but more is painful, I just get up at 8 minutes and do something else for a period of time to reduce the chance of pain.

This is great in principle as it can help me plan my day better but presently it hurts to sit and stand at work and the more walking I do the more exhausted I get 😂😂. Since adding the hot water bottle I can sit for longer.  So I have in fact found a compromise.

I am going to keep the diary for a few days until my next session to see what happens and see if I can change anything to ensure I don’t fall into the boom or bust cycle. 


There are some great tips on the 2 pictures above.  

I have even been using my mindfulness meditation at work at lunch time as I find it helps me control my exhaustion due to mental exhaustion.  I don’t even need to close my eyes anymore as I can do it staring at something with a soft focus.

The pain I have is lower back ache which has ramped up since I restarted my regular mindfulness yoga.  It’s just lactic acid building up in my body as I allowed myself to become immobile.  The more I exercise the stronger I will become and in the long term my pain will reduce.

I will never ever allow myself not to be able to exercise and I will not allow myself to get overweight as this would be irresponsible and showing contempt for my health and wellbeing.