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
- 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
- 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
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.
ome foods I can eat rarely as these do not cause a major flare up of symptoms but minor ones, are the following:-
- Low sugar items
Foods I cannot eat as they dramatically affect my symptoms the I had reduced or eradicated are the following:-
- 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 👍💖