diet-and-fibromyalgia
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Our relationship with food seems like a rewarding one and, if you are anything like me, you will love your food and find it oh so very enjoyable. Unfortunately, despite what we are often told, our modern diet isn’t necessarily a very healthy one; especially when you throw chronic illness into the mix.

I think deep down a lot of us know this, but food is often the one thing those of us suffering from chronic illness cling on to and hold tightly. We don’t want to change how we eat because chronic illness has already stolen so much from us. If we have given up so much already, why should we have to change how we eat too?

Personally, I found myself rationalising that I was going to enjoy eating whatever the hell I wanted. I felt like I ate more or less healthily and I didn’t want to see that what I ate could be contributing to my problems. Part of the reason was what I just said above; I felt like my illness had already taken so much away from me. And another part was because I felt like food was something I could control.

Chronic illness is often unpredictable in nature. I can’t guarantee that I will be well enough to do certain things and I hate this. Food felt like the consistent thing in my life that I enjoyed and actually had control over. Sounds silly but it’s how I felt.

Then I hit rock bottom. My illness got progressively worse and left me pretty much bed bound most of the time. No one seemed to have any answers on how I could get better. Desperate to improve, I took a leap of faith and began to follow the protocol set out in the book “Suffered Long Enough”. I knew that, to get full benefit from the protocol, I had to be fully invested. This meant letting go of my food attachments and overhauling how I ate.

I then subsequently started the Vital Plan Restore program, which set out the protocol in the book in an easy to follow format with help and support added in too. I wish I could report back and say it didn’t help or that I found a way to improve my health while clinging onto all those comfort foods I used to eat. But I can’t. Instead, I found my new approach to eating made a positive impact on how I felt.

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To be completely honest with you, I didn’t expect this to happen. I have previously toyed around with diet changes and didn’t feel like it helped much. I was vegan for a few years (this was before my diagnosis when I knew something was up but I wasn’t quite sure what). And at one point I stopped eating wheat products for a month.

I even went a step further and cut out gluten, wheat, fried foods and sugar for 2 months on advice from a nutritional therapist. I’ll admit that my heart wasn’t in it though and, although I didn’t realise it at the time, with hindsight I continued to make poor choices. I swapped processed wheat products for processed gluten-free alternatives. I thought this was healthy but the truth was my body couldn’t handle those processed foods either.

This time around I invested 100% in an elimination diet and I believe these changes, along with the herbal therapies, made a significant difference. For me, I learned that I had issues with processed foods, dairy, wheat and refined sugar. Removing these from my diet lowered my pain levels and reduced symptoms such as nausea and bloating. I have spoken to other people with fibromyalgia who have reported the same.

My whole view of and relationship with food has changed now. When thinking about what I put into my body, I no longer think about my own greed and pleasure. I think about what will nourish my body. And I’ve found out that this doesn’t need to mean eating bland or boring food. There are loads of delicious recipes that are incredibly satisfying.

I’m going to hold my hands up and say that I am only human and therefore not perfect (though I have to say this is just a figure of speech and I don’t believe the aim here is perfection, more it’s about what helps me to feel as well as possible). However, I now notice a huge difference in how I feel if I eat something that I have been avoiding.

Foods that agrees well with me leaves me feeling as good as I did before I ate or better. Eating foods that don’t, leave me feeling groggy, drained and can increase my pain.

diet-and-fibromyalgia-02

I think it’s important to say that I don’t believe food is a miracle cure. And it should not be a replacement for proven treatments and therapies. But it’s interesting to note the impact that food has on how I physically feel. Even though I felt like I was eating healthily before, because I had intolerances I wasn’t aware of, what I ate contributed to my problems.

I do think that food intolerances are commonplace in people with fibromyalgia, especially given that there are many digestive symptoms with the condition. However, it’s worth taking into consideration that these can be varied and complex. What works for one, may not necessarily work for another. It’s probably why some people claim being gluten-free helps, while others claim it doesn’t.

This is why I personally value the Restore program. It guided me through the process of an elimination diet easily and I had a support team (that includes a medical doctor) on hand to answer questions. Doing it on my own would have felt more daunting and challenging.

Overall, I’d say I’m a hell of a lot better than I was just two months ago and setbacks, though they have happened, are not as severe as they used to be. Funnily enough, setbacks are often when people begin to struggle with lifestyle changes, myself included. We want to immediately say, “it’s not working because my pain and fatigue are worse again,”and fall back into old habits.

However, it is worth sticking with it and riding out the storm. During those difficult times, I try to focus on the fact that I know it will eventually pass. I rely on support from others too. My family are great at keeping me on track and having the Vital Plan team there as additional support has also been helpful.

Although every now and again I wish I could eat whatever I wanted without repercussions, the truth is, I’m glad I have been able to give up my food attachments. I have found a way to enjoy food that also benefits my health. I therefore challenge you to think about your own relationship with food. Is it serving you? Or is it potentially causing problems?

I would love to hear if you have found improvements through diet changes in the comments below. Also, if you have any favourite recipes I’d love to hear about them too.

 

Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

12 Comments

  1. This has been the hardest thing for me. I do great about 80% of the time And regret most of that last 20% soon after making a bad choice. Its getting easier and it is working. I am sticking to no processed foods instead of letting go of dairy or wheat, though refined sugar is on the no list.

    • Well done on giving up processed foods. It’s a big step and It is tough so I totally understand the 20%. I’ve felt such an improvement in these last few weeks that I can’t cope with the pain spikes from eating food that disagrees with me so that it what keeps me going. I also keep a food journal to help keep me on track, which is working for me

      • I have been using My Fitness Pal to log my food. This week has been ugly and I am paying for it but the food journal keeping me mindful of food is by far the best pain management and weight loss tool I have. That and vitamins have made a huge difference.

        • My fitness pal is great, I used it in the run up to my wedding a couple of years back as I had put on a few lbs and needed to lose again. It’s really good for helping assist weight loss and just making you more aware of what you are putting into your body. Don’t beat yourself up about having a bad week, it’s just one of those things. I wish you well for staying on track next week 🙂

  2. This is a really interesting post and very motivating! I have found reducing lactose, refined sugar and wheat has served me well – like Rebecca I am more 80/20 than completely clean eating but I have seen a big improvement from that alone. I also cook all my meals from scratch and have bumped up my fruit and veg which helps! If my ratio of “treat/occasional” foods creep up or I find myself exhausted and living on toast I find my fibro flares become much, much worse.

    • Thank you. That’s great that you have found improvement through changing your diet. It’s so easy to fall into old habits and I certainly crave comfort foods like chocolate, cake etc from time to time. I’ve not given in though as, like you say, the flare would not be worth it. I’ve been experimenting with some sugar/wheat/dairy free desserts as occasional treats to curb the cravings. I love that there are great food blogs dedicated to healthier eating as it makes it so much easier.

  3. Newberrygirl Reply

    Have your heard of the 5 whites? My friend is a Native American, she’s as gorgeous as humanly possible. She told me healthy natives don’t Ever Eat
    Sugar, salt, flour, milk or lard. She is very health and has overcome many physical ailments on this eating system. I want to try! I need will power

  4. This made a huge difference for me. Sugar was SO difficult to give up, and now that I have weaned my way off, whenever I eat stuff with too much sugar I get nauseated. Sometimes even just thinking about it is enough….

    • It’s funny how much our tastes change isn’t it? I am the same. I used to have such a sweet tooth but now, anything that has a lot of sugar in it is far too sweet for me and I dislike it. I too found it hard to give up but now I have, I really don’t miss it!!

  5. I found your blog today and am thanking God for it. I realized for sometime now that my relationship with food was my biggest culprit, but like so many of us I resisted in having to give up yet another thing to live with this disease. I finally got sick & tired of being sick & tired! 2016 will be my year of restoration!! I sat down and had a heart to heart with my Rhuematologist concerning diet changes. He basically informed me of everything you speak of, eliminating processed foods, starches, dairy, refined sugar, and gluten. He explained not to try giving up everything all at once or I would surely fail. I started with just one thing first, which was the refined sugar. The first 3 days was hell, I actually felt very ill, nauseated, headaches,& flu-like symptoms. That showed me right there how addicting this stuff is. The next was the starches,which usually go hand & hand with the sugars (comfort foods). Didn’t take me long to realize they were not actually comfort foods after all, I was NOT comfortable after eating them! I am already starting to feel so much better. My next will be gluten, I will keep you informed how that goes. Again, I thank you for this blog and that I found it!!

    • Hi Patti

      Big well done on making the connection between how you feel and food. I think food is often the one we want to hang on to. For me it was a control thing– I didn’t want to give up any more to illness. However, I soon realised my food choices actually gave me control over my symptoms, which is a powerful thing.

      Sugar withdrawals are horrible and I think that’s where many go wrong (I know I did in the past). It’s easy to believe the diet changes are making you worse when the opposite is true.

      Good luck with giving up gluten. I found it took around 3 months to really feel the benefits but it has most certainly been worth it

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