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Will changing your diet help you cope with fibromyalgia?

While there is no one food that will alleviate the symptoms, certain dietary changes can help you manage your pain.

09 December 2014
by Jennifer Campbell

Fibromylagia is a debilitating disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain that leads to fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. And according to Dr Russell Raath, a chronic pain interventional physician at the Jacaranda Pain Clinic in Pretoria, certain foods do more than trigger its symptoms – in fact, some diets may actually contribute to the development of the disease. “Concentrated carbohydrates like flour and sugar can overwhelm the body’s natural antioxidant system and cause cell damage,” he explains. “This damage can extend to the cells of the nerves, resulting in pain and fatigue.” 

Raath recommends that those who suffer from fibromyalgia eat more foods that are high in magnesium and zinc, as well as good quality fats like olive, coconut and avocado oils, and butter. Supplements like omega-3 can help to boost the body’s natural antioxidants too.

However, Raath warns that many over-the-counter magnesium supplements are not sufficient for the needs of fibromyalgia sufferers. He often puts his patients on magnesium drips to make sure that they get high doses quickly. “Certain types of magnesium available over the counter go right through the intestines and cause diarrhoea. Ask your pharmacist instead for a good quality supplement and look out for preparations that are absorbed in the mouth and don’t need to be swallowed,” advises Raath.

Christa du Toit, medical scientific liaison at Pain SA, an organisation dedicated to improving pain management in Southern Africa, agrees that certain foods will alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia, while others will make them worse. She offers her tips for figuring out what’s right for you:

  • Learn by trial and error: Keep a food diary and specifically document the outcomes the next day. Remember that, like all pain management, diet can be very patient-specific so foods that alleviate or aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms will differ from person to person.
  • Ask for help: Consulting a dietician will help you identify what your body needs. With a professional’s help, you will soon learn what helps you cope better.
  • Join a support group: It’s helpful to join a group where you can meet people who have had the same experience as you. Support groups are a great place to share knowledge, so ask your doctor or search online for one.

Chat to your Clicks Pharmacist for more. 

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com