After suffering with fibromyalgia for over a year, I made a discovery that changed my life for the better. And it cost nothing.
Just over a year ago I began to get sharp pain in my left leg. Made it hard to walk but I managed. I thought it was sciatica and waited for it to go by itself. Except it didn’t go. It got worse. And the same pain arrived in my right arm. Then my left and across my shoulders and collarbones. I felt as though I had tight rubber bands running down through my buttocks - making it difficult to walk and bend. I persevered because I love to walk my dogs and I felt that the exercise was very necessary to retain the little bit of flexibility I had left. There were other symptoms as well: my memory became a little foggy, I was exhausted from lack of sleep, I became sensitive to cacophony and sensory overload. It became obvious that I have fibromyalgia. My story will be familiar to many fibromyalgia sufferers, I’m sure.
The Progression of FMS
Over the months, I veered from anger through depression and back to determination that this insidious disease was not going to beat me. I continually affirmed to myself that there was nothing physically wrong with my limbs. That it was my brain misinterpreting normal sensation. Some days, I had to leave the dog walking to my partner because I just knew I couldn’t do it.
I researched everything about fibromyalgia and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) as I could. Lurked around patient boards, read recommendations by people who suffer with it. I only found one or two who claimed to have conquered it - one was with homeopathy. And of course, I tried it - to no avail. Another mentioned a list of supplements that she uses to keep the pain at bay. Ordered every single one on the list and took them for three months. No change, apart from with each day, the pain seemed to get worse, although there were some days that were easier than others.
Those days were when I kidded myself I’d cracked it… I was getting better. I watched Dr Sarno videos, read books written by his acolytes. Went on a weight loss diet. Practiced deep breathing. Listened to hypnosis recordings. I’m a qualified reflexologist so I re-flexed my feet like crazy - when I could actually reach them. Apart from very short-term relief, nothing worked.
Some parts of my body did improve. I couldn’t reach around to my back to undo my bra strap normally six months ago, but gradually I was able to improve my stretch and could do it again. I measured my days by how easy or hard it was to achieve this one little thing.
FMS Gets Worse
However, over the last couple of months, the pain just got worse. I couldn’t walk without a limp and I felt like an old woman, hobbling around. I fell asleep every afternoon because I was so exhausted. I woke up at night crying with pain. In the mornings it took an hour to ‘defrost’ enough to be able to dress myself. I couldn’t write because I couldn’t think properly. I couldn’t enjoy my walking because the whole time my teeth were gritted to endure the pain in my left leg. My right leg was never as bad. My right arm hurt; a burning sensation in my forearm. I felt shooting pains in my upper body periodically. Sometimes I was unable to lift dishes and plates.
A few weeks ago, I was at the end of my tether. I was going to have to request strong medication in order to have a life worth living. Up till this time I kept painkillers to a minimum - one paracetamol and one Ibuprofen at 7 am and the same at 9:30 pm (so I could actually get myself into bed). If I had to do anything like shopping during the day, I’d take another pair of tablets. They didn’t do much to help, but I was determined not to get onto opiates or suchlike.
A Lifeline Appears: A Fibromyalgia Case Study
Then on one of my internet trawls for more information I came across a study. A case report on one woman. A 34 year old who was suffering the whole gamut of FMS symptoms. Much worse than I had. I have a feeling that she might be a doctor or scientist herself because she was adamant she didn’t want to go the pain medication route. She had a theory that involved “supporting serotonin synthesis by allowing a proper absorption of tryptophan assumed with food, while avoiding, or at least minimizing the presence of interfering non-absorbed molecules, such as fructose and sorbitol.”
OK, well I didn’t have much idea what all this meant, but I devoured the case report. Read it over and over. Following a strict diet the subject had eliminated most of the FMS symptoms within two months and returned to full-time work. After 10 months, she was still sticking to it and was almost completely in remission; bar sensitivity to low temperatures, bad odors and loud noise. dysmenorrhea, and memory lapses have also stayed with her.
There were no details on the actual diet, just a list of foods she was allowed to eat. These foods weren’t just about eliminating FMS triggers, but to facilitate the production of L Tryptophan in the brain. The only guidance given was that her food intake would consist of approximately 31–36% carbohydrates, 30–32% fats, 25–27% proteins, and 9–10% fiber. I ordered and shopped for everything on the list. I also decided to include coconut (oil, cream and milk) and it turns out, it’s fine.
I had no idea if I could cope with the total elimination of wheat and dairy and almost no sugar. But I have, and I am.
It Works - My Fibromyalgia Pain is Almost Gone
12 days into eating this way and I felt like I had my life back. I could stand up without needing support. My legs supported me first thing in the morning instead of feeling as though they could give way any minute. I walked my dogs a little farther each day. Sleeping well. I no longer needed the extra painkillers in the middle of the day.
15 days in and I can bend, walk, reach almost as good as before the pain began. I am still achy in the mornings, but that passes quite soon. Sometimes in bed, I might turn and be aware that there’s still a little pain in my left leg. Nothing like before. I feel sharper, more alert, almost normal. And I lost a kilo - 2.2 pounds. Bonus.
How I Eat on the Fibromyalgia Diet
I had to do a bit of research on how to prepare millet, but it’s just like quinoa and can be used in the same ways. Plus you can buy it in flour form for sauces, gravy and things. Meat, fish, and eggs are fine, so it’s pretty easy to come up with enough variation. And with the addition of coconut, I can make meals that the rest of the family enjoy too. Often I will prepare our normal meals up to the point where I usually add ‘forbiddens’ and then I separate a portion out for myself. For example, preparing something like a curry, I take my portion out before adding onions to theirs and carry on cooking it separately.
I don’t worry too much about the percentages of food groups; I figured it’ll take care of itself.
What I realized is that my pain was getting worse as I was trying to eat healthily. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables was causing me more pain. There are vegetables on this ‘diet’, but they are very restricted in order to avoid fructose.
The List of Permitted Foods to Reduce FMS Pain
- Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
- Millet and millet flour
- Carob powder
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grape seed oil
- Thyme, sage, rosemary (dried or fresh)
- Green tea
- Small amount of almonds.
Don't forget there are other foods associated with these: almond butter and rice cakes come to mind. As long as there is no added sugar, you should be okay. I've also eaten small amounts of kale with no detrimental effects and once even a packet of potato crisps (chips). But generally, try to stay away from processed foods as much as you can.
Just Give It a Go
You will have to, like me, use your imagination to create meals from this lot. And I promise, you will get used to carob and coconut drinks (add a little cocoa powder) without sugar. If I can do it, anyone can. What I found is that eliminating pain has caused me to be highly motivated in sticking to the list. Only once have I cheated: had two glasses of red wine on the third day and was in agony the next. Never again. I think I set myself back 48 hours.
Try this eating regime for just two weeks and see how you get on. It can’t possibly hurt you unless you are allergic to anything on the list, in which case, don’t eat it. I added in coconut oil, cream, and milk because I don’t like heating olive oil for cooking, and because I like my coffee with milk. The brand of coconut milk I use is Koko Dairy Free Original + Calcium Long Life Milk.
I also highly recommended that you read the case study for yourself: Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Case Report on Controlled Remission of Symptoms by a Dietary Strategy
Questions and Feedback
Please understand, I am no doctor (I am a qualified reflexologist so have always had an interest in health-related topics). This is my story, and how I have sidelined my fibromyalgia. I know it will never be fully cured, but at least I am now in control. I plan on adding extra foods in as I go along to see what effect they have. So I can only answer questions based on my own experience.
If you do try this fibromyalgia eating plan, it would be lovely if you could share your own experience and any recipes that you come up with. I’d appreciate it so much.
Good luck and I hope you, too, are able to beat FMS.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: What about if you are told you have scoliosis and bone on bone in your lower back? My other symptoms are the exact same as this woman's experience. I can't walk, can't do anything. Are these symptoms part of fibromyalgia too?
Answer: Usually, with fibromyalgia, there are no obvious physical causes. It won't show up on scans. There is no inflammation or unusual joint wear. I recommend reading some books by Dr. John E. Sarno.
© 2019 Bev G
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on May 13, 2020:
It seems to make a huge difference to me. I have to avoid wheat at all costs.
Good luck, hope you experience some relief soon.
Micha ELa from Philippines on May 13, 2020:
I was diagnosed with fibro as well. Your article has brought to light why some days I have a sudden worsening of back pain. I have never considered diet as the reason, until now. I only attribute it to stress.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on December 11, 2019:
Hi Doris, I believe it's because almonds have a certain amount of fructose in them... and fructose is one of the things that should be removed. I use almond butter on rice cakes and haven't had a problem with it at all. Make sure the almond milk is unsweetened.
Last week I had a girlfriend to stay and we went out for the evening. The venue makes delicious hand-made pizzas, so of course I had to have one. Wheat. I was fine the next day and thought I'd got away with it. Then wham, on the Monday I could barely move. It was horrible. Only a week later do I now feel better, having stuck to 'the list' religiously.
I can get away with small amounts of dairy, like cheese. And butter is fine. Sugar, I avoid, except my little bit of 70% chocolate in the evenings.
Do read one of Dr Sarno's books too, that helped me a lot. There's also a great site https://www.tmswiki.org which you will find interesting.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 10, 2019:
I am very glad that your diet has helped you. I was about to conclude that I had fibro, but my doctor diagnosed me with CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) that was caused by a spinal injury I received in a city bus rollover. I call CRPS "localized fibromyalgia" because the symptoms are the same, just in a localized area. He put my on Lyrica, which wrecked my budget because insurance paid about $25 on a $400 a mo. prescription. After three years, the side effects became so severe that I had to stop taking it. What I've learned since then is that my symptoms get much better when I eliminate certain foods. I have celiac and a dairy allergy. Not lactose intolerance, to me that is just a little gnat bite compared to what a glass of milk or dish of ice cream does to my pain and my lungs. I eliminated dairy and wheat from my diet and it helped. Then A2 milk come on the market and I tried it. It worked -- for a few months, then the pain returned. I've spent most of today in bed because I consumed A2 milk for the last couple of days. I like fresh coconut, but I don't like coconut products, like coconut milk or fats.
I would like to try your list of foods, except that I do drink almond milk and use almond flour. Almond milk seems to bother my digestion a little bit, so I have to keep it down anyway, but I haven't noticed any repercussions from eating bread or cakes made from almond flour. Would you please elaborate on why you say almonds can be used if kept to moderation?
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 30, 2019:
Thank you, Louise. I'm sure whether this is 'healthy' as such, at least not in the accepted way. It's the combination of foods that trip certain chemicals in the brain that suppress the pain. It's fascinating, but of course, there's no money in it for the medical profession/pharma companies. A bit like diabetes and low-carb.
I hope you have made a good recovery now. My partner kept suggesting lupus to me, but it didn't fit.
Thanks for reading xx
Louise Elcross from Preston on September 30, 2019:
Hi Bev. I feel for you because I know d what it is like to be in pain. I was diagnosed 10 years ago after being told my pain and difficulties were all in my head. My imagination got the best of me and then I could not walk I was in so much intense pain. Cut a long story short I was eventually diagnosed with Lupus, RA, Raynauds and other conditions. I probably would have eaten a loss less sugar that I craved for energy if I had known. Eating healthily as you have explained is the way forwarded for all, whether diagnosed with a disorder or not. Thanks for writing this. Hope you have a painfree day.
Wifi Student from New Delhi on September 16, 2019:
Thanks for sharing your article on this topic.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on September 11, 2019:
Thank you, Tim. It seems to be working for me, but still have better and not-so-good days.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on September 11, 2019:
Thanks, Bev. G., I have a loved one with this condition. I will pass the article on to her. Those foods don't sound bad. Always helpful and informative, Bev. G. Respect and admiration.
Susana Smith from UK on August 28, 2019:
It certainly is! Especially after being told you're essentially powerless to do anything about it. I would expect (and hope) that your body will continue to heal over the coming months - that was my experience anyway. Best wishes to you xx
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 26, 2019:
It's such a relief, isn't it, Susana. I thought I was stuck with this... everyone says there's no cure to fibromyalgia. And although, it's not cured, at least I don't have to put up with all that pain. xx
Susana Smith from UK on August 26, 2019:
I'm so glad to hear you've found a diet that reduces your symptoms. You must feel on top of the world! It's amazing how much of a difference food makes to various health conditions. I've found a dairy, soy and grain free diet gets rid of all my ailments like migraine, achy joints, foggy head, depression and low energy.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 26, 2019:
Yes, I'd heard of that too. I think that the foods recommended in the study are also about that triggering of L Tryptophan, not just about elimination.
I feel happier, better than I've felt for months, so the old dopamine must be flowing too :D
Thanks Linda x
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 25, 2019:
I'm glad that the diet's helping and that you're feeling better, Bev. I found your article interesting because the diet sounds somewhat similar to what is known here as the low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet. This diet isn't identical to yours, but it's similar with respect to some of the foods that it eliminates and the goal of reducing fructose consumption. I've read that some people with fibromyalgia have found it useful.
The FODMAP diet was recommended to my sister for digestive problems. She also has fibromyalgia and other health problems, however. I don't think she stayed on the diet for very long. Now that I've read your article, I'm going to remind her about it and mention your success with the diet that you're following. Thank you for sharing the information and your experience.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 25, 2019:
Thank you, Mr Happy. I am getting so much better!
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on August 25, 2019:
Well, I am happy the story does have a somewhat better ending than its beginning. By that, I mean that I am happy that You feel better. May You get better still! (And if You do not mind, I would like to leave offerings for Healing.)
It was really nice to read about the details regarding food. For the last twenty years I have treated food as my medicine and I have not gone to a doctor in the last fourteen years. I have a strong belief that our immune system (if it works well), together with good food, can help us overcome most of our helth issues. Not all and not Death but many. So, yes it was encouraging to learn that You felt better after diatery changes.
My Intuition would say to help improve the immune system. I am not a doctor so, disregard that if it doesn;t feel right.
Either way, thank You for sharing your experience. I am sure others can learn from it (I did) and I wish You best of luck!
May Wakan Tanka allow Healing to take place. Da-na'-ho-we-yo.