If you don’t know what fibromyalgia is, you’re not alone. Although it affects up to 4% of the population and cases can be found as far back as the 17th century, it has only become defined as a diagnosable set of symptoms within the last couple of decades. And despite abundant research that allows doctors to recognize the disorder, it is still unknown what causes fibromyalgia or how it can best be treated. What we do know is this: the syndrome is characterized by a complex combination of symptoms that generally center on increased sensitivity to pain as well as ongoing muscle, tendon and joint pain, and fatigue (all of which may lead to several other symptoms).
- Aspartame. This sugar-substitute is not so sweet for people who suffer from fibromyalgia, as it has been shown to stimulate a pain receptor in the nervous system, leading to more or worsening symptoms for those who are already sensitive to pain.
- MSG. While you would probably avoid this flavor-enhancing additive anyway (since it is a known carcinogen), you should be especially careful when you have fibromyalgia. This and other nitrates used to boost the flavor of frozen foods can cause the same physical reaction as aspartame.
- Caffeine. While fatigue is a pretty big problem for individuals with fibromyalgia, there are better solutions than sucking down a dozen frappuccinos a day. You are probably aware of caffeine’s penchant for giving you a short-lived boost before dropping you to a lower level of energy than you had before. But for people who are already fatigued or depressed, this sedative effect could spell disaster.
- Gluten. Inexplicably, an aversion to gluten products is very common in those who suffer from fibromyalgia, leading some doctors to conjecture that some forms of the syndrome are actually caused by food allergies. While there is still little evidence to substantiate this theory, those who remove the offending food item from their diet often notice that they feel less fatigued and may experience a reduction of digestive problems.
- Trigger foods. You know when certain food items make you feel bad. Foods high in processed sugars or fats may make you feel bloated while alcohol and cocoa consumption can lead to migraines. So if you find that the ingestion of certain foods leads to an increase in symptoms, you’ll just have to learn to avoid those items, even if they were favorites before the onset of your syndrome.