Diet and Exercise for Fibromyalgia
A balanced plan for treating fibromyalgia should include both drug and nondrug therapies. Exercise, in particular, has been touted as a nondrug treatment for fibromyalgia. If approached the wrong way, however, exercise can cause pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia to flare. Be cautious of healthcare providers who tell you that exercise is the key to treating your fibromyalgia (they are not being realistic), but if done properly, exercise can help you stay fit and maintain a better quality of life. Similarly, a well-planned diet with the right nutritional supplements will help optimize your health.
Is there a diet that will “cure” fibromyalgia? No. However, a diet full of fruits and vegetables may supply your body with additional antioxidants and nutrients like malic acid found in apples, and calcium found in deep green vegetables. Antioxidents are considered to be beneficial for minimizing the destructive effects that can occur in tissues when the body generates certain reactive chemicals, called free radicals. An excess of free radicals is harmful to the tissues, which is likely why researchers have discovered that reduced antioxidant protection corresponds to greater muscle pain, and increased fatigue levels.
Doctors recommend that you try to minimize the amounts of preservatives or chemicals that you consume in your diet. This is because your body will require more antioxidants to clear them from your system, and many patients are chemically sensitive. Moreover, there are certain chemicals in foods that tend to cause more problems or magnify fibromyalgia symptoms, such as aspartame, commonly known on the supermarket shelf as Equal or NutraSweet.
In addition to a healthy diet, several vitamins and nutritional supplements have been found to be beneficial for a variety of chemical imbalances to help you improve the quality of your life. For example, melatonin is known to improve the quality of your sleep, although it may not be a strong enough hypnotic to get you to sleep. Vinpocetine, a substance extracted from the periwinkle plant, has been known for years to improve brain function. Supplements also can help with gastrointestinal distress, muscle function, fibro fog, and fatigue.
Exercise will help you stay functional while giving you that positive mental boost. It is also known to decrease anxiety and depression, which can negatively impact the way you cope with your symptoms. Doctors agree that aerobic exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and surrounding tissues to help nourish them. It also improves circulation, regulates blood pressure and body weight, and strengthens the heart, among other benefits. While this is all well and good, how will you face the challenge of beginning an exercise program without throwing your body into a flare up?
You need to take a mindful approach of what you are physically doing:
- Work with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program
- Avoid intense activity
- Think “moderate” exercise
- Understand your limitations
- Choose activities you can do and enjoy doing
- Start slowly in short increments of activity coupled with rest and build up slowly
- Stretch properly before each activity
In addition, there are several therapies involving massage, yoga, and self-help aids to ease soreness that may arise from exercise.