Carbohydrates make up the majority of the calories in many Americans’ diets. Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient which provide the body with energy. Grains such as bread, cereals, pasta and rices are all types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates also come from fruits, vegetables and the natural sugars found in dairy products.
Some quick education on Carbs can help patients to have a better understanding of foods to be wary of in fighting chronic pain. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, cookies and candies, sodas, contain very little benefits to our general health. Refined carbs are low in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, broccoli and asparagus, are rich in dietary fiber, help to stabilize blood sugar levels and are better choices for pain patients. Complex carbohydrates also contain high levels of vitamins and minerals.
Interesting enough most chronic pain patients, specifically Fibromyalgia, patients tend to have more frequent cravings for carbohydrates than healthy individuals. When patients give into the simple carbs they can enter a hypoglycemic state, or a sudden drop in blood sugar, perpetuating the fatigue and pain of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.
Cutting out all carbohydrates from the diet is not recommended, since they do serve an important function in the metabolic process. Instead, we recommend cutting out all refined carbohydrates and choosing complex carbohydrates to make up 30-40% of your daily calorie intake.
These changes can significantly decrease inflammatory levels, improve energy and decrease pain.
This is an absolutely huge topic, I can’t state that enough! In fact, this article is only a primer to an entire book we are writing that will help to attack and treat Fibromyalgia. I will give a few of the highlights on our ‘cure’ for Fibromyalgia.
Before we can treat Fibromyalgia, let’s try to put to the side the past stigmas associated with Fibromyalgia. For many years a majority of physicians did not believe in Fibromyalgia and there are still a few physicians who refuse to recognize or treat Fibro. While rounding on patients in the hospital, I overhead a colleague label Fibromyalgia as the “depressed, overweight, middle age, housewife syndrome”. On the other spectrum, you had the theory that Fibromyalgia was a warning of things to come. This group looked at Fibromyalgia patients similar to the theory of the canary in the coal mine.
Luckily, the medical community is finally coming around to recognizing this chronic pain condition. Current Fibromyalgia research and philosophy is a mixed component of a central nervous system dysfunction with a chronic myofascial component. Below is a list of recommendations we make to all of our Fibromyalgia patients on there first visit.
- Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, make sure to have labs to rule our other connective tissues diseases first, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, before accepting the Fibro diagnosis.
- Every Fibro patients needs a sleep study to treat any underlying sleep disorders that will directly complicate pain.
- Treat any underlying depression.
- Check underlying vitamin deficiencies that can complicate pain, including Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B1
- Start a daily home exercise/stretching program, Fibro will worsens with inactivity.
- Eliminate all soda’s immediately, totally toxic and can increase inflammatory levels in the body complicating pain.
- Restrict the ‘nightshade plants’ from the diet to limit their inflammatory related issues
- Limit yeast foods, so many of my patients struggle with this one but it will dramatically improve your energy.
- Work with a local physician and consider one of the FDA approved medications for Fibromyalgia: Cymbalta, Lyrica or Savella.
- Consider a workup for gluten allergy.
So much more to cover in future blogs, but this will give you a good starting point and as always consult your local healthcare provider before starting any new health lifestyle modification.
To make progress in finding a “Cure” for your pain, every patient needs to evaluate the food they put into their body. Your food is the fuel your body uses to heal and to repair itself. There are countless studies that show direct correlation to increased inflammatory levels and increased pain with different food groups.
Here is a list of foods we recommend to avoid or consider a 6 week elimination trial.
#1 Avoid all sodas! Interesting enough, diet soft drinks, due to the sweetener Aspartame, seem to have even worse detrimental side effects for pain patients. We have seen dramatic results from patients eliminating all soft drinks and replacing with water. Eliminating soft drinks improves energy, decreases inflammatory levels that trigger or exacerbate Migraine headaches, joint pain and Fibromyalgia.
#2 Limit or eliminate “Night shade” plants. Most patients assume that increasing vegetables would be a good lifestyle choice, however increasing studies are revealing that pain patients do worse with exposure to nightshade plants. Nightshade plants include a list of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, eggplant and more! These nightshade plants increase inflammatory levels in the body and increase pain.
#3 Limit Carbohydrates! Carbs, specifically yeast related products worsen pain and specifically Fibromyalgia patients.
#4 Avoid Fast food, not even going to explain this further.
#5 Do your best to shop the outer ring of the grocery store. The outer ring of the grocery store will have more of the food that should be put into our body. The inner aisles contain all the processed foods. Obviously it’s impossible to avoid all of the inner aisles, but if you start on the outer ring you will improve your nutritional value.
#6 Consider being evaluated for Gluten.
This list will give you a good starting point to cleaning up your food intake and improving the food that fuels your body.