Monday, June 25, 2012

Fibromyalgia & My Clean Eating Adventure

                                                                                        Source: via Melissa on Pinterest

     When I was 17 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FMS) after a prolonged period of fatigue and widespread body pain had brought me to the point where I moved about like a frail 80-year-old. At the time there were no treatments for FMS and the syndrome was much less understood than it is today. I was caught in a vicious cycle of fatigue and pain that kept me from doing some of the very things that could help me, like exercising! My MD was at a bit of a loss, not yet knowing quite what to do for FMS he tried muscle relaxants and anti-depressents which either didn't help or created a host of new problems.

     I struggled to find out what I could do to help myself feel like a normal teenager, and to avoid the medications that obviously weren't a good fit for me. I finally found something that worked when my father hooked me up with a Naturopathic doctor. The Naturopath put me on an anti-inflammatory diet for 6 weeks, that was 16 years ago so I don't remember everything that he told me, but I do remember that the diet had me abstaining from processed foods, salt, all sugar (including honey), acidic citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, and dairy products. During this 6 week period I was to turn toward wholesome foods as close to their natural state as possible, whole grains like brown rice, healthy fats like olive oil, fresh fruits and veggies. I was also given a wide array of vitamin and herbal supplements to take daily and instructed to consume a great deal of water. I remember everything tasting so bland at first without my salt, sugar, and butter...but by the end of the 6 weeks I no longer craved these things and found that when I did add them to my food I didn't feel the need to pile them on with the great quantity I had in the past. Additionally, I regained enough energy to begin exercising regularly which is an important part of managing the chronic pain that is one of the hallmarks of FMS.

                                                                          Source: via Robyn on Pinterest

     Over the many years that followed I did my best to eat healthy, exercise, and allow myself rest that I needed perhaps more than other young women my age. I even found that during my pregnancies I felt quite well...sometimes better than when I wasn't pregnant. I would have flare ups for short periods of time once in awhile, but for the most part I didn't think much about FMS, in fact sometimes I considered that it was "in remission" (if that were possible) or that maybe I didn't have it all...maybe what I had experienced all those years ago was something else? But recently, after a prolonged period of dealing with post traumatic stress from a series of well...traumatic life events...I began to feel those familiar pains, the crippling fatigue. I tried to brush off my symptoms for quite awhile, pushing through each day as a busy mom of four, a fitness instructor, and as the wearer of many other "hats" as well...but it in the past month it has become painfully (literally) obvious that I am dealing with a major relapse of Fibromyalgia Syndrome. I feel worse than I have in 16 years.

                                                                                      Source: via James on Pinterest

     The good news is that the medical world has come a long way in understanding FMS in the years since I was first diagnosed. In a couple of weeks I will be seeing a Rheumatologist, these are the Ladies and Gents who specialize in FMS nowadays. I have also learned that there is a new drug called Lyrica that is used to manage the symptoms of FMS. I am not big on pharmaceuticals, but I do understand that there is a time and a place for them. I am certainly willing to learn more about drugs like Lyrica and consider whether or not it is right for me. When possible I tend to be a more natural type of gal, but ultimately I'd say that I believe in Integrative Medicine...a mixture of mainstream medical thought and holistic approaches. I look forward to hearing the advice Mr. Rheumatology has to offer, but in the meantime I have been reminded of what worked the last time I found myself in this painful, exhausted state: clean eating.

                                                                                   Source: via Blair on Pinterest

     "You are what you eat" or so they say, and I know from experience that I have found vast improvements in my sense of well being when I have made an effort to eat in a more mindful way (this is not to say that one's diet is a cause for Fibromyalgia or that changing one's diet can or will "cure" them of FMS.) Unfortunately, the very trauma and stress that contributed to my FMS flare up of late also contributed to indulging in the type of comfort foods and unhealthy eating patterns that cause inflammation in the body, brain fog, and a generally lethargic and mucked up collection of insides. This is what I think anyway. Let me just say here too, that I am a skinny chick. Always have been. Before you decide to spit in my eye for my admission that I am, yes, one of those girls who can eat anything she wants and not get fat...just understand this, while my bod may look svelte (and being a fitness instructor doesn't hurt that either) that doesn't mean that I am healthy or that my insides aren't freaking out and begging me to clean up my act. In a way, I've been on a bender for the last couple of years...but not an alcohol or drug bender... a sugar, salt, and butter bender (mmmmm....BUTTER!!) I don't like to say that this food is "good" and that food is "bad" but we've all heard the now popular phrase "moderation in all things"...I have fallen way off the moderation wagon. Time to clean up the garbage disposal that is my inner body.

     And so it has begun. I have been saying that I am "on a cleanse" but I use the term loosely, this is not so much a traditional cleanse or detox program, as it is an attempt to clean up my overall diet and in that attempt I will be completely abstaining from certain things for the next 6 weeks, the plan being to break my dependence on those indulgences and hopefully reintroduce them with more moderation and a healthier, happier body, mind and spirit. Since it is always more fun (and less lonesome) to go on such adventures with a buddy, my best darling Fella...has offered to "cleanse" along with me. What a sweetie!! You have no idea how much that strengthens my resolve.

     Over the next 6 weeks, check back here often. On some Mondays and during some "What I Ate Wednesdays" I will give you updates on how I'm doing and what I'm eating. In the meantime, check out the stash of just a few examples of the types of foods I'll be mange-ing on in lieu of the "trash" I've been eating:

In's what I'll be eating:
  • Whole grains, like brown rice (pictured above), and sprouted grain cereal
  • Fresh fruit, vegetables (I am not usually an iceberg lettuce gal, but the Foxy Organic Iceberg pictured above was on the discount produce rack...a must buy!)
  • Nuts, legumes
  • Poultry and fish (in moderation, and unprocessed--no "healthy" turkey hot dogs) 
  • Healthy fats, like olive and coconut oils
  • Water, water, water and more water 
What I won't be eating:
  • Dairy in any form...bye, bye butter (no margarine either)
  • Citrus or overly acidic fruits
  • Salt
  • Sugar (including honey and maple syrup)
  • White flour or processed foods 
     This coming Wednesday I will share "What I Ate" on day one of the "cleanse" or "clean eating plan", which was today!

In health, 

     *Please note that I am not a doctor or medical professional and that I am in no way claiming that this approach will cure FMS or that there is even one magic approach that is the answer for everyone. Nor do I intend to minimize or simplify the experience of dealing with FMS. I am simply sharing something that has worked well for me in the past and letting you along for the ride as I see if it can work for me again. Nothing I write here should be considered in place of the advice of your doctor or medical professional.


  1. We are so similar! I have suffered from Fibromyalgia symptoms for as long as I can remember. About a year ago, I discovered that my diet was a huge culprit in making me feel bad. I didn't have any flare-ups (as long as I ate right) for a really long time. I, too, was starting to think maybe I didn't have FMS. This week has been really tough, though. So discouraging. I have a newborn and have had a lot of company. I haven't been sleeping right and I've been working out too hard, and I'm feeling the effects of it. I can't wait to hear your updates!

    1. I'm sorry to hear you are having a flare up too! Having a newborn will certainly contribute to feeling exhausted, oooh boy do I know how that is (my youngest just turned 1.) I have been on the "cleanse" for a couple of days now and have been keeping myself to a strict schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time, it is already making a big difference. Hope to hear from you again and best of luck to you and your sweet little one!!

  2. Hi, for some reason your post stood out to me. I don't have FMS. My aunt does. I have been trying to gather info for her on anything that could help her. I'm a Beachbody Coach. And recently Beachbody came out with something called the Ultimate Reset. A program that cleanses you. You stop eating certain foods and start eating clean foods. I have not yet tried the program. I'm saving up for it. But if I could do it on my own without purchasing the program, for now, it will be great. Saves me lots of money. I will be following your blog to see how you are doing.

    1. Hi Rosario,

      Thanks for your comment, I know what you mean about saving money! For me it is all about taking baby steps, I thought about doing a full-on cleanse but that seemed overwhelming (which is so not what I need right now!) I also thought about doing an elimination diet to see if there are certain foods that are troublesome for me personally (like that found on but again, overwhelming. For now, doing this on my own by restricting myself from the main culprits such as salt, sugar, and dairy will be a step in the right direction. I'd be interested to find out more about what you are trying as well. Check back tomorrow, I'll show you what I ate on my first day!

  3. I have Fibro also and I think we are on the same page. I am trying a more whole foods diet myself. As far as the drug Lyrica, If you decide to take it, watch carefully for side effects. I could not take it and I know many others that could not. However, I do know of people who take it and says it works great. So do your research and be your own judge. Good luck,