Two hands holding a knife and fork over a bowl of green salad. There is a coffee to the left and other foods on a table like croissants, ham, and salads

Fibromyalgia (FM) is characterized by widespread pain and tenderness (sensitivity to touch). The pain and tenderness tend to come and go and move about the body. It is not an autoimmune or inflammatory condition that causes damage to joints muscles or other tissues, however, FM can cause chronic pain similar to arthritis.

Unfortunately, the cause of FM is not well understood and treatment is therefore tailored toward symptom management.

More On FM

It’s important to consider the individual’s experience and the effect FM can have on the quality of life.

FM is associated with:

  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive concerns including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or reflux.

This can make it difficult to perform the usual activities of daily life particularly in relation to self-care. As a result, health can start to deteriorate as meal preparation and planning become more difficult and physical activity declines due to pain.

Reliance on convenient food options often containing higher saturated fat, sugar and sodium become the norm which can lead to weight gain and increased risk of chronic diseases.

How You Can Help Manage FM

  • Adequate nutrition and physical activity can play a major role in managing pain, improving health outcomes and quality of life.
  • Dietary strategies that are tailored towards implementing a Mediterranean based diet rich in unsaturated fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and fibre.
  • Ensuring adequate protein intake to maintain muscle mass and strength.
  • Screening for micronutrient deficiencies and individual food intolerances.
  • Assessing energy requirements to assist with weight management including weight gains or losses.
  • Understanding the impact on mental health implementing mindfulness strategies around mealtimes and providing encouragement and support.

How Can You Make a Start Toward Better Health?

👉 Increase your vegetable intake by 1-2x serves per day (1 serve = 1x cup raw, ½ cup cooked)

    1. Add canned lentils (chickpeas, lentils, 4x bean mix) to mince dishes and casseroles and stir fry’s
    2. Microwave pre-mixed frozen vegetables
    3. Serve dishes with a side of mixed green leaves seasoned with lemon and pepper
    4. Add zucchini to your smoothie

👉 Increase intake of unsaturated fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids

    1. Add 1-2x tbsp of flaxseeds to your cereal
    2. Snack on a handful of walnuts
    3. Add canned salmon or tuna to sandwiches
    4. Limit creamy based dishes and opt for olive oil-based sauces e.g. pesto or vinaigrettes

👉 Reduce intake of refined carbohydrates that are low in fibre and/ or high in added sugars

    1. Swap white rice, breads and pasta for wholemeal/ wholegrain or legume-based
    2. Swap full-sugar soft drinks to sugar-free varieties
    3. Swap corn flakes or sweetened cereals to Weet-Bix, oats or no added sugar granolas.
    4. Opt for whole fruits instead of fruit juice

Dietitians are experienced in working with clients with a reduced physical capacity and can tailor evidence-based dietary recommendations to the individual. If you would like more information or advice, get in touch with your nearest clinic to book an appointment today.

Written By (APD) Dietitian Georgia Volz