A strict diet led to the rapid improvement of most symptoms of fibromyalgia in a woman in Italy, highlighting a new low-cost, low-risk method for treatment, according to a case report.
The study, “Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Case Report on Controlled Remission of Symptoms by a Dietary Strategy,” was published in the journal Frontier in Medicine Rheumatology.
Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic, and often debilitating disorder. Patients with fibromyalgia tend to experience pain, fatigue, disturbed sleep, mood swings, and cognitive impairments. Currently, there are no long-term effective treatments for fibromyalgia.
Interestingly, several studies have suggested that patients with fibromyalgia may have low levels of serotonin or low serotonin activity. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate several bodily functions.
In this case report, physicians in Italy detail the case of a patient with fibromyalgia whose symptoms were successfully managed through a strict dietary approach that focused on the elimination of foods that may interfere with the absorption of the amino acid l-tryptophan (Trp), a precursor of serotonin.
The patient, a 34-year-old Caucasian woman, underwent surgery several years earlier, after which she started experiencing lower back pain, restless legs, and morning stiffness. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-rays revealed a lumbar disk hernia and no lesions or abnormalities at the hips.
Her condition worsened over the next two years. The symptoms increased progressively with an unpredictable nature. The patient would often experience disabling conditions, forcing her to rest in bed with severe aches.
She was referred to a rheumatologist, who diagnosed her with fibromyalgia due to tender point sensitivity, widespread chronic pain, morning stiffness, non-restorative sleep, depression, anxiety, leg and foot cramps, chest pain, hypersensitivity to cold, cognitive impairment, irritable bowel syndrome-constipation, and prickling sensations at her fingers and toes.
After learning about the ineffectiveness of most fibromyalgia pharmacological therapies, the patient wanted to explore a new metabolic approach for the management of her symptoms.
The treatment was a strict diet designed to facilitate l-tryptophan absorption, which would guarantee its availability for serotonin synthesis.
Fructose is a highly reactive sugar that would negatively affect l-tryptophan absorption, so the intake of fructose was limited, as was glutamate and aspartame.
The patient’s diet included eggs, meat, fish, clams, potatoes, carrots, celery, spinach, beets, chard, dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao), rice, millet, carob powder, walnuts, extra virgin oil, grape seed oil, thyme, sage, rosemary, coffee, green tea, and a small amount of almonds.
She was able to keep track of her symptoms regarding her diet using a food diary. After only a few days, the dietary modifications led to a rapid improvement of her condition. In fact, the patient experienced a full remission of the majority of her symptoms in a few weeks.
The patient eventually was able to independently do all the activities of her daily life that she was used to doing before the onset of her disease.
However, some comorbidities were not resolved, including sensitivity to cold, hypersensitivity to odors and noise, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), and memory lapses.
The authors emphasize that this new treatment protocol should be considered by healthcare systems due to the large incidence of fibromyalgia and the low cost and low risk related to this protocol.
“Because of its efficacy on symptoms, the absence of drug side-effects and its low cost, this approach could be an effective and accessible answer to the burden of [fibromyalgia], at least to give patients a respite,” researchers wrote.
“A pilot study is required to ground this metabolic approach in [fibromyalgia], and to finally evaluate its inclusion in the guidelines for clinical management,” they added.