Compiling a List of Fibro Friendly Foods Can Be Confusing

Compiling a List of Fibro Friendly Foods Can Be Confusing
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The past several months have been difficult for me. Both my irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea and my cervical radiculopathy have flared up. Between muscle spasms that result in nerve pain in my back and many uncomfortable hours spent in the bathroom, I’ve been pretty miserable.

I’ve spent most of the time chasing cures. Trigger point injections, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, hot and cold compresses — you name it, I’ve tried it! I was even desperate enough to try a new medication my neurologist thought could help. Given my history of side effects, you can imagine that it was truly a last resort on my part. Sadly, it became just another entry on the long list of medications I cannot tolerate.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the foods I eat. Although not mentioned by my doctors, common sense told me there must be a connection. Something I’m eating must be contributing to the painful state of my body.

Over the years, I’d eliminated some items that I was fairly certain had contributed to my problems. I am lactose intolerant so it wasn’t difficult to give up dairy. Food sensitivity testing done years ago by my acupuncturist had shown that I was sensitive to soy, so I gave that up as well. Never a big fan of Asian foods, that wasn’t much of a sacrifice.

The really difficult thing to give up was gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley. However, I’d read so many things about its negative effects that I felt I had no choice. Because of my continuing problems, I reasoned that other culprits must exist out there. And maybe I could actually eat the things I’d already discontinued.

So my research began. According to Harvard Health Publishing, following a low FODMAP diet can be helpful for IBS. I’d given that eating plan only a half-hearted attempt when it first became popular several years ago. It was definitely time for a second, more serious try.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that in contrast to the initial recommendations, gluten is no longer considered a high FODMAP food. Maybe I could have a slice of warm, crusty bread again? I printed out both lists — foods to eat and foods to avoid — and attached them with magnets to my refrigerator.

Next, I searched for foods that could cause pain. Most sources equate pain with inflammation and recommend an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet. As I quickly scanned the foods on that list, I was pleased to find that most of the foods I frequently eat were included. If my husband wasn’t a dedicated meat-and-potato man, I’d probably have been a vegetarian by now. This might be easier than I thought. Again, I printed out the “good” and the “bad” lists and attached them to my fridge.

Frustration occurred when I began to compare the lists. For years, I’d been a big fan of broccoli, a highly recommended anti-inflammatory food. Not only did I enjoy its taste — especially when eaten with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice — but it is a recommended source of antioxidants. But there it was on the list of high FODMAPs to be avoided for IBS.

Worse still was that cauliflower and cabbage (coleslaw) were listed. I’d been eating riced cauliflower, touted as a healthy substitute for white rice, only to find that it’s not healthy at all for me. In fact, along with broccoli, it is among the worst culprits for causing gastrointestinal upset and IBS symptoms.

Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), garlic, lentils, and kidney beans are common ingredients on the Mediterranean diet and have been staples in my diet for years. These foods are also considered high FODMAPs, according to Harvard Health. They’re also on the top of the list of foods to be avoided for people with IBS.

It’s definitely a dilemma. Do I eat foods that may reduce my pain but also trigger IBS? Or do I eat foods that control my IBS but also increase my pain? Of course, there’s no correct solution, but I’ve come up with a plan. I will eliminate all of the very worst culprits on both lists to see how I do for a couple of weeks. Then, one by one, I will reintroduce those foods to see what reaction, if any, it will cause. In this way, perhaps I’ll find specific foods that I should do without.

Wish me luck!

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

Diagnosed in 1990, Christine has experienced fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms since childhood. After a career in aerospace finance she was trained as an FM support group leader by the Arthritis Foundation and participated in groups on both the east and west coasts. Designated a Leader Against Pain by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) she advocated for increased funding and awareness for FM. She is the author of “More Than Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir,” available on Amazon. An Upstate New York transplant now living in Southern California, she credits the sunshine for improving her symptoms.
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Diagnosed in 1990, Christine has experienced fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms since childhood. After a career in aerospace finance she was trained as an FM support group leader by the Arthritis Foundation and participated in groups on both the east and west coasts. Designated a Leader Against Pain by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) she advocated for increased funding and awareness for FM. She is the author of “More Than Tender Points: A Fibromyalgia Memoir,” available on Amazon. An Upstate New York transplant now living in Southern California, she credits the sunshine for improving her symptoms.
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10 comments

  1. Sally Ferguson says:

    Hello! Just some info that might help you with the diet plan. Last year fibro news posted a story about a diet plan that seemed to put fibro symptoms into controlled remission. (The study paper can be found here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2018.00094/full) It is a version of the FODMAP diet, but it focuses on foods that produce a high amount of fructans specifically. The initial elimination diet is quite restrictive but I can report from personal experience that within a matter of days on the diet described in the paper (and working closely with the primary researcher who has been enormously helpful) my fibro symptoms were DRAMATICALLY improved! Depression absolutely lifted, pain reduced from 7/10 on an average day to 1 or 2/10, fatigue virtually eliminated. I know it sounds too good to be true, and if it hadn’t actually happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it. So I understand if you’re suspicious but it only takes a few days to test the diet out to see for yourself. You can live on fish, chicken, and a limited number of veggies with a few limited carbs for a week, right? That’s all that’s needed in order to see if your symptoms improve as dramatically as mine did. And it will be encouraging to know two things: 1) a year later I’m doing just as well, and in the process of eliminating all prescription drugs and 2) I am now gradually adding foods (such as gluten) back into my diet as tolerated. Good luck!

  2. Christine Lynch says:

    Thanks so much for this comment. I just read the study diet. I plan to try it for a week to see if I notice a difference. It’s actually not all that different from what I normally eat – and it’s certainly worth the effort for 7 days. So happy to hear that this has been successful for you.

  3. effie kachurka says:

    I am suffering so much and I have tried everything medicinally and otherwise. This diet is the newest thing I will give a try (for a week). Can someone please explain to me though, how are you preparing these limited foods. Are you allowed to salt and pepper your foods? Do I have to drink my coffee black or can I use a bit of almond milk? I wanted to begin today, so if someone would please get back to me asap I would appreciate it tremendously. I cannot live like this one more day! Thanks so much.

    • Christine Lynch says:

      Effie:
      I’m so sorry you’re having a difficult time. I’m no expert, and I have yet to begin this diet myself, but I do see that a limited number of almonds are allowed. I would think that means you could put some almond milk in your coffee. But I would read the ingredients on the almond milk container to see that no form of sugar has been added. For me, coffee is a no-no because it’s a known bowel irritant. If you have IBS with diarrhea, I would definitely not drink coffee – ever! However, if you’re using this diet to control pain and/or depression, it does appear on the list of allowed foods. I would love to know how you do after a week on this diet.

  4. Effie Kachurka says:

    I thought same thing abt the almond milk. Just went to the health food market in town and got $80 worth of Organic chards Spinach eggs mullet rice and chocolate! I also spoke to
    A nutritionist there who recommended Fibro Sense, a supplement with magnesium and malic acid which is good for “proper muscle function”. And is gluten and gmo free.
    Still have no idea how to prepare foods but I’ll try.
    Fingers crossed

    • Christine Lynch says:

      There’s always Google. Just type in “recipes using eggs and spinach” or whatever it is you’d like to eat. Good luck.

  5. Effie Kachurka says:

    I tried googling but since the diet is very restrictive so most recipes include ingredients, even Herbs spices That aren’t on the list.
    I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be difficult. I appreciate your suggestions and your support. Today is day 2. I’ve been ok. Trying really hard. I’m not really starving like I thought I would be. I’m cranky but I think that’s a Symptom of my sugar withdrawal. 🤫 shhh but (I’m also Kinda gassy 💨 ).
    Yikes 😬

  6. Christine Lynch says:

    Effie:
    If you’re not doing better, you might try cutting out the magnesium with malic acid. Even the slightest bit of magnesium gives me diarrhea immediately. I get that necessary nutrient from foods like spinach, avocado and banana.

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