When it comes to eating healthily as part of your self-care plan to better manage your symptoms and choosing the best fibromyalgia diet for you, it’s really helpful to recognize the connection between food and how it interacts with your body, thoughts and emotions, following on from What’s the Best Diet for Fibromyalgia? (Part One) 

It’s all down to our thoughts about food and how they conjure up all sorts of images and feelings that impact on your food choices.  The next time you hear yourself say “Umm, what do I fancy for my tea tonight?”, simply notice what thoughts, images and feelings emerge.  Probably like me, they’ll be all about pleasure or avoidance and very unlikely an image of how food interacts with the cellular activity in the body. Yet when it comes down to it, every cell in your body relies on what you feed them, effecting your body’s immune system, metabolism, brain, gut and bone health, mood, nervous system, organs, hormones and energy stores.

What you need to know about the connection between fibromyalgia, cellular energy and what you eat – Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)

Numerous studies on people diagnosed with fibromyalgia have shown significantly low levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) in the red blood cells and low platelet serotonin revealing a definite connection to fibromyalgia pain symptoms, flare-ups and early morning aches and stiffness.

ATP is an end result of adenosine which is naturally occurring in the body and needed in the digestion process, production of cellular energy and important for the sleep-wake cycle.  The process involves the breaking down of ATP which produces and releases energy in to the body’s tissues, including your achy muscles, also carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

What can jeopardise this process?

This process is jeopardized by poor gut health, malabsorption or lack of nutrients from your diet, lack of protein in the diet, or when the immune system is activated to fight the effects of stress, too much added sugar and refined carbohydrates, infection, inflammation, pain and heightened sensitivities, are all reasons why we may no longer be able to make enough at a cellular level to produce ATP.

ATP is the main source of energy in all living cells where it’s needed to make muscles contract, essential for managing muscle pain. In fact everything you do depends on your body’s ability to produce ATP; however, your body is only capable of storing very small amounts in the muscle cells and only enough to fuel a few seconds of energy. New ATP has to be constantly synthesized from the foods we eat to keep up with the demands of fueling the body. The body’s preferred food source for sustaining energy is from complex carbohydrate which is broken down into glucose where chemical reactions produce ATP. 

Simply put, the cells in your body generate energy from the controlled breakdown of the foods you eat but you can sabotage your energy and pain levels by putting strain on your immune system, poor gut health and not giving your body the fuel it needs.

What can you do about it?

Your gut is now believed to be your second brain, after all, it’s in your gut that most of your “happy chemicals” (serotonin) are produced, so it makes sense to feed your body the anti-inflammatory nutrients to reduce the effects of stress, give your happy chemicals a chance to thrive and maintain a healthy immune system and metabolism.

Certain foods can rev up your metabolism, so if you’ve been a bit sluggish lately and gained a few pounds, you can raise your metabolism and burn up those calories by eating foods rich in Iron, Zinc and Selenium, these minerals have one thing in common that they are all required for the function of your thyroid gland and your metabolism.  A lack of these nutrients will slow down your metabolism.

Other Foods that will help Kick-start your Metabolism include:

Chilli peppers, warm ginger and lemon drinks, apple cider vinegar, cacao, coconut oil, seaweed and keeping your body hydrated with water.

Anti-inflammatory Foods

It’s also worth giving yourself a range of anti-inflammatory foods to dampen down the symptoms of fibromyalgia and reduce the effects of stress in your body, good sources include:

Dark, leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach are rich in minerals, calcium and magnesium and potassium, that help to keep your body maintain its natural circadian rhythms and homeostasis. They also help with nerve impulse and over-stressed muscles, which we all need to reduce fibromyalgia pain.

Avocados are high in B vitamins, which are water soluble and depleted by stress, but we need them to maintain neural activity and so many other processes in the body.

All complex carbohydrates help the brain to make more serotonin, keep blood sugar levels in balance, provide a range of plant phenols, fibre, rich in nutrients such as antioxidants.

Essential fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids are called essential because the body can’t make them itself and need to be eaten daily.  They convert to short-lived hormones, prostaglandins, which are necessary to fight inflammation as well as many other benefits.  Omega-3 can be found in fish, nuts, such as walnuts, seeds like flax, hemp and chia, plant oils such as flax and hemp.

Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain the full range of essential amino acids, the body’s building blocks for repair.  Eggs are rich in healthy fats, omega-3, vitamin D, choline and vitamins and minerals, however not all eggs are created equally and it depends on what the hens are fed, it’s worth buying the best you can get.

Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that helps to regulate the effects of stress and helps to improve mood, reduce inflammation and is also helpful for weight loss.

Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa helps to give you an instant boost, improve mood and concentration.  Studies have shown that eating as little as 1.5 ounces have reduced the effects of stress on the body by alleviating the effects of cortisol and reduced pro-inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein which are problems for fibromyalgia.  However, less is more when it come to chocolate because it’s calorific!      

Boost your cellular energy, increase your antioxidants and eat a rainbow

Eating a variety of colourful foods from a wide selection of fruits and vegetables whenever possible, is a simple nutritional strategy of ensuring your intake of all the nutrients and increasing your supply of  vitamins and minerals, as well as a range of phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods, such as wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables and all have numerous beneficial effects working with other essential nutrients that promote energy and good health.  Here’s a few suggestions on how to eat a rainbow selection of foods:

Alpha lipoic acid is known to reduce nerve pain as well as many other health benefits, including the regeneration of other antioxidants and fights free radical activity which cause damage cells.  It’s a natural compound in every cell in the body and its primary role is to convert blood sugar into energy with the use of oxygen.  It’s available in many foods in small amounts but good sources include spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas.   

Betacyanin are a great choice for cellular energy, deep red or purple in colour and found in beetroots.

Carotenoids are best absorbed with a source of fat, they are generally in orange foods such as carrots, sweet potato and are good sources of antioxidants.

Flavonoids are up there on top of the list for what’s needed for the best diet for fibromyalgia. Studies have shown that they reduce inflammation and can medicinally manage chronic pain. There are several types of flavonoids in a variety of foods, including isoflavones known for their benefits in hormone health.  They are rich in vitamins and minerals and can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, berries, tea, wine, soybeans and dark chocolate.

Lycopene gives the pigment to make tomatoes red or watermelon pink.  As well as being an antioxidant, research reports that they can protect the body from damage caused by pesticides, various food additives and preservatives. Related article: Fibromyalgia, Sensitivities and the Hidden Toxins in Food

Turmeric is widely researched and has been used for centuries in Asian countries for its health benefits.  It’s known for its anti-inflammatory effects and widely used as a supplement, added to recipes and tea by fibromyalgia sufferers.

Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant and anti-allergen which inhibits the production and release of histamine.  It’s also well  known to improve circulation and the health of the brain.  Good sources are onion, garlic, ginger, apples and tea.

These food cures all add up to ingredients for the best diet for fibromyalgia and alongside keeping mobile, gentle exercising like walking, keeping hydrated, a positive mindset, time for relaxation and a sense of humour, will all bring benefits in managing fibromyalgia. In the words of Hippocrates, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.

Author Jok Saunders, founder of the Fibro Clinic South West    

About the author

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Jok has a lifelong career in nutrition and completed her training with the NCFED, Advanced Diploma, accredited by the London College of Psychiatry, specializing in eating psychology, weight management and  eating disorders and achieved a successful career working in private practice, NHS and numerous organizations. Jok was diagnosed with fibromyalgia six years ago and re-trained in Pain Management and is an accredited trainer where she brings a wealth of experience and skills in Neuro Linguistic Programming, Hypnotherapy, Mindfulness and Meditation,  to offer support, fibromyalgia advice and workshops at the clinic based in Barnstaple, North Devon.  For now though, she has her feet up in between walking Alfie, updating  online support groups and writing blogs.

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