Eating for chronic illness

Fibromyalgia and diet- just the phrase makes me want to run away screaming. Same story with Lyme disease. There are so many suggestions, if I followed all of them i’d only be eating celery and lettuce (organic of course, or if I really really want to be better, locally grown and picked, or if I really really really want to get better, grown in my own personal garden on my tiny suburban lot and only touched by my arthritic fibro hands).

All kidding aside, will changing your eating habits help your fibromyalgia or Lyme? My answer is yes, it will help, but it is not a cure. If subsisting of lettuce and celery would cure me I would do it, but I’m pretty sure it would make me feel worse since I’d be deficient in some essential nutrients. However, there are lots of foods that can make you feel worse and maybe even some that can make you feel better. In a survey published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology, 42 % of fibromyalgia patients said their symptoms got worse after eating certain foods. So the trick is finding what foods make you personally feel worse. Sometimes this is obvious. For example, I had a cherry coke caffeine addiction. I’ve known that was a bad thing ever since I started drinking it regularly when I was 16. When I was 16 I could get away with abusing my body, but I can’t do that any longer so I gave up caffeine.

The other thing I’ve been trying to eliminate from my diet is artificial sweeteners. This has turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. I was thinking as long as I baked everything at home, avoided soda  (or Pop was we Yankees like to call it) and breakfast cereal, I’d be good to go. Yeah, not so much. I tried to find yogurt without aspartame in it and I couldn’t find any! I had to go to two different stores before I found yogurt (that wasn’t greek yogurt, because I think it’s nasty) without it. I’ve really noticed the difference in my pain levels when I cheat and have some soda with aspartame. I’m not a conspiracy theorist who thinks the government is out to poison me with aspartame, but I do know that it is very bad for my body.
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For me, I’ve realized that I feel so much better when I eat fruits and vegetables versus when I eat large amounts of processed food. I’ve been working hard at eliminating as much processed food from my diet as I can. This is easier said then done of course, since convenient food is what I want when I am tired, but in the long run it’s better if I put in the extra effort to cook from scratch. I’ve even been trying to make my own seasonings. Did you know there is all kinds of unpronounceable junk in the taco seasoning you buy at the store? It’s gross when you read the label and see how many things are in it that you don’t even recognize.

Sometimes to find out what works in your body you have to do an elimination diet. I’ll be honest and admit I have not done this (it sounds like torture and I don’t think it would help me much) but I do think there are people it could help. If you have irritable bowel syndrome as one of your symptoms, the elimination diet is a good option.

Another great trick I’ve learned is using food to fight fatigue. It sounds crazy, but it really has helped me (especially through my caffeine withdrawals). I eat a lot of smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big ones, and this has been proven (and not just by me) to help energy levels. I also eat breakfast and have noticed that having protein for breakfast helps.

At the end of the day, it’s not about finding a cure  through food (as awesome at that would be). It’s about managing and learning what is right for you and your body.

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