Eating certain foods can cause inflammation and increase pain levels in the body. Just as there are foods that decrease inflammation, there are foods that increase inflammation.
It has long been established that a diet based on proper nutrition is beneficial for everyone. It is especially important for people with chronic conditions – including fibromyalgia. Food allergens can also exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms causing an increase in pain and inflammation.
Refined carbohydrates and sugar promote fatigue; they compromise the immune system and increase pain. Trans fats, found in margarine and baked goods, and saturated fats found in most animal products cause cholesterol levels to rise. The rise in cholesterol interferes with circulation which ultimately elevates pain levels. Animal products also contain arachidonic acid, a promoter of inflammation as well as pain.
Many believe that living with fibromyalgia is easier when they stick to an anti-inflammatory diet. By eating a wide variety of whole foods and avoiding foods that increase inflammation, pain can be kept at a lower level and nutrition is enhanced.
These Foods Increase Inflammation
- Sugars – Excessive sugar has been linked to increased risks of obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the typical American consumes 30 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the major source of dietary sugars. Other sugar-loaded foods to avoid include pastries, desserts, candies, and snacks. Sugar has many names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, sorghum syrup, and sucrose are some of the names used.
- Refined Grains – Most of the grains we eat today are refined. Products made from refined grains are everywhere. The common ones are white flour, white bread, white rice, pasta, biscuits. and pastries. Compared to whole grains, refined grains are lacking in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Like refined sugars, refined grains are absorbed too rapidly causing spikes in blood sugar. Frequent blood sugar spikes provoke insulin resistance, weight gain, and increased inflammation.
- Gluten – A protein found in wheat, barley and rye, spelt, kamut, and oats. It is hidden in pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls, and most processed foods. Research estimates that 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It is also estimated; 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. While testing can help identify gluten sensitivity, the only way you will know if this is really a problem for you is to eliminate all gluten for a short period of time (2 to 4 weeks) and see how you feel.
- Trans-Fats – Trans fatty acids increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol while lowering levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol. They have also been found to promote inflammation, obesity, and resistance to insulin, Although small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in certain foods, the majority are man-made and difficult for the body to process. Trans fats are found in deep-fried foods, fast foods, commercially baked goods and those prepared with partially hydrogenated oil, margarine and/or vegetable shortening.
- Cooking Oils – Polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn, and sunflower oils have very high Omega-6 fatty acids and low omega-3 fats. A diet consisting of a highly imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio promotes inflammation. Replace your high omega-6 cooking oils with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil.
- Dairy Products – Milk is a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, hives, sinusitis and breathing difficulties in some people. Dairy cows are injected with antibiotics and genetically engineered growth hormones. Kefir and unsweetened yogurt are acceptable in moderation for those who are not allergic to milk. They are easier on the stomach as the lactose and proteins in the milk have been broken down by beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts.
- Nightshade Vegetables – Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers are in the family of nightshade plants. Although they are filled with vitamins and minerals, some health experts say that consuming them can increase pain for those with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraines.
- Commercially Produced, Red and Processed Meat
- Feedlot Raised Meat – Commercially produced meats are fed with grains like soybeans and corn, a diet that is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. They are also injected with hormones to make them grow faster and fed with antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. Most beef, pork, and poultry you can find in the supermarkets and restaurants come from feedlot farms.
- Red Meat – Common red meats are beef, lamb, and pork. They contain a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce called Neu5Gc. After ingesting this compound, the body develops anti-Neu5Gc antibodies – an immune response that may trigger a chronic inflammatory response.
- Processed Meat – Animal products that have been smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved. Processed meat has been linked as a cause of cancers of the colon, and possibly of the esophagus and lungs too. Processed meats include bacon, ham, sausage, and salami.
Replace the bulk of your red meat with organic vegetables, poultry, and fish. When you do eat red meat, remember to choose lean cuts and preferably, that of grass-fed animals.
- Artificial Sweeteners – Synthetic sweeteners like aspartame and saccharine can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. Fibromyalgia sufferers tend to have highly active NMDA, or N-methyl-D-aspartic acid, pain receptors which cause the intense pain that they experience. Aspartame is an excitotoxin that stimulates the NMDA pain receptors in fibromyalgia patients. Use Stevia or raw honey instead.
- Food Additives and Preservatives – MSG, or monosodium glutamate, and nitrates are food additives used to enhance flavor and preserve many processed and frozen foods. MSG appears in some Asian food products, while nitrates act as preservatives in cold cuts like ham, bologna, and bacon. Fibromyalgia sufferers have low tolerance levels towards MSG and nitrates, which are classified as excitotoxins that stimulate the NMDA pain receptors.
By eliminating these foods from the diet for a period of two to four weeks, and then gradually reintroducing them and noting how you feel, a person with fibromyalgia can determine which foods cause problems. If symptoms worsen or return, it indicates sensitivity to that particular food and it should be eliminated from the diet entirely.
These are the foods you should not eat. If you want to know the foods you should eat, you can read Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can help Chronic Inflammation and Anti-inflammatory Food List.