Do you struggle with fibromyalgia daily? It’s estimated that one in 50 Americans are afflicted with this disorder, with 90% of them being women. While there are FDA-approved medications to deal with the pain and other aspects of the condition, there are also several lifestyle changes that can help.

Medications for fibromyalgia

There is no medication that will cure all the symptoms of fibromyalgia, but there are several medications that have been used to treat it. The three FDA-approved drugs for fibromyalgia are:

·         Cymbalta (duloxetime) and Savella (milnacipran) are two antidepressants that have been used to raise levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the body to control pain.

Side effects of Cymbalta include nausea, dry mouth, fatigue, constipation, appetite loss, insomnia and sweating. There is also an increased risk of suicidal ideation occurring in persons on Cymbalta.

Potential side effects of Savella include heart issues, urinary problems, bruising, nosebleeds, weakness, seizures, concentration problems, hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, fever, high blood pressure, headaches, vision disturbances, jaundice, weight changes and insomnia.

  • Lyrica (pregabalin) is an anti-seizure medication that is widely advertised for fibromyalgia treatment. The list of potential side effects is extensive: dizziness and balance issues, edema in the face and extremities, swelling of the breast, weight gain, confusion, stomach and intestinal inflammation, and sinus problems.

Lifestyle changes that can help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia

While physicians do not know the cause(s) of fibromyalgia, research has shown that there are holistic ways to treat it which boost one’s overall health and ease the fibromyalgia-related pain endured on a daily basis.

There are several nutrients that physicians have determined to be deficient in most people with fibromyalgia and replacing these nutrients may help the condition:

·        Serotonin, a neurotransmitter deficient in fibromyalgia sufferers, is important in sleep, energy, mood and can be enhanced with 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and SAM-e.

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is made by the body from tryptophan, after which it is changed into serotonin. Foods high in tryptophan include:

1.    Seeds and nuts

2.    Soy products like tofu

3.    Many types of cheeses (low-fat mozzarella, parmesan, and cheddar are best

4.    Meats such as lamb, beef, pork, rabbit, goat and wild boar

5.    Poultry (turkey and chicken)

6.    Fish (tuna, halibut, salmon, rockfish and trout are good sources)

7.    Shellfish are great sources (lobster, crabs, octopus, clams, and shrimp)

8.    Uncooked brans and whole grains are exceptional sources, but most folks do not enjoy raw oats and oat bran)

9.    Lentils and beans offer high tryptophan

10.  Eggs in any form are great sources.

SAM-e, an acronym for S-adenosylmethionine, is not available from foods directly. While it is a part of every living organism and it is necessary for over 40 biochemical reactions in the body, as we age or become ill, our supplies reduce. SAM-e is produced by combining methionine, an essential amino, with ATP (a cellular product formed from glucose and oxygen). The food sources of SAM-e break down when cooked, processed or stored. Supplementing with methionine offers little help, as ATP is required to produce SAM-e. The good news is there are now stable versions of SAM-e on the market to help

·        Magnesium, a mineral needed for the conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin, is commonly deficient in the general population, but intercellular magnesium is especially lacking in persons with fibromyalgia. Magnesium is necessary for the conversion of 5-HTP into serotonin. It also allows the muscles to contract and relax correctly. 

Food sources of magnesium include: avocado, legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu, fatty fish such as salmon, leafy greens, and dark chocolate.

·         Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to help reduce fibromyalgia pain.

Of the three different types of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, DHA, and EPA, the marine-based DHA and EPA are the best for the body. Food sources include fish, dairy products, eggs, soy milk, grains and nuts, leafy green vegetables and oils. 

·         D-ribose improves cellular energy and can alleviate some fibromyalgia symptoms.

Food sources include meats such as beef and poultry, mushrooms, cheeses, caviar, eggs, fish such as anchovies, and milk.

·         According to a recent study, increasing one’s intake of Vitamin D3 improves widespread chronic pain. While sunlight is the best source of D3, it can also be found in salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel.

Correcting nutritional deficiencies and eating a healthy, fibromyalgia-safe diet are strategies for helping quell fibromyalgia pain. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning nutritional supplementation.

Foods to avoid include aspartame, caffeine, gluten, dairy, sugar, MSG, nitrites and nitrates. A fibromyalgia-safe diet that does not include allergens, processed foods, GMOs, bovine-growth-hormone milk and dairy products, and heavily-pesticided foods is your best bet for handling fibromyalgia symptoms.

Don’t avoid exercise if you have fibromyalgia. While exercising may be painful initially, several studies have found that moderate to high intensity aerobic exercises offer improvements in physical functioning for persons with fibromyalgia. Yoga and tai chi also have been found to be beneficial. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking is the absolute best exercise for fibromyalgia. Swimming in warm water is also a wonderful way to ease the pain of fibromyalgia.

You’re not alone

While fibromyalgia once was thought by doctors to be ‘all in your head,’ many studies have proven otherwise. Even the famous British nurse Florence Nightingale, who won a medal from the Red Cross, showed symptoms of fibromyalgia. Other celebrities who’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia include Lady Gaga, Morgan Freeman, and Sinead O’Connor.