Fibromyalgia: The Diet Connection (cont.)

Avoiding certain foods may help individual patients better cope with their disease. Nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, says, however, that most can also benefit from an overall heart-healthy approach to good eating.

"When you are eating a heart-healthy diet - one low in saturated fat, lean meats, and poultry and high in the fresh fruits and vegetables that don't cause you problems, your body is going to work in a more healthful way, " Heller says.

And while, she says, this won't necessarily reduce your fibromyalgia symptoms, it can help to reduce the risk of other ailments that can only compound your health issues.

"When your body is healthier overall," says Heller, "you may be better able to cope with any disease, and better able to respond to even small changes you make."

One small study published in the journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2001 found that patients who ate a vegetarian diet consisting of mostly raw whole foods did see a reduction in their fibromyalgia symptoms.

Holtorf also believes that sticking to a heart-healthy diet may yield some specific helpful effects. "Patients with fibromyalgia have documented mitochondria dysfunction," he says. "This is the area of the cell where energy is made. Consequently, it's necessary to have high levels of nutrients to get the mitochondria to work and for energy to be produced." So, Holtorf adds, the higher your level of dietary nutrients, at least theoretically, the better off you might be.

What can also help, he says, is a high potency vitamin supplement as well as supplements containing omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids -- which are also found in foods such as fish oil, flax seed, walnuts, some fortified cereals, and eggs -- are the "good fats" that have been shown to have an impact on inflammation.

"For some fibromyalgia patients," Holtorf says, "they work extremely well." Then he adds, "It is definitely worth a try."

Kent Holtorf, MD, Medical Director, Holtorf Medical Group Center for Endocrine, Neurological and Infection Related Illness, Torrance, Calif.
Michael McNett, MD, Director, Fibromyalgia Treatment Centers of America, Chicago.
Alex Shikhman, MD, Director, Institute for Specialized Medicine, San Diego.
Reviewed on May 27, 2010
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Last Editorial Review: 5/27/2010