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6 Foods That Could Be Tied to Fibromyalgia Pain

Consider cutting these foods out of your diet now and your body may thank you for it later.

Young, blonde woman massaging her naked shoulder with hand. Pain from strain and incorrect posture. Inactive lifestyle.FotoDuets/Shutterstock

About four million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain all over the body accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. The standard treatment for fibromyalgia usually doesn’t involve dietary changes, yet some patients have found that certain types of food exacerbate their sensitivity to pain or pain symptoms. “It’s pretty individualized,” says Tarah Venn, a registered dietician with the Stanford Pain Management Center. “We look for patterns and identify what impacts patients individually and then we do an elimination diet.” Keeping a food diary helps you track which foods may trigger your fibromyalgia symptoms. We’ve consulted with experts to find the foods that could possibly trigger fibromyalgia pain even if science has yet to distinguish a concrete connection between the two. Check out these 16 anti-inflammatory foods you can eat to reduce pain.

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Potato chips

Grabbing for that bag of potato chips, box of cookies, or anything processed will likely contain one key ingredient that could be linked to pain—glutamate. The additive is often used as a harmless flavor enhancer that you’ll commonly find in its salt form, monosodium glutamate (MSG). “Some patients notice that their symptoms, specifically musculoskeletal pain, increase when they’re consuming foods that have a lot of MSG,” says Venn. “Glutamate and pain have been linked in studies, which have reported higher concentrations of glutamate in some fibromyalgia patients compared to healthy controls.” This may be because glutamate acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter that sends messages within the brain and nervous system. If your pain is sensitive to glutamate consumption, always check the product labels at the grocery store for words like monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and yeast extract. Here are the 24 secrets pain doctors won’t tell you.

Various raw mushroom types - Portobello mushrooms, champignons, Shimeji mushrooms. Mushrooms backgroundSentelia/Shutterstock

Mushrooms

Despite its incredible nutritional value, the edible fungus may trigger pain in fibromyalgia patients because it’s rich in the naturally-occurring form of glutamate. In just a 100-gram serving, 180 milligrams of glutamate are packed into a mushroom, according to the Glutamate Association. Shittake and enokitake mushrooms are the richest in glutamate. Other healthy favorites like tomatoes, grapes, and green peas are also good sources of glutamate. But before you entirely cut any foods, especially fruits and veggies, out of your diet, talk to a healthcare professional who will ensure you aren’t missing out on key nutrients. Make sure you know the 10 proven ways to fight inflammation.

A close up image grated cheddar cheeseazwanlazam/Shutterstock

Aged cheeses

Sorry cheeseheads, but cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, and Roquefort cheese all contain glutamate. In fact, one 100-gram serving of Parmesan cheese packs a whopping 1,600 milligrams of glutamate. But keep in mind that glutamate may not be your issue, dairy could be an irritant as well, at least anecdotally. “My favorite food swap for cheese is avocado,” says Venn. “It doesn’t always work for every recipe but it’s good for breakfast sandwiches.” Plus, you’re still getting the fat your body normally would get from cheese except it’s the good kinds like the poly- and monounsaturated fats.  

Fried chickensittitap/Shutterstock

Fried chicken

All of that butter, saturated fat, and vegetable oil may give a plate of fried chicken the savory flavor your taste buds crave, but it could wreak havoc on your body and cause inflammation. Even though fibromyalgia is not necessarily categorized as an inflammatory condition, inflammation can still cause pain-like symptoms, which is why it’s best to avoid any type of fried foods as much as possible. “I recommend patients get their fats from unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and a variety of plant-based oils for anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Alicia Romano, a registered dietitian at Tufts Medical Center. “Nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish, and oils like safflower, sunflower, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado are your best bets.” These are the types of pains you should never ignore.

Tasty fresh yogurt with strawberry, closeupNew Africa/Shutterstock

Flavored yogurt

You may think that your strawberry yogurt is a healthy start to your day, but in reality, it’s packed with loads of sugar from the syrups used for the flavoring. And some low-calorie yogurts even contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Even though there’s no evidence stating that sugar makes fibromyalgia pain worse, some patients have found that cutting out refined sugars improved their fibromyalgia symptoms. “Sugar aggravates low blood sugar and adrenal problems, yeast (Candida) overgrowth, and nutritional deficiencies that worsen fibromyalgia,” Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a board-certified internist and fibromyalgia expert told Everyday Health. Swap out a flavored yogurt for a cup of plain, Greek yogurt with fresh cut fruit and honey on top for an all-natural sweet treat that your body won’t regret later.

Closeup of cooked pasta.sta/Shutterstock

Pasta

Refined carbohydrates like cookies, breads, pastries, and pasta may taste yummy, but their high glycemic index sends your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride that sends you crashing hard. Unlike whole wheat foods which are digested much more slowly, refined carbohydrates break down quickly, which makes your blood sugar spike and drop quickly. These aggressive fluctuations may make the fatigue and pain associated with fibromyalgia worse. “People should swap in 100 percent whole grains and ancient grains whenever possible,” says Romano. “Quinoa and brown rice are a good place to start. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also a great source of complex carbohydrates that can be used.” Next, don’t miss the 10 foods directly tied to cancer.

 

Ashley Lewis
Ashley Lewis received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. She was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News. and interned at Seventeen and FOX News before joining Reader’s Digest as an assistant editor. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.