What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by widespread pain, painful response to pressure, morning stiffness, fatigue, sleep disturbances and can include many other health issues. There is no known cause but it has been suggested that central nervous system malfunction leading to amplification of pain is one of the mechanisms. External factors including infection, trauma, stress and toxic substances may also contribute to the development of the disease.
The role of diet
Although research on a purely vegan diet and fibromyalgia is scarce, there is evidence it can be very helpful and alleviate many symptoms with no adverse effects. Here is a selection of studies investigating this:
- In a Finnish study a group of fibromyalgia patients were put on a raw vegan diet for three months (Kaartinen et al., 2000). The results revealed significant improvements in pain, joint stiffness, quality of sleep and a significant reduction in weight (most of the patients were overweight) and cholesterol levels.
- A similar study was performed in the USA where fibromyalgia patients were put on an almost entirely raw vegan diet for two months (Donaldson et al., 2001). The majority of them responded to the diet with all parameters improving dramatically (physical functioning, bodily pain, general health, vitality, social functioning, emotional and mental health). In those who stayed on the diet for seven months all symptoms except bodily pain subsided to the point that they were undistinguishable from the normal population and the level of pain decreased substantially too.
- Lamb et al. (2011) tested the impact of a conventional healthy diet (based on general government guidelines) on fibromyalgia sufferers and compared it with the effects of an elimination diet. The study participants were on either diet for four weeks. The elimination diet excluded seafood, refined and added sugars, artificial colourings, flavourings and sweeteners, caffeinated beverages, gluten-containing grains, eggs and dairy products and foods high in arachidonic acid (many meats and meat products, processed fatty foods). During the elimination diet the patients were also given botanical extracts (high in antioxidants and other phytonutrients).The conventional diet only mildly improved the symptoms, but the elimination diet brought about a significant decrease in both pain and stiffness scores. Participants also had better pain tolerance at five tender points during the elimination diet.