Living with fibromyalgia is hard. Many people feel like they are constantly juggling different tretoatments, medications, and therapies in an effort to find some relief from the widespread pain, fatigue, and other symptoms that can make every day a challenge.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing fibromyalgia, making small tweaks to your diet and reducing stress levels can often make a big difference.
In this post, we'll take a quick look at how diet and stress can impact fibromyalgia symptoms and offer some tips for reducing stress and improving your overall health. Thanks for reading!
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Reduce Stress! Reduce Stress!
We hear this advice over and over. It's excellent advice for anyone with fibromyalgia, BUT doing this can be more than a little challenging.
When we start looking at ways to reduce our stress levels, we often look at how much we're working and try to cut back if possible; we prioritize what's essential in our home life and daily responsibilities. Then, we try to figure out how to add self-care practices.
These are all very important, but sometimes it's just the most straightforward choices we make every day that can be impacting our stress.
A common issue is our diet; some foods can increase stress, while others help reduce it.
As a result, our diet has a much more significant impact on our stress levels than we might expect, and our stress can also determine our food choices.
We can use food to reduce stress by focusing on proper nutrition to fuel our bodies.
The first thing that can happen if we have an inadequate diet is nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can affect not just our physical health but also our emotional health.
For example, did you know that folate can affect your mood and lead to more depression? Find folate in foods like eggs, asparagus, spinach, and avocado.
Some other nutrients we need to help fight stress and balance our mood naturally are:
Omega-3 fatty acids – Healthy fats are essential! Get fatty acids from healthy sources of fats like salmon, tuna, walnuts, and olive oil.
Vitamin D – It's not unusual to be low in vitamin D if you have fibromyalgia; most likely, your doctor will test your levels and, if you are deficient, prescribe you a vitamin D supplement. Also, you can boost your vitamin D from the sun's UV rays and through foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, and fortified cereal.
Fiber – According to research published in The Journal of Physiology, eating high-fiber foods can reduce the effects of stress on our gut. To eat more fiber, eating more fruit, avocados, and whole grains is usually a good place to start.
Calcium – While many people get calcium from dairy, you might not be someone who can eat a lot of dairy due to lactose intolerance. You can get calcium also from almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, asparagus, oranges, blackberries, and green leafy vegetables.
Iron – It's important to ensure you have enough iron. Iron can help with your mental health and balance your energy levels. Get iron from lean red meat, turkey, broccoli, dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin seeds and almonds.
Protein – You get protein from many of these same foods, including lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy, cheese, eggs, and nuts.
Another critical link between stress and nutrition is that we can often try to "help" the stress and emotions with the wrong kinds of food, unhealthy food.
Of course, emotional eating isn't detrimental when only an occasional occurrence, but ultimately we should try to find something healthy to deal with stressful situations.
However, if you deal with chronic stress and get into the habit of only using food to comfort yourself, it can become a problem.
You might make it a habit to overeat, eat too many unhealthy foods, and even become malnourished because you aren't getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Comfort eating is a vicious cycle that is very hard to stop. When you start going to unhealthy habits to deal with your stress, you might feel that it's helping temporarily, but it can be hurting your mental health in the long term.
Ideally, the best thing you can do is stop this cycle now. Then, decide to prioritize eating right and finding healthier ways to manage your stress.
Don't feel like you need to be super strict on yourself sometimes; you will emotionally eat, and that's ok. It's just best that you don't rely only on that.
Instead, we need to find healthier habits, such as starting a self-care Sunday routine, using distraction techniques, like coloring, meditation, listening to an ebook, visiting with friends, playing with our cat, or walking outside.