Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune condition that causes symptoms such as chronic muscle and joint pain, headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration and even depression. Currently, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, and because of the diversity of the symptoms caused by the condition, treatment approaches vary considerably.

One area of treatment for fibromyalgia that researchers are increasingly investigating is diet. Some studies suggest that eating certain foods can help to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. In a 2000 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, researchers found that eating a strict, low-salt, uncooked vegan diet rich abundant in lactobacteria provided significant improvements for patients with fibromyalgia.

Another symptom of fibromyalgia is weight gain, which in turn worsens symptoms such as pain. In the study, many of the participants were overweight when the study started; by eating vegan food they significantly lowered their body mass index. They also reduced their cholesterol and urine sodium levels.

According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegan diet is a strict vegetarian diet with no animal products—no meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, milk or other dairy, and honey. Vegans also reject foods made from ingredients that come from animals, for instance, those foods made with dairy, eggs, meat extracts, and animal gelatin.

If you're thinking that rules out just about anything edible--it doesn't. Many grocery stores and natural health stores sell vegan products ranging from vegan bread and cakes to vegan burgers, cheese, ice-cream, and yogurt. To help control your fibromyalgia symptoms, your vegan diet could include:

  • fruits
  • vegetables and legumes
  • whole grains
  • nuts and seeds
  • fungi (mushrooms, etc.)
  • soy and tofu products
  • rice beverage

However, there's another aspect of the vegan diet that helped to alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms in the study: The foods were uncooked. Advocates of a raw food diet maintain that cooking--baking, frying, boiling, microwaving or any other process--depletes foods of their vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other nutrients. As a result they're less effective in human functions such as the immune system, which some health professionals believe plays a role in fibromyalgia.

Eating a raw food diet for fibromyalgia has two additional built-in advantages: first, you'll be cutting out meat products; secondly, that automatically reduces your intake of "bad fats." According to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), you should aim for a diet that's low in trans fat, and saturated fat found in animal products (meat, butter, milk, cheese).

However, your body still needs fat. Studies have found that omega 3 fatty acids (the "good fats") can help to lower inflammation, which is another symptom of fibromyalgia. Even if you're eating a raw food or vegan diet you can get omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as walnut, flax and hemp seeds, green leafy vegetables, rapeseed oil, spirulina and whole grains.

The NFA also recommends avoiding certain foods when you have fibromyalgia. These include:

  • foods with additives such as artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives. Many food labels will state clearly that they contain these ingredients, but you can also look for ingredients with chemical names.
  • foods with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, cyclamate and sucralose. These foods include beverages, some cereals, chewing gum, and candies.
  • foods containing refined flour or sugar. According to the NFA, nutrient-dense foods should be your first choice when fighting fibromyalgia, so opt for whole grain breads, cereals or pasta instead.

Study References:

National Fibromyalgia Association


Journal: Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 29 No. 5 pp. 308-13

Date: 2000

Study: Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms.


Authors: Kaartinen K, Lammi K, Hypen M, Nenonen M, Hanninen O, Rauma AL.